Monday, June 30, 2008

Le Yikes!!

Well...I went to class. I am fairly certain I bombed the written test, then the teacher spoke to each of us to gauge our oral skills. I didn't know this, but apparently she told the class that she didn't want anyone to waste their time or money if the class was too advanced or below a person's level and the test and our little talks would help her determine who fit the class.

I was so nervous when I had to talk with her I couldn't remember anything. I was such an idiot. I wanted to beg for a space and to yell; "You HAVE to let me try. I NEED this. I sit in my apartment all day long because I can't speak this language and if you don't let me in I'm going to turn into a hermit and stop shaving my legs!" I was told that I was "faible" (weak) and that the others were "tres forte" (strong) in the class. Then she took my email and said she would grade the test then email me this evening. I might get the boot. I might be too weak and she is going to kick me out. Well bienvenue to French schools Susan. I also hear they post all the grades in class and rank you. Nice. I'll just pretend it's alphabetical and my last name is Zzwet.

After class I went to have lunch with two girls (I know!! Lunch!! With people!!). One girl is from Canada and the other from Poland. The girl from Canada is from Toronto, so she didn't grow up speaking French but she speaks it with her boyfriend here in France. Everyday. She said she thought she did alright on the test. During her oral test the teacher took her email and said that she would email her tonight and let her know if maybe she was too advanced for the class. The Polish girl has taken classes but she said they were a long time ago and she forgot everything. She said she did horrible on the test. The teacher didn't even ask for the Polish girl's email. I guess she is in.

I have since calmed down and realize that even the worst case scenario isn't that bad. Worst case scenario; I get the boot from the class, but I get my money back, apply for the free classes I will get once we are married, and best of all - I now have TWO friends who live in Lille and I can practice French with them! Best case; I stay in the class, become better friends with these girls, learn to use the past and future tense in French and get toned legs from walking to class. I'm hoping for something in the middle.

Now I'm trying not to check my email every 5 minutes. Guess I shouldn't drink to calm down, because if I do make it I don't want to have a hangover on my second day of class. Of course that might happen anyway. Cyr is cooking something special for my first day of class celebration (hopefully it's not my last day celebration as well) and has a bottle of champaign for us. Oh well, when in France...

UPDATE: My Canadian friend received and email saying she was too advanced for the class!! Uh! I loved her!! Darn it! She called me and said that the professor sent her an email saying that 9 out of 12 students scored below average on the test and so she was sorry but she didn't think the class would be able to meet her needs. Well, bad for Canada, but I guess good for me. No news yet. And no news is good news right?

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Life is Good...

It's another sunny, beautiful day and Cyr is home! What a fantastic day...I have the patio doors open and the window in the kitchen so there is a light breeze that is flowing through the house. No clue what the temperature is, I would have to say it's "Houston-Spring with a few clouds". So...maybe 76ish??

I start my intensive French class tomorrow and am really excited/nervous about it. Cyr is so sweet, he is going to drive me to my class so I don't have to take the metro my first day. I don't mind the metro at all, I actually kind of like it, but who turns down a chauffeur eh? The info says 3 hours of class time in the morning with 2 hours of lab or conversation afterwards. But tomorrow, since it's the first day, we have to take that assessment test I spoke of in my previous post. Not looking forward to that at all.

I've never been a fan of school, I think that is why I was a teacher for a short while. I thought, "man, someone needs to make this stuff entertaining." I did for a while, but then I moved over to the dark side (outside sales) and never went back to teaching. Turns out most teachers are good at sales. I mean come on, if you can sell US History to a room full of 7/8 year olds all at the same time, you can sell almost anything my friend.

Hope everyone had a great weekend and I'll let you know how my first day of class goes! Wish me luck...

Friday, June 27, 2008

M'appeler Betty Crocker

I'm in the zone, the cooking zone.

But before I get into that, I have to post a picture of the site I saw the man relieving himself at. He wasn't there today...whew. He was right by cement thing that is on the ground.

Moving on to today's topic.
With the taste of Wednesday's mustard chicken success still tingling my taste buds I began to surf around blogs looking for things I can cook. I like the ones written by people in France because I typically know I can get the ingredients here and sometimes they will call things by the French name which makes it easy. Although I did run into a little trouble.

Baking powder. How do you translate this? It's not "de poudre a pate" as I found out. Then I ran across the coolest website while trying to figure this out!! Many of you seasoned Francophiles may know of this site...but I just found and love the English-French Food Dictionary!! Cyr used to ask me "wat is zat stuff you put in bread and tings to make it rise?" All I could come up with was "yeast", but alas, "baking powder" is what he was looking for! By the way, I now know it's levure chimique which when I translate comes out as "yeast chemical". Heck...I had to look up what the stuff did because I was going to just leave it out of the recipe! Turned out the good ol 8a8 (translate fancy 711 market) had some in stock and so the following picture blog is dedicated to Veggie Muffins (with cheese)

Have batter done, here is what will be inside the tasty (yet healthy) muffins:

Yes, those are cubes of Comte cheese, I couldn't let it get too healthy now. Here they are ready to go into the oven. I only had one muffin pan, which I purchased this morning from Carrfour, so I put the rest of the batter in a loaf pan. It was shallow but turned out well! And the muffin pan is one of those plasticy things and you could just pop them out when they were done!! Love that thing, so cool. Although I'm sure it causes some kind of cancer, I mean it's bendable and you cook with it.

I set the picture knob to the picture of the cake assuming that was "bake" and here they are 20 minutes later! (Baked at 180 Celcius by the way.)

They were fantastic!! Here is what the inside looks like:

The recipe didn't say how long to leave them in so I have this tea timer I got in Houston that I hooked on my belt and would add minutes to and go and check. I just think this is to neat because it's bendy so I thought I would post a picture.

I wasn't very neat with the putting of the batter into the muffin holes. But I kind of liked it! If I had kids I would make them on purpose like this:

Cyr is without internet connection in Luanda, Angola today (back from other crazy towns thank goodness) so he can't read my blog until he comes home. I might save the little animal guy for him. :-)

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Interesting Facts, Part III - La Cuisine

French ovens cook in Celsius.

Our oven was not actually hooked up and working until I was away in the US and since I have been back I have been cooking on the stove top and had no need to venture into the realm actually inside the oven. Well all this changed yesterday. In the quest to become Healthy Susan (translate drop a few pounds/kilos for the wedding) I have been cooking a lot of boring things on the stove top and eating cereal since Cyr is out of town. I don't mind eating the same thing a few days in a row so I went out and bought a package of chicken breasts and thought I would bake some mustard chicken. Pas de problem right? Non...

It started off well. I had all four ingredients out; chicken, salt, pepper, mustard and even a nice clear Pyrex thingy to cook it in. Once I have used my top secret and highly complex method of applying the mustard, salt and pepper to the chicken I then go to preheat the oven. I do this after the coating because I decide I'll let it hang out and soak up the mustard while the oven warms up. I mean...I'm not actually going to prepare this early and let it marinate. It's just me so 5-10 minutes of marination works fine.

So I check out all the crazy knobs and opt for the one I think is just "bake". There are no words, just pictures of things (see photo) so I'm not sure, but I know I don't want a pizza, cake, bread or what looks to be a speedy snail to come out and I'm fairly sure that all the modes make heat occur in the oven. I end up going for the empty box on the right of the "0".

I try to set the oven to 350. It won't go over 250. What?! You mean to tell me that Cyr finally managed to get the oven to fit in the space, fixed the electrical outlet and the stupid thing is broken? That is just ridiculous. I keep turning the knob to the left but it won't move over 250. It will go down, just not up. So I keep it at 250 to warm up and look for the manual just in case. I don't want to hit an ejector seat button or something and blow the place up.

"Bing!" The oven is warm now, put the chicken in.

The good thing is that I actually picked the correct picture to bake on. Oh the sweet scent of victory... The interesting thing is that they have a chart with foods and suggested cooking times and temperatures. I look at the chart and most of the foods are at 200 for an hour or less. Huh? How the heck do they get anything to cook in under an hour at 200?

With my super spy-like grasp of the obvious I then notice the headings at the top of the graph. Degrees Celsius it reads. Holy seared chicken feathers Batman! That's not the smell of victory, that's the smell of mustard chicken!! I open the oven and a waft of very warm mustard scented air puffs out my hair and makes my eyes squint a little. The sides of the pan are a rich dark brown, the very same color (I'm sure) that mustard would be if you were to light it on fire. The chicken has been in for less than 10 minutes so it's ok. I turn the knob down to 190 and run to my trusty laptop to look up on the conversion calculator what the hell 350 F is in Celsius then set the oven to 175.

I should have taken a picture of the chicken, it was fabulous! The Pyrex also looked very nice with the burnt top portion. Like I had really done something!! My father would be so impressed!

I know many of you were hoping for (and expecting) a post here similar to my "Flaming Nacho" experience in my Houston house a few years ago where I was able to experience first hand what it is like to use a fire extinguisher, but alas I am (and have been for years) flame free. Watch out Rachel Ray, I'm cookin now. In Celsius.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Nature Called

Please note: the following happening is not a common occurrence. I don't think.

One of the things I love about where we live is that I can walk to the butcher, the bakery, the market (you thought I was going to say candle stick maker didn't you?) and a few other shops. As I think has been the case in most of France; this week has been amazing weather. It's just gorgeous here in Lille. I know those of you in the south of France or in Paris can not possibly believe this but it's been 26 (~77) and sunny for a full week now here in the Nord-pas-de-Calais. I think I'm even getting a little tan from my daily outings!

I don't just want to sit inside and look at the weather, I want to be in it, so everyday I get out and go someplace. I took a day off from hotel shopping for the wedding and decided to walk to the market and the flower shop to pick up a few items. As usual, the fruit and vegetables were beautiful when I got there. The tomatoes here are so red they make your eyes squint and your taste buds tighten up when you see them in the sun. So I made my healthy purchases and headed home. I was walking in the sun smiling to myself as I day dreamed of how I am going to need to find a seamstress in Lille because I am going to be so damn skinny by the time my wedding gets here in October that my dress won't fit.

I pass some girls chatting, some boys on their bikes trying to look as if they don't notice the girls, then I cross the street and begin the walk down my block while mentally jamming with Jimmy Buffet on my iPod. Being the cautious soul I am I look both ways and begin to cross into the second block of my street. I look ahead and there is a businessman in navy blue pants and a plaid shirt standing about 20 yards ahead of me facing the shrubbery holding his brief case in his left hand. I'm not sure why I notice the briefcase. "What is he doing? Where is his right ha -- oh my."

By the time I put together the scene; back to me, front to bush, one hand visible, leaves of shrub near his knees quivering and reflecting the sun off their newly slick surface, I am across the street two car lengths from him. I start a bit as if trying to avoid poop on the sidewalk, but alas it's pee on the bush and a view of this man's nether regions I'm trying to avoid. My eyes dart from side to side looking where to go, but I'm already somehow across the street and there is a car parked on my left blocking me in the sidewalk. What would he do if he notices me? Say hello? Drip on my new groceries? Think Susan...what to do?

Whatever, it's France. I put an extra spring in my step, put my nose in the air and just walk by swinging my fruit and veggies less than 5 feet from him. I did however try to pretend like I was looking across the street at something very interesting and I might have upped my pace a bit. But once I passed by it was it if never happened. Even now I'm not sure if I imagined it. I couldn't turn around, I might turn to salt like that woman leaving Las Vegas - I mean Sodam and Gomora.

Damn...somehow I forgot the flower shop.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008


Well...I walked all over town again today looking at potential sites for a wedding reception. I found some great places, the problem is they don't allow music at all or you have to stop it at 11pm. Uhh...really?

I'm guessing that is because although all the buildings here are old and beautiful, because of this same fact they are not at all soundproof. They kept telling me that because there were hotel rooms they could not play music. Seriously? You mean you have hotel rooms in this hotel? Why that's outrageous. So I have great ideas for the rehearsal dinner, but I'm at nada for the reception. I think we are going to have to go a little out of Lille, which means we will also need shuttles. Maybe places can supply those things...who knows. I'm going to conquer this thing as much as possible this week.

Right now I'm going to visit my only friend here in Lille. She owns a jewelry shop and I am going to swing by for coffee. I'll call her Friend A. So I'm going to hit Friend A up for some advice on this. Maybe she knows of a place. I'm also excited just to go to coffee with someone. I feel like I'm on a date, I think I'm nervous! Seriously, anyone who has been (or is in) my expat-in-France shoes knows it's hard to make female friends here. Friend A is French but speaks good English. Even if she doesn't have advise I think I have an advert that one of my other friends sent me of a place her cousin got married at that is just outside of Lille. Uh - I hope I can find it...

Oh - I also studied last night for first time since 1993 (sophomore/junior year at UH, Algebra). Thank goodness for Jennie!! I went over her tutorials and I think I might be able to squeak by so that I'm not too, too beginner. I wish it was a conversational placement exam. Actually...I bet part of it is conversation. That would be good for me. Last night I watched an episode of Grey's Anatomy in French and understood a fairly good amount. Of course I don't get ANY medical terms, but I don't get those in English. :-) Plus it helps that they are two seasons behind so I know what is going on. I mean, Dr. Burke is still on the show here! It's like I'm in Back to the Future but instead of having an old sports book from the future it's tv shows. I should make some bets with the locals about the characters and what their futures hold...

Monday, June 23, 2008

Remember that dream about school?

The one where you show up and you forgot it's exam day? Well, I feel like that one is about to come true. Next Monday I start a three week intensive French course at the ICL Clarife. I'm really excited about the course and can't wait to get in and be frustrated all over again with this language. The only thing is...

I received a letter welcoming me to the class and all that jazz, but part of the jazz I wasn't expecting. Seems that when I show up next Monday I am going to have to take an exam so they can see what level I'm at. C-R-A-P!!!

I never took French in school, I took one class in Houston last summer from the Alliance Francaise and that was one class a week for like 6 or 8 weeks. I can understand a fairly decent amount, I can speak a little, but I can not write at all. I"m not exaggerating. When I want to sign something "je t'aime" I go to Google language tools and translate because I know I can't spell. I did it just now!! It says it's for intermediate level students but that there are no prerequisites, just suggested ones. I'm not intermediate, I'm beginner, I can admit that. But they don't have anything that says beginner so I signed up for this one thinking I could cram and all that horrible stuff you do when you are behind. What if I take this test and they tell me I'm too low to even be in the class?! I would freak out. I have been looking forward to this for months. I will actually meet people here, and even if I don't like the people, it will give me people to be around and something to work toward. I can't work on finding a job until we are married and though I have been trying to do some work from home (sales) I just don't like it. I have worked out of my house for the last 5 years and especially being in a new country; I need some people contact. I want to find a job here even if it's part time, but something that isn't out of my house and on the phone all day, well really evening because it's calling the US.

BUT...I can't find a job if I don't speak French so I need this darn class. Then once we get married I can also take free classes though the government somehow. I just didn't want to wait any additional time so I decided to sign up and pay for this one though the Catholic University here. Oh well, if they kick me to the curb I should get my money back right?

Guess I will spend this week reviewing verb conjugations. I wonder if everyone else in the class is cramming right now. Those damn curve breakers are going to screw me up again...

Saturday, June 21, 2008

A Day at the Zoo

I went to get my hair colored again today. Cyr's still in Angola and I wanted to celebrate the Fete de la Music on my own somehow, so I made a date with the Knights of the (Clarol) Round Table here in Lille. So dubbed because we actually do all sit around a circular table.

Anyway...those of you that know me know that I have pretty thick hair. Last time I went it was like a 3.5 hour ordeal getting my hair colored and cut so I thought I would just tackle the color this week and the cut another day. So I got there at 14h (that's 2pm) and left at 17h (5pm). I look great though! The stylist guy wanted to straighten my hair and it took him more than 45 minutes. He actually had to pull up a chair half way through. He said he was fatigue when he was done. Ha!! So was I. I have a lot of hair, which makes me not mind paying a bit more for color or cut. Those people earn their money with me I tell ya.

I do feel like I'm at the zoo when I'm there. The only thing is that I feel much more like the chimp behind the bars undergoing a grooming process rather than the people looking in and eating popcorn. Maybe in a few months I can move to the other side and be an observer once I learn the language better.

Friday, June 20, 2008

A Wedding in France

Today I received an email from one of my cousins, Cheryl. Cheryl is great, she lives in Houston and is also engaged to be married. She's actually doing a small wedding, just the two of them. I like the way that is sounding. She asked how my wedding plans are going.


They are going about the pace of traffic on 610 and Westeimer at 5pm on the Friday before Christmas in Houston. It feels like I'm actually going backwards but I know that can't be possible. My French sucks and the customs seem very different here from the people I talk to. I actually went to a hotel when my friend Stephen was in town to just see if they had small to medium rooms to reserve for a reception. The one we went to was a big French non. As Stephen pointed out "I think they think you want to party in one of their hotel rooms." They totally thought that actually. They kept telling me "You can reserve a room for four people, or you could reserve many rooms." I can picture it now...
"Ok people, listen up! Please don't spill the red wine on the carpets and do not look through other people's luggage. Keep the children off the stairs, out of the elevators and please do not invite people from rooms 213 and higher because they are not part of the guest list. Just be polite and ask them to move on. You can sit anywhere from room 140 - 211 and cake is in 212. Bon appetite and merci for coming! "
I think I am going to send an email to Cyr's Mom and ask for help. If she is anything like an American future in-law she should have a little part of her that wants to help, right? She's actually been fantastic to me and I really like her so I'm hoping that will work. I'm also going to give some of my French friends a call. Get ready for me Marine and Jeanne...I'm stalking you next week.

I do have one thing done; we have the church!! Oh, plus a dress and we picked out rings. I keep getting people calling and emailing asking about hotels and travel and all kinds of stuff. Damn, when did people start planning for things at the end of October in June!! That's like 5 months away! I know, people with families need time and all that stuff. Yes, I get it. I know. I promise I will take my broken-ass-French-speaking self to hotels next week so that I can at least recommend something that doesn't have a strange oder when you walk into the lobby. I seriously doubt I will be able to find a reception place, I think we will probably end up doing a restaurant for dinner and drinks afterwards. You might have to come to Houston for the late night dancing scene.

So, goals for next week;
  1. Find two hotels to recommend to people. One 3/4 star and one economical choice.
    1. Yes...I KNOW it needs to be easily accessible to the train station or found by taxi.
  2. Email future mother-in-law for advice
  3. Call French friends for help/advice
Man, I think this would actually be fun if it were being done in Houston. I feel like I could plan the Houston one in a week. As a matter of fact I will probably have that puppy done by Thanksgiving and it will be in March. I already know a place I want to book...

Thursday, June 19, 2008

How to Make Paella, French Style...

I decided to buy some meals that I could cook on my own. I figured all I would need to do would be to enter the directions in the Google translation tool and voila, I would have a meal!

Step 1:
"In a large skillet, heat a medium heat 2 soup spoons of olive oil. Pour the rice and let it brown for 2 minutes. About stirring occasionally."
Ok, not too bad. I have it so far. I can find a soup spoon.

Step 2:
"Pour 30 cl water on the stove (a proportion using the trait dosage inscribed on the shield) add the contents of the packet of spices. Mix and as soon distribute the content of the box garnish on rice."

Ok, just going to ignore the "trait dosage" thing and use 30 cl of water. I think that is 300 ml right?

Step 3:
"Mix again, wear a ebullition then cover the stove and cook a low heat about 20 minutes until a absorption of broth."

Really? I have to wear "a ebullition" while cooking? Well I am not sure I have one of those laying around. If I do, I don't know if I want to wear it all alone. I think I might save that for when Cyr is back in town. I had no idea how involved French cuisine was.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Marching with the French

Well, Cyr is now busy working away in Lowanda, Angola. He left Monday and I had a visitor come stay for a few days. For the first time since I moved her we had nice weather when I had a visitor! It was so nice not be constantly telling someone that "It's not this cold here all the time, really."

My friend Karen came to visit and it snowed the whole week. I have never seen snow here at any other time, just when my cold natured friend who has no body fat to keep her warm came to visit. When my Mom and my friend Bonnie were here it was overcast, cold and drizzly rain. Maybe it's that when God sees visitors are here he doesn't want them all to know what a beautiful city Lille is. This way it keeps people from flocking here.

So Stephen showed up and I was shocked when it was 21 degrees (that is almost 70 for those Fahrenheit readers out there) and sunny. It was great, he was here two days and we would leave in the morning and spend the day in the city walking around and sitting at outside cafes all day. He has been traveling throughout Europe and was pretty museumed and cultured out so we just hung out and ate some local food. He even tried the bone marrow (see picture). This stuff tastes like olive oil paste or something. You sprinkle rock salt on it and put it on toast, oh, heaven on a biscuit!

Stephen also got to witness a favorite French pastime; a protest!! We were walking to the train station and the main street leading through the Grand Place (main square) was filled with people carrying signs and waving flags. Well, they weren't really waving as much as just holding. Really, I have never seen a more laid back group of protesters in my life. There must have been hundreds of people divided by industry, from what I could translate, all marching to protest the fact that Sarkozy wants to amend the 35 hour work week limit currently in place. The crazy French president wants to take away this limit and ask people to work a full 40. From what I understand, currently folks in a manager role or higher are exempt from this law, so it would affect most of the middle and lower level roles. They all looked as if they were walking to the bakery, there was really almost no excitement in the march. Actually not even the bakery, French people tend to walk quickly to the bakery, more like they were all walking to have lunch at thier in-laws. The pictures look much more exciting that it really was.

I wonder if the march time went toward their 35 hours or if they had to use vacation?

Now Stephen has left for the US and I'm trying to get our apartment in order. Why is it so hard to empty a suit case? Is it just me or does it seem that bags hold some kind of magnetic force that holds clothes in them when a trip is over. I can't seem to just come home and unpack over a day or two. I like to take my time, make sure the clothes don't mind being moved. Don't want to mess with the clothing equilibrium I guess.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Ah Paris!!

Well Mom and I did Paris for two days and made the most of it. We took a 10am train from Lille and arrived Paris a little after 11am. We then bravely charted our way to our hotel via the Paris subway system. For the most part I really love their Metro, it's easy to read the maps and plot the route you need to take wherever you want to go. The only glitch we had was trying to find Metro "D" at Gare du Nord. I didn't realize that D1, D2, D3 and D4 were all the same line. Whoda thunk? I asked a really nice Frenchman helped us out and we found our way to our super cool hotel; the Seventh Art Hotel, or L'hotel du 7eme Art in French. It was so cute!! It was right by a Metro stop (which most places are) right off the Seine River not far from Notre Dame. The hotel is themed after film and music with old posters and records everywhere. It also had air conditioning which we needed as it was actually sunny and about 80 degrees the days we were there. Here is Mom in our room. It might look small, but we had a little sitting place with a table for two and a large mirror. Huge by economical Paris hotel room standards.

Mom asked me what size the beds were, I'm not sure. They were actually smaller than a twin. I think they were triplet size. I actually sort of fell off one night while rolling over.

I also learned something new about my mother this trip. Most people have some sort of quirk about them you wouldn't know about unless you spent time with them. Cyr can't see a license plate without making up words for the letters in it, I imagine giving away a few pounds to skinny people I see (it would be a win-win you see) and Mom counts stairs. We now know that most restrooms in Lille are 15 steps down, I think she said the subway is 30 down and up, and there were 60 stairs up to our room at the hotel. Yeah...they don't have an elevator. We would have to stop and pretend to chat half way up. I was also reminded of how safety conscious my Mom is. "Put a chair in front of the door" she asks before we go to sleep. I did this and Mom says "Good, I feel better now."

Uhh...Mom...the chair doesn't reach the door knob. I thought the whole purpose for this set up was to hold the door in place. Apparently I am not aware of the secret powers of The Chair. But I digress...

After we checked in we went to have a bit to eat. Mom got some French Onion Soup, just known as "Onion Soup" here.

We then went to the Louvre and saw Mona and some of her friends.
Mom's favorite.

Just kidding!! I made her take this picture. Besides, it's in the Louvre it must be tasteful.

After our exposure to some art we decided to hop on the L'Open Bus Tour so that we could hitch a ride and not have to walk so much. This was the best idea ever! The cost was 29 euro for one day and only 3 euro more for two. You just hop on any stopped L'Open Tour bus and buy your tickets when you board. I highly recommend doing this if you have only have two days in Paris. It's better than a taxi and you get to see all kinds of things you wouldn't see if you were on the metro. I know lots of people don't like tour buses, but you can hop on and off as much as you want and they have 4 different lines that see different things in Paris. My friend Jen and I discovered it when we were in Paris a few years ago. Here are Mom and I on the bus plus a few things we saw:

Notre Dame

Moulin Rouge

Sacre Coeur
I had a fantastic visit with Mom here, we finally got to spend some time together. I was in the US for over a month, but I was out visiting other people instead of spending time with her. I'm so glad she was able to come back with me. I think she liked Lille and France in general, though every time she would order meat she would ask; "Is it cooked?" This stems from the fact that Cyr would order "Steak American" which is steak tartar, which is raw ground meat with a raw egg cracked open on it. Why in the world they call it steak American I don't know. I know very few Americans who eat raw beef. Once did she order a steak and it turn out to be almost raw on the inside, I promptly switched with her and gave her my overdone (in my opinion) piece of meat and we were both happy.

Wednesday Mom caught a taxi to the airport and I had to go to the US Embassy to get some documents so that Cyr and I can get married. That is a whole other story I'll tell next time.

Miss you Mom!

Friday, June 6, 2008

Home at last!!

I'm back in Lille...yeah!! Don't get me wrong, I loved my visit home, but a month was just way too long to be away from Cyr. I did get a chance to see almost all of my family and friends though. Somehow it all still seemed rushed, especially at the end. Then again, I am that person who if given 6 weeks to do a project will wait until two days before to begin. Long deadlines are just unrealistic. Just tell me the week before and I will actually work a little everyday. As you can guess, I slacked off up front then had to try to cram everything into the last 4 days. It was nuts but fun.

The trip home was good, Mom came back with me for a nine day visit!! We boarded the plane in Houston and I was a little worried to be honest. I have a friend who flew Air France a few months ago back from Paris and her flight was horrible. So bad that her sister fainted in the aisle it was so hot, crazy eh? So I board and am prepared to live up to the "pushy American" label and do hand to hand combat with the flight attendants if needed. I purchased the tickets with miles and they were assigned seats that were both aisles with me in front and Mom in back of me. I didn't change the seats because I knew we needed to sleep on the flight so that we could fend off the jet lag as much as possible and if she were next to me I would probably talk her ear off. That didn't matter much see we were on a new plane and we each had our own direct tv thing to pick out movies and such. I was 15 minutes into Juno prior to take off! Because of my intense curiosity and need to be entertained I couldn't help but watch a few movies, then they came around with the free wine and it was over. I watched Juno (loved it), 27 Dresses (cute but predictable), The Golden Compass (good time filler but not great) and Bienvenue Chez les Ch'tis with English subtitles (I saw this in the theater but it was so good I saw it again. Love it!). So I think I got in about 30 minutes sleep. Mom didn't sleep much either. Without being able to doze off the flight seemed a little long but it was the typical 9 hours and a few minutes. There was some turbulence but the flight was great other than the pilot clicking on to wake us all up and let us know there was turbulence and to fasten our seat belts. Really? Come on man, shut up and let us sleep, if some idiot feels the turbulence and still insists on going to the bathroom he will probably get some bad splash of unknown bacteria and that in itself would be punishment enough.

The only entertaining part was our arrival and trip to Lille. Cyr came down with what I think was strep throat the day before we took off. He was so sick he went to the doctor. He has never been to the doctor since I have known him so this was a sign he was really pretty darn sick. I told him not to worry about picking us up and that we would take the train to Lille and he could pick us up from the train station there. Besides, Mom has never been on a train, you get to see the country side and it's only one hour direct as opposed to a two hour car ride. I guess it would not have been that bad if not for the bags. When I came over I left a lot of my summer clothes (we do so have summer in northern France, stop that!) and wanted to bring them back with me. Mom was good and got all her clothes in one bag, so I took her second carry on and had two of my own. Total we had 3 roller bags, a duffel and two carry ons. Traveling light? Not so much.

Arrival in Paris was quick an easy. Completely opposite of US customs. It took us less than 30 minutes to get our passports stamped and get our luggage. Once we have everything loaded onto a push cart we find our way to the train station in the airport to get tickets to Lille. I cannot thank Charles de Gaul enough for providing free push carts. Brilliant!! In the US they charge for the use (damn capitalism). It took a bit of wrestling but we found the ticket area. Unfortunately there are like 4 places to buy tickets at with multiple windows. There are local tickets, international and I have no clue what else. I decide the information line is shorter that waiting for a ticket in the wrong line so I line up with all the other Americans and find out where I should go. Glad I asked, I was totally eying the wrong lines. After our tickets are purchased we meet an American Army Veteran who is going to Normandy for a reunion. No kidding. This guy was 83 years old and hopping around the airport by himself looking for his train to Lille where he was meeting a friend. Turns out good old Travis was a medic during the war and was at Normandy. I had an uncontrollable urge to hug him, which I did when we parted later that day. Travis was on a first class train (check him out, traveling in style) and was not sure how to locate his train and car and all that good stuff. I felt so cultured knowing how to help him! I got to help someone in France! Actually two people because a girl heard me explaining and asked if I could help her as well. Damn, when I get depressed I should go to the train station and help people find their trains. That's better than therapy. Some unknowing travelers are so nervous and scared when they can't figure things out that when you help them it's as if you have come up with a solution to removing the troops or something.

I get our crew (Mom and Travis) and we wait for our platform to be announced. I check the gate numbers so I know where to head when it pops up. Got it! Number 3! We head to the gate, crap. Stairs. We have 6 pieces of luggage, I can't do stairs. I break into a sweat. French people are rarely on time, but French trains are almost always on time. Feet begin tapping when they are 3 minutes late. I tell Mom to stay up and I will take the bags down. Uhh...I made one trip and then began looking for an elevator. I find one, Travis is watching the one bag I left on the platform. I make Mom practically jog to the elevator and then we wait there huffing. We just waited an hour for the train, please don't let us miss it. After what seems like 20 minutes we get to our platform. By this time I fairly certain that Travis was in fact a disguised drug dealer and has hidden crack, heroin or both in my rolly bag. We arrive on the platform and I see him waiting for us with my bag. I eye him suspiciously but can't see how he could have fit the crack or heroin in my already stuffed bag. We haul our stuff to where car #5 should arrive, I show Travis where his car #1 will be and we wait. The train is 5 minutes late, French toes are tapping. Mom and I plan the attack on the train; she will go on and get the seats, I will toss up the bags and get them stowed. The train arrives, plan goes to hell, I hand up bags to Mom, we get in everyones way but get them all on. We find our seats and the train is pulling away before I can get Cyr's suit stowed. Oh yeah, I also had a suit for Cyr that he had altered. Damn...glad I got the bags on. We then sit and enjoy the ride. We never see Travis again and turns out I am not a drug mule after all. He gave us his card to keep in touch or if we needed to buy/sell property. He sells real estate now to fill his time and seems to be doing really well at it. I mean who wouldn't want to list property with with him or buy something from him? He seems like the most honest man in the world. I mean, your grandfather wouldn't screw you out of an extra 15% would he? Especially a war hero grandfather. I dunno...Travis was traveling first class now that I think of it. Ha...

Here are a few pictures from my last post.
The cutest pregnant woman in the world, my friend Jen in LA in her bikini:

Famous Me:

I'll post pics about Mom's visit next time.
Have a great day!
Love you Dad and will call you later!