Archive for June, 2011

Don’t Blame Me, I’m Just an Australian!

Sunday, June 26th, 2011

So I did it! I managed to talk my way into the 10km run this morning. Why I did this, I’m not sure, considering I almost died as a result. But when asked for my medical certificate I pulled a “I don’t have one because I’m Australian!” line and it worked! I had to write a note (in French) declaring that I was taking all responsibility for my health. So when I almost collapsed from heat exhaustion at the 4km mark of the run, I actually stopped because otherwise I’d have to sue myself.

Anyway, GO ME! I did it! I ran the 10km (well… I walked maybe 100 of those metres in total) and I crossed the finish line and the best thing of all… I wasn’t last! I wasn’t first either, but I also wasn’t a guy with ripped leg muscles who just sprinted the entire race. Nor was I wearing short lycra shorts. Some clear disadvantages there, I think you’ll agree. I came 350th (a nice round number) out of 600 competitors which I am quite pleased with. My time – 55 minutes and 57 seconds. I had Tom standing by the side of the road with a camera and a water bottle so there’ll be photos of me with a red face pulled into all sorts of “Oww! I want to stop!” contortions. But I have to say I am very proud of myself for doing it. Not only that, I managed to complete it in under one hour and I wasn’t last. And I have fulfilled one of my goals of running in fun run and I did it in Paris! Awesome.

Strangely enough, one of the biggest difficulties was the heat – it was really warm! So far I have only ever run in temperatures below 20 degrees (once or twice it was -2) in Paris so running in the warmth was a bit of a shock to the system. My body doesn’t like me much at the moment but in half an hour I’m meeting Rom, Coup and Amanda (visiting from Perth) for ice cream. I think that will make everything better. Then we’re going to go and check out the noises coming from the canal – it is Les Voix sur les Berges which I think is a choir competition on the canal. Could be interesting, could be terrible. We shall see. Until then, here’s a photo of me having just won the Paris Marathon.

The finish line

VICTORY!

Danger Run

Sunday, June 26th, 2011

About a week ago, I signed up for a 10km fun run that starts and finishes on the other side of the canal from me. It is currently 9am on the morning of the run and I have just discovered that I need a doctor’s certificate in order to participate. In France, you can smoke and drink as much as you want but you can’t even contemplate doing any sort of sporting activity without consulting your doctor to see if you might die from it. I had stupidly not read the fine print on the email I was sent and this morning have discovered the truth, after leaving a party early last night and avoiding not drinking too much etc etc. Plus I was all excited as I have never done a fun run before and 10km is a nice challenge for me. I’m going to try and get in anyway but it is highly likely I’ll be refused. I guess if they refuse me then I’ll just do my own 10km run and it’ll be a much nicer course than the one they have set out. So NER to them, stupid French.

Disappointment.

Saturday, June 25th, 2011

Every now and then I have intense, over-powering, unstoppable desires to spend money and to shop, shop, shop! The other day I was speaking to my brother on Skype and saw a new purchase he had made and realised that he owns more clothes than I do and I am supposed to be living in one of the world’s most fashionable cities. What was I thinking by trying to save money and not buying overpriced designer goods?! So to the shops I went!

Galleries Lafayette

Shops. Precious shops.

France has this very weird thing of only allowing shops to have sales (or ‘soldes’) twice a year. This is both annoying and great because it means you can’t find bargains all year round BUT when things do go on sale, they REALLY go on sale. None of this “Everything is on sale except for things that you actually want” business. Entire product ranges are reduced and by decent percentages. One of those soldes happens to be on right now and today I grabbed a Velib and rode down to Galleries Lafayette with my brain set in “Shopping Mode.” I knew it would be busy and I even managed to stay relatively smiley for most of the time. I tried on many things, found many bargains, but do you think I bought anything? Nothing. Not even half a thing. The closest I got was contemplating a Le Crueset pot which was ridiculously cheap when compared to Australian prices, but the thought of shipping a very heavy pot back to Australia scared me away. I don’t know what happened. I came home feeling quite depressed, tired, sore and wanting a beer. I still have until mid-July to make use of the sales. I think I need my shopping buddy, Pip, to come with me. Then we’ll do some real damage.

Walk This Way

Friday, June 24th, 2011

Introducing the latest edition to the Zaum menagerie – everyone, meet Jacob. Jacob, meet everyone.

Jacob the mud walker
Hello…

Jacob was born near the Zuidplaspolder – the lowest point of the Netherlands and has always felt a strong affinity to all things ‘marshy’. This is potentially because his mother gave birth to him in a swamp (it’s a long story involving flat bike tyres, a windmill and lots of herring) and the fact he spent a lot of time playing in canals and soggy ground throughout his childhood. Whatever the case, Jacob has never shied away from getting a bit dirty.

Jacob the mudwalker

Jacob is ready for any muddy situation

Unfortunately for Jacob, this backfired slightly in that he was constantly teased and getting into trouble at school for the muck under his finger nails and the general stench that wafted off his skin. But no matter how many times he was tripped up by bullies, he couldn’t stay away from the ooey-gooey goodness that mud provided. In his opinion, all humans should live in mud, be constantly coated in mud, and live off the creatures and fungus that grow in and around mud. There is nothing better.

This is why when it came time for Jacob to leave home and find himself a job, he headed to the north of the Netherlands and took up mudwalking. He couldn’t believe his luck when he found out that he could make a living taking tourists on treks across the North sea sea-bed when the tide was out. Suddenly people were interested in his passion – people wanted to become with mud, just like him!

Jacob the mud walker

Everywhere he goes, he takes his mudwalking stick

While he did manage to get a job as a mudwalk tour guide, it wasn’t easy. People get scared by his odd looks and obsession with the slimy stuff. Due to decades of contact with mud, Jacob’s pasty-white skin has turned into a dark, mouldy-black. His blonde hair has permanently stuck to the top of his head and you can’t tell the difference between hair and skin. The only part of his face that is easily decipherable are his eyes that bulge out in a mole-like appearance. The only part of him that makes him clearly a Dutch-man are his limbs – long and gangly compared to the rest of his body. His legs are excellent tools for getting out of tricky mud-situations and his arms can pull out stuck tourists in an instant.

Every time he heads out on an expedition into the great mud, Jacob will always wear his lucky green hat. It is the only colourful item that he will wear – he never washes his mudwalking outfits as he has broken too many washing machines and he hates doing it by hand. His hat, however, is his pride and joy and he will do anything to avoid it getting muddy. In addition, he attached a small bell to the back of it in case of emergencies – should he ever get completely stuck in the mud he will ring the bell to call for help. Now that’s a pro-mudwalker.

Jacob the mud walker

Lindt Bunnies aren't the only ones who need bells

Jacob will be available for purchase from my Etsy Store soon! I just need to go to the post office and work out postage costs… That’ll be fun. Not. Also, Jacob is made from a sock that had a one in three chance of being used by me when I went mudwalking in Holland. The socks I actually used were beyond repair so this is as good as I could do. I don’t think any quarantine departments would have been too happy about me sending mud-filled socks across their borders.

It’s Those Planes…

Wednesday, June 22nd, 2011

Clearly the planes with their vapour trails are attacking Paris now – they’ve moved on from Athens (see my post about the lady on the plane if you don’t know what I’m talking about.) Every morning, I get up at 7.15am to go for a run. This week I have had to return to bed because it has been raining! What’s with that?! It is supposed to be summer. They do now forecast 32 degrees and thunderstorms for Monday. Can’t wait.

They Built This City on Rock and Roll and Jazz and Hip Hop and Techno…

Wednesday, June 22nd, 2011

I love Paris. Sometimes it just really comes through and makes you realise how great a city it is. Yesterday was Fête de la Musique which is the one night of the year where the city fills with music on every corner of every street. At about 8pm, Tom and I headed towards the centre of the city and met up with Rom and Coup (who is sporting a new Swedish hair style and looking very snazzy) and we made our way aimlessly, following the sounds of instruments.

I have never seen anything like it before – bands were competing for sound space and sometimes if you stood in the right place you could have an indie band playing in one ear and a dj ‘mixing it up’ in the other. Thousands of people were out and about enjoying the free concerts and everyone was in great spirits. What particularly interested/amused/excited me was seeing such a wide variety of music being enjoyed by such a wide variety of people. At one stage we were standing outside a middle eastern restaurant listening to an elderly guy singing and playing a keyboard and creating amazing music (I think it was middle eastern of some description – not sure.) There was a huge group of people listening and dancing to the music and the crowd would have had a representative from every gender, age group, nationality possible. Further down the road and into a little side street we followed the sounds of electronic doosh-doosh music to find a white-masked dj playing from the window of a small clothing store with about 20 darkly-clad goths dancing wildly outside. That was just weird.

The potentially strangest moment of the night was our final music viewing. Things had started closing and we hadn’t seen any music for two street blocks but could hear something in the distance and walked towards it. As we turned the corner we saw a small stage set up next to a church where two guys were playing digeridoos to a crowd consisting of happy, drunk, young white folk; a hippy girl on roller skates; an asian guy on a fold up bicycle; children (it was midnight by this point); a punk; and all sorts of other ‘types’. The music wasn’t great but the crowd sure was enjoying it. I was enjoying watching the crowd and trying to work out how on earth this group of people could potentially have gathered in the same place at the same time and actually have something in common. It was brilliant.

Fete de la musique

He definitely wasn't Australian – A blurry photo but you get the idea

So a great night was had and not once did I see a drunken brawl or anyone doing anything even slightly stupid. If this had been in Perth, the riot police would have been in full patrol and everyone would have been strip searched and sent home to bed by 8pm. We bought pints of beer in plastic cups and walked through the streets past police officers who didn’t even look at us. It is technically illegal to drink in the streets but unless you’re drunk the police will overlook it. And it works.

Merci pour un bonne nuit, Paris.

Living Your Paris Dream Challenge

Tuesday, June 21st, 2011

I have received a few requests for Parisian dreams lived vicariously through me which is very pleasing! Please keep them coming. The more specific they are the better. Pretend I have no creative thought and need to be told exactly what to do. It’s your dream, not mine! I can’t read your mind.

So, Tom’s mum has given me a broad, though butt-kicking, challenge to do one fun thing everyday just because it is fun. No thought processes allowed. For those of you who really know me, you would be aware of my tendency to over-think things and to weigh-up pros and cons, consider what other people would think, etc etc. No more – now I am to be free and easy and jumping at any opportunity that entices me. Sounds like a plan.

So today was day one of “Jess’s Fun Times in Paris” and what fun was had! MY GOSH. I woke this morning to the delightful sound of falling rain. I thought at first it was Tom’s computer having a heart attack, but I went downstairs to investigate whether or not I had to go for a run (my morning ritual involves my alarm going off at 7.15am so that I can get up and prepare my calorie count for potential french pastries) and discovered it was raining quite hard. No run possible with that water creating slippery French pavements! That was fun thing number one: sleeping in.

Then, after breakfast, I wrote on my blog before Tom suggested a run. Dang. But I managed to run a decent length at a good speed and it started to sprinkle which added that element of “I’m running in the rain next to a canal in Paris!”

By this stage it was lunch time so a fresh baguette with cheese, rocket, tomato and nutella (not necessarily all together) was consumed and greatly enjoyed before Tom and I hoped on our Velib bikes and headed to the movie cinema to watch Pirates of the Caribbean 4. Ahhh… Johnny. How can a girl not have a good day when Johnny Depp is part of it? Yes, I am one of those girls but I also went to watch the movie because I think the Pirates series is particularly good. I found this episode to be quite well done with a good plot but a terrible casting with what’s-her-name-who-can’t-act-but-can-pout. I’m not sure how Penelope Cruz has reached the stardom that she has. Sure, she’s hot, but surely you need some sort of skill? She’s good when she’s speaking Spanish because then I can’t understand her. Good to see Geoffrey Rush again and the religious guy who falls in love with a mermaid was pretty.

On our way home, we stopped in at the bakery to buy our second baguette for the day to go with my sweet potato, carrot and chickpea soup. It was still warm, fresh from the oven and released delicious, enticing smells. This is where my official “Do something fun because it is fun” moment occurred. Normally I resist the temptation of breaking off the end of the baguette. Usually I wait until I sit down and eat my lunch and can devour the crusty tip with a dollop of nutella. But not today. I turned to Tom and said “This is my moment of fun for the day” and I ripped off the rounded baguette end with my bare hands and tore into it with my teeth. Worlds collided. Taste buds danced and I’m certain Bambi pranced down the street. The simple things in life can bring the greatest joys and a fresh baguette end eaten on a street corner outside a pharmacy is one of those simple things. Wonderful. I love France.

P.S. Not so dream like news is that I didn’t get that job. Luckily I didn’t reallllyyy want it anyway because who wants to work full time?

P.P.S. Tomorrow is Fête de la Musique in Paris where apparently the streets will be filled with free music performances. The sister of a friend (who I will immediately adopt as a friend) is visiting for the day so she timed it well. Lots to see, I suspect. A guy I went to primary and high school with is in town too so I may actually be able to show him something exciting in Paris.

Highlight #2

Monday, June 20th, 2011

I promised three highlights and so far have only delivered one. That’s shocking. Here’s your second:

Germany

Our trip to Germany involved staying at Tom’s Oma’s house in a suburb of Koblenz with his Oma (we didn’t kick her out) and his parents who are currently touring Europe. Koblenz is in a particularly nice location – Nero Claudius Drusus picked a good spot when he established Koblenz as a military base in 8BC (information stolen from Wikipedia.) It sits where the Rhine and Moselle rivers join so it is surrounded by water and green valleys full of castles. Hence my highlight of Germany was our daily drives along the rivers.

We hired a Hyundai I20 and everyday we’d pick a place to go and drive there, spending as much time as possible avoiding the autobahn and driving along the rivers. The views are just spectacular – driving along the curving river edge with green hills on either side, blue skies (generally) and then the odd castle scattered high up on the hills. One of the highlights of this highlight is when we went to a town called Boppard and took a chairlift to the top of one of the hills. The chairlift took 20-odd minutes to reach the top and you had plenty of time to take in the views.

chairlift
Check this out!

The rivers are very well used – the sun was shining so there were people out and about on bikes or walking, hundreds of boats were going up and down the river and every town has cafes and bars open for visitors. Plus there are castles on every side of the river that are open to tourists. Slightly different to the Swan river. One day we sat and had a beer at the top of a castle and watched the sun slowly going down. The castle was built sometime around 1300 and the beer was brewed locally. Now that’s good stuff.

Beer and castle

Ahhh...

Handy News

Sunday, June 19th, 2011

Apparently I’m not the only person who needs help conjugating French verbs. I was reading the Le Monde newspaper online this morning and discovered that they have a section next to the classifieds and job opportunities that shows you how to conjugate verbs! Brilliant. I think The West Australian should pick that idea up because plenty of Australians need help with the English language. They may need to extend it beyond verb endings though. It’s about time people became aware that “Can I help youse?” is NOT a sentence.

I did particularly enough learning how to conjugate the verb “Estérifier,” which, according to my French/English dictionary, means to esterify. According to my English dictionary, to Esterify means to create an organic compound by replacing the hydrogen of an acid by analkyl or other organic group. Many naturally occurring fats and essential oils are esters of fatty acids. Now that’s a handy verb! You, too, can learn such verbs and how to conjugate them in French! Won’t that be fun.

It Stinks

Sunday, June 19th, 2011

The particularly unpleasant smell of someone cooking French beef in butter is permeating my apartment at the moment. French beef has a lot stronger flavour and smell than Australian and it really smells when you cook it. I wish they would stop.
Meanwhile, there appears to be a concert happening in my backyard (aka. the park behind my apartment.) I’m going to go and check it out this afternoon. At the moment all we have heard are sound checks and fairly average guitar playing. Hopefully things improve or it’ll be a noisy afternoon in Paris.

Park

The sounds are coming from somewhere behind those trees