Archive for February, 2012

Happy Extra Day!

Wednesday, February 29th, 2012

It’s the 29th of February! There is something exciting about having an additional day in the year and I am pleased that February gets to catch up to those other months with their larger number of days. Poor February misses out three quarters of the time. Pauvre Février. I’m sure there will be lots of girls dropping to their knees on top of the Eiffel Tower today as they grab the opportunity to snare themselves a husband. Don’t climb any towers today, boys.

The BEST News Ever

Tuesday, February 28th, 2012

FANTASTIC NEWS, EVERYONE!!! The French government have considered the pros and cons of allowing me to re-enter their country and they have decided that I consume enough food to keep their economy going and therefore have been granted a Visa! After waiting two very long weeks, plus numerous months before that worrying about whether or not I would be accepted, I am so glad to finally have the little green sticker in my passport. This means I have another year to live, eat and breath Paris. I can’t wait.

Eiffel Tower

Paris – home of tall things, including me.

Nerd Attack

Wednesday, February 22nd, 2012

Yesterday afternoon I unwillingly witnessed one of the strangest phenomenons that I have seen in quite some time. Having travelled the world and experienced many different cultures, I am very accepting of new and different ways of living, eating and being. However, yesterday I met a friend of mine at the Broadway Basement tavern for a catch up drink and found myself in a completely and utterly baffling situation that I didn’t know how to explain or accept.

Imagine this. A girl (me) walks into a bar and discovers that of the 60-odd people drinking there, she is the only female who isn’t a member of staff. This she can accept as it is happy hour and pints are $6, however it isn’t until she sits down and notices a very large screen that she sees something is different. Expecting to see a football, cricket or rugby game, imagine her surprise/shock/horror when she realises the images being telecast are not your average sporting match but televised coverage of a World of Warcraft style computer game (apparently it is called Starcraft.)

Starcraft

Intense. *Image taken from www.perth.barcraft.tv

I could not believe my eyes – the room steadily filled with boys (they ranged in age from 18 to 25ish but would definitely still be categorised as boys, not men) wearing Nintendo or Mortal Combat tshirts who grabbed pints of beer and a seat and placed themselves in the best possible location to sit and watch two players compete for computerised victory. What really threw me was that there were commentators on the screen providing us with the latest statistics on who had won that battle and who had managed to steal the other person’s camp. To be honest, I don’t really know what happens in Starcraft and I don’t really care, but it seemed that the entire Computer Science faculty from UWA was there watching the action.

I would put this experience in the same bucket as when I had to watch Tom perform at heavy metal concerts when he was in a band. The long-haired, black-clothed metal heads had a similar nerdish quality to pimply, glasses-wearing Starcrafters. While they are hardly a threatening bunch, I can’t say I felt like I blended in. But for those of you who are currently jumping out of your seats at the exciting combination of beer + computer games, head to the Basement on Broadway in Nedlands every Tuesday at 5pm.

Starcraft schedule

Don't miss the action!

All Smiles

Monday, February 20th, 2012

It has come to my attention over the past few weeks being back in Perth, that Australians (at least those in Perth or country Western Australia) are 300 million times friendlier than the folk of Paris. I’m not saying you can’t find friendly people in Paris, because that is one of those awful stereotypes about the French that just isn’t true. I have met some wonderful French people who have made my life in Paris very special. However, on your average day in Paris, you don’t often have random conversations and laughs with people you meet. In Perth you do.

While in Denmark, I had numerous occasions where I sat back and thought, “Whoa… they were so friendly…” and needed to take a few moments to comprehend the situation. A visit to a bottle shop to buy some wine involved a particularly helpful manager who chatted about the wine we were buying, suggested other options and wished us a really great stay in Denmark. Cheers, mate! Then when Velia, Alex and I had dinner at Pepper & Salt, once again we were served by some of the easiest, most relaxed and generally chirpy people that I have met in a long time. It is lovely and refreshing to be surrounded by people who have smiles on their faces and appear to be enjoying what they are doing. I do get a bit sick of having a cup of coffee dumped on my table with a Parisian sigh and a negative attitude. Maybe it is the sunshine and warm weather, but Australians do tend to have a lighter, brighter way of being. I have to say it makes me proud to be part of a cheery nation. Cheer up, Madames et Monsieurs. La vie est belle.

Going South

Monday, February 20th, 2012

I appear to have reached a stage in my life where everyone is getting married or at least announcing their engagement, although I am trying to ignore this fact because I am definitely not old enough for this to be happening. Gosh no. I’m practically a teenager.

I spent this past weekend in Denmark, five-ish hours south of Perth, celebrating the marriage of my friends Danielle and Ryan. The weekend was lovely as I caught up with friends who I haven’t seen in a while, drank plenty of good wine (yes, Australian wine IS good, all of you French-wine-is-the-best-snobs), and ate lots of good food. I got a bit teary eyed watching my beautiful friend, Dan, walk down the aisle and become a Mrs. It appears Paris may have made me a romantic after all.

One of the highlights of the weekend was dinner with my friends Velia and Alex at Pepper & Salt, a restaurant attached to the Mathilda’s Estate winery. The food, while priced at your now average Perth prices (i.e. ridiculous), was absolutely delicious with locally sourced ingredients and an interesting mix of flavours. I had pink snapper that was lightly battered with a hint of lemon myrtle, homemade chips and a decent salad. This satisfied my craving for fish and chips while being light and not horribly greasy.

Fish and chips from Pepper & Salt

Fancy fish and chips.

The highlight of the meal was dessert (of course). You can imagine my extreme excitement when our lovely waiter described our dessert options and said the words “Flourless, dark chocolate torte with pepper and chilli”. HOLY MOLY. It was good. It was dark, rich and the pepper made the chocolate buzz. It was served with a piece of chocolate through which were crunchy chucks of pepper. The berries served on the side had been stewed in what I presumed was port and added another dimension to the dish. I was extremely satisfied and very happy to wash it down with a rich, bold Shiraz from the Mathilda’s vineyard.

Chocolate torte

Chocolate and spice

Pepper & Salt Restaurant on Urbanspoon

And? How Did it Go?

Thursday, February 16th, 2012

Sorry! I have been very slow with my updates recently… and I know you’re ALL hanging out to hear how my adventures in the world of The French Embassy went. Well, wait no longer! The moment has arrived.

I have never been the biggest fan of Sydney – I find it a bit commercial and there are far too many people wearing suits. I’ve always preferred Melbourne as a “If I had to live anywhere else in Australia” option as it is far more artsy and relaxed. But French bureaucracy and the fact that my best friend lives there, have resulted in me visiting Sydney numerous times over the past few years. I spent a weekend hanging out with my friends and we spent most of that time near Glebe – one of the more down to earth and small-community areas of the city. It was fun and nice to catch up with Gill again. But then Monday arrived and after a somewhat restless sleep the night before, I triple checked that I had all of the required pieces of paper for my visa and set off for Market Street.

The French Embassy is located in an awful tower block in the middle of the city and I really don’t understand why they force people to come and visit because surely the French would be ashamed at the lack of pizzazz their embassy holds. It is hardly palatial or impressive and really could be the offices of any old business. Anyway, I arrived ahead of schedule and was called up before my official appointment time of 10am. Things were progressing similar to when I first applied for a visa a year ago.

I had a woman interview me from behind a thick piece of glass. This made it particularly difficult to hear her although most of the time she was gossiping with her colleague in French. This had happened last time and so I was prepared for the lack of attention. I used all of my ear strength to follow the conversation and joked along with them when I realised they were talking about me. Oh yes, French Embassy People, I speak your language.

I have to say that I think the fact that I could speak French helped me win a few votes of approval and I responded to all of her questions in French to show just how much I like France and French culture. She went through my papers occasionally asking me questions and half listening to the answers. There were moments of panic when I thought maybe she wouldn’t be happy with my answers or that I was missing pieces of paper but in the end she took my finger prints and photograph, shoved pieces of paper into my passport and walked off saying “C’est bon.”

I took this “C’est bon” to mean “I will take your application and it is likely that you will receive a visa within the next few weeks.” When I asked about the time frame, I received a shrug of the shoulders, a roll of the eyes, and a very French, “Booofffffff…. About two weeks.” SUCCESS!

I walked out of the Embassy and searched for a paper bag to stop my hyperventilation (not really… but almost) and jumped around a little and smiled a lot and there may have been one or two tears. Nothing is certain yet and I am still waiting anxiously for the postman to arrive in his white van to deliver my passport but I am feeling significantly more confident. The fact that they accepted my papers is a huge relief and I am a step closer to being able to return to Paris for another year. I have heard stories from Tom and I have managed to miss so much over the past two weeks that I am keen to get back. I’m enjoying the beach and life at home with my folks here but there are so many more adventures to be had in France. Come ooonnnn Postman!

This Time Has Come

Thursday, February 9th, 2012

I have spent the afternoon reading, highlighting, re-reading and then crossing off every word in the “Things You Must Bring to the Interview” information for my visa application. Tomorrow morning I get on a plane (hooray… gosh I love planes/airports) and fly to Sydney. Monday morning I will put on my nicest smile and eyelash extensions and then flutter away as I ask oh-so-nicely for a visa. I will then either cry or jump for joy, depending on the outcome. This result will, of course, be duly noted on here for everyone to either cry or jump for joy with me. I’m hoping to hear a lot of feet slamming back to earth early next week.

As with all bureaucratic adventures, there is a large list of things that I need to do and pieces of paper I need to find when applying and I am feeling particularly anxious about forgetting or overlooking something. I am fearing the worst in the hope that that will mean it’ll all go ridiculously smoothly. The old reverse psychology. In addition, I ask that everyone crosses all of their fingers, toes, arms, legs, and any other crossable body part in order to increase my luck. When our powers combine, we will conquer the French embassy. I appreciate the help.

This is Australia

Monday, February 6th, 2012

An afternoon at my grandmother’s and my hipstamatic camera produced these highlights of the Australian backyard:

Australian rooftops

Great sky.

Frangipani

Frangipani

Good Old Country Feeling

Sunday, February 5th, 2012

My recent trip to Greenbushes included a stop in Balingup for a spot of lunch. My parents usually go to a French bakery, however they decided we would try the Balingup Bronze Cafe for a change of scenery – plus some unexpected cool weather meant we wanted to be able to sit inside.

A casual cafe, we were greeted by a very friendly and relaxed guy who instantly reminded me that I was no longer in Paris and that people working in hospitality can, in fact, smile. How strange. We ordered our food at the counter and then took our own water and cutlery and found a table. The restaurant lacked any nice external views and we were stuck sitting in an echoey room that wasn’t particularly relaxing.

The food made up for the lack of ambiance – home made and generous portions, it was simple yet tasty. The main feature of this cafe is that all food is gluten free, which was both a good and a bad thing for the quality of the food. The food was tasty, full of vegetables and the flavours were well developed, however the need for the food to be gluten free caused a few problems. I had a vegie burger which was a patty filled with chick peas, coriander and peanuts. While the flavour was good, it was crumbly and the texture wasn’t very enjoyable – a few too many lumps and it was floury from the crushed chickpeas. The patty was served on top of what was described as ‘toast’. Now I have had many gluten free breads – some good, some bad – and this was definitely a bad. It fell apart and had no flavour apart from a strange stale sensation. Considering the restaurant promotes itself as gluten free, you would think they would offer a good bread option.

Balingup vegie burger

Hearty food

Otherwise the food was great, with some fantastic potatoes and a decent salad. It was well priced and served by a guy who clearly loves the food he serves.
Balingup Bronze Cafe on Urbanspoon

Freezing Cold

Sunday, February 5th, 2012

While it snows in Paris, I am supposed to be enjoying hot summer weather in Perth. For most of the past week this has been the case, with many trips to the beach in the mornings and a general feeling of sweatiness. However, on Friday I went with my parents to Greenbushes, a small tin mining town three hours south of Perth. The weather forecast for the day said we could expect cooler temperatures, however I was extremely surprised to discover it was 17 degrees when we arrived in Greenbushes. My choice of tshirt and skirt wasn’t the best for these chilly temperatures, particularly when the wind blew. Anyway, I probably gave the locals something to laugh about as the city girl shivered in her inappropriate outfit.

Greenbushes

The main street of Greenbushes was closed off for the event.

The reason for our trip to Greenbushes was to attend the opening of the Heritage Amble – a series of 77 signs located throughout the main part of town that highlight some of the key heritage sites. My Dad was the consultant on this project and I had played a small part in the development of the signs so it was great to see them finally in action.

Greenbushes heritage amble

Purple.

As always in a small country town, the community spirit was in full flight with lots of locals attending the opening ceremony to celebrate their new initiative. The local theatre group dressed up in ye olde costumes to add a bit of spark to the day and there was, of course, a morning tea provided for all attendees.

Greenbushes

Lovely ladies.

It is great to see the passion and enthusiasm that goes behind these sorts of projects. Lots of people spent hundreds of hours working to get these signs installed and the final result is fantastic.