We drove from Montesson to Zurich last Saturday. If you read the Brussels post a couple weeks ago you might have got the impression we learned our lesson about heading out on road trips without proper maps, planning and phone numbers. Chiz definitely took those lessons away with her and tasked me with figuring out the route, checking weather conditions, and actually driving. Either my laziness or my manliness made me believe what we experienced before was only a one time event so the extent of my exhaustive research was to, once again, head to mappy.com and type in the addresses.
Then she came home from work on Thursday night and reported the car broke down. Another pain, but we are growing accustomed to nothing going as planned so we discussed all the plane, train, and automobile options (bearing in mind we had boxes of stuff and Tolsty to deal with). She was able to get a rental car figured out through work on Friday afternoon but it turned out to be a manual transmission and Iím less than impressive with those. This is now our third car if you are keeping track. It was mutually decided without discussion the added stress of Chiz driving was probably less than the stress of me stalling on some hill, grinding gears, and generally looking like fools.
We get to the end of the apartment driveway on Saturday morning at 10:00 and she asks me which direction to turn. I say I donít know and I thought she knew where the freeway was. This didnít go over well at all and I was subjected to a lecture about how I have nothing to do all day yet I still canít find time to do the simple things she asks of me. I can only agree that I am terrible and we have to head to the grocery store to finally buy a map of the Paris suburbs our last day in town. We never did actually get lost but there was tons of snow just like she was worried about and I again was the rightful bad guy for not having researched it. The snow and traffic turned our 6 hour trip into a 10 hour crawl but we were rewarded with a sweet apartment on our arrival.
Click to continue reading this post if you want to see pictures of the temporary place.
We have left France. Even though I think quoting Nelson from the Simpsons makes for a funny title to this post I must admit none of the French stereotypes ever really played out. There were a couple very funky smelling train cars but I really only got a bad whiff of one person during our stay there. Granted, our suburban location didnít really facilitate mingling with the locals. I initially thought our location would have compounded any communication or nationality problems because of the scarcity of tourists but people were quietly tolerant of our English speaking ways.
I did really enjoy the bread as everyone predicted and I do now eat moldy cheese (if itís supposed to be moldy). We tried a fair amount of wine but I still never figured it out and it tastes the same to me as back home. I was amazed by the patience of customers at the grocery stores who just accepted that a trip to pick up some food would involve a half hour wait in the checkout line. Surprisingly, (and thankfully) that patience also carried over to the roads where horns are rarely used and people were generally very defensive drivers. Parking was predictably difficult but simply stopping in a lane and turning on the hazards will buy you a free half hour. If you do opt for parking illegally you will only be fined 11 Euro or, in the case of Mike the co-worker, simply be towed a block or two down the street to where you should be.
Public transportation is great in the city and I am proud to say we hit the RER, Metro, and the bus system. However, the local bus service left a lot to be desired in Montesson. Aside from the erratic bus schedule the union would strike regularly without notice and just leave a bunch of old ladies sitting there in the cold. I think the strikes were worse than normal while we were there because the whole 35 hour work week laws were a hot topic and were being debated in Parliament.
The coolest thing I found about France is the liberal use of the term Voila (wa la). I guess it translates to Ďthere it isí but it is more like the Swiss Army knife of any verbal exchange. One time I just stood in a cafť and said voila over and over until I was served a sandwich. I now understand why magicians use it a lot.
I would love to go back to Paris in the spring or summer to see it bursting with people. I donít normally enjoy crowds but that seems like it would be a cool experience.
So, we are here in Zurich. Look for an update soon about our trip here and our temporary housing.
Last weekend we took the long overdue step and spent more than a few hours in Paris. We found a nice little hotel online and booked two nights near the Eiffel Tower. We knew it wasnít going to be a real central location to some of the more active areas but we knew we would hit them all. The Hotel Eber Mars was very close to Rue Cler which is a famous little market street and we stopped there for a drink the first night and a crepe the morning we left. Of the areas we hit, we both agree St. Germain (Latin quarter) and the Marais were the two coolest areas. We never did get up to Montparnasse area.
The churches are very cool. Notre Dame and St. Sulpice were highlights with their amazing architecture, displays of stained glass and eerie crypts. St. Sulpice actually had a written clarification about the line running across the floor. I guess the book The Da Vinci Code took some liberties about the history of the church and they didnít seem too pleased about it. We paid the modest fare to climb the tight spiral staircase at Notre Dame to hang out amongst the gargoyles. That was very cool. Never eat at the cafes across the street from Notre Dame unless you enjoy paying $10 for a pint of Carlsberg or $6 for a little glass of iced tea.
Back of Notre Dame
Continue reading "Weekend in Paris"...
Instead of sharing all of our photos from our weekend in Paris, I thought I'd just start with a few different shots of our most photographed site. It may seem cliche to take a ton of pictures of the Eiffel Tower, but each one has it's own charm.
That title has a loose connection to contents of this post. If you can figure out the reference before the end of the post you are one classy individual with cultured tastes.
I stayed up to watch the Superbowl last weekend. The internet was unavailable that night so I wasn't positive the exact start time or if it was even going to be shown on one of the limited number of channels. From experience, I guessed it would start around 4 pm PST and I recalled how the hype surrounding the Super Bowl always included statements like, "viewed by 1 thousand trillion people worldwide". So starting around midnight I just surfed through the stations until I found it. I only missed the kickoff... and the third quarter. I was fighting off sleep and although Paul McCartney was really brining the energy I drifted during his performance and didn't wake until the start of the fourth. The score was very close at that point and I was able to finish the game by painting team logos on my face and chest and doing the rarely seen one-man-wave.
The commentary was in French and although I had no idea what they were saying they seemed to be conveying the proper level of enthusiasm. I missed out on the commercials too but they did something that I thought was pretty cool. During breaks they would cut to the 2004-2005 season highlights of a particular NFL player and put the achievements in context. I guess they were just helping educate the viewer about what makes a good football player and to show some cool catches and runs. Even though I had McNabb and Westbrook on my fantasy team this season and they were the only reason I didnít finish in last I found myself pulling for New England. Maybe the name Patriots was working on some subliminal level as I sat and imagined the parties taking place half way around the world.
Now to football news of the other sort. World Cup 2006 is being held in Germany in the summer months and tickets are already going on sale. They do it lottery style and the first drawing is being held at the end of March (next month). If anybody is truly interested, can plan 17 months into the future, and wants to try to attend a game with Chiz and I then drop me an email so I will know how many tickets to put when I apply for them.
And now here are some lyrics from Sports and Wine by Ben Folds Five:
Destiny was calling
Wednesday you'll be crawling
And you'll pray to be there soon
With sports and wine
Some men never grew up
Fortunate like you
Some men never found out
What it takes to be a dude
That's Sports and Wine
From the moment we saw the layout of northern France and surrounding areas we thought Brussels would be a perfect first weekend car trip outside of France. It is only a three hour drive from Paris and wasnít a location high on our list of places to visit after we leave France. Iíve added a photoblog entry of the trip if you just want to see some of the sites and skip the blow by blow.
Here are some of the pictures from our quick weekend trip to Brussels.
The Grand Place. It was 360 degrees of old.
Continue reading "Some pics of Brussels"...
Another view of The Grand Place. This building housed a museum.
When I came across EuroSport on our TV I was doubly excited. First, it is one of the only English language stations we get so I can actually watch something for more than a few minutes without getting confused about what is happening. Although I suppose even if it wasnít in English sports are one of the few things you can watch without having to understand what they are saying. By the way, one thing I have found I definitely canít watch and enjoy is game shows, which is too bad because they are always on. It might be one of the most difficult things to watch actually because the whole thing is based around verbal questions and answers. There are a couple different game shows I would love to know what is going on. There is one German language one where the contestant always ends up very emotional and crying. It almost seems like they are being reunited with a long lost relative, but have to play some game to try to figure out who it is. Maybe it was the inspiration for Foxís ďWhoís Your DaddyĒ.
The second reason I was excited for EuroSport was that I was sure I would be enjoying good soccer all day long. That was silly of me. Sure, they are crazy about their football like we have been led to believe but I should have realized the US focus on only a handful of sports would not fly over here where almost everything is viewed on a more global scale. Except for a few highlight shows once in a while there are no random games on since football is only played on the weekends and EuroSport is very proud of its live coverage of sports. It seems like the channelís goal is to scout out any European Championship or World Championship of any sport and air that. I happen to think they use the word Ďsportí way too generously.