mercredi 29 août 2007

My neice Manon turned four a few weeks ago. This past Sunday, we went to their new house in Toulon to celebrate. It is the entire upper floor of an old house, two bedrooms. Although they want to do some renovations, such as making the attic liveable, their place is pretty much where ours is not. They have painted walls, and a bathroom, and kitchen and everything!

Manon had a fruity cake, then opened her presents. She got a pair of skates from us. She also received from her parents a few weeks ago a bike. She is quite an active child. We left around 8 and drove back to Marseille on the toll road. French love tollroads!

Happy Birthday Manon!
vendredi 24 août 2007

Here is a picture of our sink. Alain just finished installing the sink and faucet today. However, it isn't to be used, just to be looked at. Apparently, we have to wait a few days for the joints to dry. It isn't 100% finished. We will have to get someone to remove the old pipe for the radiator, then repaint, install a mirror, and install/change light fixtures. But it is actually resembling a bathroom! You can wash your fash, brush your teeth AND take a shower!!!!

The bench underneath is part of our old set from IKEA. We will put the shelf unit on the other side. Alain made the sink unit to fit exactly around the bench, as you can see.

(Picture of shower was taken before the wall was finished, but the wall is finished now.)

Before picture.

jeudi 23 août 2007
After months of begging and bugging, Alain finally convinced me that he should get a motorcycle. In a way, it makes sense. Parking is hard enough for one car in Marseille, let alone two. Plus, if I have to keep taking the train, I might just break down into a quivering, sobbing mass of jelly in the human-pee stinking underground tunnels at the train station as I wait for the strike to end.
He spent many months searching websites, trying to figure out which model would be the best for his needs and wants (reading reviews from other drivers, etc). He finally decided on this model, which costs 3000€ new. He started searching for used ones, and found some in the 2500€ range, but most were far away. He would have had to pay an extra 200€ or so to have them sent here, at which point you might as well buy a new one. Plus, for the first 1000 kilometers, it is highly suggested that you do what is called a "roadage" where you break in the motor by going at a maximum of 60 km/hour (which I guess is quite a bummer once you have just bought your nice shiny new motorcycle and want to go top speed). This style is what is known as a "125". They are classed according to the size of the chamber (I guess). The lowest is 50, which anyone can drive starting at 14. These usually only go a max of about 60 km/hour. The 125 can be driven by anyone with a car driving license, and they go at about a max of 100/110. Anything with a higher classification and you have to have a special motorcycle license. (speaking of licenses, I am STILL waiting for my driver's license, which is now 6 months late. STILL lovin' ya Prefecture!)

Anyway, back to the motorcycle purchasing.

I, in my ebaying wisdom, suggested we checked out Ebay for deals in France. Sure enough, we found several listed. A couple were up in Paris, but one was in Salon de Provence, (right near where his parents live and where we had our wedding reception) with less than 5000 km, asking price (starting bid) 2000€. Plus, it was the color he wanted (all black, not blue or black/grey) We contacted him, went to see it, Alain sat on it and felt happy, and we told him we would take it.

We came back last weekend and paid him the money (cash) and he gave us the keys. Alain hasn't had much of a chance to drive it yet, but is happily looking at all gadets and gizmos he will need to buy (such as protective gear).

One happy Frenchman. Will post pictures of him on it when I can.
mardi 14 août 2007
I have this week off, as my office decided to close for the week. This is mainly because almost everyone was already on vacation, and it becomes practically impossible to do business mid-August in France as all OTHER business are closed. Since we are still busy working on the apartment, I decided I would rent a dewallpaperer and attack. Last week, I reserved a machine from the company Kiloutou ("Who rents all"- mainly building supplies). I picked it up early Monday morning- it is 20€ for a day and 60€ for a week. Uh, I think I will take a week thanks. Hauled it home, as well as four bottles of the chemical product that supposedly aids in the removal.
Started it up, managed to figure out the best way to use it. Great idea Megan, rent a steam machine in August! I have burned fingers now and a sore back.
Yesterday I managed to remove the wallpaper in the two largest rooms- the living room and our bedroom. No nasty surprises, just ugly bare walls underneath. Today I decided to work on the hallway. To my surprise, it was painted blue underneath. Not exactly the shade of blue we want (too bad) but gives us a good idea of how it will look when we paint it. Only this wallpaper is proving much more difficult to remove. It is textured with a foamy crepe-like layer, so the top layer just peels off, leaving the glue layer underneath. I managed to get about half the hallway done, then started on the kitchen. I removed half of the kitchen wallpaper, revealing a yellowy paint underneath. Tomorrow- try to finish the hallway and perhaps the toilet room. Then all that will be left are the two extra bedrooms, but those will prove more difficult, as we have a lot of stuff stored in them, such as boxes, tools, and bathroom tiles.
lundi 13 août 2007
On Saturday, Alain and I went to visit one of his friends, Nicolas, and his girlfriend Sylvie. Nicolas and Alain were postdocs together in Virginia. Now they are living about three hours away in the southwest of France, near Narbonne. They just had a baby boy in July, so they invited us to come spend the weekend with them. The last time we saw them was in October, when they came to visit us here in Marseille, the week before we moved into our new apartment. We hadn't visited their home before and wanted to see the new baby.

(me holding Gabriel- probably the first baby I have held that didn't start screaming immediately)

As this week is a big vacation week (due to August 15th being the national holiday of Ascension) we were warned that Saturday would be a red day for traveling- ie tons of traffic on the autoroutes. We decided to brave it, leaving a little after 10. Yep, it was a heavy traffic day. Mostly due to the tollbooths, huge bottlenecks. France has great autoroutes, but a lot of them you have to pay to travel on- and it is isn't cheap. Traveling for about an hour on one cost us 7.50€. So the trip took us about an extra hour and a half than planned. We arrived around 2:30, and had a barbeque of sausages. We managed to put away two bottles of wine between the four of us, then went to visit a nearby port for the Canal du midi. You can rent boats and travel up and down the canal.

We walked up and down for a while, then stopped and had a drink. Got back, ate dinner, went to bed. The next morning Alain and I went for croissants, and were disappointed when the local boulangerie was sold out at 10 am. We consoled ourselves with pain au chocolat. Next, Nicolas, Alain, and I went to visit the windmills. The entire valley is ringed with windmills. After a late lunch (and one more bottle) we hit the road back, this time it took 3 hours as planned. A great weekend.

lundi 6 août 2007
My gym is closed from July 30th to August 15th, so I have signed up for a nearby indoor/outdoor pool, run by the community.
It has several pricing options, less expensive if one is a resident. I chose the 10 hour option for 22€ instead of the ten entry option (could stay all day if desired) for 42€. Every day I arrive, scan my card, enter through the turnstile, remove my shoes, and walk into the unisex dressing room. There are small cabins that you pass through to change, then go out into a general locker area. It is all quite open, evidenced by the direct view of the urinals one receives when walking towards the showers.
We are supposed to rinse off before going into the pool area. Then I must pass through a shallow pool, to further remove contaminents from my feet, before accessing the pools. There is a serious swimming only pool indoors with seating for matches, and then an indoor pool that is connected to the outdoor pool. The outdoor pools is nice, with jets of water in the sitting area, a waterfall to go under, little showers in the pool. There is a large grassy area where you can sit for free (and get covered in ants) otherwise you have to pay 1.30€ to use a lounge chair, which I found out when I got kicked out of mine on the third day (pretending I couldn't understand the sign didn't help). Mostly I just sit in the sun, and go in for a dip from time to time. I eat my lunch, read, listen to music, and then leave around 1:30 to rinse off (can’t get properly clean), then change as quickly as possible and get out, so as to not waste my precious minutes. Back at work, very sleepy and relaxed for the rest of the afternoon. But once the gym opens up or my hours run out, whichever comes first, I will stop going. Unfortunately for my pool habits, the heat seems to have broken. But fortunately for me in general this summer has been unusual cool, which is fine with me, seeing as how we don't have air conditioning at home.
dimanche 5 août 2007
6 am Monday-Friday: Way too early to get up for work
6 am Saturday-Sunday: Perfect time to wake up

During the weekdays, I wake up slightly before 6 am to get ready for work. This is way too early. I spend my time eating in front of the computer while checking out my favorite blogs and sending emails, getting dressed, preparing my lunch, and then head to the train station to catch the 7:04 (assuming they are not on strike).
On the weekends however, I make sure to turn off my alarm clock so that I can “sleep in”. Like clockwork though, I spring out of a bed at 6 am. Sometimes I can manage to sleep in until a whopping 7:30, but that is about max for me. Early mornings just seem the perfect time to drink a hot chocolate and surf the web. On Saturdays, I get up early in order to get in line for La Poste before it opens at 8 am. Then after usually about 15-30 minutes in line there (to deposit my paycheck, pick up packages, send letters, etc) I head over to do my grocery shopping.
I wish all the stores could come to an agreement on what time they open. Casino opens at 8 am. This is where I go to get slightly more fancy cheeses and specialty ingredients I can’t find at other stores. Monoprix opens at 8:30. They have some groceries, but also a selection of clothes, hair and beauty products, stationary, kitchen utensils, etc. ED finally opens at 9. This is where I go to get almost all fruits, vegetables, pasta, meat, cereal, milk, etc. Usually am done with all my errands by 9:30. It is best to go early on Saturdays to avoid crowds and the heat in the summer. By about 10:30, the stores are way too crowded for my tastes. Sunday mornings are when we buy two croissants and one pain au chocoat. Sometimes, when we are really feeling energetic, we go and run on the nearby track. But this isn’t very often.

Sunday evenings: reset my faithful Spanish speaking alarm clock which is about 17 years old now, it was given to us as a gift when we were in Ecuador. I have, unfortunately, forgotten almost all my Spanish but can always tell what time it is in Spanish since to find out what time it is, you have to push a button on the top and a voice tells the time in Spanish. I have looked for a French one, but have not found one yet. Cinco et cincuenta y uno pour la manana? That is way too early to wake up!

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