samedi 27 février 2010
Last return trip from Strasbourg, I decided to try the night train, which left Saturday night 9 pm from Strasbourg, arrived at 6 am Marseille.
This train is only available during school vacations.
Alain was a little wary about my taking the train, but I signed up for a "Compartement Dame Seule"- for women only who are traveling alone.
I chose 1 st class, which has only four beds (bunks) instead of 6 in second class.
Thank goodness I took 1st class, because it was cramped enough.

When I got on the train in Strasbourg, there were two other women in my compartment, one getting off in Toulon, the other in Nice.
The conductor told us that there would be another person getting on in about an hour.

I wasn't really sure what to expect. Got one pillow, one sleeping bag like blanket, a bottle of water, ear plugs, a handiwipe, a kleenex, and what looked like a Train Sickness bag. I had to put my suitcase behind the ladder (no way was I going to be able to get it up into the luggage rack, and I wasn't convinced that even if I could, I would really want to sleep under it on a lurching train). Debated as to whether or not it was permissible to take off my shoes, and finally decided that yes, it was.

As far as amenities were concerned, each bunk had a very weak nightlight, and the compartment had a temperature control, a speaker volume control (which we quickly turned off) and an overhead light. Whoopee.

We chatted for a bit (where are you going, why were you in Strasbourg?)
One asked quite politely if I am French, which I guess is better than "where are you from weird foreigner?" They were rather surprised that I was taking a law course in French in Strasbourg. Yeah, me too ladies.

After about thirty minutes we turned off the lights and tried to sleep.
I managed to doze off, (not much else to do- no dining car or anything)
Around 11, the door opens and in walked a man!
I said, "excuse me sir, this compartment is for women only"
He checked his ticket, and yep, it was for our compartment.
Guess the SNCF decided to put him in the special one reserved for women only, rather than give up a whole 61€!
Good grief.
He was an older man, and the walls are so thin, that I wasn't particularly worried, but I felt weird being locked in with three strangers, one of which was man.

Managed to doze off again, and woke up at 5:30, for which I had set my alarm (I was terrified of sleeping through and waking up in Nice). Managed to gather my things together in the very faint LED light, lugged my suitcase out from behind the ladder without hurting anyone, went to the washroom used my handy dandy handiwipe, drank some water, took a look in the mirror and thought 'thank god we're already married- he can't leave me just because I look like this' and waited for the arrival in Marseille. I guess it stops for quite awhile, half an hour or so in Marseille, before moving east. Perhaps enough time for people to track down something to eat.

Alain met me at the train, hauled my luggage back home (he is so good! getting up at 5 am two Sundays in a row!), and we went back to sleep. I was surprised that I could go back to sleep, because usually once I am up, I am up, but managed to sleep for a few hours before heading over to his family's to celebrate the February birthdays (they have four birthdays in the month of February so they usually just celebrate them all at once).

Conclusion- would def. do it again, if only because it gets me back twelve hours earlier.
vendredi 19 février 2010
Yesterday, one of the speakers for my Intellectual Property class introduced himself as follows (in French):
"I was born here in France and then emigrated to the US at the age of 15. I then went to college in the US and have been living there ever since."

I was surprised by his use of the term "emigrate". Of course, it is the correct term, but I have never considered that I have emigrated from the US, immigrated to France.

For all you other "immigrants" how do you feel? What do emigrate/immigrate mean to you?

At lunch, some of the other students and I discussed this term. Another woman, of Spanish origin and living in France for the past 15 years, had also noticed his use of the term. She had found it strange. Why not just use "moved"? or "went to live"?

We talked about the use of terms immigrate/emigrate, whether it implies (subconciously) a group of people fleeing a poorer country, looking for a better life in another one.

I think that the reason why I don't use emmigrate/immigrate in my head when thinking about coming to live here is that, for me, those terms imply a certain cutting of ties with the previous country. Like, you never plan to go back and that it really is permanent. Whereas "yeah, I came to live here for a couple years, who knows, we'll see, maybe one day we'll go back..." does not.

I guess I don't want it to be permanent. Not that I have any specific plans to move back, but I don't want to close that door. defines emigrate as:
to leave one country or region to settle in another; migrate: to emigrate from Ireland to Australia.

However, if we look at immigrate:
1. to come to a country of which one is not a native, usually for permanent residence.
2. to pass or come into a new habitat or place, as an organism.

Looking at what Wikipedia has to say on the matter,
"Motives to migrate can be either incentives attracting people away, known as pull factors, or circumstances encouraging a person to leave, known as push factors, for example:

Push factors
War or other armed conflict (no)
Famine or drought (well, there was one dry season in Virginia, but not enough to make me emigrate to another country)
Disease (aside from the occasional cold and allergies, no)
Poverty (I wouldn't have said no to a raise but I made enough for what I needed)
Political corruption (no comment)
Disagreement with politics (no comment)
Religious fundamentalism / religious intolerance (religious fundamentalism, well, sometimes those born again Christians can get scary, but as long as you don't let them in when they coming knocking you shouldn't have too much trouble)
Natural disasters (there was a slight rumble maybe a 3 on the Richter scale in VA once)
Discontent with the natives, such as frequent harassment, bullying, and abuse (no)
Discontent with immigration rate, causing frequent harassment, bullying, and abuse for home populations (no)
Lack of employment opportunities (certianly not - had easier time finding job in US than here)
Lack of various rights (no)
Goal of spreading one's own culture and religion (no- they already have McDonald's here)

These factors, excepting disagreement with politics and discontent with natives and immigrants, generally do not affect people in developed countries; even a natural disaster is unlikely to cause out-migration.

Pull factors
Higher incomes (definitely not)
Lower taxes (are you kidding me?)
Better weather (aside from the lack of snow in the winter, no)
Better availability of employment (heck no)
Better medical facilities (cheaper but not better)
Better education facilities (no- I don't care what they say, there is no way the bare-bones Université of Marseille can compete with University of Virginia)
Better behaviour among people (meh)
Family reasons (yes)
Political stability (about as stable as the US)
Religious tolerance (yes. Unless you are Muslim. Or Jewish. Or really anything else other than Catholic.)
Relative freedom (I suppose)
National prestige (I suppose- or at least the French like to think so)

So where does that leave me? Have I emigrated? Have you emigrated?
samedi 13 février 2010
Alain planned a Valentine's surprise for me: earlier in the week, he told me that he had made reservations for a restaurant for Friday night, but he wouldn't tell me where.
It was a Chateau that we had visited but hadn't eaten in, and not too far from where we are.
I couldn't figure out where it could be. We looked at several Chateaux before deciding on our wedding venue, but they aren't too close to Marseille.
Chateau d'If?
The Chateau by the Vieux Port?
No, and no.
Once we got in the car, and I saw what direction we were going, I guessed.
Chateau Gombert?
It is a neighborhood area of Marseille, near where his lab is.
There is an old chateau/museum/restaurant. Back in September, we had gone there to pick up an American guy who was staying in a hotel nearby (who had come to teach Alain's team how to use their 1+ million dollar toy)
To see their site, go here:

We arrived a few minutes after 8, sat a table for two near the fireplace (but not quite near enough I'm afraid).
There were two choices: Menu Gastronomique (meat + fish) for 45€ or Menu Classique (meat or fish) for 35€. We both took the Menu Classique (thank goodness too, it was way too much).
The place has a decidedly Provençal flair, and I suppose they use mainly local ingredients and recipes.

Here is what we had: (sorry, I can only do a bare translation for those who don't understand French)

Effervescense des papilles
Coqueline de chèvre adoucie de miel et de sésame
Croustillant sensuel de canard et d'oignon dorloté au gingembre
(A goat cheese mousse with honey and sesame seed on a thin cracker- very good
A flaky pastry of duck and onion with ginger - good)

Rencontre impromptue
Foie gras mi-cuit maison en harmonie avec son chutney de figue aux épices
(Foie-gras with a figue chutney, on homemade bread- excellent)

Sous la robe d'une vierge
Pavé de saumon grillé revêtu d'une huile vierge
accompagné de fritots de panisse au romarin
(Grilled salmon with olive oil - excellent
with panisse- so-so)

Union endiablée
Carré d'agneau tendrement rôti, convolé d'une aphrodisiaque sauce suave
Rizotto onctueux flèches de Cupidon
(Lamb tenderly roasted with an aphrodisiac sauce, and risotto)

Volupté ou duo de Cupidon
Coeur de chocolat marié à une légère douceur de passion
(Chocolate fondant (like a brownie with a melty chocolate center) and a passion fruit mousse- both excellent)

The meal was very good, but I couldn't even finish the chocolate dessert! What a shame.
We left around 10 pm.

Definitely recommend this restaurant to anyone who visits Marseille.
lundi 8 février 2010
Round trip ticket on Marseille Metro: 1.70€
Official stamps: 70€
Not having to go back to the Prefecture d'Enfer for ten years: Priceless!

Two weeks ago (right after I had been back to the Prefecture to get my récipisée renewed, naturally) I received the notice that my carte de sejour was ready to be picked up.
I had to bring: the letter, my passport, the current card that I have and the récipisée, and a stamp for 70€.
It didn't say which card was granted (1 year or 10 years) and the tax was the same as previous 1-year cards, so I wasn't sure.
I took the day off from work and headed down to the Prefecture a little before 8. Stopped at a bar/tobacco store and bought the stamps, then went and waited in line. Took me 40 minutes just to get in the building, another 15 to get the numbered ticket, then another hour and a half to have my number called, then 2 minutes to hand in the papers and get my card.
10 years!
If it wasn't the 10-year card I think I would have had a hissy fit right there in the middle of the Prefecture and the police would have had to come drag me out.
Anyway, I don't care, I am free!
No more going back to the Prefecture every three months to either:
1) withdraw the file to be filed out
2) get my récipisée renewed for another 3 months or
3) get my one year card
(which usually was good for only a few more months before I had to repeat the entire process).

Here's hoping that I will get my French nationality before Sept. 30, 2019, but no guarantees.

I'm Free!
jeudi 4 février 2010
Since moving to France, I have become quite a pizza connoisseur.
Alain and I have tried every pizzeria in a 1 km radius of where we live (not a small feat in Marseille) and have our favorite, Chez Cyril. Pretty much once a week for the past four years (usually a Saturday or Sunday night) we call up (or rather, I do- I have the number memorized. Is that bad?). Here are examples of the typical conversation:
Conversation 1:
Me: Hello, I would like to order a pizza.
Girl: (recognizing my voice) A four cheese?
Me: Yes, that's right.
Girl: Okay, nom P-?
Me: Yep.
Girl: Address ------?
Me: Yep.
Girl: What floor?
Me: Second.
Girl: Telephone number?
Me: 01 23 45 67 89 [note: not my real # obviously]
Girl: Okay. That will be 45 minutes.
Me: Thank you, goodbye.

Conversation 2:
Me: Hello, I would like to order a pizza.
Girl: (recognizing my voice) A four cheese?
Me: No, I think this time we will go with a (Royale, Tartiflette, etc.)
Girl: Okay, nom P-?
Me: Yep.
Girl: Address ------?
Me: Yep.
Girl: What floor?
Me: Second.
Girl: Telephone number?
Me: 01 23 45 67 89
Girl: Okay. That will be 45 minutes.
Me: Thank you, goodbye.

I think at some point we won't even have to confirm the address, floor, and telephone number, just call up and say "Hi, it's me, I'd like a four cheese pizza, thanks, bye". Though the few times that Alain has called to order a pizza, they don't recognize his voice.

So anyway, while in Strasbourg this last time I thought I would order a pizza (hey, it would last two or so days).
I saw that there was an American pizza chain, so, very excited to get cheezybread, I called up, ordered a medium pizza (tartiflette- for all of you who don't know what that is, it is a potato and cheese recipe that has been put on pizzas now), plus cheezybread and two sodas (it came as a meal for 19€).
Waited eagerly for my pizza, it arrived, took one bite, and have not tasted a worse pizza in a long long time. This is surely the worst pizza in France. No wonder French think that American pizza is terrible. (Though to be fair, this chain is known for being terrible in the US too).
If they are going to export an American pizza chain, why can't it be Papa Johns? I used to love their breadsticks.
I considered taking the box down and leaving it on a post on the sidewalk (surely someone coming back home from a bar late at night will eat it) but it was too cold to go outside, so I didn't. And the cheezybread wasn't even good either! All I managed was a can of coke. Good grief. Never trying that pizza chain in France ever again.

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