Tuesday, 25 May 2010

More reasons I'm a foreigner

See previous post for reason 1-7

8) I don't greet people with "Hiya"

9) I don't apologise without any apparent reason
Eg 1: I'm sorry I reached the door first and opened it before you did

10) I swear occasionally. To become a local, never, ever, ever swear - not as an exclamation, not as an adjective in general conversation, never

Tuesday, 18 May 2010

A weekend in Paris and more sweeping generalisations

We spent the weekend in Paris as my birthday present. A fact that many Aussies, especially my Mum, were very jealous about. Her suggestion (repeated multiple times) was for Lee to find a cafe in London called Paris, and take me to that.

Unfortunately for Mum, Lee had already bought tickets on the Eurostar to take us to the real deal. We stayed in a Parisien hotel (small, but clean), which had been freshly decorated in pink and silver throughout, right down to the paper placemats on the breakfast table.

Even though we were very tired by the time we reached our hotel, we went exploring the nearby streets. To our surprise, we came across the Moulin Rouge - and now claim to be the best accidental tourists ever! On the walk back to our hotel, I worked up my courage and ordered a crepe from a street vendor in French, it tasted even sweeter because of my success.

French breakfast was scrumptious! We stuffed ourselves with fresh croissant (with jam or nutella), baguette (with jam or ham and cheese), and coffee/juice. It was so good, I would list it as a highlight.

As a vehicle to compare my two Big City experiences, London and Paris, I'm going to compare the inner-city rail.

Le Metro
  • Cheap. 1.50 Euro per trip
  • Full. I don't know if it's the seat layout or just that everyone uses it, I think it's the second
  • Frequent
The Underground
  • Brightly lit, which makes it feel safer
  • Cleaner
  • Low curved ceiling, fits fewer Lee-sized people
  • Stations closer together, probably so that you don't have to walk in the rain
  • Below ground and warm
  • Also frequent

For the itemised weekend, please read on..
Saturday morning after a sleep in and some breakfast we walked all the way down to the Eiffel Tower. All the apartments we passed were decorated with lace iron-work and often window boxes of flowers, very pretty. We passed through the "Paris-end" of Paris, where all the expensive shops were: Chanel, Swatch.. We walked along the Seine river, hand in hand, a romantic couple in Paris... It was also the first time that I could kiss Lee in more than 7 weeks, because of our separation and a cold sore. (Happy sigh)

As we got closer and closer to the Eiffel Tower, it became obvious that it was just a giant black metal structure. It was quite ugly. There were at least 50 individuals hawking miniature Towers and a line of people from one 'foot' to the other, 3 across, lining up just to go up it. I decided I didn't need to wait to do that and instead we jumped on a ferry to Notre Dame Cathedral.

It was about lunch-time, so we head to the "Little Island" for some lunch. We ended up at a Crepiere and were very thankful for the use of their toilet by that stage. Walking along the touristy street we examined knick-knacks and stopped for a treat - mine was fruit with chocolate fondu. Absolutely delicious and a real highlight! I'll be going back for more.

The "Big Island" is home to the Notre Dame Cathedral. The outside is completely over-the-top with gargoyles and other stone features, in Gothic style. We spent about 2 hours inside examining the paintings, stained glass windows and stone carvings. We were led by an audio guide obviously compiled by the Catholic Church, which Lee didn't appreciate too much.

From 20100508 Paris

From 20100508 Paris

Soon after we were done there, it began to rain, so we jumped back onto the ferry and made our way back to the Champs-Elysees, singing all the way thanks to Mme MacPherson (Year 8-12 French teacher - "Oh, Champs-Elysees La-la la-laa la"). We strolled along to the end, took a look at the Arc de Triumphe from the safe side of the street. The approx 8 lanes of traffic (and I say approximately, because even with lines, it's not really clear around that roundabout) is neck-risking.

From 20100508 Paris

We found a nice little place on the Champs-Elysees for dinner and enjoyed a nice bottle of wine together. We then headed to a cocktail bar to enjoy Monica's birthday present to me - I had a couple of "Ultimate Joan Collins" and Lee a couple of Mojitos.
From 20100508 Paris

From 20100508 Paris

Sunday, the forecast was for poor visibility and poor weather, so we spent the day at the Louvre. After trying to read the museum tags in French, we decided a better investment was the audio guide. I had two favourite parts. One was looking at the rollers made from ivory or something else like stone, which were polished into cylinders and engraved with carvings. These were used to imprint spherical blocks of clay that were used to record the transport of goods. The detail and precision was amazing 1000s of years BC.
From 20100508 Paris

My second favourite part was looking at the emotion and movement that artists were able to capture on marble statues - just so lifelike.

From 20100508 Paris

From 20100508 Paris

My overall impression is that humans have been smart for a very long time and we're not unique in our intelligence or skill.

We made it through less than half of the museum, and decided that just like the rest of Paris, we had only just had a taste, and that we'd be back soon to sample more.

Friday, 7 May 2010

How to tell that I'm a foreigner

Let's skip past the easy clues (carrying a big camera, on all the tourist trails, slightly lost look, weird accent..)

1) Face up instead of face down while walking (more often neck craning up)

2) Fascinated with embellishments: cornices and other building beautification, guilding and fancy work on lamp posts (so much so, I've decided I'm going to dedicate an album to it - I dedicate it to grime)

3) Wearing 5 more clothing layers than anyone else and still looking cold

4) "Beautiful day" means more than 10 minutes of the sun shining and more than 15 degrees!

5) Assumes that vehicles will only drive in the left hand lane in two-way traffic

6) Plays Spotto with CCTV cameras along the street.

7) Teeny tiny milk (1 quart)
From 20100507 Exploring London

..I'm sure there'll be more to come

Wednesday, 5 May 2010

Arriving in London

London Day 1
After an uneventful flight from Melbourne, via Dubai, I landed in London and was greeted by a joyous husband who vaulted the barrier to take me in his arms. It was so nice to have my arms around him again. On the 2 hour car ride home we passed a "No War" rally near Trafalgar Square, which is where rallies are often held and slowed us down. We also passed Big Ben and Buckingham Palace (which I'm informed should be referred to as Bucking-Huge Palace). My expectations are obviously very Disney-influenced as to me it appeared like a dour Parliament building rather than a Palace where the Queen lives.

My first expedition out of our flat was wet and hailing. We did a short loop over the Thames, past The Globe (Shakespearian Theatre), past the Tate Modern Art Gallery, back across the Millennium footbridge, a look at St Paul's Cathedral and home to get warm and dry. (Thank goodness for our new water-proof camera!)

My day was topped off with a home-cooked roast, made by my man.

Day 2
Sunday I went for my first ride on the Tube. The best part about it - it's warm!! We caught up for brunch with Aussie Ultimate players Alex and Helen - who Lee has been living up the single life with. On a stroll along Oxford St (the main shopping strip) I was astounded by the clothes on offer - summer dresses only - I was wearing a jumper, beanie, jacket and was missing my mittens! At lunch I learned that the English are constantly talking about the weather. I take this as evidence of optimism: 350 days of the year they are surprised at how crappy the weather is - if that isn't optimism, I don't know what is.

That night we went on a 2 hour walking tour of London - "Jack the Ripper's Slashing Ground". I was surprised to learn Jack the Ripper is accredited with 'only' 5 murders. Such a notorious serial killer, made me think there must have been more. Lee was surprised to learn that one pub he went to had probably been frequented by Jack the Ripper and victims.

Day 3
My birthday. Slept to midday, wrote a job application, checked out a neighbourhood where we could live (first time on DLR), went out for dinner. Romantic powerwalk (too cold to go slow) home.

Day 4
My first day as a kept woman. Searched for jobs, took Lee his lunch, over-tired sleep in the afternoon, made cottage pie for dinner, strawberries and chocolate mousse for dessert.

Day 5
Today. Bought myself a coat! Alterations will be done in time for me to pick it up and take it to Paris. About to head out for a walk with my camera - sun shining today and I was even outside without my jumper on for a couple of minutes.