lundi, décembre 24, 2007

Strasbourg and Colmar

Seb and I went to Strasbourg by TGV 2 weeks again and we spent 4 days there. Strasbourg is famous for its christmas market though there are many christmas markets in France. Seems like the tradition started from Strasbourg.

The journey took us 2h20min and as we bought the tickets in advance, we travelled by first class. At the price we paid which was similar to second class, these tickets were not exchangable or refundable.

The Strasbourg train station looked newly renovated with an extension from the old building made up of glass. This fusion of old and new complimented each other really well.

During our 4 days, we went to watch a basketball match between Strasbourg team and Toulon team. On this occasion, we took the tram from the uptown to the stadium. We like cities with tram ways. It makes the city looks more ecological and less polluting.


And we saw a Singapore Shop. Looking inside, it was just an Indian bazzar shop.

There were many Chirstmas markets in Strasbourg, each with different themes. This year, some craftmens from Quebec were invited to participate in the Chirstmas market.

Apart of visiting Christmas markets in Strasbourg, we visited the nearby famous city, Colmar. Colmar was also known as the Venise of France. It was a little city full of charm.

We also visited the different area of Strasbourg, like the Petite France.




As it was a very cold week, we had to look for warmth after short walks in the streets.

We visited the Alsacien Musuem and also the History Musuem of Strasbourg. They gave us insights to the lives of the strasbourgeoises in ancient times. We enjoyed the museums a lot.

Each part of France is so different. Strasbourg is in the region Alsace. Alsace itself has its own costume, food culture and language. As it was really near Germany, there were many people speaking German.
I am glad to have finally visited the eastern part of France. I hope to visit the mountains in France for my next short getaway.

WII

We bought a WII for ourselves. :) As there was a shortage of stock this year in France, I was so happy to get it over the weekend.

At the end of the year, our companies gave us gift vouchers as a token of appreciation. We waited to receive this voucher to use it for the WII. So when we finally could buy our WII, it was already out of stock in Paris. We tried our luck in Chartres and there were a few left.

In England, it was selling for about 320£. Some english even came to France to get it since it was much cheaper at 250€. I have no idea what caused such a big success of WII this year since it existed already in 2006.

Anyway, I had fun playing with the games. Seb said that WII is really for the Asian market and I think he is not wrong. I am always an arcade addict in Singapore. Wish my ka-ki Tim was here. We could have a smashing good time boxing each other.

PS: Ka-ki = buddy in Hokkien

jeudi, décembre 13, 2007

End of the year is coming soon!

We are going on a long weekend to Strasbourg tomorrow. Strasbourg is about 500km from Paris. With the new TGV line opened, it would only take us 2h 20 mins to get there. I have never visited the eastern part of France so this will be a great occasion since Strasbourg is famous for its Christmas market (marché de Noël).

The weather is starting to get really cold this week. At least the weather forecast is pretty positive for the next few days. There will not be rain.

When we return, it would soon be christmas. Each year, we bought a bigger christmas tree than the last. We started with a 50cm christmas tree and I am happy to have a 1.2m christmas tree this year. My company will organise an afternoon party next friday. And on Saturday, we will be heading to Chartres to spend our christmas with the family until 26/12/2007. As one of our directors comes from the region Alsace, we do not have to work on Boxing day as it is a public holiday in the Alsace region.

During this festive season, Jessie is here in France to spend Christmas with her in-laws family. She had kindly bought some food stuff for me from Singapore. I am looking forward to meeting her next Tuesday; not just for the food.

And there is also Sharon whom I have never met who is coming to France for the same reason. We planned to meet on 30/12/2007. It would be great to see the real family after reading so much about them in her blog.

That pretty much wraps up the end of 2007. Gosh. It will soon be 2008.

vendredi, novembre 30, 2007

Some photos of the market before it burnt down





Leave benefits in france

It has been more than 5 months since I switched jobs. I do not think I ever wrote about the work benefits in France. I will just mention about the leave benefits here.

In France, the annual leave is 5 weeks. I think this is a standard for all workers. Everyone I know who works here has at least 5 weeks of leave. My company is kind enough to give everyone an extra week. I have 6 weeks of annual leave. On top of that, I have extra days off. In France, the general weekly working hours is 35 hours. Depending on the company policy, workers are compensated with extra off days for extra hours of work. In my present company, we work minimum 39 hours per week. To compensate for the extra hours, we have a day off for every 9 days of work. That is about two off days per month. This day off cannot be accumulated as it is meant to be a day to rest for working extra hard. Of course, there is always an exception for new comer who does not have enough annual leave to go on holidays.

In total, I am paid 54 working days a year for not going to office. This is a big bonus compared to my previous job where I did not have off days even if I stayed back late because I was on 35 hours working week and had only 25 days of leave.

Not everyone has this chance like mine. It is really rare to find such an employee social company. Seb used to work for one such company. But now, he is working for a multi-national company where he has 5 weeks of leave and 12 off days per year.

Days off are really useful in this country where public offices and certain banks are not open on Saturday. Any administrative paper work has to be done during the weekdays and it can take up the whole day just queueing and waiting for your turn. As a foreigner in this country, I do have lots of paper works to be done. Of course, during the strike season, people took a day off to avoid getting caught in traffic.

In my opinion, having so many days of leave does not reduce work productivity and effiency. In contrast, it boosts worker's moral and after a good rest, we are even more motivated and effective in our work.

I remembered that in Singapore, the weekly working hours was 42 hours and yet we worked up to 60 hours when the dateline was near. I had 18 days of annual leave. After we delivered our project, we usually had a day off. I thought I was really fortunate then.

mardi, novembre 20, 2007

Neverending strike?

I am in office at 7am this morning. I am not an early person but I had no choice. France is crippled by transport strike since a week. On this tuesday, almost everyone is on strike. Teachers, judges, lawyers, France telecom staff, electricity company workers, university students, Air France stewards and hostesses and most important of all, public transport workers. 1 out of 5 metros are working. Suburbs trains are greatly reduced. Millions of commuters in Paris and its suburbs resorted to cars, bicycles or walking. There were 250 km of traffic jams reported last week. Now you know why I left home at 6.20am. To avoid the 1.5 hours I took when we left at 7.30am yesterday.

Last week, I was in Helsinki and did not face the strike. While the temperature there was less than 1 degree, the indoors were always warm. I even found the hotel room too hot. It was nice to have a little snow. The main street in Helsinki had a hot water pipe running underneath it to prevent it from freezing and being slippery during winter. Most of the time, we walked through shopping center and underground tunnel to get from the hotel to the client's office. I was not out in the cold that much. From the month of November, cars in Finland had to change their tyres for the winter. By 1 December, all cars must have their winter tyres fitted.

For the moment, my working trip is confined to Finland. As for Seb, he was in South Africa just a week before me and it was 25 degrees there. When we compared our photos, it was amusing to see the differences. One of green trees and lovely swimming pool with bright sunshine.The other of beautiful lights with a snowing background.

mercredi, novembre 07, 2007

The first family breaking up

Nicolas Sarkozy. If you have never heard of this name, it is okay. I can understand that you are not living in France or you do not care about politics. This guy’s name is everywhere that even the Americans know about him. He is the president of France and a friend of George Bush. He is the guy mentioned DAILY in the local news.

He is also the first president to be undergoing a divorce. Aha, did I get your attention now? Ok. I am doing a tabloid entry here.

Long ago, when Nicolas Sarkozy was mayor of Neuilly (a wealthy commune just beside Paris), he conducted the marriage of Cécilia and Jacques Martin (a TV host). Jacque Martin was in his fifties and his bride was 26 years old and heavily pregnant.

A few years later, Nicolas and Cécilia divorced their respective partners and got married in 1996. The marriage was on the rocks when Cécilia went to New York in the company of another man in 2005.

During the presidential campaign, all the candidates tried to make their family life look good. Nicolas was no exception.

This divorce was not that surprising as Cécilia did not make an effort in her role as first lady. Something was already amiss. Like in the recent picnic lunch with George Bush and family, she was absent and announced sick. However the next day, she was seen shopping in full health. In US, this news might shock a lot of people but in france, the common people did not really care. French tends to keep to their own business. It is the opposition party that criticise Nicolas for creating a fake family image. I think what is important is how Nicolas manages this country where companies get richer but there are 7 millions people living in poverty.

More gossip starts at : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/C%C3%A9cilia_Sarkozy

Adieu, burnt down market

A while ago, my brother informed me that the market near our old Ang Mo Kio home had burnt down. I just dismissed this news without much thought. Today, I happened to see some photos taken years ago of the hawker stalls. Suddenly, I got awoken. I am a visual person and these photos brought back much valued memories. This market had been a huge part of my childhood and even adulthood. For nearly 20 years, this was the place where we spent most of our family time together. We had breakfast, lunch, dinner and supper there. Food at hawker centers were cheap and when mom did not cook, the most convenient way was to head down to the market for a no frills cheap meal. If going to the hawker center was considered an outing, then it was the place I visited most with my father.

Stall number 1 was the mixed veggie rice stall which used to sell Yong Tau Foo. I love the braised pig trotters there. There was also this white chicken rice stall opposite the community center. I remembered having lunch there on Saturday in between band practise. The last stall sold fish soup with fried fish eggs. Yummy. Beside it was the fried oyster which was heavenly sinful.

For breakfast, we usually shared nasi lemak with prawn mee soup or laksa. Sometimes it was the fried mee hoon with porridge poured over it. It’s not yucky. You should try it. The fresh soya bean drinks was a must despite the long queue. Each of us had our own task to do. One to buy the drinks; the other to queue for the food; another one to grab seats. It was such a normal affair that I never stop for a moment to reflect on this until now. Now that I am no longer in Singapore. Now that there is no hawker center in France. Now that eating out is usually eating in a restaurant on a less frequent basis. Oh what sweet memories of this burnt down market!

For supper, we would get fried hokkien mee and also satays. I better stop talking about local food since there are no plans to go back Singapore for the rest of the year.

The stall holders were hard working people who would start from early morning until late night; sometimes selling different food between lunch and dinner. I wonder how they were affected by this great loss. I read that the government will not rebuild the market unless the stall holders contribute money as well. As the sum was huge, I doubt many would continue. Truly, if the market had not been destroyed, I guess I would never have such strong nostalgic thoughts right now.

I better clear my thoughts fast because I wanted so much to hop on a plane for Singapore and hug my family telling them “I love you all and thanks for the meals we had together at the market.” Bisous.

mercredi, octobre 31, 2007

We have moved.

We had finally moved into our new place. Having professional movers eased our lives a great deal. Still we were kept busy with cleaning the apartments (the new and the old ones); buying the essentials for the apartment; unpacking and organising our stuff etc....

With the coming public holiday on Thursday (All Saints' Day), we will continue with our post-house moving work.- To assemble the cupboard we bought, choose paint color for our coridor, buy a microwave oven, stock up food in the fridge, visit our old apartment for last check before doing a hand-over. Friends had asked me to show them photos. That would have to wait as there are still boxes lying around and we do not have all our new furnitures yet.

As we had some furnitures that we did not bring over to the new apartment, I decided to give them away. There is this interesting website that allows you to publish items to give away. It is a donation/exchange website. You can give almost anything you no longer want. I posted my fridge and immediately got 16 replies. Some were students starting their school year in Paris and needed to furnish their studio. I would prefer this site than eBay. And looking at the replies I received, there are needy people out there who could benefit from things we no longer want.

As for the transport strike, it was over last week. However, this is the season of strike. Lawyers and judges were on strike. So were the staff of ambulances. Even the Air hostesses and stewards of Air France and KLM just ended their strike. On 20 Nov, there would be a general strike. I doubt I will take a day off but I will definately leave home real early to avoid the traffic jam.

dimanche, octobre 21, 2007

Strike three and maybe more days to come

The general transport strike started on thursday. Since it was announced a few days earlier, people organised themselves for alternate transport. Some took a day off to avoid the traffic mess.

On thursday, things were quite okay. There was no long queue at the train stations and metro stations. There was no major traffic jams. People used bicycles, car pool or walked. I walked to work on thursday. It was 3 km away and it took me 35 mins. After work, my colleague sent me home on his scooter. That was peaceful thursday.

However, the union decided to prolong the strike as their demands were not met. On friday, Paris was a mess. People could not take another day off. There were crowds waiting for metro and trains. Mostly 1 out of 3 trains or metro were functionning. RER A and RER B were totally down. I drove to work on friday as I had to visit our new apartment after work. What a bad day to do that. Driving to work was okay. The return trip from my new apartment to home took me more than 1 hour. Everyone was breaking traffic rules. Traffic was really slow and cars just cut lanes and driving on the road shoulders. The usual journey would take me 30mins.

Seb had it no easier as well. He had to travel to Belgium on wed evening instead of thursday since there was no guarante that TGV would work on thrusday. When he was returning on friday, his train was cancelled and he had to take the one before. That was still not too bad. At Gare du Nord, the queue for taxi was so long that he decided to take a bus until Gare Pont Cardinet and then took a train back to Becon des Bruyères, our station. Long story short cos' there were other bothering details. In brief, he reached home late.

And yesterday, the strike continued. :( Seb left for Boston in the morning and I had an appointment at our new apartment. My kind renovation contractor sent me to the new apartment and I discussed about the remaining works to be done. After that, he left me and I was stranded. In the internet, the transport website updated about the situation and RER D was supposed to be working. At the train station, I waited patiently until someone told me that she had been waiting since 45 minutes. We both gave up waiting and tried to find an alternative. In the end, I took three buses to reach home and that took me 2 hours in total.

Today, I stayed at home. There were only one train every two hours to go Paris. Usually, there were four each hour. I chose to pack the boxes and prepare for our house moving.

I have been too busy to go into the details of the strike. But it seems that railway workers retirement age is at 55. The government had been trying to make them work longer. The government reasoned that this retirement plan was created long ago during the time of steam trains when it was a hard and dangerous work. Now, train drivers had an easier job and should work longer. As usual, no one can touch this group of workers. The union replied that their jobs were not easy. Their responbilities were great, they worked on irregular hours and their workloads were heavy.

I will keep a watch out on the news this evening. I guess there is a high chance that I would have to walk to work tomorrow. Do I mind the strike? It is a mix feeling. I am frustrated when I was in the traffic jam. But it was my fault due to my lousy organisation. I am glad that people can manifest and go on strike. Freedom to the people! Something that we will never experience in Singapore.

mercredi, octobre 17, 2007

Some updates

I am moving next Friday. The kitchen is 90% installed. 2 cupboard doors and some pieces were delivered wrongly. They were not of the right size. The important thing is that the kitchen is functional though not completed.

During these 3 weeks, we had made a lot of last minute decisions based on the advices given by different experts. We had to change our microwave to find a size that fits. We decided to paint the living room.

We removed the skirting board and would replace them after the parquet is installed. We removed the sliding doors of the placards so that parquet could be installed in the placards as well. Initially, we wanted to leave the skirting boards and put quarter round against them and we had wanted to leave the interior of the placards as they were (carpeted).

Yesterday, we changed our mind about the presentation of our shower room. Even our bedroom location had been changed. At first, I wanted to use room 1 but now, we decided to use room 2 as our bedroom.

This is a stressful period as there are so many tiny details and things to take note of. We had made many trips to the hardware shop. Books were all packed in boxes. There was also different administrative stuff to be done.

Back at our present place, there had been a blockage problem with the water pipe. We had water on our kitchen floor thrice. Once the neighbour above us launched the dish washer, water would gush out from one of the drainage pipes that we do not use. Seems like everyone else had this problem. I hope that we could leave this place in peace.

Seb is leaving on business trip for 6 days. The responsibility is on me to supervise the works at the new place. To add cherry on top of the cake, there is a mega transport strike tomorrow and may last until Friday. I drove to work today and experienced heavy traffic. Tomorrow would be worse.

On the bright side, things are going on schedule. My mom and friends mentioned that I could move in a month after getting the keys to the apartment. For them, it was fast. Well, there were people who moved in right after getting the keys. As this is a brand new estate, there are many inconveniences at the moment. I will write about them when I am more ZEN.

lundi, octobre 08, 2007

Being multi-lingual is important, isn't it?

In office, we communicate in french. But since most of our clients are international, we communicate with them in english. In Singapore context, it will really mean that in office, we communicate in chinese and with our clients, we communicate in english. Can you imagine that? I'm posing this because based on my 5 years working experience in Singapore, all internal and external documents were written in english.

Being bi- or tri-lingual is really important. In Helsinki, during our meetings, the users were speaking in swedish or finnish among themselves. My colleague and I spoke in french while the other consultants spoke in english. Having a foreign language helped as we were able to discuss on internal issues. When the users clarified on certain issues among themselves, we had no idea what they were talking about. When the english consultants spoke among themselves, we could understand their constraints and problems. They could not hide their game. You might think that it was rude to be speaking in a foreign language in the presence of other people. I agree too but only if you want to include the others in your conversation. During the meeting, it was sometimes necessary to have private discussion among ourselves.

I can speak chinese well. But am I able to work with the chinese language? I doubt so. My written french is better than my written chinese. If I have to go China to work one day, I wonder if I can write documents in chinese. I have a few Singaporean friends working in China. I often thought that the working environment would be in english as I had doubts on my friends' chinese. Maybe I was wrong. I better check with them.

In any case, just being fluent in english is not enough. It is important to know other languages as well. When I was in Chinatown yesterday, I felt so at home listening to the roast meat seller speaking in Mandarin, Hokkien, Teochew, Cantonese and French with the customers. It just reminded me of the market back in Singapore. I wish I can speak Hokkien with someone. With my mom, we speak mandarin and english. I wonder if the young generation can speak our dialects now. It is so important to be able to speak our own mother tongues keeping in touch with our roots. At the same time, mastery of other languages can really get you further.

This revelation of being bi-lingual only hit me when I am here. Just knowing English in France is not enough. Just knowing French in France is essential but if you know English, that is a plus. I am glad that my circumstances in France obliged me to learn french. On the other hand, I hope that I will never lose my Hokkien.

dimanche, octobre 07, 2007

Another Sunday

After church this morning, I headed to Chinatown. As I wrote many times, Chinatown in the 13 district (arrondisement) is in the south and very inconvenient for me to get there by public transport. As Seb had left for Spain, I went there by public transport. I do not like to drive in Paris.
Why such desperation? Because I was craving for home cooked chinese food. I was sick of dining out for the past week. In Helsinki, half the time, I did not enjoy my meals. There were many Tex Mex resturants in Helsinki and the one we tried was enjoyable. Maybe I will just stick to Tex Mex places next time.
What did I cook? Well, the usual suspects. Chicken fried with ginger and sesame oil. And my fav big veggie roasted meat soup. I was speaking to Claire earlier and she was trying to give me ideas on what to cook since I often cook the same usual stuff. Sadly, the supermarkets here were not like those in Australia. They did not sell soba, tofu, chinese vegetables.... Best thing was, Claire remembered that I did not like fried rice. That brought back memories to our uni days. On a tight budget, fried rice was often the best choice for a quick lunch. I only like salted fish fried rice. :) Too bad, I had finished my salted fish. I am running out of "comfort food" and do not anticipate going to Singapore any time soon. If you are passing by Paris, please let me know.

Oh, France won the match against the All Blacks yesterday. There was a "kelong" cos one of passes leading to the touch down was forwarded. Only backward passes were allowed. Guess the referee did not see that. Everyone here was just happy that France is going to be in the semi-finals.

To end off, for your info, I am typing slower than usual. Normally, I type without looking at the keyboard. But after 4 days of using a Finnish keyboard, I am getting my 'a' and 'q' and a few other keys all messed up. Why can't we have a standard format for keyboards? Sigh. The english, french and finnish keyboards are all different. Headache! Working in a mutli-cultural environment, I appreciate the fact that I can speak different languages. I will elaborate on that next time. It is time to sleep and get ready for another week of work.

samedi, octobre 06, 2007

Busy month

We finally received our keys to our new apartment on 27 Sept. The promoter even gave us a bottle of champagne to celebrate. What class!
Buying from plan was really a risky business. I realised that the balcony was closer to the road than I thought. Other than that, everything built was pretty close to the plan we had.

Last weekend, Seb and I went to order the furnitures and spent several tiring hours in Leroy Merlin. This weekend, we were not spared. We continued our hunt to complete the list of things we need to buy. I was in Helsinki for 4 days and just returned yesterday. Seb is leaving for Spain for 3 days tomorrow. His travel plans for this month could not have come at a "better" timing. I just hope that renovations would carry out smoothly. The thing is, we have 3 different parties working on different areas. If one is late, the others will be affected. Let's just see if we get to move in by end of Oct.

Right now, it is the World Cup for Rugby and this year, France is the hosting country. There is a strong following for this sport and right now, most french are in front of their televsion sets watching France against New Zealand. The All Blacks had beaten the Blues 7 consecutive times. The chances of the Blues winning seems slim. We shall know the result in 20 mins. For the moment, the score is 13-13.

mercredi, septembre 26, 2007

The animals go in two by two.......Horray hooray

Summer is gone and Autumn hit us strong. In the south west of France, it is snowing at 1300m altitude. Yesterday, the central heater in our building had been activated. I am glad cos' now, the apartment will be constantly warm.

Over the weekend, we went over to Chartres. My mother-in-law just adopted a kitten. With Bao Bei previous experience with cats, we were aprehensive about meeting this kitten. The family lunch was on Saturday so we arrived in the morning instead of Friday night just in case, we could not stay over the night due to Bao Bei. Bao Bei's reaction was the same as the last time. She was hostile to Caramel though Caramel was curious and keen to make friend with Bao Bei. Fortunately, the house with the garden was big enough for the two cats. When the two cats bumped into each other, Bao Bei snarled but there was no cat fights. Phew!

To add on, we had a guest dog, Réglis. Her master was out of town so we had her for the weekend. Réglis was a really gentle dog. She was 7 years old and just recovered from cancer recently. Coco, my granny-in-law's poodle was really interested in Réglis as she was on heat. It was comical seeing these animals. They made us laugh with their silliness. Now, I just could not get the nursery song out of my head "The animals went in two by two. Horray, horray. ......."

jeudi, septembre 20, 2007

Blackwater

Saw the news on TV that some Blackwater soldiers fired at Iraqis while escorting a diplomat on sunday. 11 Iraqies were dead and investigation was ongoing to find out the reason for the shoot out.

Who were these Blackwater soldiers? They were mercenaries hired to provide security to ang mohs in Iraq. It was estimated that the lifespan of a white man/woman in the street of Baghad was 6 minutes. Companies in Iraq doing business or TV crew members had to hire these private soldiers for protection. A simple escort journey from/to the airport that took 20 minutes would cost 2000€. These soldiers were very visible as they drove big cars, carried big guns and made their presence heavily felt. The reporter in the field commented that these "Rambos" caused unease to the ordinary Iraqis.

The American government relied on these private soldiers for several reasons. The government needed to justify with its people and senates for sending more of its soldiers to Iraq. Since Blackwater was a private company, the government just needed the budget to be approved for hiring security. Less deaths in the Ministry of Defense would prevent public outcry on the war in Iraq.

The images of burnt cars and angry iraqis .... An eyewitness said that such shootouts happened often. He added that if Bush had not begin the war, these Blackwater guys would not be there. It would be very long before this country could be rebuilt with peace; where water would be clear and not black.

mardi, septembre 18, 2007

Chocolate chilli


I am sure that this bar of chocolate will be a hit if it is available in Singapore. My colleague got some from Luxembourg and passed one to me. It was dark chocolate with mexician chilli. Isn't that a genius idea?

The chocolate tasted good. After the chocolate had gone down came the after taste of chilli. It was indeed spicy. One of my colleagues rushed to put a cube of sugar in his mouth to overcome the hot flavour. I like this chocolate. The sweet and spicy taste was indeed 'shiok'.

lundi, septembre 17, 2007

Food glorious food

















I was at the market on Saturday and at the vegetables stall, I saw these green tomatoes. They were meant to be this color. The seller explained to me that these tomatoes were of a variety cultivated in the ancient days and they tasted good. I bought some since Seb loves tomatoes. However, he told me that the taste was no different from ordinary ones.














The season for melons is nearing the end. Over in France, a common way of eating rock melon is with salad and salted ham. In most resturants, this is the starter. It may sound weird to eat fruit as entrée but the sweetness of the melon goes very well with the salted ham.


This is really easy to prepare and very presentable.












Another really french dish is the jarret de porc avec ses lentilles. I had this in Dordogne and when we were served, the waitress thought that this was for Seb and Seb's salade was for me.
-No, no, madame. Seb does not eat meat. It was me, the asian girl who wanted to try this hearty meal. It was indeed too much for me. I love lentilles. It would be better if there was chilli sauce to go it.

dimanche, septembre 16, 2007

Luxembourg

I was at Luxembourg for work last week. During the three days I was there, I passed by this giant plastic bag every lunch time. It just reminded me of those china bags that we used for our purchases when travelling in Bangkok or Hong Kong. I could not describe more about this tiny european country as I did not do any visit. It looked to me like any city in France. I did noticed a lot of banks.

The planes we took were really small. On the way there, we took the new Q400 from Bombardier. It was supposed to be a silent plane. But as with any small plane, it was not silent at all. It claimed to be less polluting. For that, I won't mind the other inconvenience.

On the way back, we took a different plane. This one had a single seat on the left side and two seats on the right. It reminded me of a coach. The overhead compartment was so small that we had to leave our hand carry luggages at the foot of the plane. They were slotted away under the belly of the plane.

Upon take off, the flight journey was 35 minutes. It was really a rush affair to serve us light snack and just as we finished our meal, we were starting our descend.

My colleagues explained to me that Lux Air used to use Boeing for its Paris route. However, since TGV (speed train) started operating to Luxembourg this year, the air business was affected. There were less demand by air travel. For us, we preferred planes to train as the last plane left later than the train. On the way back, I counted 40 passangers and almost all were in suits. Only 10% were ladies. Luxembourg really looks to me like a business center and not a place for passing a vacation.

vendredi, septembre 07, 2007

Movies and more movies

Recently, Seb and I each signed up for the ultimate movie card, UGC Illimité. We can watch any movie at any slot anywhere. There are about 500 cinemas available and soon we can watch movies for “free” in other European countries too. I pay 18€ monthly and Seb is paying 19.80€ as he subscribed just after the price increased. In Paris, movie tickets cost 9.50€ on average. If we watched two or three movies a month, that would easily amortise the fees.

I hope that I will blog more about the movies I watched. Yesterday, we went to catch the latest Harry Potter. I am no big Harry Potter fan thus, I am not commenting much here. The plot is not well developed as the book thus I find it a bit disorganised.

Since we are on the subject about movies, I will just develop further on the cinemas here. In Singapore, seat numbers are printed on the tickets. In France, just like in Australia and US, it goes by free seating. So people have to queue up outside the movie hall early in order to get good seats. As some cinemas are really small, sometimes the queue forms all the way outside the cinema. When it is raining, people will be holding their umbrellas waiting to watch a movie.

Now if we have free seating in Singapore, all Singaporeans will be rushing for the best central seats. However in France, I have noticed that there are all sorts of individuals. Even when the movie hall is not crowded, there are people who choose to sit right at the corner of the room. Some would choose the first row which all Singaporeans will avoid. It just amuses me to see “different” people. Seb prefers the corner seat as he does not want to be disturbed by the audiences in the congested centre. But with me, he does not have much choice. After all, I am a true Singaporean. I prefer to be at the middle of the big screen to get a balanced view of the action.

Tel Aviv, Israel

Yesterday, I took a day off from work and went to the airport to fetch Seb. He was away on a short work trip in Tel Aviv, Israel. The minute he saw me, he complained about the treatment he received at the airport. At the Israel airport, at the queue to check in, his passport was checked. As his passport had many Malaysia and Indonesia stamps, he was questioned of his visits in Malaysia and Indonesia and also what he was up to in Israel. He was led to a cabin where they searched him from head to toe with those metal detectors. The authorities asked if he was the person in his passport photo. What a silly question! He had to switch on his laptop and showed his powerpoint slides. His suitcase was checked thoroughly. After 40 mins of serious interrogations (yeah, they spoke harshly), they released him and he was led to an express counter to check-in avoiding the queue. The weird thing was that this check was done when he was leaving the country and not when he was entering. I remembered that when my mom visited Israel and Egypt 8 years ago, she had to make a new passport just for Israel. Since Seb has to return to Tel Aviv again and his passport is not expiring any time soon, there would be another unpleasant ordeal for him. :(

Fortunately, my company does not have any client in Israel at the moment. There are many tell tales of Malaysia and Indonesia in my passport too.

mardi, septembre 04, 2007

Piano lesson

I had been diligently practising on my electronic keyboard since I took up piano lessons a month ago.If my passion persists, I will most probably get a real piano. When I told my friends that I was learning piano, three of them told me that they would like to learn it too. However, they thought it was either too late or they could not find time to commit. I felt that if one was really interested in something, one would find the resource to accomodate the activity. I had been procastinating since many years. I can say that I am now very happy and look forward to my piano lessons. I am able to play some easy music scores. Free music scores can be found in the internet. It may help that I could read music notes as I had played organ for a few years when I was very young. I just had to learn on the piano techniques. Still, it is never too late to learn a musical instrument. You need only passion and patience.

lundi, septembre 03, 2007

Ever wonder these questions?

How to get rid of mold smell in front loader washing machine? Answer

How to prevent and clean mold on plastic shower curtains? Answer

How to clean parquet floors? Answer

Okay. My target audiences are obviously the ladies. I found this site that shares information and you too can put in an advise or tip regarding anything. I do not agree that all tips work but some are interesting.

For the male readers, I have not forgotten you. I leave you with this. The secret of folding a suit coat.

mardi, août 28, 2007

French fries machine

Seb spotted this french fries vending machine while we made a stop at the gas station along the autoroute. We were really tempted to see how "just made" were the fries. But no one was using it since there was a canteen just behind this thing.

And no, we were not desperate enough to try it and wasted our money in case . . . . . we did not like it. So, it is still a mystery to me whether the fries were pre-fried and heated by mircowave upon purchase; or were they really fried in oil in this machine. Is this hygienics?

Someone, just someone, go try it and let me know. Okay?



mercredi, août 15, 2007

Dordogne, South west of France

As wednesday was 15 August and a holiday in France, Seb and I took a long weekend and spent four days in Dordogne. This little get-away was centred around the theme "nature and pre-historic".

We drove for about 6 hours from Paris to reach Dordogne. We lodged at a lovely bed-and-breakfast with friendly hosts.

Seb and I canoed 14 km where the river Dordogne winded through a few of the most beautiful villages. The picture on the left is Beynac.


We visited Lascaux 2 at Montignac. This was the famous site of pre-historic art. The original one was discovered in 1940. In order to conserve it against deterioration and pollution; carbon dixoide exhaled from humans, fungis growth from humidity, Lascaux 2 was created about 200m away. Using the latest techonology, 90% the cave drawings were recreated. It was really amazing to see how our ancestors could already draw so well around 17000 years ago.

In the town Les Eyzies-de-Tayac, we visited La grotte du Grand Roc. There were two parties in this area. In the cliffs of Laugerie-Basse, our guide explained to us how ancient men around 17000 years ago lived. They were know as the Cro-Magnon men. They did not live as cave men but used the cliffs as shelters for their tents. He also explained the use of these cliffs during the medieval times. There were other interesting explainations but you had to be there to understand them better.


A little uphill of the cliff was Grand Roc cave. In here, we could see all kinds of crystallizations. It was amazing. With the guide, we understood how these stalagtites, stalagmites, eccentrics etc... were formed. It was really beautiful. Notice the picture where there were a few darken lumps. These stalagmites had been touched by humans thus they were polluted and died (no more growing). We were forbidded to touch them.

This was really a lovely lovely place. Showing us what nature could do.



And I kept the best for last. We droved through small roads, past many beautiful villages and castles all the way to the next department, Lot. Here was the really famous Gouffre de Padirac. It was a big hole leading to the centre of the earth. (Yeah, I was living my childhood fantasy with Jules Verne's Journey to the center of the earth.) Thanks to advance technology, there were three elevators available for the lazy tourists. Still, this place was not wheelchairs or baby-prams friendly as there was still quite a lot of walking and climbing in the abyss.

At the bottom of the abyss, I felt so small looking up. The most amazing thing was hidden from here. We had to walked down a long tunnel and we could see a stream along our path. At the end of this underground tunnel was a long queue of people waiting to embark on a boat. We travelled by small boats along 500m of the underground river to reach the treasure.


As no photo taking was allowed, I invite you to view this God's creation from the 360° virtual tour. It was breath taking. No one could imagine of this great beauty underground.

The cave of Grand Roc was amazing enough but the Gouffe de Padirac, I can't find the right words to describe it.

The region of Dordogne is Périgord and it is the land of foie gras and ducks gastronomy. As I do not like foie gras, I tried duck dishes. After having 4 days of rich food, I am going on light chinese meals for this weekend.

This short getaway definately refreshs my mind on my long forgotten geography lessons. All the visits are guided and most are in french. However, there are printed explanations in other languages. I hope you will enjoy the links I provided.

vendredi, août 10, 2007

Post National Day

It's post national day. As a singaporean, I would like to wish my nation a happy birthday.

When I first came to France, this day was important. I did not do special celebrations but I proudly mentionned my country's birthday to everyone. Now, the feeling had waned. I am a Singaporean but I do not feel so Singaporean. This does not mean that I will not be loyal to my country. 4 years in my host country, I am more interested in the happenings here since it affects me directly. I do still keep myself updated with the on-goings in Singapore. I speak with my mom for at least an hour weekly. I read alternative voices concerning Singapore online. Sometimes, it just saddens me to know the truth. Will you choose the blue pill or the red pill? The choice is difficult if you are in
the Matrix Island.

Do you think these articles will be highlighted in the mainstream media?
Pity the heliconias

Nation Builders - A new video by Martyn See

$2,500 to rent a 3-room flat?

To end off on a lighter note, have fun reading this from talking cock.
NATIONAL DAY SPECIAL: 60 SIGNS YOU’RE A TRUE SINGAPOREAN

dimanche, juillet 29, 2007

One red chilli


I wrote earlier about my chilli plant. There are plenty of green chillis and I had already used a few to go with my dinner. I was just giving up hope that I will have red chilli when I finally saw one today.

I am delighted. Here's the photo of the single red chick among the other green eye monsters. I hope the others will turn red soon. The green chillis tasted a bit too raw.

vendredi, juillet 27, 2007

Vous or Tu?

In France, there are two ways in addressing peope. 'Vous' is the formal way to address someone whom you do not know or to an elder whom you respect. We 'vouvoyer' the waiter, a stranger, our neighbour, our teacher and often our boss. 'Tu' is the familiar way to address someone whom we know well and is close to us. We 'tutoyer' our friends, little kids and our parents (unless you are an aristocrat, you might have to 'vouvoyer' your parents).

In the beginning, I had a lot of trouble trying to figure out who to 'vouvoyer' and who to 'tutoyer'. It was not a difference of just two words. Different set of grammars and rules applied with regards to 'Vous' or 'Tu'. Take the example of just a simple "How are you?". "Comment allez vous?" when we "vouvoyer" and "Comment vas-tu?" when we "tutoyer". See, it is two different phrases. Out of three words, two are different.

Today, during my second piano lesson, my teacher asked if we can 'tutoyer'. I was relieved as I am more familiar with the 'tu' grammar. Also it brings our teacher-student relationship to a more intimate level.

I hate this uncertanity of how to address a person. It is like a game and it is so french. Since I am not a french, I am in the least position to suggest to someone to 'vouvoyer' or 'tutoyer'. So, I usually wait until the person suggest us to 'tutoie' each other. And I have to remember whom I 'vouvoyer' and 'tutoyer'.

In my previous company, everyone 'tutoyer'. In my present company, I tutoie everyone including the directors. Then just yesterday, I overheard two colleagues 'vouvoyer' with one of the directors. I felt uneasy. I have no idea if I should switch back to 'vouvouyer' him. It is so awkward. What a stupid system! The french language is difficult enough without this. Can't the french make life easier?

mercredi, juillet 25, 2007

Helsinki, Finland

I was in Helsinki last week. As it was a short work trip, I visited the uptown of Helsinki only on one evening. It was summer time and even at 8pm, the sky was still bright.

Helsinki is not big and tourists who visit Finland usually only stay a day in Helsinki. It is the scenary up north that attracts visiters.

I was given a short introduction by David, my colleague who had been to Helsinki many times. In the old days, Finland had been part of Sweden. In 1809, Russia conquered Finland. We could see two types of distinct architectures in this city. The image below is a typical Swedish building. The Russian buildings are flat and not stylish.

Finland has a population of about 5 millions and about a million live in the Helsinki region. 86% people speaks Finnish and about 6% speaks Swedish. Thankfully, most people can understand English.

There are two outstanding cathedrals in Helsinki. One is the white Helsinki Cathedral. The other is the red Uspenski Orthodox Cathedral which is the largest orthodox church in Western Europe.

In 1917, Finland became independant. It is really a cold country with -5 degrees during winter. We were fortunate to have 21 degrees throughout our stay. I had the occasion to try reindeer soup during lunch. As it was in small bits, it tasted like bacon to me. David took a moose burger during dinner and it did not seem so nice.

I am not sure when I will get to visit Helsinki again. I hope that I won't be there during the cold months. Overall, this trip was pleasant as our clients were pleased with our presence. That's what it counts.

lundi, juillet 23, 2007

My anti-social cat

It is confirmed that we cannot have a second cat. Past experiences of Bao Bei seeing another cat were usually nasty. Bao Bei had seen stray cats at Chartres and she puffed up and snarled like a crazy animal. We thought that this was because she was not at the comforts of her home.

One of my colleagues is going on three weeks of work trip and I volunteered to take care of her cat. We decided to do a trial on last sat where her cat would stay with us for a night. The moment Bao Bei saw Miya, she went crazy. She was snarling and rushed off to the balcony. Miya was a sweetie. She tried to approach Bao Bei and meowed at her in such a gentle manner. It was like 'Hey, let's be friends and play.' Bao Bei replied back growling, 'Go away'. I could not recongise that this was my cat. Throughout the whole night, Seb and I could not sleep as Miya tried to communicate with Bao Bei and we were scared that Bao Bei would hurt her. Miya was really a sweetie coming to play with us and sleeping with us. Bao Bei was really stress and afraid as she did not come into the house at all. We put her food and water outside but she hardly touched them. We could not approach her as she was too aggressive.

The next day, we returned Miya to her owner and were sorry that we could not keep her lovely cat for three weeks. Bao Bei is slowly getting back to normal life. More than 48 hours after the affair, she still stays in our room and would not want to venture into the living room. I guess Miya's scent is still around. I could not understand how she could be so anti-social. Is this the general character of black cats?

lundi, juillet 16, 2007

Good lunch

I have been reading food blogs and one of my regular read is The Travelling Hungryboy. Since I was recently at one the best restaurants in Chartres, I would like to share with you some delightable dishes.

Seb and I were in Chartres over the weekend to do grocery shopping with Seb's grandma as Seb's parents were on vacation. Mamie, grandma in french, decided to treat us to lunch. She joked that she had been eating lousy food for a week thus, she deserved a good meal.

We headed to Saint Hilaire in the uptown of Chartres. This was not the first time we were there and by now, we knew quiet well the owner Sébastien. He was a young chap who was passionate about wine and good food. While waiting for our food, we were served with 'amuse-bouche' (amusing the mouth).
For entrée, mamie and I had lobster and scallops in fresh cream sauce. I was not used to creamy food and after this dish, I was almost full.

For the main dish, we had braised duck in between layers of mashed potatoes topped with foie gras.

After the main dish, a basket of cheese from this region, Loir, was presented to us. Seb was tempted to try ten different kinds but out of politeness, he tried three. There were more than twenty different ones. I did not like the cheese texture made in le Loir so I just tried one.
To finish our meal, for dessert, we had a raspberry ice cream on top of freshly picked fraises du bois (wild berries) and right at the bottom were shredded mint ice. This was the perfect dessert as it was cooling for the weather and light weight for ending this hearty meal.


If you ever do visit Chartres for its famous Cathedrale, do check out this little charming restaurant. We had a good chat with Sébastien as he was telling us where and when to pick mushrooms and how best to cook them. Only mamie and him were exchanging ideas. Seb and I were just listening and had no idea at all what most of the mushrooms looked like.

Afternote: I wished I would describe more about the food but I am just a starter in this area. I hope the photos showed how tasty the food were.

mercredi, juillet 11, 2007

Travels travels

This month, Seb is travelling alot more than usual. He usually goes Belgium for a day by speed train. Last week, he was in Luxembourg for a day. Yesterday, he was in Belgium and today, he had left for Turkey for three days. Next week, he is going to London for three days and I will be heading to Finland for three days too for my first work trip.

Some couples do not mind being away from each other for a short period of time. But Seb and I really enjoy each other's company in the evening watching TV, being in the same room doing our own reading, eating dinner etc. Basically, we need to see each other and hear each other's voice daily. Being on business trip does make us miss each other dearly. But I can do without it. Still, I am excited for my coming trip as I have never been to Finland. And being able to travel for my new job so soon is a positive thing.

Now, we need to organise the care of Bao Bei. She would be alone for two days. I do hope my kind boss will be able to pass by our place to feed her and check that she is well.

For this weekend, we will head to Chartres for a good rest. I will go pick up Seb at the airport on Friday night on the way to Chartres. He had been waking up at 5 am for his travels and I would want to nurse my cold before attacking the next week.

Weather update

These two weeks, it had been rainy in Paris and the temperature had dropped drastically.
In this summer season, the rightful temperature should be 10 degrees more.
Due to this unexpected cold season, most of my colleagues were down with cold and flu.
I was not spared too. Yesterday, I was having a cold and had to search for my winter pull and pyjamas.
In our apartement,we had central heating and it had been switched off for summer.
Thankfully, from this friday onwards, the weather seems to be better.
Today, it was 19 degrees. By this saturday, we should be enjoying 29 degrees.
I can't wait for this weekend.

mardi, juillet 10, 2007

The other side of the Causeway

I read this article this morning and this is not the first time I read on such cases. In Malaysia, once you are born to Muslim parents, you are forever a Muslim and you cannot marry a non-Muslim.

Last year, I read about this Chinese man who was brought up by muslim parents. When he was born, the hospital made a mistake and two babies were swapped. His real Chinese parents had the baby of the muslim couple. Now, the two men were staying with their real parents. However, the chinese man had difficulty in coverting his religion.

Same case for a muslim woman who was converted christian. She could not change her religion on her identity card.

Makes one think that depending on which side of the causeway you are born, religion freedom can have a great impact (positive, negative) in your life.


PS: For non-Singporeans and non-Malaysians, the causeway is a bridge that joins Singapore and Malaysia.

lundi, juillet 02, 2007

SOLDES

It's the sales month here in France. Normally, shops are closed on sunday in France. But for the first sunday of sales, some shops were opened. I had the opportunity to go window shopping along rue de Rivoli yesterday after church with Seb.

When I first arrived in Paris, I found it weird not being able to do shopping on Sundays. Even those big departmental stores like Printemps, BHV and Galleries Lafayette are closed. If they can have their way, these shops will want to be opened on Sunday. It is the French law that forbids shops to be opened on Sunday. The labour union fights for the welfare of the working people. It does not want workers to be exploited to work on weekends. Furthermore, small shops will lose out to big departmental stores who have more resources to stay open on Sunday. Traditionally, Sunday is a time for family lunch and a walk in the park.

Since a while ago, the law has been laxed. Now, shops are given a few occasions to stay open on Sunday. Usually, shops opened on Sunday during the sales period and the christmas season. Now, do not be despaired if you are an Asian tourist on a 'Visit 6 europeans countries' 15 days tour and arrived on a Sunday for your one-day Paris tour. I just read in the papers today that Louis Vuitton (yes, your favorite luxury goods) will be opened on Sundays now. In order for a shop to be opened on Sundays as well, it must have a 'cultural character'. And the 1900 sq meters LV shop along avenue des Champs-Elysées has achieved that by creating an art space on the eigth floor. Still, please be reminded that each tourist can only buy two articles. ;)

Alernatively, check out LV's website for the ultimate online shopping therapy.

Note: if you are living in a western country and wonder why I emphasise on shops opening on Sunday, do visit Asia where shops are opened daily from 10am to 10pm; and in Singapore, where MacDonalds never close.

samedi, juin 23, 2007

Late parenthood

There is this trend in developed countries where first time parents are getting older. We read so often that people have kids later. In our parents' generation, people have their first kids between their early-twenties and mid-twenties. Now, people are first time parents around their early-thirties to mid-thirties. That is a ten years gap compared to the generation before.

Today, we are in the information age. School life has extended resulting in later entry into the working society. We start 'adult life' later compared to our parents. We are information overloaded. We are constantly filled with information and are lured to try out every new things. The possibilities are indefinite. Except some of us do not try hard enough to love unconditionally. By the time we 'settle' down, we have most likely reached the big '3'.

The GG (generation gap) will widen between parents and kids. Now, it is still common to see four generations in a family. Great-grandmother at 80 years old, grandmother at 55 years old, mother at 30 years old and child at 5 years old.

In the next generation, it will be rare to have four generations under a roof. Grandmother at 75 years old, mother at 40 years old and child at 5 years old. Of course, I was just quotating two extreme examples above. In the first case,all ladies gave birth at age of 25 and in the second case, at age of 35.

So, what is my point? I can elaborate on this issue and the consequences. I can close this entry in a different direction. But what I just want to point out is this:- Children in the next generation will have to cope with loss of their parents at an earlier age than the children of this generation.

It is never easy to lose a parent. No matter at what age. But if we are older and have our own children, maybe it would ease the pain a little.

PS: if you catch no ball (Singlish speaking), don't bother. this entry was written at 1 am in the morning while I was suffering from insomnia. this entry is caffeine driven.

lundi, juin 18, 2007

Update on my balcony

I bought a small chilli plant two months ago and it has grown more than twice its size. There are chillis growing out. I am so happy. Soon I hope, I will have big juicy red chillis to go with my meals.
Don't the chillis look as though they are wearing skirts? Click on the photo to see it better.

For the other plants at the balcony, they are growing well too. My lavender plant is growing in all directions.

Gardening really makes me feel zen.




vendredi, juin 08, 2007

Of put, strike price, collar and leg

I changed job and I changed domain totally. I used to work for an ERP software. Now, I work for a financial software.

From terms like permanent inventory, linear depreciation method, recurring entries, balance sheet, back order, invoice statistics, etc ...., I am now faced with terms like swap, FOREX, PV(present value), put option, strike price, collar and legs. Legs are deals of a contract.

Welcome to the financial world.
After a week of absorbing all the information and creating SQL scripts, I am so looking forward to the weekend. The best news is that my boss had a little meeting with me earlier on and he was pleased with my performance of this week. How encouraging of him. Let's see if I can continue to maintain this level of concentration for next week. I am exhausted.

I will go watch the movie Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End tonight. Seb had a long week too. We both just want to relax and wait for Chow Yun-Fat with his "Welcome to Singapore."

mercredi, juin 06, 2007

Let's talk about price again.

3 weeks ago, our kitchen window broke. It was a Sunday and we were out at church followed by furniture shopping. Along the way home, Seb and I noticed that there were fallen tree branches along the road. The wind was very strong on that day.

Upon reaching home, the first thing I saw was broken glasses on the kitchen floor. The kitchen window was not firmly closed that morning and with the strong wind, it smashed and broke. While I was cleaning up the mess in the kitchen, Seb went downstairs to pick up the broken pieces. Our kitchen faced the narrow backyard and there was rarely anyone there. So no one was hurt.

On this occasion, our neighbour's window was broken too. She told Seb that she would call up a repair man to check on the price. The man came and quoted 550€ for each window. That was really expensive as we only needed to change the piece of glass. This contact was taken from a pamplet in the letter box. Warning: Never call the guys listed in those junk mails.

Finally, our kind neighbour contacted her insurance and they sent a repair man to fix the windows. Our insurance did not have any contact with such services. The cost was 163.22€. We will send the bill to our home insurance and hope that the insurance covers the full bill.

See the before and after repair. Over here, there are really no control of prices for these kinds of repairs. Sian.

dimanche, juin 03, 2007

Eyeglasses

I can't live without my eyeglasses. The current eyeglasses I have was made in Singapore more than 3 years ago. So, recently I went to make a pair of eyeglasses.

In France, eyewear is super expensive. I made a no-brand ordinary eyeglasses and that cost me 530€ in total due to the high degree of my glasses. A "free" pair of sunglasses was thrown in to make the offer looked sweeter. Still, my current pair cost me 80€ and it was of very good quality. I paid for the new eyeglasses and will be getting a full refund back from my company's insurance.

In France, most companies provide their employees with an insurance. It is called the "mutuelle". For a small fee which is deducted from the pay, the "mutuelle" covers the outstanding medical bills when the social security does not pay the totality of the bill. A good "mutuelle" usually pays in full the outstanding medical bills.

In my previous company, I had a good mutuelle. The mutuelle covered 200€ for the frame and 400€ for a pair of glasses. Without the mutuelle, it meant that I would have to pay the eyeglasses out of my own pocket.

And on my first day of job, I discovered something better. In my current company, I have a better mutuelle. I do not know all the details yet but the mutuelle covers up to 400€ for the frame and 600€ for a pair of glasses.

I would never imagine buying a 1000€ eyeglasses. In one week's time, when I collect my new eyeglasses, I will be the owner of a pair of SG$1000 eyeglasses that most probably cost SG$160 if made in Singapore.

When I first arrived in France, I was often shocked by the prices here. I am slowly getting used to the standard of living here. I guess if I live here longer, I would not even bat an eyelid at such atrocious prices. Let time tells. . . .

jeudi, mai 31, 2007

Christmas came early

Today is my last day with Exact Software. In accordance to tradition here,I did my pot de départ (farewell party) with everyone in office. I brought champagne and tibits.

In return, I was pampered with gifts. It was like christmas except that I was the only one getting the presents.
I got a lovely pot of plants. A big red heart shape cushion to remind me of Exact's corporate colour. Some scented perfume bottles and pot pourri. And to remind me of the pizza lunch we had so often in the office, I received a pizza cutter. It was so sweet of my colleagues and boss. I guess they really appreciated me and it made leaving a little bit harder.
Tomorrow, I will embark on a new journey. One that avoids the metro line 13. Yipee! And for encouraging me, Seb bought me some flowers and a nice card. I hope I can sleep well tonight.

mardi, mai 29, 2007

Counting down to the end of the month

I am finally counting down to my last work day with Exact. This is my first job in France and I have been working here since 3 years and 3 months. The longest period I ever stayed in a job. My new job starts on 1 June and I am slowly feeling the anxiety of having to know a new company, new colleagues, new boss and new environment.
I will definitely miss this company. I had learnt a great deal about french society, french culture, french people, french humour and french working style.
One thing I will not miss though is Metro Line 13. Au revoir la ligne 13!

vendredi, mai 25, 2007

Lovely pineapple entrée




We celebrated my mom-in-law’s birthday last weekend. As the weather was fine, we had lunch at the terrace.
Lunch was catered and as entrée, we had this lovely pineapple, crab and avocado salad. It was nicely presented and the portion was big. After this, I was no longer hungry for the rest to come.

mardi, mai 22, 2007

Château d'Amboise

There are many castles dotting along the banks of the river Loire. I had already visited a few like Chambord, Chenonceau and Chaumont over the years. Last Friday, Seb and I decided to visit Château d'Amboise.

This royal castle was an important place for French kings from mid-15th to mid-16th centuries. On the terraces, we could see the Loire valley below. It was a first where Italian tastes were introduced into the Loire Valley.


I find the entrance fee expensive at 8.50€. The castle used to be bigger but a huge portion was demolished when Louis-Philippe received it.

The photo on the left is the bedchamber of Louis Philippe with Empire-style furnitures. Coincidentally, this is the "in" color for this season and I do like it. However, I doubt Seb allows wall-paper of this color on our new walls.

The whole visit took us about an hour.



In the Saint Hubert Chapel on the castle's ground lied Leonardo da Vinci. He was invited to stay at Amboise by François I. The king was a great patron of Renaissance arts. Da Vinci died in 1519 in the Manor of Cloux (Close Lucé) and was interred, according to his wishes, at the château.

After the castle visit, we drove down to Mont-Louis where we visited the wine yards and wine producers. Mont-Louis produces wine on a small scale. My father-in-law used to get his supplies of Mont-Louis wine from one of these producers. However, the wine yard was passed on to the son and the standard of the wine dropped. We were armed with a mission to buy from different producers each a bottle of 2005 white sec (dry) wine in order to find the right wine to his taste. We only managed to get three different bottles since most of them were closed.

In the evening, the family of 5 became wine tasters and finished the three bottles. Verdict: None pleased the family.

For the next blog, I will try to find old photos of the other castles that I have been to. I find them more impressive than this one.

vendredi, mai 11, 2007

Brittany

Seb and I spent 4 days in Brittany last week. Tuesday was a holiday so we took leave on Monday to enjoy a long weekend.

Our family has a summer house there and we tried to go to Ploumoguer at least once a year. Usually, we try to arrive before Saturday so that we can visit the saturday market in Saint Renan. It is really peaceful here and there are more farm animals than humans.

When I first stayed in the house in Ploumoguer, I did not dare to go to the toilet at night. The house faced the village church. On the first floor, we were on the same level as the cetemery. Walking to the toilet required passing through the windows looking out to these tombs. But now, I am used to the sight. The cemetery is always well kept and tidy.


Beginning from 7am in the morning, the church bells will ring. It tells the time with a 30 mins interval. That needs a bit of getting used to. In the old days, this must have been really helpful for the villagers.

During this trip, we visited Morlaix and Roscoff. They are two towns that are about 60km from Brest and we always try to visit new places when we are in Ploumoguer.

The photo on the left was taken at Morlaix.








As we were returning from Roscoff, we passed by a beach and there were a lot of activites going on. Kite surfing, kite boarding, kite landboarding , kite buggying, horse riding. This small town is pretty lively with kids.

Brittany is known for its pig farms, potatoes fields, califlower fields and artichokes fields. I love to eat artichoke. So I was really happy when I saw artichokes fields for the first time.














And this is how an artichoke looks like when it is cooked and ready to eat.

Before leaving, we dropped by Le Conquet to enjoy the view of this pretty town. We tried to spot Seb's father boat to let him know that his little boat was safe at port.

In France, there are three public holidays in May alone. The next one is on the 17 May which is on a thursday. We took leave on friday and this time we will spend 4 days in Chartres. It feels good to have such short holiday trips; especially when the weather is fine at this moment.