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


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.