lundi, juin 30, 2008

Last weekend of June

I have decided to write in two languages. I guess most readers are english speaking but I would like to improve my french.Maybe you would be interested to learn some french too. But I can't promise that my french writing will be perfect.
J'ai décidé d'écrire en deux langages. Je crois que mes lecteurs sont anglophones mais je voudrais améliorer mon français. Peut-être que les anglophones seront intéressés pour apprendre le français. Mais mon français n'est pas parfait.
We spent our weekend at my in-law's place in Chartres to celebrate my birthday.I received a lot of gifts. Seb gave me two books about balcony gardening, a wallet and a MP3.I also got a beautiful umbrella, a binoculars and a chinese wok. With the strong winter winds, I broke one umbrella each year. I do hope my new umbrella would last me longer.While Seb and I were trekking in the National Park of Samaria, I wished I had a pair of binoculars for bird sightings.And of course, a chinese wok would come in handy when I need to stir fry vegetables.Seb had helped me to upload songs into my IPod Nano. This little thing weighed less than 6 grams and seemed so fragile. I used it this morning on the way to work. It would be most helpful for my work travelling on planes and trains.

Nous avons passés notre weekend chez mes beaux parents à Chartres afin de fêter mon anniversaire.J'ai reçu beaucoup des cadeaux. Seb m'a donné deux beaux livres à propos du jardinage sur le balcon, une portefeuille et un lecteur MP3.J'ai aussi un jolie parapluie, une paire de jumelles et un wok chinois. Chaque année, je casse un parapluie avec le vent d'hiver. J'espère que ce nouveau parapluie va avoir une durée de vie plus longue.Pendant notre randonnée dans le parc national de Samaria, j'ai souhaité avoir des jumelles pour regarder les oiseaux.Et bien sûr, je pourrais utiliser le wok chinois pour sauter des légumes. Seb m'a aidé à copier de la musique dans mon IPOD Nano. Ce petit machin pèse moins de 6 grammes et il a l'air très fragile. Je l'ai utilisé ce matin sur le trajet de travail. Il va être très utile pour mes déplacements dans les avions et les trains.
We had BBQ for my birthday celebration. It was great to dine outdoors in the garden. The cherry tree had lots of cherries and I helped to pick cherries. They were really sweet.Back home, my cherry tomatoes were starting to get bigger each day. Granny-in-law gave me an extra gift. A long pot of flowers. They were beautiful.

Nous avons fait un BBQ pour ma fête. C'était génial de manger dans le jardin. Le cerisier a plein de cerises et j'en ai cueilli beaucoup. Il sont très bons.

Chez moi, mes tomates cerises sont plus en plus grosses. Ma belle-mamie m'a offert en plus de mes cadeaux un bac de fleurs. Elles sont magnifiques.

Our balcony is starting to look like a jungle. Soon, we would be running out of space.

Notre balcon ressemble à une jungle. Bientôt, nous n'aurons plus d'espace.

dimanche, juin 22, 2008


We visited the biggest city in Crete for half a day. I was tempted to call Heraklion the capital of Crete but Crete was not a country.

There was a public bus that stopped by the hotel to bring tourists to Heraklion, also known as Iraklion. For the return trip, we were restricted to take the bus at 2.30pm as that was the only bus heading back to hotel.

We spent our 4 hours walking towards the old port and the old fortress. After that, we walked up the main street and visited the cathedrals before having lunch in the central square dominated by the fountain of the Lions.

After lunch, we headed towards the Archaelogical Museum of Iraklion that housed most of the Minoan findings in Crete. When we arrived, we were told that the museum was under renovation and only one room with the most precious artifacts was under exhibition.

The room was indeed small but impressive. I spent 30mins viewing every item with attention. Most were discovered at Knossos and created between 1000 to 2000 years before Christ.
I just loved the vase below. Its description said "libation vase (rhyton) of rock crytal with glided ivory discs on the neck ring". It was made around 1500 to 1450 BC. I find it really delicate and exquisite.

When we reached our hotel at 3.30pm, it was back to the sea deck. :)

jeudi, juin 19, 2008

Peninsula Hotel in Crete

Seb and I had a good week of rest at Peninsula Hotel in Crete, Greece. The weather was sunny and the sea was really blue and clear. Apart from an afternoon visit to Iraklion; the biggest city in Crete, a day trip to the National Park of Samaria and a day of driving around visiting other cities, we spent our days lazing around the pool and sea deck.

As we were on half-board, we had breakfast and dinner at the hotel. There was always a wide variety food and the food quality was not too bad. We had read in Tripadvisor good comments about this hotel and I was not disappointed. One negative point had to be our room. Though we had a sea view, the room was really basic. Only two bars of soaps were provided. No shampoo, shower cap etc...
The hotel was built along a cliff and everyday we had to descend many flight of stairs to get to the seaside. I preferred to swim in the salt-water swimming pool while Seb preferred the big blue sea. I am not a strong swimmer and felt more comfortable in a confined parameter. I feel safe being a gold-fish in its fish bowl. Seb, however, is like a dolphin who loves the caresse of the gentle waves and the depth of the sea. He could swim for hours in the sea. Well, I did manage to find distractions while lazing around on the deck chair.There were these two middle-age couples who were at the sea deck everyday. The men would snokler around the rocks and corals and picked up sea urchins. They showed the curious sun-bathers how sea urchins could be consumed. I joined in the conversation and had a taste of the sea urchins. They said that sea urchins tasted better than caviar.
Only the female sea urchins were harvested and once opened up, we could see five custard-like, golden sections. These were what we ate. They tasted really fishy and salty. Yeah, what would one expect? Still, it was an interesting discovery for me.
There were many french and retired couples in this hotel. In the evening, there were activities organised like Bingo, Karaoke, Disco, Dance lesson and a Greek Folklore evening. We attended the karaoke night and went back to our room to watch TV after listening to only three songs. It was terrible. Claire and gang could sing much better.
I do not mind coming back here as the staff were helpful and friendly. They seemed to be working round the clock. I was told that the hotel closed during winter. So the staff members only work about 8 months a year. The standard of living in Crete is lower than in France and I dare say lower than Singapore's as well.

Another interesting thing I saw was this sign in every toilet. What did "any paper" mean? Toilet paper as well? My curiousity got the better of me and I finally asked the receptionist after four days. She confirmed that toilet paper should not be thrown into the toilet bowl as the latter would clog up easily. I tried to respect this sign but some habits were just too hard to kick off.

lundi, juin 16, 2008

Daylight robbery

When Claire was here visiting me a few weeks ago, she had her bag robbed in my car. I was driving and stopped at a traffic light. Suddenly, I heard Claire screamed and as I turned my attention to her, I saw that the passenger's window had been smashed and a person was grabbing Claire's bag. My first reflex was to switch off the car's engine and gave chase. Claire joined me but the two boys were much faster than us. As I ran, I shouted hoping to get help. However, there was not many people in the streets and I remembered an old man just watching us passed by.

We lost sight of the 2 boys after they turned into an open air parking. A lady who was on her way to work saw us and helped to call the police while we tried to catch our breath. A delivery man who was leaving the parking offered to try to catch up with the boys. Claire and I had some minor cuts from the broken glass and my lips were bleeding. As I had left my car right in the middle of the road, I decided to park it properly while the kind lady waited for the police to arrive. The incident happened so fast that I wonder if any cars noticed it. If so, why didn't anyone help?

After parking the car at the nearby gas station, we went back to the parking to wait for the police. A middle-aged lady who heard the commotion from her office came down to offer us help. She herself had been a victim of such incident. When the police car arrived, we described Claire's bag and its content. We then headed to the nearest police station to make a police report. We waited to file our complaints and in the end, we spent 3 hours there.

After the police station, we went to the nearby car wash to vacuum and clear up the broken glasses. When we came home, we were tired and shaken out. As Claire had my key in her bag, we were scared that my apartment would be the next target. To make matters worse, Seb was away in Sweden. He did help me find a locksmith to change our lock in the evening. Still, I was not able to sleep the whole night.

We were suppose to go Chartres to have lunch with my granny-in-law but that was cancelled. Normally, I do not take this road but on that day, I needed to drop by the post office. I already know that such incidents happened as I had friends, a neighbour and ex-colleagues (all females) who had their car windows smashed. These robbers usually ride in scooters so that they could get away easier. They target single women who left their bags on the passenger seat. Once the car stopped, the robber would strike. I did remind my friends to be careful with their bags and to keep it out of sight. So long as the bag could not be seen, we would not attract attention. What I did not know then was that these robbers could be on foot as well.

I felt bad for Claire as this incident spoils her holidays. Claire felt bad for me as we had to change the door lock and the car window. In the police station, the policeman confirmed that there was about 10 such cases each day. They were committed by youth gangs and even though half of them were caught, they would be let off easily by the judge since they were minors.

So far, nothing had been recovered except for Claire's red pull. She lost her digital camera which contained many photos of her trip. The good thing was that she did not bring out all her cash, her handphone and passport. We decided to brush this incident away by heading to Paris right after cleaning up the car. To lift up our spirits, Anca invited us out for dinner. We did have a good time. And of course when Seb was back and the car window repaired, we made it for lunch with my granny-in-law.

samedi, juin 07, 2008

What a start for our vacation

Normally, Seb and I should be on the plane heading towards Crete, Greece for a week of sun and beach. But here we were in our impersonal living room with the shutters shut. We had placed all our plants in one room without closing the shutter to ensure that sunlight got in while we were away. Without our plants, the living room seemed cold.

Seb and I left home in the early evening for our 8 pm flight. While checking in, we were informed that the plane would be delayed by about 6 hours. That meant that the plane was to take off at 2.30 am. I was pretty disappointed as that meant 7 days, 7 nights instead of 8 days, 7 nights. We would be tired when arriving (just in time for sunrise??) and would probably waste a good morning sleeping.

But it was a blessing in disguise. At the check in counter, the officer asked for my french ID card. He told me that my passport was not enough to get me into Greece as I did not have any visa. That really surprised me as I had checked in the website of the Singapore Foreign Affairs Ministry and no visa was needed for visiting Greece within a period of 60 days. The officer told me that he had previous experiences with two other singaporeans who left without a visa and upon arriving at the Greece airport, was told to turn back to France. They had to pay for their air tickets back to Paris. With my french ID card, I could go to Greece without a visa thanks to the Schengen agreement. I did not have my french ID card as I always travel with my passport. So far, I never had any problem travelling to other european countries with my red passport.

With the flight delayed, Seb and I had enough time to come home to get my french ID card. The officer was kind enough to give us his phone number so that we could call to confirm about the flight timing. So here we were, playing Mario Kart on WII. I just called Ronan who was catsitting Bao Bei for the week to make sure that everything was alright.

This was just the beginning of our holidays and I really hope that the rest of it would be smooth. I hope to be back in a week's time with a nice tan and a memory card full of beautiful photos.

Note: I would really like to check if my french ID card is necessary at the airport.

dimanche, juin 01, 2008

Nicole and Balcony updates

I came back from Luxembourg on Friday evening and Nicole arrived at the same train station as me but 2 hours later. As I was too tired from my work trip, I did not waited for her.

It had been a year and a half since I last met her. Gosh. Time flies. I met her up yesterday with Alexandra and we had a good catch up. We first had sushi dinner in the Opera area, followed by a Ben and Jerry ice cream at St Germaine des Pres. Our last stop was of course at the Irish pub Coolin's. Nicole made me discovered this place four years ago and each time she visited Paris, we would have a drink there. It's tradition!

Nicole will be heading back to Frankfurt this evening. I promised her that we would visit her like the last time we did in Munich. We had so much fun then. I am just amazed at our long distance friendship. I am glad that Germany and France are not that far away.

Other than recounting my constant visits of the month, I would also like to update about my balcony. Below are some lovely photos I took this morning. My lavendar plant had survived the winter and is again producing lavendar flowers.

About a month ago, I went to buy more pots to line up my long balcony with flowers. Here are some of the blooming flowers.

I am also glad that my geranium had survived the winter too. Last winter was not that harsh and cold. They are blooming really well.

Being ambitious, I tried to grow cherry tomatoes and chillis. I also bought a small coriander plant. With the good weather, they are growing so well that my flower pot is getting too small for them. I guess I would need to transfer a few to an individual big pot.

On the table, I also grow mint leaves. I was advised to put them in an individual pot as mint plants grow very fast and can invade all space given destroying other plants around them.

Now, when I cook chinese soup, I could have fresh coriander leaves and when I make tea, I could have mint leaves to go with it.

By september, I hope to have some cherry tomatoes from my "garden" to add to my salad.

Luxembourg again

After a long break of not travelling for work, I started my first work trip of the year to Helsinki in the middle of May followed by Luxembourg. This was my second time to Luxembourg and this time, I took the TGV train. I would prefer taking the train as there was less hussle. No need to be 30mins in advance at the airport, no check-in, train stations location are right in town.

For lunch, my client brought us to this little italian restaurant. The deco was very 1920s and it was a charming, cozy place with beams along the ceiling.

As it was the season of asperagus, we could find meals with this vegetables being offered. I love asperagus and naturally ordered the baked pasta with asperagus. It was indeed good but too big a portion for me.

The next day's lunch was recommended by a user. It was at La table du pain. Initially, I wanted to do a take-away but the decoration was so nicely done up that I decided to eat there. It had this really country-home atmosphere with big farm tables. Don't you agree that the place looks nice?