Well after a few days in Melbourne and a fantastic Christmas we are all off on a road trip, driving along the Great Ocean Road over 2 days until we reach Kangaroo Island where we'll spend several days relaxing :-)
My internet time will be much more limited so I just wanted to say ciao for now!
So far it has been a great Christmas! Yesterday (Christmas Eve) we had a sushi lunch and then went out to the Botanical Gardens in Melbourne and the sun came out and we had a wonderful walk around taking a million pictures of flowers, cacti and palm trees. Then we took a little rest before heading over to Saint Paul's church next to my sister's house. They had a Christmas Eve service, readings and carols. It was very traditional and long but a nice Christmasy thing to do.
Today we woke up on the early side and made a few phone calls in two different time zones around the world (Merry Christmas Mr. Mystery Guest and Dad!) before heading over to meet Mom and Kaci. That is where things kicked into high gear with homemade waffles topped with strawberries and papaya! The sun came out and we wandered down to the beach to take some Christmas pictures on the beach.
We got back and crashed for a while before a "traditional" Aussie Christmas BBQ... I can tell you I was happy with my delicious homemade hamburger for dinner! Yum yum! I also made some oven roasted sweet potato fries which were pretty delish too.
The sun came out yesterday morning so we all went out to see the sights of Melbourne. We caught the free tourist bus (hop on/hop off system - its really fantastic!) and got off and Queen Victoria Market. There were so many things to see! We walked around and got a feel for things and prices and then decided to take a lunch break. We headed over to Chinatown and had a fantastic chinese lunch, sweet & sour chicken, peking duck, honey prawns etc... yum!! I love the diversity of Melbourne. There are so many people from around the world and they brought all their yummy food with them ;-) Afterwards we went back to the market for some serious shopping!
In the end the leather jacket dude really sold my sister and I on some beautiful jackets. I got a deep red one and my sister chose a brown one. Mom and Kaci also jumped at some super soft merino sweaters that they had been eyeing.
It was a very successful day but now my wallet is officially closed! :-)
It is so hard to get adjusted to a new time zone and this one is especially hard! Yesterday we compared how far we flew to get down here to Oz... As the crow flies Mom and Kaci flew 8,000 miles and I beat that with 10,500 miles! That's insane! No wonder I'm having a hard time. Last night I went to bed around midnight thinking if I'm good and tired I'll sleep late... haha! Nope! Woke up at 5am :-( Luckly my sister has her computer in the living room where I took over the couch so I can quietly keep myself entertained. But its so hard in the afternoons when I just want to crash and my brain feels like mush ;-) But hopefully I'll get over that in the next few days. The weather here has been icky so far, there was a big storm that moved through and it poured all day yesterday, it's supposed to get nicer and nicer as the week goes on though. Christmas on the beach? Sounds great to me! It is great to be here and relax with my family, I'm getting really excited about our drive along the coast. We're leaving Melbourne on the 27th to drive the Great Ocean Road! The view sounds unbelievable!
Happy Birthday Mr. Mystery Guest!!! It's already your birthday here in Australia!!!
Well after almost 40 hours door to door I finally arrived in Melbourne Friday afternoon (local time, 10 hours ahead of France and god knows how many ahead of Seattle!). Mom came to pick me up from the airport, I was shocked to see her as I got out of the gate, I thought it would be like the US where you meet in baggage claim. The trip went as well as can be expected, no major delays or anything. I flew 11 hours from Paris to Seoul and then had a few hours to wait. It was crazy to see KFC and Starbucks over there! Then I got another 10 hour flight to Sydney. On both legs it was with Korean Air which I really like now, very good service and 2 servings of bibimbap haha. Then once in Sydney I arrived with no problem and caught a 1 hour flight down to Melbourne. I never thought Australia would be such a culture shock! I feel like I'm in California on another planet! Its really fun and of course the people are so nice. Never met mean Aussies before. Everyone is so helpful and laid back which is great. I arrived at customs in Sydney and the guy was like, oh you're going to Melbourne, are you leaving right away? So I said yes my flight is at 9:30, do you think I can make it? Oh yeah, no worries, you've got loads of time! Don't stress! haha. He was right. So now I'm here and yesterday it was around 27C with thunderstorms in the afternoon. Wandering around Safeway (yes, Safeway) in the muggy heat felt like vacation. Hearing Christmas music pipped through the stores just felt odd! Never had a summertime Christmas before! Its nice staying at my sisters house for the next few days, no hurries and just time to relax. Good thing she's got internet cause I woke up at 7am, not bad actually. I had woken up at 3 totally wide awake but somehow managed to fall back asleep. I think its time for breakfast now that I'm done rambling, hopefully more posts and pictures to come!
Today, the "day after Christmas" Mystery Guest and I took advantage of the sunshine (and braved the 2C temps...) to go on a little walk. The sunlight was just perfect so I took a ton of pictures, I love this one of the aquaduct.
I also finally managed to get a picture of one of my favorite town names around here, Gouberville!!
I've been wanting to snap that sign for ages! Plus don't you think the steeple of the church looks a peanut??
Mystery Guest and his family are too cool :-) This weekend they put together an early Christmas dinner so we could celebrate before I fly off to Australia on Wednesday. Talk about a dramatic change in Christmas atmosphere, from a French cold Christmas (temps this week reach a high of 3C!) to an Aussie Christmas with my American family on the beach (my sister said its between 25-30C down under!). Getting back to this weekend, we had a great dinner on Saturday night, opening too many presents and having yummy food. Plus I made a killing, I got a great office chair from Mystery Guest, one I had been dying to have for ages! And a coffee maker from his parents, score!
Mystery Guest's birthday is the 23rd of December so we made sure to celebrate his birthday early too.
I love how he had just gotten off work and never changed out of his Darty shirt hehe :-)
Here is a picture of the wine decanter I gave to his parents, engraved with grape leaves and their last name. It looked great the next day filled with wine, really made the engraving stand out!
Here is Mystery Guest with thanking Kaci and my mom for the surprise gift they sent from the States, a Budda Board :-) It was a great Christmas and I'm one lucky girl - I get to celebrate twice!
This weekend Mystery Guest and I braved the roads and traffic to drive down to Lyon where his brother is currently living. (yes, that is only 700km!) We made it in one piece Thursday evening and crashed. On Friday his brother had to work so we were left to our own devices to explore the city. Fortunetly his brother's appt is very centerally located so we could avoid the crowds by doing everything on foot or velo'v. There were so many people because this weekend was the fete des lumieres. For a short history check out the Masson's blog :-)
Lyon is a great city and we had a fantastic time wandering around the old town. It is such a change from Normandy where so much of the old architecture was lost to the war. But by night the city had a whole new look to it. It was unbelieveable! Plus we were so lucky with the weather, normally this time of year it is freezing cold (being near the Alps and all) but the temps were around 12C and there were just a few rain showers, not bad.
Not only did our eyes get a treat but our stomaches did too! On Friday night we went out to a traditional bouchon lyonnais, talk about some yummy and hearty food! Then during our walk on Saturday I think we had one of the best afternoon snacks, cappucino and this delicious warm apple tart :-) A full Irish breakfast at a pub rounded off our bellies before leaving on Sunday.
Early Sunday afternoon we jumped in the car to drive down to Saint Etienne to visit Mystery Guest's cousin and her new baby boy. Sadly we couldn't stay very long since we had a 7 hour drive ahead of us... The exciting part was after 2 hours of driving Mystery Guest decided that I should have a go and he could take a break.. Well big news for me since I've only really practiced driving a stick in parking lots and I've never driven outside the US (does Canada count??)! So this was my big test!! I think I did ok. I'm fine shifting up (for the most part) but reminding myself to shift down instead of constantly breaking is harder. Plus we got off the freeway after a couple hours and took smaller (toll-free) roads for several hours. I think I drove through every round-about in France! I think I'm getting the hang of them, up until now the only practice I had had in a round-about was on my bike! haha.
Anyway we finally got home about 1:30am and crashed. But it was such a great trip and a golden opportunity to see the fete des lumieres which I probably never would have gotten to see! Thanks Mystery Guest & Co. :-)
The lights in town went up 2 months ago but they finally turned them on Friday night. I love what they did with the castle this year, last year there was this cheezy rotating Santa type thing projected on the wall, I can't explain it but suffice to say it was uuuugly! :-) The first picture is my street, my front door is on the right in that main building and you can see the castle if you open my window and peek out ot the right :-)
The other lights are just from my little walk around town, pretty pretty!
I got an ipod for my birthday back in 2004... recently the battery just doesn't hold out as it once used to... Since I mostly use it in town for 30 min at a time its not a big deal but since I've got an upcoming trip to Oz for Christmas and a 30 hour flight I thought some music might be nice! (and podcasts of course!!!)
So I was toying outloud with the idea of getting a new nano or something and Mystery Guest said, oh well I could just change the battery. :-)
So 16euros later a little battery arrived in my box and Mystery Guest slaved over prying it open this evening and did a happy dance at the end (looking something like this after he got it!) Right now my little po-pod is charging up as we speak and should be all brand new tomorrow!!!
I love Thanksgiving but I've been thinking a lot the last few weeks how I've almost lost that homesick feeling I used to get. I remember reading blogs a few years ago about how some American families in France just don't even bother to celebrate Thanksgiving and I would wonder how they could ever give up my favorite holiday. It is still my favorite holiday, to have wonderful friends and family, food and that cozy feeling of fall... but now I can understand how it could be possible to not feel that desire, or rather need, to celebrate. Maybe at the same time this is because I already have plans and won't be sitting at home wishing I were celebrating, who knows...
Maybe its like how in the beginning I used to crave American products that I couldn't find here and now I can find pretty much everything I want. That sure beats schleping back a big suitcase each year! France used to be unique and different, everything from the language to the grocery stores to the countryside... but now as I drive through Normandy I can't help but think that the little village churches seem justs as normal or even more so than a 24-hour Safeway...
I think all this random reflection was sparked by reading other blogs, those of people who just arrived a few months ago and are now going through the hard part of culture shock. But where does one fit in after spending so long abroad? I'm not French nor am I really American anymore when the last 5 out of 7 years of your adult life is spent abroad...
Well between being sick this weekend and the strikes etc I haven't blogged much but I was having a great time playing with my new camera! Isn't that an amazing picture? No tripod or anything! I'm so excited!!!
When reading Poppy's blog this evening I was reminded of an ad campaign that I wanted to post about... does this disturb anyone else besides me?? Something about these sexually-charged animals is just creepy!!
On Tuesday night the students at the university decided to go on strike. This mostly is affecting the batiment de lettres (language arts) where I teach English classes on Monday and where more importantly I had my thesis defense on Wednesday morning at 11am!
Talk about adding more stress to the situation!! I got a call on Wednesday morning from Mystery Guest who said, yup the building is completly blocked and see if you can't reach your advisor over the phone. So I did, left a message and hoped we could still do it in another building! Luckly all went smoothly and I passed my thesis and the first year of my Masters!!!! (insert happy dance here!) I got a good grade - if I do say so myself - 16/20!
As far as the strike goes everyone is wondering if this will turn into another CPE situation... any thoughts??
My feet were itching to travel so on Thursday I called up Sam to see if I could go take a little trip down in Brittany :-) She said no problem so I hopped on a train Friday afternoon and made my way down to the gite! We had the best time just lazing around, just what this girl needed!! On Saturday we finally made it out of our pj's and out of the house in the afternoon and took a walk through this beautiful forest.
Then we made our way over to a nearby town and had a fantastic tartiflette dinner with the lycee assistants placed there. (not to be confused with the briflette they make down in Dubai...!)
The next morning I took off and made my way over to Rennes where I had a two-hour wait. Leah braved a dull Sunday morning to meet up for a sandwich at Subway and showed me around the city, all the half-timbered houses and rue de la soif ;-) The town hall was beautiful and I just couldn't resist catching this mohawk dude in the picture hehehe. I took the little train back to Caen Sunday afternoon and had 2 belated birthday presents waiting for me!
Yesterday Mystery Guest and I took advantage of the day off (All Saint's Day) to brave the grey skies and drive around in the countryside. We saw some amazing little villages around Caen, I just love love the stone houses around here all made from pierre de Caen and are just stunning.
I've totally got addicted to geocaching, its such a great way to see regions, cities and countrysides that you normally wouldn't go check out. Yesterday we found 2 different caches :-) Here are a few pictures...
Near one of the villages we couldn't find the cache, but we did find this tumulus which was so cool, built 4,000 years ago and not a soul in site to mess up our pictures ;-)
Wow its been a busy weekend! But I had the best time celebrating my birthday for three full days :-) On Friday Mystery Guest and I kidnapped Sarah and Natalie and took them out to la Manche. Everyone had me surprised though when we took a different exit than usual and treated me to a fantastic pre-birthday dinner of galettes and crepes! The restaurant is fantastic, its an old mill and all of the crooked old beams and stone walls date back to ... well, they're old :-)
We continued on to Mystery Guest's parent's house where we crashed for the night. Up and out the door at the crack of dawn (according to Sarah) we headed out to Saint Vaast to wander through the marche and this wonderful little store they have there.
The rest of the day was spent picnicing and visiting lots of different places. The weather couldn't have been better for the end of October!
We dropped the girls off in Cherbourg at the end of the day and headed off for a birthday dinner of sushi!! I love love love the restaurant in Cherbourg, its the best sushi I've had in France :-)
Sunday it rained which was fine with me, I just wanted to veg and hang out inside, which is exactly what we did. Of course we had to celebrate my birthday again (Yeah, its hard isn't it??) so Mystery Guest's mom made a fantastic Sunday lunch and I blew out the candles on the chocolate-coconut cake and managed to blow bits of coconut all over the room!
I had a great weekend, it was the perfect way to celebrate my birthday :-) Thanks guys!!