Published: July 9th 2006July 9th 2006
The name of this blog sounds pretty exciting, right? You're probably thinking 'ooh, what HAS Floss been up to- flitting around all night perhaps? Entertaining legions of impassioned French men? Or perhaps jubilant Italian men celebrating their World Cup victory? Drinking lots of French wine either way?'. Mais non! Pas du tout! The name is merely an example of just one of the many wonders of French I am discovering in the little town of Chambery while I study French. This is how it began...
I was sitting with a couple of other students in a cafe one night, drinking a completely innocent lemonade, when a moth flew into my eyebrow. Now, in English, the phrase 'a moth flew into my eyebrow' is not particularly interesting, nor is it illustrative. Being in a bit of a studious mood, I decided to use my english/french dictionary and translate it. Now, a moth translates as papillion de nuit - a butterfly of the night. Flying translates as flotter. And eyebrow translates as surcil. It's a much more expressive language, don't you think? A butterfly of the night is welcome to flotter into my sarcil anytime it likes to. A moth flying into
The Jet D'eau
No, it's not Canberra. It's Geneva. What is it with bureacracies and big jets of water?
my eyebrow is much less appealing...
So, right now I find myself in a teeny tiny room papered to within an inch of its life with extremely hideous flowery wallpaper, in the centre of Chambery, a small city somewhere near the French Alps (don't ask me to be more specific than that). While the room has its limitations, the town is a gorgeous little place - truly European with cobblestone streets in the ville ancien
, picturesque squares, and of course, lots of signs in French (which somehow make the place seem just a little more sophisticated, n'est pas?)
Right now, it's a little before midnight, on Sunday 9 July. France has just lost the World Cup to Italy. While I'm in France, I'm a little under an hour from the Italian border, so needless to say the atmosphere outside is rather excessive. Smashing glass, screaming fans, and above all, the incessant beeping of car horns (see further below). My earplugs will be a necessity for sleep tonight.
I sat and watched the game in a pub with about 150 French people and maybe 3 Italians. Yet, after the game had finished, you would have thought that there
Another shot of my feet
Ok, this is getting to be a habit, but this is my feet relaxing in the green green grass of Geneva's parks. Travelling alone necessitates bizarre behaviour.
were 150 Italians and 3 French. Ah well.
But, having said that, it was pretty exciting when France beat Portugal the other night. I'd given up on watching the game and was walking home from the pub (we didn't have seats, I was tired, I didn't really care, and the French were uber excited) when the goal was scored. While I was listening to music on my Ipod at the time, I heard this strange, deep roar. I thought that perhaps there was a low flying jet overhead, which was odd. I pulled out my earphones and realised that this was every single last person in town screaming in sheer delight. While this was initially funny, and weirdly uplifting, it became less so as the celebrations continued into the wee small hours. (When I say celebrations, I really mean that the entire town got into their cars and drove around and around and around the roads with their hands placed firmly on the horn. Beep beep beep beep beeeeeeep. Beeeeeeeeeeeeeep.
Beep indeed. That certainly describes the language I was approximating by around 3am on Thursday morning...
But before I get too far ahead of myself, I
should fill you in on the past couple of weeks and my journey from Australia.
I spent two nights in Hong Kong - admittedly something that didn't thrill me greatly, as I had just been there in April (remember my fortune teller? That was in Hong Kong). But, as it turned out, I really enjoyed my short break there. Of course, the biggest thrill for me in Hong Kong is always walking through the temperature monitor in the airport, which projects your image as a heat map onto a tv monitor. Very cool.
I decided to hit the islands on my only full day in Hong Kong, so went to Lamma Island. The trip out there was beautiful, although my photos have come out slightly sepia-esque. The island itself was a bit hot and poky, but I found a lovely organic cafe with free books and spent a few hours sitting there, sipping on soya smoothies with crushed cashews and reading delightful escapist fluff. Ahh, life is good.
On my final night in Hong Kong, I checked into an airport hotel as I had a ridiculously early flight. Due to my legendary clumsiness, I fell backwards into
This is just to show you that everything French is not always sophisticated. My walls, ceiling, and yes, even the door is covered with this.
the shower recess (the problem was that I didn't realise that it was recessed - don't ask why I entered the shower backwards) and went flying into the taps. For weeks I have sported a deep purple and blue bruise on my hip, although it is finally fading. I was tempted to photograph it for the blog, but something approximating good taste allowed me only to mention it here. Sorry if that disappoints...
And on to Geneva. The home of the UN, countless NGOs, international organisations and a very high proportion of the world's most incompetent bureaucracies: Geneva is in fact a lovely city. Bringing back memories of Canberra is the Jet D'eau, a huge water jet that plummets out of the middle of Lake Geneva. As my time in Geneva was essentially the end of my relaxation period, I spent most of my time wandering between parks and reading. I also headed to the Red Cross / Red Crescent museum, which was profoundly moving, and in which I spent a good three hours. It's smaller than the Australian War Memorial, but similarly well put together.
As for France, well, I arrived here with only the slightest confidence
View from my balcony
So the room is hideous, but the view is amazing. This is the Palais de Justice from my balcony. Not bad, huh?
in my ability to speak French, which basically consists of being able to read signs, conduct minor transactions, and sing 'sur le pont d'avingnon'... As a result, I am in the second bottom class going over things I was taught when I was twelve that have long since retired to the deep dark recesses of my brain. But, it's great - I have some really good teachers (some of the other teachers are rather dull, so that's an especially positive thing), the classes are interesting, and there are a lot of friendly students.
This weekend, I headed to the nearby town of Annecy, a truly beautiful lakeside village complete with a hilltop chateau, canals and thousands of tiny little stores. A day's wandering around, picnic-ing by the lake and dozing in the sun was rather enjoyable. I think I could get used to European summers...
Just one final cultural comment- what is it with French speakers and the cheek kissing? One kiss, two kisses, three kisses? I think I should introduce the sompai to France - the traditional Khmer greeting where you place your hands together when you meet someone. What's with all this intimate contact? How do
Amongst the buildings of Chambery, you get glimpses of the mountains beyond. Truly beautiful.
you know which cheek to go for first? How can you remember how many kisses to do? Sheesh!
As for me, I shall shut my doors, pull my pillow over my head, and try to ignore the brawling hordes in the street below. Thankfully, I am on the second floor...
There are more photos below