Archive for May, 2010

Crepes and Spaghetti

May 31, 2010

As I suspected, today we got an influx of new classmates (five in total), and, much to my delight, at least two of them are quite advanced. One of the new students is even from Toronto! She’s not staying very long, however, so I doubt I’ll get to know her well. My favourite new student (and I think he has quickly made himself everyone’s favourite) is Maurizio, a very cute Italian guy who talks French a mile a minute with the most adorable Italian accent. It’s FABULOUS to listen to! Apparently he has family in Nice so he’s been exposed to a lot of French, but he doesn’t know grammar and is basically winging it the whole time. He calls what he speaks “spaghetti French” and that seems pretty accurate. Still, I could listen to him butcher the language in his own special way for hours. It literally sounds like music and I’m kind of worried that I’m going to start mimicking him. I have this habit of adopting accents when I’m around people who I perceive to have one. Of course, I can barely manage French period, let alone layering another accent on top of that so I probably have nothing to worry about.

After my inability to speak on the weekend with the Rowdy 6, I am feeling a wee bit stressed about my progress. I need to review my verbs and tenses. There’s a book called the Becherelle which has conjugations of virtually all the verbs and I keep going to the store to pick it up but it’s always out of stock. Anyway, I feel like I’m in a transitional phase in my French mastery. This process is kind of like going through an obstacle course. You run for a little bit and then you encounter a wall or water feature or jungle gym that you have to climb over before you can run again. I’m in the climbing stage at the moment, in which everything seems just a bit harder.

After class, I came back to the apartment to do some work. I received an email from Annie, who was one of the people I met on Saturday night. She has invited me to a singles event on Friday! I’ve of course said yes but this is going to be hilarious. I mean, one, I can’t deal when guys make advances at me. I know it’s ridiculous, but it’s fact. I get all uncomfortable and it freaks me out. That’s part of the reason most of my male friends are gay (that, and because they’re awesome). Going to a singles event is like wearing an “I want to be picked up!” sign (or in this case: “Je veux que vous me lever!” (Okay, I totally butchered that. I’m sure that’s not properFrench)). Speaking of which, two, I CAN’T SPEAK FRENCH. Still, I said yes (of course) because it is sure to make for good blog material, right? And maybe I’ll get to dance… and meet a man who owns a vineyard. 🙂

After working for a few hours, I did some grocery shopping and then went for a rollerblade. The city is a mess with traffic. There is a summit between Africa and France going on today and tomorrow and French president Nicolas Sarkozy and a bunch of African dignitaries are in town. I find it bizarre that the summit is between little old France and an ENTIRE CONTINENT but that seems to be what it is. Anyway, there are police and limousines everywhere and the roads are fully closed off in front of the fancier hotels and even on parts of the boardwalk.

More Observations:

Before I wrap up, I wanted to share a few other things I have noticed here.

Many of the fast food places advertise various paninis, including “The American”. The American, from what I can see, seems to be a footlong baguette stuffed with French fries. There must be meat in there somewhere (mustn’t there?) but the pictures I’ve seen don’t appear to have any. I’m guessing The American isn’t very popular, except maybe among marathoners on the day before a race.

I went to the pharmacie the other day and, AJ was right. The place is almost exclusively beauty products. The French are obsessed with skin: skin firmers, skin bronzers, things to make your skin look younger… And they love to illustrate this with large posters of firm French butts. Man, I have never seen so many ads with tight shots of firm butts in my life. At least it’s incentive for me to keep climbing the stairs.

Getting out of a funk

May 30, 2010

I’ve been feeling a bit lonely this weekend. I think all the being cooped up in my apartment and the departure of Ann and my lack of sleep have taken their toll. Friday night I had decided to go to Vieux Nice for dinner and then maybe go to one of the bars there. I got dressed up but when I went out, it was raining too hard. Part of Vieux Nice’s charm is the patios and I was sure the rain would put the kybosh on those so I ended up walking to my local favourite restaurant again. It was empty so I sat all by my lonesome with my environmental management textbook and ate by myself. This didn’t help to alleviate  my loneliness.

I had another terrible sleep that night and woke feeling exhausted. I spent most of the day inside working on my environment course and feeling sad and grumpy. Eventually I went for a rollerblade, which was meant to clear my head but just made me more tired. It was an absolutely gorgeous day out and the streets were packed with people. I can’t imagine what this place is like during the high season. Usually after exercising, I’m good for a nap but sleep continued to elude me.

I had bought two fantastic cheeses from the fromagerie on Friday. I told the guy that I would like to try something new and he recommended a chevre and a cow-based cheese. Both are to die for. I had them on some crackers after my blade and then did more reading.

In the evening, I decided to give Vieux Nice another try. When I got there it was well after 9:00 p.m. and the area was busy, as expected. I began to search for a place to dine, wandering through the maze of tiny streets, which became a bit problematic because I kept walking in circles inadvertently. I’d think I was exploring somewhere new and I’d end up in the same place again. After I passed the same troupe of dancers twice and the same group of men eating dinner for a fourth time, I decided to leave that section of Vieux Nice entirely and re-enter from another part. By now, I’d been wandering for a good 20-30 minutes. Upon re-entry, I chose the second restaurant I encountered. It was kind of a half giving up, half “this is quite nice” decision. The menu board seemed to fit my price range and although it only had one table out front, which was being inhabited by the owner and waiter when I arrived, it was welcoming. It was a fairly large place but kind of homey with a hint of kitsch (there were mirrors on the ceiling I eventually noticed). There were about 10 large tables and about 5-6 of them were occupied with groups. All the free tables were also for groups of 4 or more so the waiter had no choice but to sit me at one of them. I was at the first table one encounters when they walk in the door.

I felt rather conspicuous, this lone girl at a large table as the French parties babbled and drank their wine around me. I had brought a book with me so I read that but I had things on my mind and with the three empty seats in front of me I felt a bit lonely.

The table next to me had a group of six very lively people. They had several bottles of wine going and every once in a while would break into song or start doing cheers. It was funny. The woman sitting closest to me kept looking over at me and smiling, which I interpreted as half “oh you’re alone, how unusual” and half “I’m smiling at you because you look nice and I’m nice too.” I could tell she was really kind and I was amused by the group of them. My meal arrived and it was huge and DELICIOUS: duck in this delicate wine sauce cooked to perfection, with salad, scalloped potatoes and a vegetable gratin of some kind. I couldn’t figure out what was in the gratin but it tasted great. I was conscious of the time (now probably close to 11p.m.) and filling my belly with so much food that I wouldn’t be able to sleep again, so I tried not to finish the starches. I wish I did though, it was soooo good. I had no room for desert.

As I sat reading and waiting for the waiter to offer me coffee or dessert, a woman approached me. She asked in French if I was all alone and did I want to join them. That’s when I realized that she was part of the rowdy six at the table next to me. She said it was her birthday and that I was welcome to join their group, so I did. They were sooo nice! Solange, the birthday girl, was plump and life-of-the-party-ish. She was turning 41. Annie was the smiling, kind woman. Valerie was the quintessentially French looking woman with short hair and a crooked nose that she somehow makes look good. Ann-Marie (I think that was her name) had a classically European face and is apparently Solange’s sister but I couldn’t see any resemblance. Jean-Pierre (maybe Jean-Marc?) was quiet and although he was friendly he didn’t seem to fit into the group. And Christophe was very lively and engaging and handsome in an older man way. He and Valerie are partners.

They were lovely to me. And, much to my surprise, I understood about 60-70% of what they were saying, which was amazing. The not-so-amazing part is I COMPLETELY forgot how to speak French. Honestly, I can have whole conversations with myself at home or in class, no problem, but put me in a real-life situation, and I freeze up. And what’s with me and tenses? Suddenly I was incapable of applying appropriate tenses to situations. The waiter came by while I was eating to ask if my meal was good and I answered “yes, it was delicious” in the past tense even though I was still in the midst of eating. Mostly I just put everything in the present tense, when I know better. It was embarrassing but everyone was patient with me.

It turns out Solange knew the proprietor of the restaurant and everyone in the group was from different parts of France. I didn’t understand when they explained how they know each other. I think it got interrupted by something else. They ordered two more bottles of champagne and made me sing (Material Girl by Madonna. I chose it because it had been on the radio station the restaurant sound system was set to a few minute earlier. I quickly learned that the song is completely out of my vocal register and I sounded ridiculous.) Then we ate chocolate birthday cake, which was delicious. Somehow, my stomach made room.

Annie is the only one who lives in Nice and she was insistent that I not be alone so she got my cell phone number and email. We’re going to get together again. She’s already emailed me. Valerie and Christophe live in Montpellier and invited me to visit them, possibly next weekend. When I was considering Alliance Francaise locations, Montpellier was the first place I looked so I’d like to check it out. The whole night was lovely after a less-than-stellar day. Strange thing though: Solange, the birthday girl, paid for everything. And no one seemed to protest. I guess they do birthdays differently here.

L’amour des chiens

May 27, 2010

I’m kind of grumpy today. Just kinda. I have been feeling like I’m in a groove with the French thing, so I intended to move to the next level when the new “semester” starts next week. My teacher had suggested it a few weeks back, but today she told me that the next level isn’t being offered next month (possibly too few registrants?) and it would be too much to jump two levels. So I’m stuck in my current class. Everything happens for a reason, so I’m going to roll with it but I fear that with the other two “best” students leaving this week, the level of discourse and learning will slow considerably.

Today I got outside for a bit. I had to print some stuff for work so I wandered down to my friendly printer. He’s a one-man operation and I swear his photocopiers and computer are circa 2000, but he was the only printer I could find and he’s friendly and patient with me as I try to explain what I need. To make things easy for him today, I hid all the other files on the USB stick in one folder and named the file I wanted printed “Ca, C’est le document” (My version of “This is the document”). When I gave the stick to him, he asked “what is the document called?”

I said, “Ca, c’est le document”.

“Yes, the document is here,” he said in French, indicating at the USB stick, “but what is it called?”

“It’s called “this is the document”,” I repeated in French.

“Le nom du document…WHAT EEZ IT NAME,” he said, in English. I was suddenly feeling like I was in an Abbott and Costello routine. Once I said it one more time, he got it. So much for trying to make it easy.

When I arrived at the print shop, it was closed for the afternoon break. It was going to open again in about 25 minutes so I wandered around. I was hungry so I decided to do something that I do in every country I visit: check out the McDonalds. This is weird since I never eat McDonalds in Canada, but I’m always curious about how the franchise adapts itself to the local culture. As some of you may remember, in Sri Lanka they offered the McRice (a rice-and-curry dish) and you got a choice of having your Big Mac with beef or chicken (sacrilege!)

Here, there wasn’t much difference (although since I haven’t been in a North American McDonalds in several years, I can’t be 100% sure.) The few things I noticed:

  • McCafe. There was a little cafe at the front of the restaurant that was a McDonalds cafe, but operated separately from the regular McDonalds counter. It offered coffees and treats.
  • Big Mac. You get a choice of Big Mac on a regular bun or a whole wheat bun. Hmm.
  • Burger with mustard. One of the hamburgers offered had Dijon mustard as its primary feature.
  • Treats. In addition to ice cream, McDonalds here offers a range of petite sweet treats – little cakes and crumbles, all in seemingly bite-size forms.

After eating and getting the printing done I got a much-needed pedicure. This was a nice opportunity to practice my French. The experience was a keen reminder that I need more such experiences (although I can’t afford to keep doing them over pedicures – it was too expensive!) It reminded me of an experience that AJ and I had in Cannes. We were walking and a guy with a binder came up to us and said something. I caught “enfants” and “gateaux” and was intrigued, but AJ said “non” and we continued on. She then said, “Are we angry about the kids in the ghetto… strange.” And I replied, “THAT’S what he said?!? I thought he was offering us something to do with cake!” That’s when we knew I’d be in trouble on my own. I think I managed not to offend the aesthetician and I understood about 40% of what she said. The conversations I have in my head are much more fluid. I also find it funny that when I tell people I’m learning French, they don’t speak any slower (that I can tell) or do anything to help me along. It’s like “Sink or swim, missy. You’re English-ness isn’t my problem.” That said, my mom has told me that I sound condescending when I talk to people who are learning English because I try so hard to make it easy for them.

Speaking about condescension and language: man, the French LOVE to make fun of the Quebec accent! And I have to admit it cracks me up every time. They squalk and contort their faces to broaden their accent. C’est très rigolo. It started as soon as I arrived with my landlord confessing how much she loves the Quebec accent because “it’s so cute” and then with the imitation. Then my teacher, then the butcher. Everyone has something to say about the Quebec accent and the antiquated phrases they use. Most people try to be kind about it (butcher excluded) but it seems to be universal that no one can take Quebec French seriously.

My final thought for today is about the French and their dogs. The French LOVE their dogs (although not picking up after them). And they seem to be particularly fond of the smaller variety – which always amuses me when I see a big tough guy walking with or cradling a fluffy little canine. Today, I was in FNAC, which is like a Future Shop but with books. As I was riding up the escalator, I noticed a sign illustrating that people should hold their dogs on the escalator, not leave them on leash. THAT’s how much the French love their dogs. There are two animal stores nearby and they always have puppies and kittens in the window. Oh, my, gosh, they are so adorable! It’s a good thing there’s glass between us because I think I would just squeeze them to death if there wasn’t. Like, those windows are the galactic centre of cuteness. In fact, I think if I find myself feeling grumpy again, I’ll just go by one of those shops.

Okay, my hooker-red toes and I are off to have one last dinner my new dear friend Ann. À bientôt!

Writing, Science and Fog

May 25, 2010

Does anyone want to do my environmental management course for me? Well, maybe not the whole course but the readings. And then you could summarize for me because, honest to God, I’m finding this scientific reading truly painful.

Why can’t scientific articles be precise? Why, when I reach the end of a sentence have I forgotten what the subject was because it started about six lines earlier? Why must every bloody thing be footnoted? (Okay, I understand the last one but it doesn’t make it any less annoying to read or write.) Honestly, I read an article and I think, “I could have said that 10 times better in about 300 words.”

I’m a writer by nature. I make my living writing stuff for my employers or clients. I love words in general and English words specifically. I think it’s awesome that we have words as precise as “avuncular” and “unctious”. Erudition is sexy. When I write stuff, I do so first and foremost to communicate information and then secondly (but a very close second) to engage the reader. Creativity is key.

Creativity is the enemy of scientific writing (although not of science, I maintain. It takes a lot of creativity to devise new theories/hypotheses, I imagine.) I have received two essays back from my prof, both of which I did really well on. But one of his comments was basically that I need to be more boring (I’m paraphrasing). I basically need to harken back to the”tell them what you’re going to tell them, tell them, then tell them what you told them” formula, but in the most excrutiatingly boring way possible. It makes me shudder. It’s anathema to everything I am. And it kind of hurts. No exaggeration.

So please. If you love reading long-winded scientific information on the environment, please get in touch with me. Then we can talk about what you’ve read and I will be a happier person.

A bit more about Nice

One of the things I love about France, and a few other European places, is what they do when they are restoring a building (to Toronto City Hall: restoration is what most other cities do to their lovely old buildings instead of demolishing them to build crappy green-glass-and-brick condos everywhere. You should give it a try sometime.) Here they drape the entire building in a cloth cover — I presume to reduce the dust flying into the air. The covers always have a life-size image of the building drawn on them, so you know what’s behind there. It’s kind of like the scenery continues uninterrupted because you can still see the building as it was on the cover. I love that.

Yesterday there was a strange phenomenon. It was another gorgeous sunny and warm day here. I got out the rollerblades and headed down to the water and when I got to the shore it was engulfed in fog. Yet, half a block away, it was completely sunny. Apparently because the ocean was cold and the air was hot, it produced a dense fog. Still, there were tonnes of people lying on the beach, perhaps hoping the sun would burn through.

We got a new student in class today, bringing our number to 11. I think I will take my teacher’s advice and move up a level. When Ann leaves this week, the class won’t be as interesting, as she and I are roughly at the same level and everyone else needs a little more help than we do, including the newbie. I am a bit nervous as I don’t know what I’m in for at level three but I’m hopeful that it will be a great experience.

I’m off to eat dinner now at my local restaurant.

A little theatre, a little TV and more food

May 24, 2010

Another perfect day in Nice. Honestly, since AJ left, the weather has been marvellous. I think the whole world has a long weekend this weekend and, for me, it has been a nice one. Although I’m still working a lot, it somehow feels a little less demanding. On Saturday, I had to do a bunch of stuff for my enviro course. Thankfully a lot of it was reading from my text book and I was able to get out of the house, find a park and read in the sunshine there. Unfortunately, the smell of un-scooped dog poop drove me to head back home after an hour. 😦

In the evening, I met up with Ann, my classmate, and we saw a play. It was called Attention au Crabe. The theatre was tiny, with only five rows of seats that sat about 6 people each. The play was in French, and I was pleased that I understood it—when I didn’t catch the words, I could still basically follow what was going on. Although, there were times that I was laughing and no one else was, so maybe I’m mistaken. That happens to me in English movies though so perhaps I just have a different sense of humour from the general population. Or I’m just a good crowd.

The play was a comedy about a woman who had recently gotten engaged to a slightly goofy but lovable guy named Crabe. She brings him to her mother’s place to introduce them but the mother isn’t home. He has to leave and when the mother arrives, we discover that she’s a bit of a whirlwind who doesn’t have time for her daughter with all her other interests. To get her mother’s attention, the daughter makes up a lie about how she got engaged to a man who was passionate but violent and she ended up pushing her fiancé down the stairs and killing him. When Crabe returns to meet the mother, she assumes that her daughter didn’t finish the job and so she ends up running over Crabe with a car. He survives and that causes the daughter to lie some more. It was more amusing than it sounds.

The play was only an hour and a half or so, so it was quite manageable. But I find that when I’m listening to French speakers I get caught up when I catch a word or phrase I know. My mind literally goes “oh, ‘pas de tout’, that means ‘not at all’. Hey, I understood that!” Meanwhile the person has continued talking and I’ve missed all the rest of it. I figure this entire France experience will involve different phases of understanding for me and eventually (hopefully sooner rather than later) I’ll get out of this phase and into the next one. As I think I mentioned before, I was happy to realize this week that I’m able to write and listen to my teacher at the same time. I wasn’t able to do that when I first started, because listening and comprehending required active concentration.

After the play, Ann went to a second show and I took a walk around Old Nice. I really wished I was with someone I knew at that point. The area was alive with people and music and it would have been fun to take part in it with a friend/family member. There were buskers and vendors and little cafes full of people everywhere. It was quintessentially French and charming. It was dusk and I wandered down to the waterfront to watch the ocean a bit. There were fishermen on the rocks and others sitting in chairs, with their rods resting in holders by the water. The air was fresh and mild and the scene was serene. It gave me a calming and vaguely nostalgic feeling, although I don’t know for what. I truly love being by the ocean. Every time I’m near one, I think about how I should live in a beach town. Beaches and the ocean make me so happy.

When I returned home, I turned on my ancient and grainy tv that only gets half a channel (I say half because the one channel it gets isn’t actually clear. You have to get past the ever changing colours and the occasionally flipping images on the screen. The tv actually has a receiver with rabbit ears – that should give you an idea of what I’m dealing with.) My teacher says it’s good to watch television to get an ear for the language and to improve comprehension. The season finale of Survivor Kohlanta (the French version, with French contestants) was on. I followed it for about an hour and then I lost interest. It was just like being back in Canada! 🙂

On Sunday morning, I got up and immediately went out for a rollerblade along the seafront. It was 9 a.m. and the place was already quite busy with other exercise freaks and the ubiquitous elderly walkers. It seems to me that the elderly French quite enjoy their promenades along the beach. They are always there. My rollerblade was lovely as I went all the way to the end of the beach and back. When I returned to my neighbourhood, I popped in to the patisserie for my baguette and the Halle (little market) for some bananas. I feel the store people recognize me now. A woman was chatting the grocer’s ear off as I tried to purchase my bananas and the grocer winked at me in a conspiratorial “oh mon Dieu, you know how some people are…” kind of way. I liked it.

The charcuterie was closed. 🙂

I worked for several hours, did some laundry and emergency surgery on my hair (which I feel has been traumatized by my various moves in the last few years and has been breaking off at a disturbing rate since I arrived here) and then I decided to treat myself to another walk. Before I left, there was a knock on my door. It was the pretty girl who lives next door. She immediately asked me for something that ended in “paper”. I looked at her uncomprehending, and just repeated “papier?” And she gestured and continued talking a mile a minute. Eventually she said “pour le feu” and something clicked and I realized she wanted aluminum foil, which, miraculously, I happen to have. I gave it to her, she tore off a piece and I thought I’d be all conversational and ask, “C’est assez?” (“that’s enough?”). Obviously I didn’t say it right because she didn’t understand me. I repeated and she said it was fine and that I was very kind and off she went. In retrospect, there were so many things I could have said rather than just looking at her blankly. That always happens. After an interaction, all the phrases flood to my mind.

The beach was PACKED. All the boobs were out, and the old people and the yoots and everyone in between. The restaurants were full of people and I think I need to eat on the beach some time before I leave. Eating and drinking seems to be THE thing to do in Nice, which surprises me because it’s kind of expensive to eat here. But really, eating and drinking is all I’ve been doing since I arrived yet I think I’m losing weight. I highly recommend the full baguette-wine-paté-and-cheese diet. I don’t know how it works but it seems to be working for me.

Speaking of which, in the evening, I met up with Ann again. She was going to see another play. We met in the same spot and sat on the steps of what looked like a government building and shared a bottle of red and some cheese and baguette while we people watched. It was quite civilized. Afterward, I wandered home to do more work and watch French television. This time, I stumbled onto three hours of CSI. Unfortunately, because I was working I couldn’t pay much attention, which is a shame because I think that my familiarity with CSI would have helped my comprehension. Peut-être un autre fois.

Out of the House

May 21, 2010

Ever since AJ left, the weather has been beautiful here. The poor thing, she’s been travelling all over the place and the dreadful weather has been following her. Me, I’m grateful for the sunshine again, even if I’ve been inside most of the day. As I said in my last entry, I’m starting to crawl out from the avalanche of work and, today and yesterday, I made a point of taking an hour to go for a walk.

I love Nice. I really do. It’s so pretty. So I thought I’d share some of my observations about the place with you.

My corner butcher (Charcuterie de Pons, I believe it’s called) always makes me (and AJ) laugh. They sell the best “creme de canard” (that pate I was telling you about a while ago) but they are open for about one hour each day. And that hour changes all the time. Every time I walk by there, there’s a new note on the door saying what hour they are going to be open the next day or two. It’s quite amusing, and yet frustrating because I’m never there during that hour. The other morning, I think it was Saturday, I went out ridiculously early to buy a pain au chocolat– something like 7 a.m. and the butcher was open. I seized the opportunity to get my pate because Lord only knows when I’ll have the chance again.

You can buy $6 wine (as well as high-priced stuff) in corner grocery stores here. And it’s not crappy stuff either. I had a lovely white from the Alsace region last night for 3 euros. Wicked.

I love how, no matter how thuggish and up to no good they look, the young guys in the street (yoots, I call them) will approach each other all tough-like, and then kiss each other on each cheek. I can’t take a thug seriously when he’s demonstrably affectionate like that, which is probably going to cause a problem should I encounter one in a dark alley.

My apartment is on the very top floor of my building, kind of like in a turret. My window looks out over the rooftop of my building and the buildings connected to it. There are seagulls (and friggin’ pigeons. I hate pigeons) that hang out on the roof. Every once in a while one of them makes a call like it’s being strangled but for the most part, they are quite lovely. And they have this little dance they do with their feathers when they land, which never ceases to amuse me. Every day I expect a bird to fly into my apartment since I keep the windows wide open but they haven’t yet. And that reminds me of another thing: I think French flies might be smarter than North American ones. NA flies always seem to fly indoors and then try to fly out and hit a window and just keep banging against it. French flies make their way back out quite easily. I appreciate that, as I prefer to sleep sans flies.

I have a washing machine in the apartment but everyone puts their clothes out to dry. I know lots of people don’t like this because the clothes are stiff when they are dry, but I really like this routine. I wash the clothes in the morning while I’m at class and, when I come back around noon, I hang them out on a rack that is mounted below my window. They dry in the sun for about an hour and then I bring them in. Voila. Not everything is stiff and those things that are are only stiff until you put them on or use them. And it saves so much energy. If I had a balcony back in Toronto, I probably would hang my clothes on a rack out there in the summer time.

Many people say ‘bonjour’ to you here, even if they don’t know you. I like that nicety of just acknowledging that “we’ve both made eye contact so the polite thing to do is to acknowledge each other.” I wish more places were like.

I went walking down to the water this afternoon and entered Place Messina, a big square in the heart of the city. It was totally alive and it was the perfect photo opportunity to capture Nice. The sun was shining, there were people sitting at the cafe, lots of people in the square, pigeons walking and flying around, the tram was rolling by, and so were people on bicycles. I wished I had my camera out. The only thing that would have made it more French was a mime somewhere. (I haven’t seen any mimes here, although there was a creepy mime-ish guy standing on a pedestal all made up in make-up and dressed like he was in the 19th century when I went to Cannes.)

This is the tram that runs along the pedestrian road (taken yesterday).

This is a cool sculpture in a park near the water. It's massive and people often climb up the sharper curve and slide down it.

One of the things that I love here is that the main road — Nice’s Yonge Street if you will — is a pedestrian road. It’s about 1-1/2 times as wide as Yonge street and only the tram (see above) is allowed to run the length of it. There are little sections where cars can drive for a block but that’s it. And the tram isn’t even blocked by unsightly barriers. People just cross the tracks and walk around when it’s not there and avoid it when it is running by. It’s all very sensible and civilized – no coddling a litigious public. I really wish Toronto had more walking streets.

Today the beach was totally alive with people, just like Place Messina. I loved the smell of salt air and coco butter and meat on the grill. It was heady. I walked quite a long way along the boardwalk. They have poured and painted new concrete where the old stuff had been destroyed from the storm. I had a couple of people ask me information in French that I unfortunately could not answer. I took it as a compliment that I looked like a local though.

When I came back, I popped in to the local wine vendor, the cheese shop, the charcuterie (it was open!) and the patisserie for my bread. It was a bounty of speaking opportunities. Now, with my belly full of pate and cheese, chicken cordon-bleu, the wine and strawberries and ice cream I’m writing to you and looking out at the sparrow that are filling the sky as they do every morning and dusk. They dip and diver and soar and tweet. And none of them have accidentally come into the apartment. It’s awesome. 🙂

There is a dog on the 5th floor in my building who I swear is the reincarnation of Cujo. Sometimes his apartment owner leaves the door open a bit and Cujo can hear people on the stairs and he just goes ballistic. It’s almost scary to walk by since the door seems to be propped open by a plastic bag and Cujo sounds like he’s determined enough to eat through that sucker to get to my leg. Sometimes I can hear him barking from my apartment on the 7th floor. And then there are other times I walk by and nothing. It’s strange. I think the owner must sedate him after 5 p.m.

In good news, I’m totally getting better at climbing the stair here. Yes, I’m still completely winded when I get to my apartment (It’s kind of ridiculous actually. I should start a crank calling business with all the heavy breathing I’m doing when I walk into the apartment), but now when I get to the 5th floor I’m still feeling pretty normal. As I’m climbing, I have found myself thinking based on my level of exhaustion that I am only on the 3rd level, but I’m actually on the 5th. Soon I’m not going to notice the climb at all. When I return to Toronto, I give you permission to try to bounce quarters off my rock-hard butt. 🙂

Monday is a holiday here, just like in Canada. Although the French aren’t celebrating the former Queen of England with cases of beer. 🙂 I’m not sure what I’m going to do (probably work on my enviro assignment). Tomorrow though, Anne, one of my classmates, and I are going to the theatre. She gave me two choices, one of which was Cyrano Debergerac. I chose that one because I figured that it would help to know the story already if we’re seeing it in French. Alas, that show was “annuler” (canceled) so we’re seeing the other thing, which I think is about a couple breaking up, but don’t quote me on that. I’ll let you know how it goes.

Crawling out of it

May 19, 2010

Sorry about the long hiatus. I have been swamped with freelance work and assignments for my French and Environmental classes. It has been a bit of a slog and I have found myself thinking on a couple of occasions “what’s the point of living in the French Riviera if you’re spending it inside hunched over a computer 9 hours a day (after 4 hours of class)?” Then I remind myself that this work is helping to pay for the experience. Then I go back to “what’s the point of the ‘experience’ if it’s just inside an apartment over a computer?” It’s a bit of a mental Mobius strip. Anyway, I seem to be crawling out of it. The tough parts of the freelance projects are almost done… so I can turn my attention to my school work.

That being said, I did get out yesterday. I was walking around (looking for the French equivalent of a Kinkos so I could print and proofread an annual report I’m working on) and I thought, “isn’t it strange how natural this all feels”. Since the moment I got here I haven’t felt like I’m in foreign territory. Sure, I don’t speak the language but I understand bits and pieces, enough to get by, and the lifestyle is similar enough to my own at home–and more suited to me in some ways–that it has all felt very natural straight from the get-go. It also has had me contemplating independence and attachment to things and people. I will return home to the family and friends I love soon and I’ll feel right at home and very happy there too. Every once in a while, I think about the guy who is living in my condo right now, who I’ve never met but is sleeping in my bed, using my dishes, having a shower where I’ve stood naked hundreds of times and it doesn’t faze me at all. I absolutely love my condo and am so happy there, but my attachment to things has changed over the years. I’ve really reached a point in my life where home is kind of wherever I happen to be. Even in Sri Lanka, which never felt like someplace I wanted to stay, was liveable. You make the best of what’s around you and you get on, I guess. It’s interesting (to me, anyway.)

But that’s not why you’ve come back to this blog. You want to hear about Cannes and my grand adventure Saturday night. I’m afraid I’m going to disappoint you. (This is another thing that has been weighing on my mind. Rightly or wrongly, I feel there is an expectation that I will have the most adventurous experiences while I’m here, and I feel like I’m destined to disappoint since my life is quite average. And, when it comes to celebrities, it’s well below average. I’m celebrity repellent, remember.)

I returned to Cannes on Saturday some time after 4 p.m. I have to say, in terms of looks, I brought it that day. My hair was looking great, I was rockin’ this green dress I have and I even went a little crazy and wore mascara. If I was going to be invited to a party, I was well dressed for it. I also had a back-up dress in my bag. One of my fellow students lent me a dress for the occasion. When she said she had something, I was skeptical but I put it on and, although it’s nothing I would ever have picked for myself (two words: leopard print), it looked friggin hot on me. So I was well prepared for whatever the evening held.

Of course, it had been a glorious sunny day until I got on the train and then I looked out the window and saw a massive dark cloud, which we were driving directly toward. So, just like the bizarre changeable weather we’d been experiencing in the past two weeks, it was rainy and windy when I got to Cannes. And of course my umbrella was sitting unhelpfully back here in my apartment. Grrr. I dodged the rain under various awnings and in store entrances and then eventually went into a little coffee shop for some hot chocolate. Unfortunately, no interesting people sat down next to me and offered me tickets to a film or party.

I hadn’t heard from Luka so I decided to text him. I wrote that I was in Cannes and thinking of eating later at the same restaurant where we met and that if he felt like it he was welcome to join me. (Of course, hoping he’d say “Oh you’re here! Come to a party tonight!”)

After the rain had stopped I walked along the promenade over to the Festival Palace. There were twice as many people in Cannes as there were the previous Wednesday/Thursday and everyone was better looking. I didn’t see any celebrities but I saw a whole bunch of people that I thought “wow, you are way too good looking not to be an actor or model. Perhaps you’re famous and I just don’t know it.”

By now it was close to 6 p.m. and people were beginning to fill up the space around the red carpet of the Festival Palace, so I joined them right next to the steps. It seemed almost too good to be true. I was about four people back and right at the base of the stairs. I asked people around me what movie was playing but no one seemed to know, which I thought was funny. We were all there, potentially waiting for a couple of hours and none of us knew why.

The arrow shows where I was in relation to the carpet

Anyway, I figured it was Saturday night of the festival so it would be a major film with major stars. As I suspected, my positioning did turn out to be too good to be true as the papparazzi arrived and began setting up right in our line of vision. At first it wasn’t so bad, but then more and more and more of them arrived. In the end, they almost completely obliterated what little view I had behind the three heads in front of me.

The movie turned out to be the latest Woody Allen film, something with a name like “You will meet a dark and mysterious stranger” — it’s a remake, if I understood the French announcer correctly. Based on the people who walked the red carpet, it seems to be about misfits and drag queens. The only “big” names were Naomi Watts, looking lovely as always, Jean-Claude VanDamme, looking remarkably handsome, and Josh Brolin. Diane Lane (Josh’s partner) was also there, off to the side so I snapped a blurry picture of her.

Diane is in the blue

I snapped a boatload of attrocious photos because I could only take pictures with my arm blindly in the air pointing in the general direction of the action, like everyone else’s arms around me. So, despite being about 20 feet from the action, I basically captured nothing but the general chaos of the red carpet, sans celebrities. There was a jumbotron behind me so I started taking pictures of that because there were actually celebrities in my pictures when I did so. Overall, the experience was disappointing since I’m not a Woody Allen fan (although I did like Match Point).

The carpet, prior to the arrival of celebs. Just papparazzi milling around.

There is someone famous (don't know who) in a big white gown in there somewhere.

I think the girl in green is from Lost.

Naomi and Woody from the jumbotron.

The experience did, however, cement my desire to walk a red carpet at least once in my life. I absolutely love the glamour of it all. Even the “unimportant people” looked important on the red carpet. And with the right dress, it’s fantastic. The experience also convinced me that a disproportionate number of papparazzi are hot. There were quite a few cuties near me and if they didn’t mostly have their backs to me taking pictures of the stars, I would have snapped some shots of them.

After the red carpet stuff, I met up with some fellow students from my French class and ate at the restaurant I said I would. I checked my phone at dinner and somehow had missed a call from Luka. When we finished our meal, I called him back but got his voicemail so I left a message. By this time it was around 9:15 or so. My friends headed back to Nice but I decided to wait around for a bit on the slim chance that Luka would call back and my night was just beginning. I realized though that I had made a critical error in my voicemail by saying that I was thinking of heading back to Nice but if he got the message soon after I left it, please call me. Anyway, I walked around a little bit more — it was actually a really nice night — but I didn’t get a call back, so I caught the 10:05 train back to Nice because the last train leaves at 10:30

So that’s my entire, unexciting story of the Cannes film festival. Quel domage.

The Wrath of Cannes

May 14, 2010

As I mentioned a couple of blogs ago, AJ and I decided to go to the opening of the Cannes Film Festival on Wednesday. We managed to get a room in a four-star hotel for less than you’d pay for a Best Western in Toronto so it worked perfectly.

After class, we rushed over to the train station and caught the 2:30 to Cannes. It’s a short train ride, less than half and hour. When we arrived in Cannes it was totally chaotic. We grabbed a map, found our hotel (which was just a bit outside the downtown section that was enlarged on the map), and began walking the kilometre to it. The main shopping street of Cannes is a narrow road flanked by upscale European designers as well as more downrate shops like Zara and Etam. It was packed with people – all of whom looked like celebrity hounds. Once we were off the main road, I felt like I was in Florida, not France. The buildings lacked that architectural quaintness or beauty that usually characterizes French towns. Instead, they had a distinctly “retirement living community” feel. AJ didn’t get that feeling though, so maybe it’s just me who thinks that.

After dumping our stuff in our room and figuring out where we were and where the action was, we headed the short distance to the main drag on the water. That is where all of the high end hotels and designer stores are located. There is a nice boardwalk and a pretty park and several very expensive patios that look out over the water. For the festival, there are also many, many giant tents on the beach, which serve as clubs and party venues. As we walked we surveyed the menus of several of the beachfront patios, assessing at each that $30 for a starter salad was definitely out of our price range.

To me, Cannes was full of tall people. Amazonian women who were overly done up (too much bronzer or collagen or leopard print) or simply jaw-droppingly gorgeous women. Seriously, I saw the most beautiful girl I’ve ever seen in my life there. She was on the back of a scooter and when she passed AJ and I, we both turned to each other and said “Oh my God.” And then we wondered about what it much feel like to be that gorgeous all the time. I concluded that it would feel pretty f%^king awesome.

There were throngs of people on the boardwalk and walking in the streets amid the cars. There were fake paparazzi taking photos of anyone who would allow them to snap a shot of them. When I tried to take a picture of one of them, he started to take photos of AJ and I and had us pose by a tree and whatnot. It was funny. Then the guy gave me his card with the web address where the photos would be posted. Unfortunately, I left it in the hotel room.

Our Papparazzi

AJ looking gorgeous for the photographers

As we were walking, AJ said “Hey! There’s that guy! He’s famous!” It was a French actor whose face looked familiar but who I wouldn’t have registered if she hadn’t told me. “See, that’s your first celebrity sighting!”

“I hardly think “You know, that guy… he’s French” “ qualifies as “celebrity”,” I said. But it turns out that was Cannes, for me anyway. It’s the Festival of That Guy. We saw a few more “hey! It’s that guy! You know… oh what film was he in?” people. That was our niche. You know… big black guy, he was in that movie…

The fray.

We decided to move off the main drag to find a less expensive place to eat. We found a great little (empty) patio just behind one of the expensive patios (I laughed because it was so much cheaper and the food was coming out of the same kitchen.) It would have been a reasonably priced meal except AJ ordered a Kir Royale to drink and it sounded nice so I did the same (without seeing a price list). It turned out they cost much more than our meals. Yikes! Oh well, they tasted reeeeallly good so I’m just going to focus on that.

As we ate, AJ and I lamented about how un-public-friendly the festival is. It is only for industry people so unless you have an invitation or passes to stuff, you’re not getting in anywhere. Walking around with a tacky lanyard around your neck is a badge of honour here. It shows who matters and who doesn’t. I knew it would be difficult to take part in the festival but it felt much more closed than I had anticipated, even with all the warnings. We couldn’t even find any information about where movies were playing or at what times, just lists of what movies would be shown during the festival. It was frustrating.

Our waiter, however, was very friendly and so was the owner of the restaurant, who arrived a little later. After AJ and I watched a delivery of FOUR SKIDS of champagne arrive (and I’m talking about the good stuff) I asked them what was happening to merit all the champagne (hoping they would tell us about a great party and give us invitations). They said that it’s simply the festival and they will go through that much champagne over the weekend. Wow. The owner said they were having a singer that evening and that we should come back though. We decided to make that our Plan Z, if nothing else worked out. What we really wanted to do in the evening was dance.

After our meal, we headed to the Festival Palace for the red carpet screening of Robin Hood with Russell Crowe and Cate Blanchett. As you’d expect, the crowd was immense. As we were walking up there were all these people in ball gowns and tuxes with signs saying “Looking for a ticket to Robin Hood”. We stopped at the barrier where people were flashing their invitations to be let in. For some reason, in my fantasy that we’d get invited to see a film, it never occurred to me that we’d have to really dress up (probably because I knew the chances were nil that this would happen), but there was a black tie rule in full effect, and the bouncers weren’t budging on it. We watched a guy in a bow tie and regular shirt get refused entry because he had no tuxedo jacket even though he had an invitation. He was dropping names left and right and argued with them for a good 20 minutes but the guards weren’t having any of it. Another guy was inexplicably stopped and the guard spent five minutes with the guy and his wife trying to fix his cheap bow tie. Meanwhile many of the women were dressed quite casually (we saw one girl’s bad dress in Zara the next day.) It was weird.

More fray.

It was also very amusing. There were clearly people who had dressed up but had no ticket. They would join the line and try to sneak in and then get booted and rejoin the line again. There was another woman who was clearly THRILLED to be there and felt like everyone was there to see her. I have never seen someone pose for so many untaken photos in my life. I was waiting for her to wave royally at us, she had that kind of air about her.

After it appeared that no one else was entering (and nobody important had entered) we got as close to the Festival Palace steps as we could, which wasn’t very close. Cate and Russell and Salma Hayek were there and we could see them, but only just. They posed for a few pictures while an announcer trumpeted their accomplishments and then they went inside. Done.

The Festival Palace Theatre

Cate and Russell are up there somewhere.

We went back to the hotel to nap. It was 8 p.m. and nothing was going to start again until about 11:30. On our way, we ran into Juliette Binoche. I am not sure where she was going but she was our first (and only) real celeb sighting. She’s literally the posterwoman for this year’s festival.

Juliette, on her way to something.

Around 10:30 we started getting ready and walked out of the hotel to find… rain. Lots of rain. Grrr. My hair would NOT be happy. We asked the concierge to call us a cab ($4 to call us a cab! $14 to take us a few blocks!) and went to one of the places we’d read about earlier that day. It was dead. The rain had slowed so we walked over to one of the beach tents. Although from what we could see it looked like a lounge it had great music coming from it so I had high hopes that it would be good. We asked one of the door guys if you needed tickets and he said no (strangely unconvincingly) and that we just needed to join the line. When we got to the front, quite quickly, a different door guy asked if it was just the two of us, we said yes and he said to wait. Then he let in an tall couple. And then he turned to us and said it wouldn’t be possible for us to get in.

We were firmly rejected! He rejected the threesome behind us too. It was all very strange since he’d just told us to wait a minute before. I guess we were on the line of acceptable and he decided in the end that we just didn’t make the attractiveness cut. Ouch. But perhaps it was just the knocking down a peg or two that I needed after that last entry about French men finding me hot. Things are back in equilibrium now. 🙂

The rain had totally stopped so we walked some more looking for somewhere to dance and we heard some great music coming from the restaurant in front of the one we had eaten at earlier that day. When we got inside we went to the bar, ordered wine (a very stingy pour) and I revelled in the brilliance that was DJ Wlad (I got his car and we hi-fived when I told him I thought he was awesome.) The music was absolutely perfect. I was in heaven. Unfortunately, the room wasn’t conducive to dancing. It was full of beautiful people (and lots of not-so-beautiful-but-probably-wealthy older men) sitting around and drinking. Everyone was dressed to the nines and AJ pointed out that while we looked good, we didn’t look glamourous. I’d have to agree. My cute little cotton dress was no match for the skin-tight sequined splendour and five-inch stillettos being paraded around the room.

AJ wasn’t feeling the crowd and was not interested in dancing between the tables, no matter how awesome Wlad was so she asked him for another place to go and he said Club VIP. We ended up at a bar call BP thinking it might be what he had said over the noise of the music but it wasn’t, so we walked on and on some more and finally found Club VIP, which had an absolute throng of people in front of it. I couldn’t even tell where the line was there were that many people. At that point I wasn’t interested in standing in another line (wherever it was) to possibly or possibly not get into a bar. I’d had my fun dancing to Wlad so we decided to call it a night.

The next day, I found a schedule for the films. We walked around the city, with plans to try to see Colin Firth and Ewan McGregor in the afternoon, except we didn’t know where the theatres that their movies were playing at were located. We had lunch at a cute little restaurant (another “That Guy” was there) and a man who seemed nice sat down on the bench next to me. He had a lanyard so I asked him in French if he knew where the two theatres were. He tried to explain and, with the help of a waitress, we got our directions. Then we continued a conversation with him. His name was Luka and we ended up speaking in English because he was Italian and his English was better than his French (oh to have these problems.)

He was so lovely. We talked about our failed efforts the night before and the exclusiveness of the festival and he said that he had an invitation to a party that evening and if we’d like to go he would see what he could do, “although there may not be dancing…” he joked. We said that would be great so I gave him my cell number to call later. He took off to his third movie of the day and we continue our stroll around the city. We couldn’t find the theatre based on the waitress’s directions. Sigh.

After sunning ourselves on some rocks, we decided that AJ’s train to Paris left the next morning at 6 a.m. and we weren’t really getting much out of the festival. It was only 2 p.m. when we finished our lunch and we didn’t know what we would do with ourselves for 7 hours before the party, so we decided we would just head back to Nice. The last train left at 11 p.m. anyway so we wouldn’t be able to stay at the party late. And it was possible, after all, that Luka wouldn’t get us in.

When we were back in Nice Luka phone to say that we could meet up at the Carlton Hotel (where most of the big celebs stay) at 9:30 for the party and I had to tell him that we were already in Nice and couldn’t go. At AJ’s coaxing, I then said I’d be back on Saturday and perhaps I join him at another party since he mentioned that there were more parties on the weekend during our lunch conversation. He said that he’d call me Saturday morning to set it up (he said his media outlet gets different invitations every morning so he never knows what parties are going on and what they will want him to go to.) So… I may be going back to Cannes to go to a genuine film festival party. We’ll see…

Baking the Cookies

May 13, 2010

Sorry it’s been so long since I’ve written. I really have bitten off more than I can chew here with all the freelance work and courses I’m doing so unfortunately, the blog takes a backseat sometimes. AJ is leaving tomorrow and with her goes my social life so I’ll probably just be holed up in my tiny apartment for the rest of the trip. Anyway, I plan to write two blog entries in quick succession so I’ll make up for lost time.

Monday was the first nice day we’ve had in over a week. The night before I’d forgotten my yoga pants on the line as a sudden torrential downpour came. That’s the kind of weather we’ve been having. We’ve had intermittent sunshine and rain in the last little while but Monday was all sunshine and all temperature again. So much temperature, yeah! There was a nice breeze, not the kind that you had to be afraid of which had characterized previous days. It was dangerous weather, the kind of weather that pulls a person out of the apartment away from their mounting assignments to soak up the sunshine and socialize.

But that couldn’t happen until the afternoon. I of course spent the morning in French class. A group of American seniors started taking a short course with Alliance Francaise this week and so my class has been displaced to the basement. Our new room is actually a nice, newly renovated space, but it’s too small for our class. It’s also the coffee room for the professors, who pop in and out quite frequently. On the up side, there is a fridge full of juices and water to take care of any thirst issues we might have. I like a class with beverages.

When I returned home I found AJ very anxious to get out. She’d gone down to the boardwalk and scoped out the beach and it was hopping she said. Having her own work to do, she suggested we go to the beach for just an hour or so and I acquiesced. It was too beautiful not to and this was our chance to try toplessness again.

Everyone was out and about because of the weather. I love how that happens. In Toronto, I swear people suddenly become better looking when the weather warms up. I didn’t notice that here but I did notice a sudden increase in people, like mushrooms that sprout up after a rain.

When we got down to the beach it was fairly busy. We set ourselves up in the middle of the beach and I immediately whipped off my bikini top and turned AJ saying, “I’ve taken off my top and I suggest you do the same.” She complied enthusiastically. In truth, I think I took off the bikini top in a kind of tearing-off-a-bandaid way. Perhaps part of me thought I might chicken out if I didn’t do it immediately (although conscious me didn’t feel that way.)

In envisioning my first topless beach experience, I always thought I’d do it but feel kind of self-conscious about my near-nakedness the entire time. I thought I’d be okay with it but I’d be okay mostly because I’d be frequently reminding myself that the women around me were similarly bare. But the actual thing was nothing like that. There was one woman nearby who was topless but most of the other women on the beach were wearing tops. (There was one overly tanned, overly oily girl in a white bikini nearby who was taking a series of photos of herself from various angles with her cell phone. Bizarre.) Yet I totally felt at ease topless. I wasn’t aware of people looking or not looking. It felt like any other day on the beach. That was completely unexpected. A beer vendor even came over and sat with us trying to sell us his wares and it barely registered to me that we weren’t wearing tops. I love that.

I was, however, paranoid about sunburn since the cookies have never really seen sunlight (that I can think of). It was a particularly dangerous beach day – the sun was high and the breezes off the ocean kept us constantly cool so we wouldn’t know if we were burning. Neither AJ nor I had sunscreen. I am usually able to get darker from a 100 watt light bulb so I was very conscious of what the giant golden orb in the sky was doing to my own, er, not-so-giant orbs. So, after the allotted hour we packed up. Much to our surprise/chagrin, neither of us had gotten any darker—at least not that we could see. Everything, including the cookies, were as before. Next time we’ll keep them out longer. 🙂

P.S. Just as I finished this, we heard some vague banging outside. AJ opened the curtains and there were fireworks! It’s a holiday here today so I guess they were in honour of that. I love that we can watch fireworks from my window. It was a lovely show.

Nice is Intact. Boo.

May 9, 2010

Much to our disappointment, Nice is completely intact this morning. It poured rain last night and as we shivered in the apartment (until I finally figured out how to turn on the heat) we debated venturing out in the cold rain and getting soaked (and puffy haired) only to discover that the rest of the city was at home watching House. (I turned on our ancient TV that only gets one grainy channel last week and House was playing. I wonder if they call it Maison here. 🙂 )

At about 10:30 the rain let up so we decided to start getting ready and give clubbing a try. The roads were virtually deserted when we headed out. Not a good sign, although our neighbourhood is a pretty sleepy one so there was still hope. We walked across the city to our destination club, because we didn’t know how to get a cab and it was actually quite a nice night once the rain let up.

The club in question, L’Ambassade, was described as quite upscale and not for the backpacker set. After walking quite a while and somehow missing the street it was on we turned back and found the road. The wonderful thing about walking around Nice — even if your destination is questionable — the place is so pretty that it’s just a delight for the senses. Post rain last night it had a freshness that was vaguely nostalgic for me but I don’t know of what. But in general, Nice is fragrant. Scents of lavender and orange blossoms mingle with bread and dog excrement. Mmm, heady. 🙂

Anyway, we couldn’t find the club. The address that we had been given was not a club and the street was virtually deserted. We decided to try our second option, High Club, which had been recommended to us by a waitress. Last night some “famous” Italian DJ playing so we thought it would make a decent plan B. When we arrived there was a huge line. (Where is Michael when we need him?) We joined the line, which seemed to be moving, but after about 10 minutes surrounded by 18 year olds in bad outfits and even worse hair we decided to bail.

So our epic walk through town resumed. We hoped to stumble upon a hip and happening spot, but we had no such luck. Nice really was quite empty. We didn’t want to give up but we were freezing (High Club is on the water) and it was almost 1 a.m. so we decided to call it a night and focus on Wednesday.

Why Wednesday, you ask? Wednesday is the opening night of the Cannes film festival! AJ and I have found a room in a 4-star hotel for just $100 Cdn. (Clearly nothing happens on the Wednesday because the next night, the same room is $600.) The opening movie is Robin Hood starring Russell Crowe. Our hotel is right across from the red carpet apparently. Perhaps, if serendipity is on our side but the place is kind of dead, we’ll be given tickets by a third-rate producer looking to get lucky. And perhaps Brad and Angelina will be there because they have a home in the area. And perhaps AJ and I will then end up meeting Chris Martin (me) and Robert Downey Jr. (AJ) and get invited to hang out with them and end up having the greatest night of our lives.

Maybe.

Other regional notes

I am in love with the Fiat hatchback here. It is adorable and I want one. Why don’t they sell them in Canada?

AJ and I went to buy train tickets to Paris for the weekend (it’s too expensive so I’m not going but she is going because her flight home leaves from there) and there are a bunch of touch-screen ticket kiosks in the station. We must have looked hilarious trying to get our friggin’ touch screen to work! I would press, AJ would press… nothing. We’d laugh. I’d press harder, AJ would press harder. Nothing. Sometimes it would work, sometimes it wouldn’t. Eventually we discovered that the ticket dispenser expects you to treat it like a lover. It totally responded to our caresses, rather than our firm demands. If our fingers just hovered over the screen, tantalizing it a bit, it worked. How very French.