Archive for June, 2008

happy to be here

Tuesday, June 17th, 2008

This morning over our room-service breakfast, Kaitlyn told me she really likes this hotel. To me, outside of my favorite desk clerk, the hotel is fine but not anything special. (To be fair, we do have more storage space in our room than in all our bedrooms at home combined.)

I think Kaitlyn is enjoying our special girl time. Maybe we’ll go somewhere together this summer just the two of us…. maybe…

cheesy tourist restaurant

Monday, June 16th, 2008

When we checked in, we took the advice of the desk clerk’s and made reservations for dinner at the hotel restaurant.

Yes, it looked like a tourist trap. But an amusing one. It’s a fondue restaurant complete with a yodeling accordionist and a sidekick who plays the spoons, cow bells, saw, saxophone and one of those giant horns you see in pictures of Alpine meadows with cows dotting the landscape.

Dad and I both ordered the basic cheese fondue. How can you go wrong with a bubbling bowl of melted cheese? Well, you can put funky mushrooms on top. And while it didn’t rise to the sweaty sock flavor of the cheeses from the other night, it still wasn’t exactly cheese I’d order on purpose. The fondue I’ve had in Grenoble is much better. Dad said he liked it, but ordered some meet fondue because the cheese one “just wasn’t enough.”

Kaitlyn’s children’s meal of chicken nuggets and French fries might have been the best culinary bet of the night. She also ate up the evening’s entertainment. When we’d told her there would be someone playing the accordion, she said “oh, like grandad… when you put coins in the case.” (I’ve taken to always giving money to an accordion playing street performer, telling her that that could be Grandad one day.) When the musician played that big giant horn thing, he asked if anyone in the audience…er… dining room.. wanted to give it a try. He graciously wiped the mouthpiece with a rag in between each eager volunteer. Kaitlyn expressed an interest, but I didn’t budge to help her put her mouth on that spitty thing.dinner-horn.jpg

So I learned two things tonight: you can make music with one of those horns… and you can make bad fondue.

tick tock… silly clock….

Monday, June 16th, 2008

I don’t know what I expected Geneva to be like. Or, I guess, I just wasn’t sure what to expect. And after a few hours here, not much has even changed.

My first impression is simple. I don’t care for driving here. It is confusing. People honked at me. I’m used to being the one honking, not the one being honked at. Sure, it didn’t help that the GPS directed us to the wrong place. At least it mistakenly led us through the shopping district. I’ll have to find that again.

Once we finally got to the hotel, we dragged our 6 pieces of luggage inside to be told they didn’t have our reservation in their computer. All I could think was “shit, not again,” remembering our trip to Barcelona when we arrived a mere 24 hours ahead of our reservation. I was surprised when I heard myself saying in French that I’d just received another e-mail confirmation just yesterday. And luckily, I had brought a print-out of the original confirmation I got when I made the reservation. The front desk clerk was great. He told us not to worry and got us checked in. Still don’t know what the problem was, but at least it doesn’t appear to be me this time. At one point, the clerk even asked me if I’d rather he spoke French or English. No one has ever asked me that before. They’ve always just switched to English. Given that, this is now my all-time favorite hotel.

After getting settled into our rooms, Dad, Kaitlyn and I set out to see what we could before our dinner reservation. Dad examined our free map and we decided the famous flower clock would be a close destination with a promising first impression. The tourism board describes it as “a masterpiece of technology and floral art.” Granted, this is the tourism board. And that should have been an indication of what was really to come.

Armed with umbrellas, we headed out on our clock quest. My favorite hotel clerk assured us of its proximity and the complete lack of a need to seek public transportation there. Of course, he was saying this from the warm, dry comfort of the front desk.

On the way, we paused at the lake front to attempt to admire the jet d’eau. It’s a 140 meter high jet of water spouting out of the lake. Maybe it’s more exciting on a sunny day. Or at night all lit up.jet-deau.jpg

Then we followed the promenade along the lake to the area where the clock is. We consulted a map that provided zero help in our search. The free map Dad brought along was even less help. How could something so spectacular not be marked on the close-up insert of our map? I wandered off in search of a second sign that might offer some assistance when Dad announced he’d found it. Right next to us. And, honestly, pretty easy to miss. clock.jpg The flowers at the entrance to Disneyland is more memorable. All we could do was stand there and laugh. It was so ridiculous. Then Dad looked at a clock across the street and back at the flower clock only to realize the masterpiece doesn’t even keep the right time! It was an hour and 20 minutes off! It’s a masterpiece of marketing… tricking thousands of visitors into trudging through the rain to find it then stand there having pictures taken in front of it.

Ballet Spectacle

Saturday, June 14th, 2008

spectacle.jpg Kaitlyn has had a taste of fame. And although it was just a nibble, I think she liked it.

Tonight was the first performance of her ballet spectacle. Yes, first performance. There are two… one Saturday and one Sunday. And you can only get a total of four tickets; pretty much restricting families to going only one night. It’s not exactly what you’d expect if you said you were going to a five year old’s dance recital.

We arrived pretty much at the same time as everyone else… the appointed time to bring the little dancers. Performers had their own entrance, into the dressing room. Back there, girls were putting on make-up, fixing their hair.. the teens were mostly giggling in little circles… Kaitlyn’s group was having little mustaches painted on then coloring while they waited for their big debut. Why mustaches? Their costumes are gray striped pants, white t-shirts and black vests. I think they’re supposed to look like miniature French men.

Out in the audience, we took our seats and quickly realized there’s not a good seat in the house. There were signs tacked up at the concession stand offering the chance to buy a DVD of the show for 20 Euros. I went and ordered one. There’s no way from our vantage point that we’re going to get decent video. I’ll pay for it. That’s fine. Oh, I bought a can of beer while at it. The man at the concession stand said something to me about Germany losing. I was like “what?” He apparently thought I was German and wanted to gloat about my loss in some football game. Once we established that, I explained that I’m American. He laughed and said then I have no interest in football. Not their kind, no. Still, I sort of had a conversation on an unexpected topic in French; that’s always ok with me.

The show started only 25 minutes late. Not too bad. After the first dancers performed, the announcer said there was some problem with the lights and they’d have to start over. (I had that translated for me. Understanding a PA system is hard enough in English.) I was relaxed, waiting to watch the same act again when suddenly the song Kaitlyn was dancing to started to play. I sat up and tried to find a way to see around the tall woman who’d sat in front of me (why’d I expect anything else?).

Kaitlyn was in her element. She hopped around the stage, smiling and just having the time of her life. Maybe she didn’t do the dance quite the way I’d seen her rehearse it. She was still the best dancer up there. They performed to what I’m told is a traditional French song about going to a town celebration, drinking and dancing. Perfectly appropriate for 5 year olds to dance to. Appropriate for mine, she didn’t understand the words. I only know all that because another mom told me.

Kaitlyn’s troop was the second to perform. Then we had to sit through another three hours of dancing… minus the 20 minute intermission when we had to sit through Kaitlyn crying because they’d run out of pizza. (Luckily, more was delivered and she eventually got a piece. Dancing is hungry work.)

The other acts included everything from more 5 year olds dancing to the theme from the Love Boat to adults doing classical ballet on point to Hotel California, adults belly dancing, teenagers trying to dance to Another Brick in the Wall and children of all ages doing what they described in the program as Hip Hop dancing to songs with lyrics even I found offensive. (So much so I won’t even write them out. ) Kaitlyn was allowed to sit with us when she was done and watch the others. I hope she wasn’t too enthralled when the belly dancers came out holding metal rods that they swung around their heads. She had to go back to the dressing room when the teen ballerinas danced on point to Angie… so that she could join all the dancers on stage at the end. She’d changed out of her costume and refused to put it back on. So when her group came out for their round of applause, she was the one wearing a hot pink striped summer dress. Made it easy to find her. And she didn’t care. People were clapping… oh…. the applause…

Kaitlyn isn’t the only one…

Saturday, June 14th, 2008

Before Kaitlyn’s dance spectacle, we had two of her fellow dancers and their families over for our version of an apperetif.

As I was picking up so we could leave, I tried to explain to her French friend that she could come back another day to use Kaitlyn’s new sidewalk paints with her but that we were out of time. Unlike Kaitlyn, I was trying not to make the poor girl “suffer with English” and was doing my best to stumble through it in French. Kaitlyn’s other friend, an American who’s always lived in France, was standing there and asked me why I was speaking French, telling me point blank: “She knows OUR language!”

You didn’t pay??? Oh, well.

Tuesday, June 10th, 2008

So today I asked my French teacher what would be the appropriate thing to do since I forgot to pay the doctor last Friday and she forgot to ask me to pay.

He said “ppffff” (a most very French way of answering any question… you just sort of blow air out of the corner of your mouth and shrug your shoulders at the same time). “Tant pis pour elle!” Loosely translated, that’s “tough shit for her!”

It was a completely French response. But it still amazed me.

It’s HOW much???????????

Monday, June 9th, 2008

So today, for the first time since moving to France, I stood up for myself when I thought a store clerk made a mistake.

It happened at the fruit and vegetable store (yes.. there are several stores that only sell fruits and vegetables…). I’d picked up a few things.. some potatoes, cheese (ok, they sell cheese), avocado, plums, apricots, strawberries, red pepper. When I checked out the woman said “cinquante-six Euros.” That’s fifty six Euros. Plus some change. Now, I know that this isn’t the cheapest place to buy your produce. But everything was in season… I couldn’t figure out how I’d racked up such a giant bill for one measly bag of food. I looked at the receipt and realized that several items on it weren’t mine. They were things apparently the previous customers had bought (and possibly not paid for, but that’s not my problem). So I told the woman… I didn’t buy all this. And she fixed my bill. To the tune of 30 Euros. Glad I said something.

What’s up, doc?

Friday, June 6th, 2008

I had a doctor’s appointment this afternoon. I thought to go armed with a book in English to avoid having to leaf through the pile of French magazines in the waiting room. But I didn’t think to go with a French-culture-translator.

I got there just at 3, the time of the appointment. A tad later than I’d hoped, but it is France where being late is simply common courtesy. When you go to a doctor’s office, you buzz at the door (there’s a doorbell by a sign that says ring and go in). Then you just see yourself to the waiting room and the aforementioned pile of magazines. If you’re wondering where the receptionist is… well, there isn’t one. There’s also no nurse. There’s just however many doctors are in the practice (often only one) and the magazines.

Normally, I don’t mind the lack of staff. But today as I sat waiting and waiting and waiting, I wasn’t sure what to do. I wasn’t sure that the doctor realized I was there. I’d arrived at the same time as another woman; she’d rung the bell then opened the door for both of us. So as far as I knew, the doctors thought only one person had come in. And her doctor quickly came to get her. She hadn’t even had a chance to look at the reading options available! That left me alone in the waiting room. I read a couple chapters of my book. No one came to check on me. I could hear all sorts of banging around in the closet next door. Still, not a peep out of my doctor. At about 20 past 3, I started to wonder what I should do. How can I make sure the doctor knows I’m here? There’s no receptionist to check-in with. No nurse to interrupt. I tried setting my book bag down hard enough to make noise. My paperback didn’t create much of a thud. I contemplated knocking the pile of magazines off the coffee table, but I didn’t really want to have to pick them all up. I finally decided I’d just go to the bathroom and hope that the doctor would wonder who was flushing the toilet. She didn’t pound on the door to ask who was in there, but she did fetch me from the waiting room just a few minutes later.

It was one of the strangest doctor appointments I’ve ever had. The exam consisted of her asking me how things are going, reading my mammogram results, holding the slides up to the sliding glass door to see them, then taking my blood pressure. Uh… ok.

I realized on the way home that I’d completely forgotten to pay for the visit. Maybe I’ll just wait till she makes some noise about it.

ruff road

Thursday, June 5th, 2008

I don’t hate dogs. I like them. I prefer them on a leash or somehow contained within the boundaries of a yard. The number of dogs loitering along the sides of our tiny road is multiplying seemingly exponentially. Today there were two who were apparently walking themselves. There are a couple of others who enjoy sitting guard at the end of their driveways… the prime starting point for car-chasing. I don’t want to hit one of these dogs. But I can only move my little car so close to the hedges lining the street. I’m afraid this isn’t going to end well. I really hope I’m just being paranoid.

was this really a good idea????

Thursday, June 5th, 2008

Kaitlyn has a friend over for lunch right now. A French friend. Ok, so she speaks a little English, but it seems only polite to at least attempt to speak to her in French. I mean, we invited her over and all.

I asked Kaitlyn if she is going to try to speak French to Leanne, or if she is going to make her friend suffer with English. Kaitlyn just kept walking and said “suffer with English.”

They seem fine. One is speaking French. One is speaking English. I’m speaking Franglish. And we’re surviving. Luckily, words like spaghetti, ketchup and tomato are the same in both.