Last Saturday morning marked a great day in my year abroad, and the start of a new season. SNOOOOOOOOOOW!! Yes, tons of it. Unfortunately I slept it in and therefore missed most of the falling-out-of-the-sky part, but there was still enough left for a relatively epic snowball fight, mainly thanks to the large amounts still lodged on the parked cars.. which were not all empty as I awkwardly realised, coming face to face with a small, angry Frenchman with loathing in his eyes.
Speaking of falling-out-of-the-sky and such things, the new James Bond movie was fantastic - the well portrayed battle scenes, along with Daniel Craig's teenage girl duck-face impression made for excellent viewing. We watched it in its original version, as we figured that hearing a French dubbing guy say "zero zero sept" wouldn't be quite as awesome.
The Friday morning was interesting, as I was invited by my Jeune Ambassadeur "coach" to a luncheon with the Commission of the Chamber of Commerce in Gcchhunnooblh. Turned out I was sitting in on a very important board meeting, which got highly awkward, and I prayed for the whole hour that the lunch I was nibbling at would swallow me instead. It didn't though, so I stuck with my plan of feigned interest and fascination as new projects were unveiled and general commercial banter was had. It was a good experience all in all though, and despite feeling about 40 years too young, I'm glad I went.
The next few days were fun, as shopping trips, collective dinners, cool pub evenings and general merriment filled my time. Most of my friends had planned trips to all sorts of weird and wonderful places during the holidays, and due partly to lack of preparation, I stayed mostly in Gcchhuunooblh for the week - except for Thursday!
Another milestone in my life was reached, as I visited Italy for the very first time! Myself and Will went to Turin (I prefer 'Torino', especially if accompanied by wild hand movements) by covoiturage, the French car-sharing website, with two young Environmental Science students and a random old Arabic dude, whose phone kept ringing really loudly (I must say though, Arabic is a hilarious language to listen to, and now I honestly think the Germans get a rough deal with the cursing/violence/threatening language stereotype - they're not alone).
Once we crossed the Italian border, the general driving of those around us steadily got worse, as it seems that random U turns at junctions and a complete disregard for traffic lights are perfectly OK! We were treated to a full-on gymnastics show at one particular set of lights, as it seems the simple days of cheeky window washers and newspaper sellers have gradually ended in Italy.
But, having found a McDonald's at the train station where we were dropped off, we knew we were safe.
I cracked out a bit of the auld Italiano here and there to keep us going, and despite my hesitance and bad accento, I was understood and not looked at too strangely! We visited the Palazzo Reale which was very cool, the piazza outside alone was very impressive, and very very Italian. We bought a massive and amazing gelato each, and while waiting at a tram stop, I'd imagine the locals didn't have too much trouble in their "spot the tourist" games, looking at us two proudly flaunting our gelatos in the month of November.
One thing I did noticed is how bad the customer service standards were in the train station. I asked where we could buy TGV tickets to get home, expecting at least some sympathy and a point in the right direction. What I got was a stare and a disinterested "dunno", on more than one occasion, which resulted in us having to just hop on the train with no ticket...which got interesting when the conductor came around. We had to fork out a horrific amount of money to buy one on the train itself, which left us reeling financially and thinking not only that a fine would have been a better choice, but that we definitely should have organised a hostel or something to stay a bit longer..
We made it home eventually, via Chambéry, although we could have easily ended up in Paris, as the lovely TGV decides not to tell you where the hell you are at any given moment, leaving your destination very much up to wherever the most amount of people seem to be getting off. Despite such issues, a very enjoyable day was had, and we learned the need for proper planning, which tends to be slightly less expensive than pure spontaneity.
The rest of the weekend was quite chilled out, apart from my workload which diminished incredibly slowly as I still try and trek through that history book...the mutinies in the First World War are very interesting, but there's only so much enthusiasm one can have when trying to force-read a 600 page book in a few days..
Back to college today and great to see everyone again. Well, except the lecturer of my Right-Wing Populist movements class...although I must say his beard is looking well.
That's all folks! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l-ceg763Voc
PS: Another musical recommendation, this girl (Joe BeL), was playing at a bar we went to during the week, apparently she's from Grenoble too, she's pretty good!