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Wednesday, 26 December 2012

Alsacien aMusement

Well well well... despite it being a mere 13 days or so since that last post, I feel that this last two weeks has been quite significant. Firstly, I have recognised the symptoms of my very own banking crisis, quite similar to Ireland in 2008. Scratch that, more like Greece. I'm in the process of searching for a student version of the IMF but no luck so far. Unfortunately unlike Greece, blatantly lying is not an option, neither is defaulting...faking my death could work however. I'll keep you updated. The next post may reach you all from the Cayman Islands or somewhere.

Another significant event is my discovery of a lovely new city in the form of Strasbourg. I made the 5 hour train journey up on Tueday evening (during which I got quite a bit of study done, I'd like to add, so critics, consider yourselves momentarily silenced...even if ultimately you are completely justified) and the trek via Lyon went without much difficulty. I do have the enviable ability to sleep where and when I like, so that shortened the journey somewhat, even if my neck doesn't tend to thank me afterwards. So I arrived at the gare at approximately 23.37. Yes, approximately. I'm aware that my usage of that word is questionable. It was also pointed out to me recently that calling things "very fun" is not considered wonderful by English language enthusiasts, so I'll try my best to avoid that if I can, as I do be doing that a lot. To avoid any wild tangents, back to the gare. I met my brother and then took the tram to the very Germanic sounding suburb of Ilkirch Graffenstaden. He has a similar fondness for free transport where possible, and he assured me that it was night time and that the bad tram people had gone to bed. In Gcchhuunoblhh however, they are of a different kind. They never sleep.


The following morning, my brother had a very complicated sounding exam, however afterwards I joined him and got a little tour of the Space University. It's impressive, even if I don't understand 99.99999% of the discussions taking place...in case you were wondering, it's all in English. Just a dialect utterly unfamiliar to the everyday Arts student. We then ventured into the centre ville and wandered the Christmas markets, which really were something else...the massive cathedral is considerably larger than your average massive building too, and as such, was extremely photogenic. Evening approached, which could only mean one thing. Time to make the trip out to the very west of the city for the reason I had come all the way from my lovely mountainous haven I currently call home. MUSE.


We got there in good time, getting a decent view of the stage, and after a considerable wait, the supporting act came on. They weren't bad at all, but the awkward part was that they never told us what their name was. Around 12,000 French people to plug your music to and you forget to tell them your name. Fail of the week.
But, nearly an hour later, this happened:

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and then, all this:







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Needless to say, it was 2 of the best hours of my life. And, having bought a poster from a less than legitimate salesman outside the venue, my life was complete.
The next day was another story.


After roughly an hour and a half sleep, I was woken at 5.30, as my brother had a train to catch, meaning that I would spend most of the day tout seul in Strasbourg. We made it as far as the tram stop, before I realised I had forgotten my phone. He gave me his key and I dashed back as fast as the icy morning breeze could take me, telling him not to wait and that I could catch up if necessary with the key. Alas, he had left, and so began an epic James Bond style 6.30 in the morning dramatic dash to the station, just with a few less guns, explosions and obstacles to jump over. I made it to the platform, gasping for breath, but just as the train pulled away... which turned my Bond-like adventure suddenly into a romantic tragedy.. with admittedly less handkerchief waving and wails of despair on Matthew's part.


In my inconsolable grief, I promptly took a nap in the station, before venturing out into unknown Strasbourgeois territory on my own. I spent a very fun (sorry, it was inevitable) and cultural day in the markets, stopping at regular intervals to fully exploit the free WiFi at the local supermarket, and generally having a nice time. My Covoiturage car-sharing guy that I had reserved messed me around a little time-wise, changing the location and time to 18.30 instead of an hour earlier. 
After briefly seeing the European Parliament HQ, I turned up as one does, on time, at the designated tram stop. At 18.37 I popped him a text, saying that I was here with detailed coordinates etc, a gentle reminder that it was kinda cold and wet. At 19h, still without a reply, I was a teeny bit annoyed, so I sent him a very demanding "where are you" message. No answer, and at 19h15 or so, I told him that I'd been waiting over half an hour etc and vented my frustration a bit. I might add by this point I was thoroughly soaked and the word 'exhausted' would be an understatement. He eventually replied about 20 minutes later saying that they would be there in 30 mins....to which I thought to myself "ah here", or in the spirit of that hilarious Dublin woman "aaah heeyyoohhh!!". 
I decided to head to the station to see if there were any trains going back at that hour. There were not, and so thanks to a sudden brainwave, despite my frustration, I decided to use the key that was still in my possession by a stroke of unbelievable good fortune, and make the trek back to the apartment to stay the night. I've since given the driver a BAD review, which are a big deal in the covoiturage world, so there.. that showed him.

So I then got the very expensive 9am train back to Gcchhuunoblhh, but by then I cared little for anything except getting back to the comfort of my 12m2 down south. Ok, 'comfort' may be pushing it, but it's home!
And thus ended my time in what I have begun to call Stressbourg.

The next 24 hours were a sigificant development in their own way as I became fully aware of the difficulties associated with having zero Christmas shopping done on the 21st of December. And the Ancient Mayans weren't too cooperative either on the day, was hoping to get away with it. Once I had helped a friend pack and go on her way, I was pretty much the only person left in the Résidence. I didn't have too long to wait though, as I made my way to Gcchhuunoblhh airport (which is almost closer to Lyon, poorly named really) on the Saturday afternoon. Ryanair did their utmost to ensure we felt like cattle at feeding time, and about 2 and a half hours later, we touched down in the Emerald Isle. I've never been happier to see the word "Fáilte" in my life, (the ridiculous Irish translations e.g bagáiste didn't even annoy me) and it wasn't long before I was in the car, reunited with my family, recounting my recent harrowing experiences to a new audience.

It wasn't long before I got into the swing of life back at home again, and it was great to see everyone. Last minute shopping was done on Sunday (Yes. Sunday. France, watch and learn please) and I eventually got everything sorted before the big day. Christmas eve and Christmas day were special, as always, started off by some amazing choir singing in the Pro Cathedral. Santa was also very generous this year, as were the portions of delicious Christmas dinner which made the flight home and every less-than-good experience I've ever had completely worth it.
I'll be back in Gcchhuunoblhh on the 4th of January, before which I have a busy schedule of socialising, sleeping, eating, and some might say studying...yeeaaah I should really get around to that soon.
The last 4 months of 2012 have without doubt been the highlight of my year, and here's hoping the first half of 2013 will bring just as much fun and enjoyment !!

Joyeux Noel et bonnes fêtes à tous !
Bisous :)

PS: Here are a few photos from Strasbourg.. I forgot to add that their tram-stop-announcing is hilarious on the tram, as they have not only a different voice doing each one, but sometimes in really funny voices. One guy even started singing. Genius. Really lightens the mood on the long commute. :)










Thursday, 13 December 2012

In The Not-So-Bleak Mid-Winter...

This page has been suffering from a severe case of abandonment of late, and I now plan to change that. This last few weeks has been very eventful to say the least, with excursions, exams, severe yet hilarious problems, but most importantly, much enjoyment being had.

Since the last instalment, my Gcchuunnoblhh life has continued on its path of awesomeness, despite the odd roadblock and their efforts to guide said life off said path. In the last weekend of November, I spent an unforgettable weekend in La Grave La Meije (never sure which one to call it), a refuge in the middle of absolutely nowhere, right up in the Alps, surrounded by incredible scenery. There were about 40 or so of us that went with IntEGre, one of the Erasmus groups, and we stayed in a refuge in a tiny little mountain village that looked like something out of some old movie or something. After an arduous but very snow filled hike that followed our arrival, we busied ourselves with the important issues at hand, the complementary fussball table being one of them, the ping pong table the other. After a lovely evening filled with chats and new acquaintances, we played a musical chairs type game where contestants had to run around the chalets looking for various objects...it was the search for a toilet roll that eventually knocked me out, 4 from the end...they're surprisingly hard to pry out of those big roller things so I discovered. Sad times. 
After a merveilleuse soirée, the following day we went tobogganning in the snow, and some very fun antics were the order of the day, because as we all know, once snow arrives, all previously gained maturity and about 10 years of your life just go out the window in a flurry of freezing cold hilariousness. 






aaaaaand below, my election poster if I ever decide go into politics..."get berkeled" is the current slogan, however any further ideas are appreciated.



The weekend, full of new friends, fun and frolics, was followed by an unfortunate mishap with the auld ordinateur, somewhat related to the lack of recent blog activity...after about a week of being tied to the very small computer room for social interaction, I acquired the restauration CD for my laptop, and the tech-y guys in Sciences Po obliged by fixing it...and wiping aaaaall my memory en même temps. Oh well.

The week that followed brought lots more fun things, more ice skating, more fêtes, including a very Scottish St. Andrew's day celebration (any excuse for a fête I guess, roll on St. Patrick's day!). With all the fête-ing came a rude wake up call in the dreaded form of e-x-a-m s....(insert horrified face here). Italian went well, very happy with the result, and the massive History one which I had dreaded turned out ok too !! The French result is still pending, as is the panic leading up to my next 4 exams, which one would think would require me to start studying....one would think.

I bought a bike recently actually, from this lovely lady that advertised on le Bon Coin, which is actually very handy for getting stuff assez cheap. When I met her, I wasn't expecting the bike to be quite so...how can I say...quite so.....   pink. Yes. Very pink, very purple, however she did verify that it indeed was a man's bike, and that her boyfriend had picked it for that very reason, so nobody would steal it. Fair point I guess, it is rather, as I said, pink. I decided to be manly and buy it anyway, and I soon developed a way of cycling that screams "I'm a straight man and I'm comfortable with it", which I'm hoping is the message that's being given. Fingers crossed. I spent a good two days or so going round on what my friends have now dubbed "Princess Sparkles", (originally in an effort to make fun of me but I like the name so much that their efforts somewhat failed.), until one particular day I stopped by a local favourite supermarket Dia. I tied her up, as per usual, but two minutes later, when I came out....the key no longer opened the lock...so yeah despite using three different types of oil (including sunflower oil, decided to be ambitious at first), poor Princess Sprakles is still outside Dia, enduring minus temperatures and severe snowstorms for the last week. Someday perhaps.

The next serious issue is the loss of my French phone...it seems to have vanished into thin air, somewhere I'm guessing between the tram and the college computer room, but it's making communication quite difficult. I visited the tram HQ this evening and asked if anyone had dropped anything in...she gave me a number to call in the morning... .... seeming to be completely unaware of the fact that one usually requires a telephone of some description to make such calls. Aaah the irony. I forgive her though, she is French, and it was coming towards the end of a long hard 35 hour week. But sure she'll probably retire at 60 as well. The cheek.


Last Saturday we all got the bus to Lyon, again with IntEGre, this time for the annual Fête de Lumières which I hadn't heard about before despite it apparently being a big deal. It was.
We toured the old town in Lyon during the day, stopping off for regular vin chaud, which was a lifesaver with the cold, and then went into the city itself for the lights shows. I've never felt so claustrophobic in my life. Apparently there was an estimated 3 million people in the city for the event, and I think I was probably shoved and stood on by every single one of them. The lights we did get to see were incredible, and very very well done. There was also a massive light-animal parade, as well as flying glowing fish over the river, and finally a massive fireworks display which was just brilliant. All in all, all the cold and clautrophobia were totally worth it. Voici quelques vidéos of just one of the light shows..


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So a very fun, eventful day was had in Lyon, which is a great city, despite its one massive flaw compared to Gcchhuunoblhh....the lack of mountains. I don't think I'll be able to appreciate a city without these mountains for a while yet...the Christmas market is up and running in Gcchhuunoblhh which is lovely, especially at night, plus with my laptop being fixed, Christmas FM from home is now available, and coupled with the Christmas lights now in my room, I can safely say I'm feeling quite Christmassy. Pity my shopping has yet to commence. Procrastination affects many areas of life it seems...

I'm majorly looking forward to Strasbourg next week, by all accounts it has the biggest Christmas market in Europe ! Hello new bank loan. Muse should be something special too.
That's all for now, I dearly hope I haven't forgotten anything major...the memory sometimes has trouble keeping up with all the fun.. 

à bientôt !!