(the misadventures of an expatriate corporate dropout)

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

medic alert.

I had an injury today at the Brico Depot. I was pulling out a tube of mastick from the display and 2 others dive bombed the top of my foot. It was only about a 4 foot drop, but it was shocking how much it hurt. It hit the bare skin, causing a huge bruise and 2 cuts which immediately began bleeding.

I was in the slightest shock and surprise at first ... but then hobbled over to the welcome desk to ask for a band-aid. The very nice young woman there proceeded to grab a first aid kit and then guide me to a chair. She applied antiseptic and then a big patch of gauze was taped to my foot.

What can I say ? I have delicate feet.

I continued on about my shopping, which was really a feeble attempt at distraction from the fact that Johnelle left this morning.

We rose at 4:30 a.m. (arrggghhh!) ... well actually, I awoke at about 2:40 and failed to return to sleep because I was anxious about whether the alarm in my phone would work. Fortunate indeed because as I examined the setting in the dark, I realized that I hadn't selected which day I wanted it to go off. So we wouldn't have had an alarm. After that, I was convinced that there were other oversights and was unable to return to sleep.

We got on the road at about 5:15, heading for her 6:37 train at the Gare d'Angoulême. I've been back and forth there now so much this month ... I could almost autopilot it.

We arrived at about 6:15 a.m., leaving just enough time to get the ticket and haul the big ass suitcases up and down 2 flights of stairs!

I made my way back, sleepily, and crawled back into bed for a few hours. I then got up, again, sad ... and made my way into Perigueux for my Wednesday furniture hunt... and to Brico Depot for some paint and such.

I made a pitstop at Jean-Yves' work site ... but his client was there, so I couldn't very well cry on his shoulder. I kept my sunglasses on, we exchanged a few words as he leaned out the window ... and then I left.

After Brico Depot, I came home and climbed back into bed.

I'm going to have a good old fashioned wallow tonight and then ... tomorrow is another day.

I blame it on the mastick. damn mastick. damn you to hell.

( yeah I know there's catching up to do...I'm on it ... entertain yourselves with the new photos I've uploaded in the meanwhile )

Saturday, September 26, 2009

in case you're interested ...

this whole life transformation thing isn't cheap ... when you pull up stakes, transport yourself to another country and try and live a dream ... sans income ... it adds up!

well, I've spent many posts here waxing poetic regarding my new life, my new village, etcetera etcetera ... and now that I've launched my boutique, I've come upon a sweet little booklet highlighting the real scoop on my new home of choice ... Brantôme.

If you'd like to support my adventure ever so slightly, and receive something in exchange... (the book described below) ... drop me a comment or an email via the blogger contact info here and I'll send you a book. It is on offer in my store for only 10 euros ... I'm set up on PayPal so that would make it simple. Ten euros plus shipping and its all yours! Don't make me resort to one of those donation buttons ... cause I will if I must! (lol).

The new book is on offer in our new shop, The Bohemians. It is called "Brantome ... Ancient, Mystical, Sacred" is co-authored by Angela Clarke and Didier Bouillet. It is 32 pages, with highlights of the best features of our village.

The book focuses on the history of sacred sites in Brantôme ... from the first inhabitants of 4000 BC until today. It includes lovely photographs and serves as a pretty memento of the important aspects of this picturesque village.

Angela is a British author who lives near Brantôme. She recently completed her first novel, 2012 The Symphony. Didier owns a shop in Brantôme, "L'Arbre du Voyageur' and has lived all over the world before settling near Perigueux.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

paris continued

I've been procrastinating about my blog...don't know why because lots is going on, but haven't been feeling the mojo. sigh.

but to continue on about my day in Paris... after my great lunch and embassy adventure... I decided to walk and walk and walk...my favorite Parisian activity. Yes there were museums I love that I could have visited...or other cultural activities of which to partake ... but for me, on this day, exploring the wonders of Parisian streets fit the bill. I strolled along the Seine and investigated the contents of the vendor's boxes. All the same wonderful melange of old and touristy new. I strolled past the flower markets and the Tuilieries.

I spotted one of my favorite bookstores and had a gander. I continued on and came upon Angelina's, my all time favorite spot for the hands-down best hot chocolate in Paris. I decided to treat myself to an outrageous dessert.

I ordered their hot chocolate with chantilly on the side. This chocolate is thick and chocolatey, sipping chocolate. It comes in its own pot accompanied by another pot of chantilly. But of course, I had to further indulge in one of the most amazing strawberry tarts on the planet. Angelina's also serves lunch. But my god, why? (their lunches all look delicious and yet still I inquire ... Why?)

After an hour of savoring indescribably delicious sweets, I continued my march. Wandered around the gardens of the Louvre, admiring all the pretty creatures sunning themselves on this lovely day.

I then wandered back to rue St. Antoine and headed the direction of the Marais. I darted in a couple of stores to do a bit of shopping and by now it was time to rendez-vous with Lucille for drinks. We were meeting in front of BHV and funnily enough, it took us about 30 minutes to find each other, utilizing our cell phones. I mean, really it just wasn't that big! I did find time for flirtation ... the cutest cab driver caught my eye and we exchanged a few pleasantries...

Lucille and I went to our old stand-by in the Marais, la Perla. A faux-mexican restaurant where you can get mojitos (slurp) and chips and salsa and guacamole. Given we are both fans of anything even slightly resembling mexican, we always go there.

Lucille was an exchange student who visited us when she was 17 and Johnelle was 15. They instantly bonded and have remained wonderful friends throughout the years. She returned to our home a few times, Johnelle visited her here in France a few times, and eventually we travelled to France for her wedding. She now has a beautiful young daughter and is just a terrific young woman who I consider my friend as well. It was lovely being able to catch up with her.

I went from drinks with her to meeting Noèmie for dinner, also in the Marais. I was able to finally try a restaurant that I've been trying to get to for a couple of years. It coincidentally is located on the same street with the very first hotel I stayed at in Paris! that was fun too, being able to see the Hotel Jeanne D'Arc and reminisce about that trip. Johnelle and I shared that first trip of mine, she was 17 and was able to show me around Paris since she had been there for 6 months on an exchange program. We had a hilarious time. We actually did pretty well considering she was 17.

Dinner was a treat and it gave me the opportunity to get to know Noèmie a little better. A very impressive gal for 24 ... she has inherited Jean-Yves' drive and work ethic... She is also very pretty and chic. Bah oui, bien sur?! she comes from good lines!

So, as you can see ... I managed to pack quite a bit in to one day. I returned back to Chambly trés content ET trés fatigué!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

poetic respite ...

was recently reminded of how I love Pablo Neruda ... thought I'd share my favorite poem of his ... as a little amuse bouche until I ready to serve the next course of my Parisian feast ...

Your feet.

When I cannot look at your face
I look at your feet.
Your feet of arched bone,
your hard little feet.
I know that they support you,
and that your sweet weight
rises upon them.
Your waist and your breasts,
the doubled purple
of your nipples,
the sockets of your eyes
that have just flown away,
your wide fruit mouth,
your red tresses,
my little tower.
But I love your feet
only because they walked
upon the earth and upon
the wind and upon the waters,
until they found me.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

paris by storm ...

as mentioned, I went up Paris way for a few days. I had to visit the embassy and Jean-Yves convinced me to take a few extra days and 'profiter'!

I stayed with his mom and daughter in a suburb of Paris. I made a quite organized departure ... dogs handled, drove myself to the Perigueux train station and JY retrieved the car later that day.

Once launched, it was fairly smooth sailing. I must say, the trains are a pleasure here. Well maintained and punctual. The stations are easily accessed and I've never had a problem finding parking.

I don't think I did the best job coordinating my tickets and transfers. Unbelievably, I've not been to Paris (the city proper) since I moved here. I didn't really reflect on much, just went on line and bought the ticket that sounded right. JY had mentioned the Gare du Nord but I couldn't find a direct train there from the south so went in to Gare Montparnasse (south of Paris) and then bought the next leg (Gare du Nord to Chambly). There were 20 minutes between the arrival and departure.


Hadn't bothered to sort out the metro till I was on the train there and started looking at the metro map. Also of course forgetting I was arriving in an RER station ... not the metro ... which isn't a big deal other than walking to find your line etc.

I was rushing thinking I needed to try and make the train or buy another ticket. Of course, it was impossible to do in 20 minutes, but as I sat on the metro train for the umpteen stops between Montparnasse and Gare du Nord, I (finally) read the small print on the ticket and realized the ticket was good for two weeks, any time. phew!

It all worked out, I arrived about an hour later than I expected but that was good because then Noèmie was able to retrieve me (JY's daughter). I also now know that I can walk from the Chambly station to Madame's house if needed (for future visits!!!).

This was done on a Wednesday and my appointment at the embassy was Thursday. I planned to get going fairly early so I could have a day in my much beloved city.

I packed 2 or 3 days worth in that Thursday! I had lunch with Jennifer C of No Place Like It, drinks with another dear Parisienne, dinner with Noèmie ...

I started at Place de la Bastille, emerging from the metro station to a glorious sunny day and that wonderful Parisian electricity in the air. First stop was an internet café (erg, I know!) to retrieve some phone numbers I'd forgotten. Yes, lunch confirmed with Jennifer. Yes, I reached Lucille and drinks tonight would be perfect! Yes, dinner was on! Yes, this was where I was supposed to be at this exact moment! I left as quickly as possible and ran out to hug my favorite city on earth.

I walked to the Marais and soaked up a few quick bits ... there was the corner café opposite the fruit market where I flirted outrageously with a handsome frenchman who became a years-long friend. here was the heartachingly lovely Place des Vosges where I've sat in the sun, walked in the snow, weathered the rain as I dashed amongst the arches. Le Pick-Clops, a fun corner bar and café. Yes, the presse I've visited year-in, year-out ... still reliably there. Dashed in and bought a new Moleskine in tomato red!

Looked at my watch, screeched a bit and descended into the St. Paul metro station to make my way for lunch. I thought I was so smart with selecting my station, since I was meeting Jennifer near the Arc de Triomphe. Had time (I thought..) for a bit of a stroll up the Champs Elyseés and even snapped a photo of myself sticking out my tongue, with the Arc behind me and texted it to JY with the caption "Je suis Japonaise!" (inside joke).

But I looked and looked for the 'quiksilver' Jenn had told me was our rendez-vous point. Finally, as I was now late, I called her. Well I had it all topsy-turvy, not knowing the Parisian argot re: the Champs and which was top and which was bottom. We found each other easily after that and marched off for a tasty bistro lunch. We laughed our way through much of it and while I was debating dessert, she doublechecked her watch and informed me I wouldn't have time ... in fact, I would probably need to hustle for a 2pm appointment.

It was a treat to finally get to meet her after coming to know her through her writing and wonderful artwork. Her contagious laugh and similar wit won me over right away!

I did have to rush to make it to the embassy on time. Once there, I ran across the street what I thought was the entrance and was apprehended by 3 gendarmes with their hands up and stern expressions. No, this was not the entrance and they were not swayed by my smile. One softened ever so slightly and pointed out the correct spot. There was a phalanx of French gendarmes surrounding the perimeter. Interestingly, french cops seem to favor those same reflector-style sunglasses that american cops are so fond of. I hurried on and upon arrival and reading the long list of forbidden items ... I was once again worried. I had everything but the kitchen sink in my bag and apparently it was all wrong! Of course, I understand the Laguiole knife (I know, I know), and the cell phone and camera. But all of my make-up? My paracetimol tabs? matches, cigs, well basically I should have just handed him my purse to keep. Fortunately, my assigned guard was kind of cute and also somewhat amused by the assortment of doo-dahs. He read all the make-up labels and seemed especially amused by the Dr. Feelgood compact...

I will have to say that America is falling down on the job when it comes to good organization of bureaucracy. My visits to various French institutions (prefecture, mairie, etc.) were much better integrated. I had made an appointment for 2:00 pm and had my printout to prove it. Arriving there is a machine where one prints a ticket. Affixed to this machine was a sign stating "No ticket for the following services", one of which was mine. Instead I was directed to Window 19, which wasn't a window at all but a door leading to a small room with a glass service window. No one was installed in this window, but I waited for about 10-15 minutes, thinking they must have a camera or somesuch that alerts them that someone is waiting. Plus, when you open the door to this room, a light comes on ... which must have been noticed. Well, after nothing happening for a bit ... I picked up a phone and dialed the operator who then dialed down to find out what was what.

I was directed to another window and after waiting on line and reaching my turn, the first question was where was my ticket. I explained the series of events thus far and she clucked and tutted a bit and told me she had to manually create a ticket. Then she filled out a form and directed me to another line for payment. Before I received my 'services', I had to pay the fee. Off to that line, wait to pay and then receive a new number and told to wait some more.

Finally the 3rd person to serve me was the one who could take care of my requests. I will say he did so quite pleasantly. That done, I paused to use the 'facilities' before leaving.

There I had a truly deja vu moment. As I stepped into the bathroom, I could have been stepping into countless other public American bathrooms. or corporate bathrooms. or chain restaurant bathrooms. or airports. there, awaiting me was the same 3/4" square mosaic tile, speckled in colors of brown and beige, adorning the floor. there, awaiting me, was the same metal stall, hanging door with chrome lock...in that same nondescript shade of brown that we've seen across our great nation. the 3 stall variety, 2 regular, one handicapped accessible. foot of space below for peeking under, open a few feet from the ceiling for peering over ... as I, um... SAT there ... I had a few moments for silly Kimberlee reflection. I wanted to snap a photo for you...but my camera had been confiscated, along with my cell phone.

who was the man who invented these fixtures? when had he? did he have a patent (surely!) ... how many were there across the land. do they exist in all governmental outposts throughout the world? and military too? and why? is it to bestow some familiarity ... a stamp of Americanism along with the stars and stripes? wouldn't we be better served using local businesses and manufacturers in a sign of respect, compatriotism to the foreign land we are occupying? I'll tell you that much of the plumbing fixtures and other little details we take for granted are much more cleverly constructed in my new land, especially those meant to capitalize upon smaller spaces with efficiency. how much money has the inventor made? why the HELL haven't I or someone in my family come up with a good idea? just one?

mind then wandering further to consider lane dividers, speed bumps, traffic signals ... well all sorts of things that are similar in nature in terms of spread across lands, slightly invisible and yet invasive in their innocuity.

as I flitted down the exit path for a final flirt with my guard boy/man, I pondered these improbable topics ... until I was greeted with smile and wink ! back to la belle Paris for more interesting adventures to be sure.

wait until you see the dessert I treated myself to after all of that fol-de-rol!

Friday, September 4, 2009

paris and my failed power cord ... don't blame me!

so I've been off the grid for nearly 2 weeks! first I went to Paris for some business (sans laptop) and some pleasure. One day after my return, my power cord conked out.

now one thing about having a Macintosh computer is that it isn't like there's an Apple store on every corner. Or in every city. Or even state for that matter (in the U.S.). So imagine dealing with the consequences of a failed Macintosh power cord in a small village in rural Dordogne!

I grasped about for options...I knew they sold Macs in Perigueux at the Auchan so I headed there toute de suite, thinking problem solved.


Yes they sell Macs but not peripheral accessories. So I could buy a new laptop and get my cord ... ha! He directed us to the service department, thinking maybe they could help. no again.

returned and borrowed a friend's computer. the closest apple store is in Bordeaux, about 2 hours from me. Looked at the apple.fr site. 8-10 days delivery.

racking brain frantically.

my cousin was coming to meet me on Thursday. 3 days plus without power isn't as bad as 8-10 days. My cousin is a Mac user, I thought he would feel my pain and could go buy the cord for me and bring it with him.

well, better yet, he had an extra cord. he brought it. it works. I'm here.

I'll regale you with random Parisian observations next. just you wait and see.