Spring update!


To the left: Rome at night.


Spring Update!

I returned from spending about month traveling around Europe. I fell in love with Northern Italy! Forget Switzerland, Marano is the place to go! Someday when I have time, I will finish writing about it.

I have been accepted into Lancaster University to do my PhD. I am completing my dissertation this month and next month, so I will try to add more to this site when that is done. Thanks for checking in!

Christmas / New Year's Eve French Style

The international Christmas party was a big success. Well, I suppose my neighbors would disagree, but I did not get kicked out of the complex the next day. I suspected that they might ask me to leave after having over 50 people here until after 3 am.

Everyone brought a dish of food from their home country. I made a turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes and gravy. Most people had never had turkey before. They didn't understand the concept of gravy either. Many people used the gravy as a dip. So I had to demonstrate how to fix an American Christmas plate with everything on it and gravy poured over it all.

It took Gareth and me three days to clean it up. The plumbing got backed up the next day and that made it even more difficult. I didn't know at the time, but I guess someone got sick in the sink. When we used a can of compressed air to open the clog, vomit backfired on us and plastered the entire bathroom. Gross! I have sterilized the room 4 times and still I could smell it. Yuck! I guess someone didn't like the spicy Asian food. But everything is back to normal now.

We were not planning to go out for New Year's. We got a bottle of champagne and planned to stay home, curling up on the couch and watch a movie. But Suzanna called from Germany and said she was ready to come back and wanted to go out for dinner. Okay, so I made reservations for 3 at the place she suggested. It is in Cannes, which I have not spent a lot of time in that town so I thought it would be great.

Cannes is of course where the big annual film festival is. That fact and the fact that they have no gas stations opened after 8pm, is all I knew about the place. I have been meaning to visit more often since it is less than 10 minutes away and has one of the best views around. Aside from driving through one night, looking for gas, I really had not been there before.

In addition to the famous cinema industry they are known for their celebrity catering services. Just like my town has everything you need to customize your super yacht, Cannes has a variety of services that only a celebrity would think to need.

For example:

  • Body double services. Not stunt people, but someone to "stand in" for you anywhere in the world for any event.
  • Anti-paparazzi services. I'm not 100% what they do, but it seems to range from helping you draw them off to private investigations about them so you can black mail the guy who won't leave you alone.
  • "Pay-off" broker services. These guys will pay the paparazzi for the pictures they take and destroy them. I'm not sure what else those guys do.
  • Some type of ornament dating service. Not an escort service. Instead they hook up two famous people, take pictures of them playing in the sand and release them as a "couple." The two people may not know each other and may never see each other again. But the service creates an image of the couple dating and plants stories and photos around. I guess the purpose is to help people's careers. I'm not real clear on that either.

We got to the restaurant and were seated promptly, despite the fact that there were tons of people waiting and hoping that a reserved table would fail to show. They immediately bought us champagne and a plate of odd looking, but enticing hors d'oeuvres. I started to make a toast, but Suzanna said "Oh, no." She realized that the restaurant had a pre-determined menu for the night and summoned the waitress over to explain it. She was right. The evening was a lump sum price for all the courses and, need less to say, was beyond our means. We apologized and offered to pay for the champagne, since I had already taken a sip. I paid 30 euros for that sip and we left.

We walked around for a while trying to find a restaurant that would let us order off the menu. But to no avail. We walked along the beach, stopped for the above pictures and went back to the car.

Instead we ate raw salmon from the grocery store (not uncommon around here) and walked to the wall in Antibes for the midnight fireworks. Gareth got separated from us and I didn't see him again until he got home about 30 minutes after I did. It seems we were walking on the wall from the port to the city, and he was walking the opposite direction. All in all I have to admit that I have had better New Year's Eve celebrations. But the night ended well. When we got home I started calling people back in the states. I figured that I'm never up that late so it would be a good time to call.

Other events this holiday season:
On Christmas my cell phone was picked from my pocket and stolen. (That makes twice I've been robbed. Guess I'm not a true French person yet.) Replacing that was fun, but a story for another day. The same week I "almost" made it to Italy. (Another long story). My car plates and registration are still not done despite the fact that I have had 3 additional appointments over the past 2 weeks. But I'm getting closer every time. Ironically, they will probably give them to me with an expiration date based on the original plates. Which means as soon as I get them I will need to start working on my renewal. That's what happened with my residence card. Just got it, but it expires one year after I arrived and therefore need to apply for next year's permit now. The French have a fascination with their red tape. I could write a book on that.

Hope everyone's holidays were great. Mine was certainly interesting!