Running round like a headless chicken, with a million things to do and time running out, must be time to ignore all my responsibilities and write a life update!
September was pretty unremarkable, marked mostly by getting back into the swing of things with work, still catching up with people after the holidays, and getting into a somewhat regular exercise. Please let the record show, dear reader, that at this point in my life my newfound proximity to the park meant that I re-motivated myself to go running once, if not twice a week. Spoiler, it didn’t last. Choir started up again, bursting at the seams with new members, friends had birthdays, and I had some Kiwi friends visit for the first time in a year. Unfortunately, the Journées du Patrimoine/European heritage days, traditionally one of my favourite weekends of the year with all sorts of cultural institutions open to the public, was a bust, as I was totally wiped out and spent the weekend in bed. There’s always next year, but will there be the Orient Express coming to visit? I think not…
October was, as a whole, a much more exciting month. The first highlight was – at last – the promised weekend in Marseille with Raph, Wei, and Louis to reap the rewards of our hard labour building Raph’s kitchen six months earlier. It was great to have the gang back together (the boys are all based in Paris), and enjoy the apartment, but also for me it was at last time to actually see the city, after my first visit in 2013 was literally rained off with Biblical-level downpours, and all daylight hours in April were spent inside assembling IKEA furniture. While it wasn’t hot, we had beautiful blue skies which were perfect for exploring the place on foot: Notre Dame de la Garde (with a view I could actually see this time!), l’Anse de Malmousque, le Vallon des Auffes, le Pharo, le Vieux Port, le Panier, le MuCEM and the docks…so much walking, but so refreshing to be by the sea. I’ve always been more of a mountain than a sea girl, but nonetheless, the gale force winds, sea air and clanging boat masts and sails reminded me that I grew up with all these sensations that I hadn’t consciously noticed were missing from my life now, and were definitely a nice little taster to get me excited about my trip home (more on that later).
The second highlight of the month was my birthday week, which turned out to be quite the event for a number of unexpected reasons. First and foremost, a symposium on AIDS with Emmanuel Macron, the President of Cameroon, Bill Gates, Bono and various other heads of state in attendance at the nearby Préfecture meant that for security reasons, we had to close our school. This we found out on the Tuesday evening from one of our students (NOT from the police organising the security cordon), and we had to hurriedly inform all of our students that classes were scrapped between 15h Wednesday and 14h Thursday. A truly absurd situation. As luck would have it I was scheduled to work Wednesday afternoon/evening, and Thursday morning, so I essentially got two days off work. On Wednesday I came in for one class with one student, then we all went out for lunch, followed by drinks together, before being totally spoilt with a lovely dinner out with my flatmates Anaïs and Maeva at Le Bistrot du Potager a few blocks from our house. Thursday, my birthday day consisted of a lazy morning, a full team lunch (paid for by the company, grazie Luigi) and a breezy two classes in the afternoon. I then had choir and a lovely evening post-rehearsal with the gang.
Meanwhile, we had flat visits going throughout the week as Maeva’s departure to Marseille that had been on the cards for a few months was suddenly imminent, and after a few days deliberating we made the call (literally) and informed the lucky winner Yoann, just in time for him to attend my delayed flatwarming/birthday/Maeva’s leaving do on the Friday night, which was a great success. Maeva left a week later, and though it was sad to see her go, it’s been really cool to establish a new flat from scratch with the new gang. While we’re all fairly busy with activities, we still imagine to spend a fair bit of time together both at home and for other activities as well. It’s only been a few months, but we’re already so much more of a ‘unit’ than in my last flat. Onwards and upwards for 2020, and fingers crossed that no unforeseen circumstances are on the cards to put a premature end to things this time around. Next stop, some photo evidence of our shared existence!
November, like May is often a month of long weekends and this time I truly made the most of them. The first one was three days in the middle of nowhere called Araches-la-Frasse, with Debs and Julie. After dithering for several weeks about where to go, we’d ended up looking around Chamonix on airbnb, and found a fantastic apartment that was really reasonably priced, even though solidly in the wops. As it was forecast to rain all weekend this didn’t really matter, as we expected to spend the whole weekend inside, and loaded up the car with boardgames, the apple tv, fondue set, and just about any other appliance you could think of. It was perfect. The rain cleared for long enough on day two to go for a wee country amble, which couldn’t really be called a hike, but was nice to get out in any case. That night we had dinner with some of Julie’s friends who were staying at a chalet in a nearby town which was a lovely evening, and the card game that I brought ‘just in case’ proved quite the hit. So much so that I was subsequently invited to Charline’s birthday the following weekend – which I thought was out of politeness, but after several followup messages, it was clear she legitimately wanted me to be there!
So to Dijon we went to the following weekend. I’d been there before for a day in 2013 with my exchange friends, and everything was mostly the same, and brought back some good memories, though I noticed the city had had a bit of a facelift. It was unbelievably cold though, so we didn’t spend too much time out and about. That night was the party, a proper event in a venue with an apéro, games, sit-down crepe-party, dancing and more crepes. It was great to catch up with some of the gang from the week before, and everyone I was seated at at the party was really interesting to talk to. The festivities continued the following day with a laser tag match, which I unfortunately abstained from. The start of this winter hit me hard, and I was yet again pretty under the weather (the tequila and karaoke party for another friend’s birthday two days earlier may or may not also have been a contributing factor). We’d planned to head back on the Sunday night, but as the girls got waylaid, we had an impromptu second night at the apartment, with movies and takeaways, which was just what the doctor ordered! We headed back on the Monday instead, with a detour via nearby Beaune to see the historic hospital. It was a dilemma right up until the last minute, where the clouds parted just in time for us to take the exit off the motorway, and the rain held off just long enough for our visit. Cue endless ‘it’s a sign from God’ gags. In any case, it was the perfect end to another lovely weekend. Merci les filles!
Also in November was the first choir weekend of the year. Objective: sing a lot, make progress with our programme, but above all get to know each other – no mean feat as there are about 35 new people this year. I’m pleased to report this was a great success thanks to some organised fun care of yours truly. Other big news of the weekend is that Théa and I were officially ‘elected’ to the board, having ‘unofficially’ attended board meetings since September. As the choir is a registered association, there are some such formalities it has to follow. We will see in the new year what my role is to be (besides ‘team building captain’). In the meantime, here is a wee preview of one of our new songs – recorded at a runthrough we did at the neighbouring church to round out the weekend. It was the perfect way to wrap up the weekend, and hopefully a new part of the tradition. Rendez-vous en 2020 for proper concert details!
December, as always, has been a hectic month. Karaoke night, Christmas parties and side hustles, last week in particular had it all. What it DIDN’T have was a trip to Paris for my friend Raph’s 30th, due to the ongoing strikes over pension reform.
Prior to all that though, the Fête des Lumières took place as usual over the first weekend, and this time had the added factor of my brother coming to visit for the first time. Unfortunately his visit came to an abrupt end with a cancelled flight and hurried rebooking due to the aforementioned strikes, but it was nonetheless nice to have him here and see where I’ve been living for all this time. We walked all over the city, day and night, survived the crowds, had the obligatory mulled wine, a mixed bag of restaurant experiences, encountered tear gas, just a typical weekend in France really.
Other miscellaneous hijinks that warrant a mention:
- The Perpignan boys were back in town
- I finally made it back to the Spanish conversation evening after about four months’ absence, accompanied by flatmate Yoann in preparation for his visit to Uruguay. Discovered I could in fact still speak Spanish. Success!
- I visited the construction site for the metro extension tunnelling project (genuinely interesting)
- I finally injected a bit of culture into my life with the Imagine Picasso exhibition and the Biennale d’art contemporain
- I went to my first ever café-théâtre comedy show (Sebastian Marx)
- Book club editions 7 and 8 took place, both books a bit of a ‘miss’ (The Death of the Heart and L’Ile des rêves écrasés – our first French read) but my choice of restaurant a big ‘hit’ (Le Blind Pig)
- Separate to book club, I read the best book I’ve read in a long time, All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr. I don’t know why it grabbed me so much, but it was a real ‘can’t put it down’ read that I thought about when I wasn’t reading it and couldn’t wait to get back to every evening. Truly a joy to rediscover such a pleasure for reading.
And that brings you more or less up to speed with my life over the past few months. As I alluded to earlier in the post, it’s all go at the moment as tomorrow I’m heading back to NZ… via 24 hours in Palermo, Sicily for work. I haven’t been back to NZ since August 2017, and this will be my first Christmas and summer at home in five years, so I’m definitely excited. Not without some trepidation though, as I have signed myself up for an intrepid hike that I’m feeling thoroughly unprepared for. If I survive to tell the tale, all shall be revealed in the next edition of the blog…until then, happy holidays to one and all, and see you soon Kiwis!