Oh Canada (plus travels in France) (2004-08-12 - 3:21 p.m.)
Ah, the joy of being in Edmonton in the summer (and I say that with only a hint of sarcasm). I just walked from Jude's condo (by Grandin LRT station) to Steve's house (by the Stadium) and I'm hot, sticky and gross. But I'm still glad to be here! I'm unbelievably happy to be home.
It is a bit odd, though. I went for a walk immediately after I got back and was completely flabbergasted by trying to cross the street. EVERY SINGLE PERSON stood politely and waited for the pedestrian light to come up before crossing, even if the road was completely clear. It seemed extremely odd after the "dodge through tiny gaps in the traffic" style of crossing prevalent in the UK. What's more, when I did get impatient and edge out onto the road, every motorist stopped for me! I've missed you, Alberta.
The first thing I did when I got back was head to Timmy's (aka Tim Hortons) for a sandwich and donut. Bliss! Next on the agenda is Kraft Dinner. I think I'll have that tonight.
It's actually a bit strange that I'm still posting, as since I'm home there's probably nobody reading it, but it's become a habit and one I don't really want to give up. Besides, there's so much to say!
So. What else. The flight was fine, though I was completely exhausted and also got up far too early (was at the airport 4 hours early, which is a bit ridiculous. Wanted to get HOME, though!) I bought a ridiculous amount of Cadbury's Fruit and Nut to bring to my family, as well as chocolate-covered digestives. I sat next to a nice girl on the plane who was headed to Calgary for uni, having grown up in all over the world (most recently Singapore). That was perfect, since she was friendly and willing to talk, but didn't want to talk my ear off so I also had time to zone out.
By the time I got to bed that night, I'd been up for 24 hours straight. My family picked me up from the airport, though Air Canada screwed up the flight number from Calgary to Edmonton and scared my parents half to death. Since then I've been catching up with people (Steph, Steve, Valerie, the cats) and trying to get some errands done. I have to stock up on things like contact lenses and jeans before I go. Also went for a bra fitting today with Valerie, to this place that custom sizes you. It was a bit of an ordeal, to say the least. Won't tell you what the results were, but let's just say I'm a cup size bigger than anyone really has a right to be, but a smaller band size than I thought. Nothing like standing around on a hot sticky day having some lady critiquing the way your underwear fits...
Steph's wedding is Sunday. It should be entertaining. Plans include an outdoor ceremony, a picnic, and the bride and groom riding around the grounds on a tandem bicycle, ringing the bell!
So anyway, to save anyone who bothers to read this from a boring exposition of my last few days, I will back up to France. Which was amazing. Paris was fun. We had to do the usual touristy suspects, as John had never been there and hadn't seen the Seine, the Eiffel Tower etc. It was an incredibly hot and sticky day, but we walked quite a long way anyway (mostly along the river). The queue to get into the Tower was of course insane, and it took forever and was very hot and crowded. The view was great, though. We went all the way up to the top, but didn't stay long as it was SO crowded. Then when we tried to get into the elevator to go back down, I got SHOVED from behind by surges of people and got separated from John. After that, we were about done with the tourist side of Paris.
However, we had called Antoine, a friend of Julien's (who lived beside John at 119 Dunluce Avenue for the year). Julien was out of town for the holidays but had agreed to let us stay in his flat for the night, and had left the keys with Antoine. We went over there expecting to pick up the keys and go off by ourselves, but Antoine turned out to be great. Not only did he escort us over to Julien's and make sure we found everything okay, he asked if we wanted to get a drink or something and hang out for a while! And best of all, he spoke excellent English.
So Antoine bought us each a drink and took us to the bridge over the Canal St-Martin. This spot is famous as the bridge from which Amelie Poulain skips stones in the movie "Amelie" and was very gorgeous at night. We were surrounded by Parisiens sitting on the canal banks, having picnics and barbeques. We just sat and talked with Antoine for ages. It was a perfect antidote to the tourist hordes, though Antoine says since the movie came out the bridge has become a more touristy spot.
After that, sadly we had to rush back to the hostel to pick up our bags. This time we took a cab back - no more aching arms! Julien's flat was tiny - the size of a dorm room in rez, but incorporating a kitchen and bathroom in that space as well. His toilet didn't work, so you had to go down the hall to what could only be described as an extremely primitive toilet. I will post pics later if I can - this has to be seen to be believed! (Antoine explained it by shrugging his shoulders and saying, "It's cheap!").
The next day we didn't have time to do much in Paris, as we had to catch the train to Rennes. Antoine had kindly booked the tickets for us online the day before, so we only had to pick them up and pay. I managed to do it all in French, including asking questions, and was quite ridiculously proud of myself.
Pierre picked us up in Rennes and took us out to his house, which is a 300-year-old farmhouse in the Brittany countryside. It's made with a stone foundation, and then a wooden framework holding up walls made of earth! (Some sort of clay found only in Bretagne, I take it). The walls are tremendously thick and the house is very solid, as you can imagine.
We had a lovely time staying with Pierre. He took us to see Rennes, Mont-St-Michel and St. Malo, all local sites. We also spent a lot of time hanging out with his friends, none of whom spoke English. It was a good immersion situation and very interesting, after coming from Belfast where all the international students had been in the same boat with English!
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