Thursday, June 14, 2012

Highest road in Europe

Just found out that the highest road in Europe reaches its peak in the Ubaye Valley: Rue de la Bonette. Cool stuff.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

"Dibs"

There is no French equivalent for calling "dibs." We have asked a lot of people about this. Maybe that's why the land has such a long history of war: no method of calling dibs on something. Come on, Academie Française, in the name of peace, bring "dibs" into the French language!

French hand gestures

Just like we have arbitrary hand gestures for things (like twirling an index finger near your temple to mean "that person is crazy"), the French have their own:

To call "BS" on someone, i.e. to say that you think what they're saying is blatantly false, you use a finger to pull down one of your lower eyelids, exposing your whole eye. Like i said, these signals are arbitrary.

Also, to say "drunk," but in a sillier an more covert/discreet/implicit way, you grab the air in front of your nose a i you had a Pinocchio nose, you pretend to twist the aforementioned Pinocchio nose, and make a squeaking sound. A woman used this today when I told her we tasted all the different Génépis: she basically said, "Oh and i bet after that y'all were *squeak*."

Days are significantly longer here

... probably because of the higher latitude. We still get sunlight until about 9:30pm.

PS: According to the internets, official sunrise/sunset times are 5:45 am and 9:20 pm.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Political ads

Politician posters seem to be bound to certain designated zones, b/c ive only seen them on panels with numbers on them like in this image (also there are unofficial/guerrilla posters, but i don't think ive seen official posters posted anywhere else). I'll have to ask to verify.

Obligatory swim lessons for French kids

Apparently all French kids are required to have 30 min per week of swim lessons with the school (not 100% on this, might have to check it. Either way, i think that might not be a terrible idea.). Anyway this morning Mary and I accompanied the kids to the heated indoor pool in Praloup, the valley' ski town (visible from our lodging). It's right next to a ski lift.

Literally all the boys (and the male teacher) wore speedos. Thats a very European style.

The water the kids swim in is very deep; 2.5 m (about 8 ft).

At the end of the session the lifeguard blew the whiste and dove after some kid who wasn't moving! The pool was evacuated. She pulled the little girl out of the pool, and she still wasn't moving. I was freaking out a little. The teachers and lifeguards were strangely moving very slowly. They broke out the defibrulator bag but didn't use it. They also didn't seem to be paying much attention to the little girl, who was still lying there. I walked over to see if they needed me to fetch anything. It all made sense when Laurent said it was a drill and that the kid wasn't really in danger.

After an 1-1.4 hours at the pool, we got back on the bus to go finish out a regular day of school. This ordeal (minus the drill) happens every Tuesday morning.

Snowed today

Not in Barcelonette, but high in the surrounding mountains it snowed. I have pics; will post soon.

Also the wind was so strong we had to postpone "parapente."

Kisses

To greet familiar people (or to say goodbye), the French give two kisses: one on each cheek (although it's with cheek/cheek contact, not lip/cheek). This even occurs when people meet each other for the first time. On multiple occasions, people i've met have leaned in for kisses before we learned each others' names. That's a little uncomfortable.

Mostly this greeting style is avoided when the greeting is between two guys, and a handshake is used instead, but today i saw a middle school boy greet what seemed to be his father or uncle with two kisses.

Flies

..., or "mouches," are in just about all establishments and no one really seems to try to do anything about it. At the Maison de PR, i spend downtime killin em. I suggested fly paper but they said they'd rather have live flies than a paper full of dead ones.

EUR/USD

The price of a Euro has dropped by about $0.06 since i arrived in Europe. Yay, my vacation just got that much cheaper!

[knock on wood, since most of my money is still in US dollars]

Speculoos

...is a big hit with our group. More so than Nutella. It's like ginger flavored peanut butter, and it goes with just about anything!

Monday, June 11, 2012

Nice and Menton: beach weekend

We spent a morning driving to Nice (which was a rather nauseating drive; dramamine was def necessary), and split up for the afternoon. Apparently the city has nice beaches, so i checked that out first, but the water was freezing and the wind was too. Also there were dangerous waves, especially considering the beach has stones instead of sand.

So i quickly left the beach to spend the rest of the afternoon viewing the panoramic view, buying a button-down, and waiting for the few girls i was with to finish their shopping.

Lots of people in Nice speak English; not just the tourists (everyone looked touristy, with cameras and all), but the waiters would start off speaking English.

PS the lunch restaurant's restroom had a hole in the ground in lieu of a toilet [pic included below]. Weird, but it actually kinda makes sense; i assume it's super easy to clean.

While walking through a square, we saw some lady with a large dog on a leash trying to shoo away these 5 other large dogs that someone apparently thought could be walked sans leash. Her facial expressions were so hilarious and ridiculous, i couldn't help but laugh. She was yelling at these dogs like a kamakazi pilot, swatting with her hands, and it made no difference where she pulled her dog b/c she was surrounded. I probably looked like the biggest ass laughing myself to tears at someone else's misfortune, so we had to walk away quickly.

The evening:
We had pizza for dinner, and then the "jeunes" all went to dinner later, so i just sat for another dinner, getting only a drink. From there Julie's in-town friend showed us to an American bar called Wayne's, which was a pretty cool place. Then made a nighttime trip to the beach, and of course it wasn't any warmer, but the decision to go was more like a "yolo" moment. On our way walking, we saw two of our fellow students on the back of some random guy's moped, just cruising through Nice at 3am, nbd.

Next morning we passed thru Monte Carlo, saw Bernie Madoff's old house (from a panoramic viewpoint), and cruised on to Menton. From the beach there, you can see both Monte Carlo and Nice (and its distinctive astronomical observatory) on the other side of it.

There wasn't much to do there but go to the beach or go get ice cream, so we did that. Two girls visited the church, although we all thought they were joking (we've seen enough churches already).

The beach was much nicer (than Nice, ironically), since it wasn't freezing. We bodysurfed on some crashing waves, although getting tumbled against the rocky beach wasn't exactly comfortable. Some of the rocks were evidently just broken glass that had been eroded into smooth forms and were therefore no longer dangerous.

On one of the beaches, i walked out to the big rock peninsula thing with Taylor and Catriona, and when i got in the water i saw a bunch of hermit crab thingys. I picked up 15 of em and they walked around my hand, which tickled. I put them back in the water.

We spoke mostly English amongst ourselves while on this mini-trip, which was unusual.

Turning on the lights

For whatever reason, when you turn on any lights in France (from my experience so far), there's like a 5 second delay before they come on. It's always annoying an sometimes results in switches being hit over and over. Then you forget which switch position is "on" and get frustrated and basically it's terrible.

I thought at first it was due to these compact flourescent bulbs, but it also happens with normal fluorescents here too. Weird. Maybe the EU has building codes requiring this annoyance? Idk

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Stars

On the way back from downtown last night (~12:30), the 4 girls and I were tired and cold and couldnt wait to get back to Jean Chaix, until someone randomly looked up and saw how many stars there were. Literally I had never seen that many at once. We stopped and sat down in the middle of the street and just looked at the sky.

Très joli.