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Opening times…

Another day, another trip to the bank.  This time because I had to re-request the PIN number for my card.  Not because I’d forgotten it, but because the caretaker of the big apartment block that I live in didn’t know that I lived there.  She returned my mail to sender, which was nice!

So I checked the opening times last night and saw that they open at 8:45am.  I got to work at 8:30 and decided to go straight there, and arrived at exactly 8:45.  When I tried to buzz myself in I got through the first door OK, (apparently all banks have two sets of security doors with a bank robber detecting CCTV camera between them).

At the second door someone asked me something in French over the intercom which I didn’t understand, so I just said “Umm, oui”, which then caused a bunch of other questions.  Finally we agreed to speak English, and they wanted to know if I had an appointment, and who with.  Well no, I just wanted to go to the cashier to request a new card, but they kept asking about my appointment.  After a minute of being broken records, they let me in, but only after I held my ID up to the camera (well if I did rob the bank at least they would know who did it…)

Anyway, I finally got into my own bank and managed to explain my situation in French, and got a new PIN code requested.

When I got back to the office I asked one of the guys there why I’d just gone through this ordeal, and he said he had no idea until I mentioned the opening time.  He told me that it’s unofficial but normal that you leave 15 or so minutes after somewhere is opened before you show up.  So I’d interrupted these guys cushy start to the day.

How was I suppoed to know?!

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Cycled to work

I finally go around to cycling to work in the morning, and it was actually OK.

The traffic wasn’t too bad either. I guess most Parisiens start work later than I do, so at 8am the streets are relatively quiet. I also made it without getting lost, though I did have a quick look at the map at one point.

Got here in 30 minutes door-to-door, which is just as fast as the Métro, and it wasn’t too hot so I’m not melting.  Was good to do some exercise too as restaurant lunches are taking their toll!

Getting home will be a challenge, since most streets are one way and they’re not all parallel. I’ll put faith in my map and hope for the best.

Versailles

I’ve had a busy weekend, and this morning I set out early to go and visit the Palace of Versailles.  I decided that I didn’t want to go too far for my first trip out of Paris, so Versailles was quite safe as you can get there using the suburban trains.

Unfortunately what I now consider to be early on a Sunday morning is what other people think of as late.  I got off the train at 10:30am and got to the Palace 15 minutes later, then I joined the hour long line that reminded me of being at Disneyland.  My top tip is to buy tickets online if you have the chance!

After finally buying a ticket and getting refreshments (by now it was lunchtime) it was time to head inside.  Once I was inside it was actually worse than Disneyland, at least there you’re in charge of your own destiny.  Versailles was like a cattle market, too many people all following the same path and trying to take bad photos of the same things.

I’m always a bit disappointed when walking around stately homes or palaces.  They do all look very grand – lots of gold leaf and a more marble than you can shake a stick at, but there’s only so many rooms that I can look at before I stop caring if one was used to receive nobility and the one next door was where the king had his feet washed every night.  I guess it’s just too removed from real life that I can’t relate to it.

I also can’t understand why someone didn’t invent the corridor when building these palaces.  It doesn’t make sense to walk through 3 or 4 rooms to get to the one that you’re actually looking for.

On the up side, I have something very rare.  A photo of myself!  I took a photo of a family outside the Palace, and they were nice enough to return the favour.

Think that covers today’s Versailles adventure, but my adventures with my combo microwave-grill-oven are a whole other (not very interesting) story…

Food you take for granted

You don’t realise the stuff you take for granted until it’s not there anymore.  Each time I’ve moved, the first place I noticed the differences was in the supermarket.

I don’t remember anymore what I missed in the Amsterdam supermarkets since I’ve been living there a while.  Probably lamb (which only seems to exist in ready-to-cook shoarma flavoured pieces), cheddar cheese, and the smaller selection of world food and prepared food.  I still buy english tea, cheddar cheese and Marmite when I visit my parents…

In Paris the first thing I couldn’t find was chilli!  I couldn’t believe it since a lot of the stuff I cook would contain chilli.  Normally you can only find it in ethnic food shops, but I haven’t found any near the apartment yet.

Earlier this week I decided to cook something a bit simpler, a vegetable paella.  Even if I couldn’t find paella rice, I should be able to substitute some other type.  Well I didn’t find paella rice, but I also couldn’t find rosemary which is a pretty standard ingredient!

The problem’s made worse because a lot of shops in my area are closed on Sunday and Monday, so if the only supermarket that’s open doesn’t have what you want then you’re out of luck!

So far my food shopping experiences haven’t been all that great, but hopefully I can find somewhere better to shop soon.  Going to investigate a couple of food markets in my area this weekend, and will hopefully find some good stuff.

I like being elitist, but I’d like someone to be elitist with

That was the sentence that I typed out to a friend when describing my musical tastes.

Streetlight Manifesto were great last night, and I like liking bands that other people generally don’t, but it’s been years since I liked listening to bands that other people I know also listen to. I think it’s one reason why, even though I still love seeing a great concert, I generally feel old and grumpy when I’m there. Instead of bouncing around in the pit, I’m standing at the side nodding my head.

Only problem is that either I have to change and be less elitist to like more common music, which I can’t see happening, or I need to find some one with similar tastes. I don’t think there’s a musical tastes category in the phone book though. Last night there were 200 or 300 people there out of a city or around 12 million, so my chances might be slim.

The next concerts I’m thinking about going to are likely to be even smaller. I wouldn’t be surprised if there were only 100 or so people at those…

A ska-tastic night

Just back from an awesome night at Le Nouveau Casino in Paris.  Lots of high enegry ska-punk 🙂

We used to be in love, but now we’re just in like.
We broke all our promises, and baby that ain’t right.

The night started a bit weirdly as the doors opened at 19:30 and Big D And The Kids Table started their set at the same time.  Funnily enough I wasn’t expecting this and arrived at 20:15 which would normally be on time.  Still caught a bunch of songs I knew though and they were better than I expected.

Not as good as Streetlight Manifesto though who blew me away.  They’re one of the bands which would be in my summer soundtrack, and in the flesh they were so much better!  They really got the crowd going through a whole range of emotions, from the people in the pit at the front to the couples at the back swaying and nodding their heads in sync with each other.

Funky brass section + great guitars + punk vocals = amazing music (imho of course)

Definitely one of the best gigs I’ve seen in the last 12 months, and maybe longer.

Have a listen, they’re great. Honest!

My new job as a LARP photographer

I’m just back from Brussels where I was the photographer yesterday for a LARP game organised by one of my friends from Amsterdam.  It’s the first time that I’ve been asked to photograph something rather than just doing it for my own pleasure and it was pretty good fun, although I’m not sure if I was actually good at it.

The game was called “Meurtre à Casablanca” (Death in Casablanca) set in 1942 Casablanca at a bar called Au Vieux Paris where an interesting group of people have gathered for various reasons to find a religious artifact.  The game setting is a mix between Casablanca (obviously) and Indiana Jones, and had a number of twists and turns during the 4 hours it took to play.

We roadtripped up to Brussels in a Renault Scenic driven by one of the players, and packed with 4 people and loads of props and clothes required for the game.  This included 2 rugs, a pair of leather pilot’s trousers, and my suit which I was asked to wear.

As the photographer I had access to all the game areas, behind doors that were normally locked to the players, and I got to see the order that everything happened in even if it took place behind closed doors.  Once I learned to make use of my access-all-areas pass, and was able to track where people were, it became much easier to find people meeting in locked rooms and take interesting photos.  Being able to see what was happening was good, as I wasn’t able to understand much of what was going on as it was all in French.  I’ve never played LARP games, but I felt like the insider’s view that I had of what was going on was more interesting than actually playing.  Of course I didn’t have to play a role (apart from the role of a photographer), which is most of the fun in LARP, but I’m not sure if I would enjoy doing that anyway.

After the game things were a bit more difficult as almost all of the post-game conversation was in French too, and I couldn’t keep up at all, though a few of the players and organisers made an effort to explain to me what they were taking about and helping me understand what had happened in the game.  On the up side, we went out to a bar for Belgian beer after the game!

After the 14-odd people who played and organised woke up this morning we went out into Brussels and to the Puces, the flea market held in one of the city’s squares.  The players were all looking for old clothes and props to use in future games and they had some success, including hats and north African themed serving trays.

All in all I had fun, despite the language problems and I think I’d like to do it again if I had the chance.  It was something different, and  got to meet some new people.  Hopefully they enjoy the photos.