Posts Tagged ‘ french ’

Au revoir Paris! :(

So today’s my last day in Paris.  My last morning in fact, and I’m taking the 12:25 train back to Amsterdam.

I’ve enjoyed my time here and I’m really sad to be leaving, but that’s life.  My assignment was for 8 months and now they’re over, so I’m going back to life as normal.  That has it’s up sides and down sides, and I’m not really sure which city I like the most, but Paris is new and shiny while I’ve been living in Amsterdam for almost 4 years now and it’s lost a little of its attraction.

There are things that I’m looking forward to doing in Amsterdam, like getting back on my bike(s) and meeting up with my friends and colleagues, but there are things that I can’t deny are better in Paris.  The food is great here, and I’m almost always impressed when I eat at a bar or restaurant, and the bread is to die for *drool*.  I love the fact that salad can be a meal here rather than some lettuce leaves on the side of the plate, and I enjoyed trying to master the language.  I can’t really say that I succeeded, but I gave it a good try.

While I’ve enjoyed learning French, much more than when I was at school and also way more than I enjoyed learning Dutch, I’m looking forward to being in a city where it’s easier to speak English.  I shouldn’t look forward to that because I should be saying that I’m looking forward to speaking Dutch again, but I can’t honestly say that I am.  I’ve forgotten almost all the Dutch that I knew 8 months ago and starting again just seems soul destroying, especially when people will respond in English anyway when they realise I’m a foreigner.

There are silly things that I like in both cities too.  I gave up trying to find concerts that were coming in Paris because there are so many concert venues that I couldn’t keep up to date with who was playing at each one.  In Amsterdam it’s much easier as I’ve been to 2 venues in the last 4 years, so I just check their websites for new tickets on sale.  My apartment in Paris has hot running water in the bathroom though, which interior designers in Amsterdam apparently think isn’t important.  In Amsterdam I have a cloakroom sink with a cold water tap, which sucks!  I also haven’t taken a flight in almost 10 months, as I can jump on a train in Paris and go anywhere in Western Europe which is ace.

I really hope I’ll be coming back in the future, hopefully for fun and also for work.  I’ve made connections with a lot of people in the office here, and I want to keep them active.  I think if I visit the office for a day I could spend most of it just chatting to people!

And that’s the last short post about Paris.  Thanks for listening to me talking rubbish. Au revoir!


Toulouse: Rugby country

Next stop on my tour of France was Toulouse.  There were a few cities in the area that sounded interesting, but there was one thing that I wanted to do in Toulouse that made me come here rather than Montpellier or somewhere else.  At the moment I’m thinking that I should’ve stayed in Marseille though as it was the first rainy day of the holiday yesterday, thankfully today was reasonably sunny though.

I started off yesterday morning with a trip to Tourist Information and then a walk around town.  The first thing that hit me was that Spanish is definitely the second language here, everything’s in French and most things are written in Spanish, then if you’re lucky there’ll be an English translation, and it’s tough being German or Italian.  The tourist information signs around the city are all translated to Spanish, the street names are in Spanish and the station names are announced in Spanish on the métro too.  I found out later that the city was where Spanish revolutionaries escaped to when General Franco was in power, so the ties with the the country are still strong.

I made the now routine stop at one of the city’s Basilicas, Saint Sernin, which is very austere with the only thing brightening it up being a set of completely unintelligible modern art which depict scenes from Jesus’ life, allegedly.  When I left a small flea market was being set up outside, with a guy selling used bikes, another selling pots and pans, but what caught my eye in a pile of junk was a red heart shaped “Just Married” cushion, and it made me wonder who would buy someone a second hand Just Married cushion?  I didn’t hang around to find out.

The only other interesting thing that I saw before lunch was in the Notre Dame de la Daurade church which was on my wandering path.  There’s a wooden statue inside of the Virgin Mary and the baby Jesus, but they’re black and no one’s sure why.

toulouse notre dame de la daurade

Black Virgin Mary

After lunch I saw that there were Oxfam charity collectors out on the street, and I managed to avoid one by blurting out “Je ne suis pas Français,” which worked.  Ten minutes later though another one came up to me and said something about my shoes which I didn’t understand.  I told her that I wasn’t French, but she said “Ah, but I speak English too!” Touche!  So we ended up having a chat in French about the weather, Scotland and the fact that Oxfam isn’t known in France but is in the UK.  Maybe I should’ve had a chat to the first woman too, as it was actually quite nice!

The only big thing that I did yesterday was to go and watch Stade Toulousain play rugby against Brive, which I’d bought a ticket for a couple of weeks ago.  Getting to the stadium was a bit of a trek, they have two stadiums and it was in the smaller one, not Stade Toulouse, which is further out of town.  First you take the métro out of the city, the a shuttle bus from the métro station, walk along a stony canal path then cross a pontoon bridge to make it to the stadium.

The game itself was very close, 9-12 at half time and Toulouse eventually won 23-22.  It was the first rugby game I’ve been to without anyone with me to explain what was happening, but I got on OK although there were a couple of decisions that I didn’t understand.  The atmosphere was pretty friendly between both sides too, at least until Brive scored the last points of the game through a controversial converted try near the end.

toulouse rugby

Toulouse in Black, but Brive were way stronger at the scrums

By the time I made it back to the centre of the city it was after 4 o’clock, so I went to explore the shops and squares in the centre.  The almost-pedestrianised zone at the heart of the city is actually really nice, and I was surprised that I saw the same number of small independent shops selling cool and interesting things in one day in Toulouse that I have in 7 months on Paris.  I think they’re just better hidden in Paris, but in Toulouse they’re more prominent alongside the bigger chains.

Today I had another art gallery day, starting in the morning at Les Abattoirs, which is a strange name for the modern art museum.  I suppose the original use of the buildings may have been an abattoir, but they could have named it something else.  I’ve decided to start playing a game of “guess what it is” whenever I see an untitled piece of modern art, as it should keep me amused for hours.  I need to work on my out-of-the-box thinking, but my favourite one is below.  Even titles of some pieces don’t help me at all in trying to decrypt the meaning behind them.

toulouse zombie dog

Untitled. Zombie dog?

Second stop was a museum dedicated to photography called the Château d’Eau, which is a pretty small looking place.  It used to be a water tower for the city from the year 1823, hence the name, but fell into disuse after some years.  1823 was the same year photography was developed, which is the link to why it’s now a photo gallery.  I didn’t know what their exhibition was before I got there but it turned out to be of a Lithuanian photographer that I’d never heard of, Antanas Sutkus, who took photos of life and people during Soviet times.  All of his photos were in black and white and didn’t really follow the rules of composition that I’ve been told, but I’ve also been told that the rules are meant to be broken.  Some interesting photos, some that were a bit mundane, but it was pretty good.

The city, like Lyon, was pretty quiet on Sunday.  There were people on the streets, and the bars and cafés were open as well as the museums, but as usual almost all the shops are closed with only some food shops opening.  I saw my first “statue guy” of the holiday today when I was walking around.  He wasn’t bad (well, he wasn’t moving much) but no one seemed very interested in him and walked straight past.  I felt a little sorry for him, but I did the same thing too.  He was standing on a quiet street though, and I think if he went and stood in the Place du Capitole, the main square in the city, that he might’ve found an audience.

Last thing to do before making it to the train station was to follow the Toulouse Resistance tour around the city, which points out locations in the city where resistance activity took place during World War 2.  It was good but standard stuff, like the resistance press and the organisation of the movement.  One of the differences in Toulouse was that because they’re close to the Spanish border, they helped people get into and out of France over the Pyrenees mountains which sounds like it would be a terrible journey, but better than not going.

And now I’m on the move again…

Nîmes: Rome in France

I spent today in Nîmes, which is about an hour west of Marseille by train.  When I was looking for cities to visit I didn’t find any that were hugely interesting in the far south of France apart from Nîmes which sounded OK and the next city that I’m visiting.

Most of Nîmes’ tourist attractions are based on the fact that it was an important city in Roman times, and they still have well preserved remains of buildings to prove it, so I spent my day visiting these and trying to forget that I’d come from warm sunny Marseille inland to a colder cloudy city.

By far the biggest Roman site in Nîmes is the amphitheater called the Arènes, built in the 1st century A.D. and which they claim is the best preserved in the world.  It’s been used for different purposes throughout history, including initially as a place of entertainment for the Romans who would go there to watch things like gladiatorial duels and animals fighting, as a fort after the fall of the Roman empire, as a city neighbourhood in the 18th century, and most recently it’s used as a bull ring and entertainment venue.

Although the story of what took place in the amphitheatre must be pretty similar to what I’d heard when I visited the Colloseum in Rome, a lot of the facts seemed new to me.  Maybe I just wasn’t listening when I was in Rome.  For example when the Arènes was first opened the gladiators were actually trained fighters who were rarely died if they lost, as the school which trained and managed them would be out of pocket if they were dead.  Later on in Roman times when there was a shortage of money, slaves did fight as gladiators but that wasn’t always the case.  Also there were different types of fighter with different skills, and a fighter would normally compete against a different type of fighter who had a complimentary fighting style, so it wasn’t all sword fighting.

nimes arena

Try to imagine the arena filled with people...

The Arènes was very close to my hotel so it was the first place I visited in the morning, but after I left I went to the tourist information centre where I spoke to a huge guy who was surprisingly softly spoken.  Later on when I went to buy lunch, the woman at the bakery has a completely different accent which put a lot of stress on the end of the word.  To be honest I’m usually too busy trying to understand what someone’s saying to notice their accent or how they speak, but the differences between these two people was huge so I wasn’t sure what to expect when talking to other people around the city.

I’d been told that people in Marseille had a distinctive accent as they speak very slowly, but I didn’t notice that either to be honest.  I do seem to be keeping up with the conversations that I’ve been having with people, but they haven’t been all that complicated.  In the end the other people I spoke to in Nîmes didn’t have a noticeable accent as far as I could tell, so I’m not sure where the Tourist Information worker and the woman in the bakery came from.

After lunch I went to the Maison Carrée which is another Roman remain, which stands in the middle of a square by itself, surrounded by cafés and a modern art museum called the Carré d’Art across the road which was designed by Norman Foster.  The building is the only fully preserved ancient temple in the world, which in this case was used by a priests to talk to the gods.  The people who were waiting for the news the priest would delivery had to wait outside on the square.

nimes maison carree

The columns of the Maison Carrée with the Carré d'Art in the background that mimics the columns

These days you can visit the Maison Carrée, but not see what it looks like inside as only a part of it has been converted into a small 3D cinema, and that’s the only part that you can visit.  The cinema shows a 20 minute film about the Heroes of Nîmes throughout the ages from the gladiator in the first century A.D. to a bullfighter in the present day called Nimeño II, all of whom have made a mark on the history of Nîmes.

nimes nimeno 2

Statue of Nimeño II outside the Arènes

The last Roman remain left to see in the city was the Tour Magne, which dates from the year 15 B.C.  It’s the highest point in the city I think as it’s built on top of a big hill, and it’s now a tourist viewpoint.  Unlike Marseille where you could get a great view of the city from the Notre Dame de la Garde basilica and you can watch the boats coming and going in the harbour, in Nîmes there isn’t a whole lot to see from a high viewpoint.  There are some nice old fashioned roofs and a few stand out buildings, that are recognizable like the Arène and the Carré d’Art, but I don’t think there’s anything else that was impressive to see from there.

nimes tour magne

The Tour Magne which overlooks Nîmes

One odd thing that just struck me today is that dates here are avant or après J.C. while in English we say B.C. or A.D.  If we said “before J.C.” which is the direct translation people would laugh at us for saying J.C., I think.  I’ve heard people say it before (Chris Rock in Dogma comes to mind) but it’s not normal, and this was the first time I thought about how it translated from one language to the other.

When I’d finished climbing up the tower then going back down again I was a little stuck for things to do.  Too late to visit a museum and way to early to pick up my bags, so I followed the walking tour in one of the leaflets I’d picked up in the tourist information office.  I walked around the city looking at historical houses and noticed that it’s a small and very proper city.  There aren’t people selling fruit and vegetables spilling out into the street (probably because the roads in the old city are too narrow), nor people loitering around, but there are lots of little squares with nice looking cafés and outdoor seating areas which was good to see.

Even after the walking tour I still had time to spare, so I went to the café of the Carré d’Art which claimed to be a Salon du Thé.  I’m becoming more knowledgeable in such things, and can confirm that it is a Salon du Thé because it serves teas with silly names.  After the Fakir Tea I had in Lyon, I had a Casablanca Tea (green tea, mint, bergamot) in Nîmes.  I’m not sure why they can’t just call it a Green Tea with Mint and Bergamot, sure it’s a little longer but it’s also much clearer and less… daft!

Now I’m lording it up in first class in the train (it was only 3 Euros more), although there are still no power sockets which is infuriating!  Better make the most of it as I’ll be slumming it in in cattle class for the last 3 legs of my tour.

I’m not sure what to make of Marseille

I’ve been in Marseille for two days now, and I’m still not sure what to think of it.  I’ve been endlessly walking about, and the biggest attractions that I’ve found are the sun, sea and fish.  It’s not as bad as it sounds as the warm weather puts you in a good mood, but I wish I could find more things to do that didn’t involve wandering about outside.

marseille fish

Fish being sold at the Vieux Port

Before I even made it to my hotel on Sunday night, I could see that the city had a very different vibe.  Lots of Middle Eastern and North African fast food outlets and people all over the streets.  It wasn’t until later that I learned that my route from the station took me straight through the area called Noaille where the shops are grouped.

I went to the Tourist Information centre yesterday morning, and they gave me a map, a city guide and a shopping/eating booklet.  They’re not bad, but also not really helpful, and I don’t have much else to go on.  A friend of a friend lives in Marseille, and she’s been giving me lots of information to work with too luckily.

When I looked out of my window yesterday morning I decided to take my sunglasses with me, and it was a good decision.  The first sight I went to visit was the Notre Dame de la Garde basilica which is 150m above sea level, which made it a good look out point in the past as it has a great view over the sea and pretty much everyone in the city can see it.  Unlike Lyon there wasn’t a funicular railway to take me there, so I walked.  By the time I got to the top it was sunny and hot, and I ended up in my t-shirt and sunglasses with my jacket slung over my bag.  Second church of the holiday, and it was OK but very different to the Fourvière Basilica in Lyon.  The interior is very busy with lots of memorial plaques and model ships which make it look quite messy, and it’s also pretty small.  I suppose it only serves a small part of the city that live close to it and can get to the top of the hill.

marseille basilica

Interior of the basilica where the walls are covered with messages

A colleague once told me that he wished that he had a gigapixel camera, but unfortunately neither he or I do.  There were some great views over the city and I hope they won’t go too fuzzy in my memory.

The city feels really laid back.  I’m not sure if that’s what happens to life when you live near the Mediterranean or if it’s the large number of people who seem to live and work on the streets.  There are lots of men, young and old, who are sitting around in squares smoking and drinking, so guess there’s more unemployment here than the other cities that I’ve visited but I haven’t really looked into it.

In the afternoon I went for a walk around the Panier, which is the Old Quarter of the city.  It’s filled with narrow streets and old buildings, and also lots of churches.  I walked past one at the end of a funeral ceremony, and saw that the priest was quite young and was wearing thick black glasses (as is the inexplicable fashion at the moment) and a goatee, and I found it hard to take him seriously.  Would you like a guy with glasses like that overseeing your funeral?

My overriding memory of the Panier was avoiding all the crap on the streets, I feel like I spent more time looking at my feet than at the stuff around me, and someone else agrees.

marseille merde

"Pavement of shits"

Today I went to visit two areas that were recommended to me by my friend of a friend, Noaille which I already mentioned and La Plaine which is the artistic or creative area of the city.  The first view of Noaille that I had this morning was of the market that takes place on the Longue des Capucins which looks just like a normal market taking place in a city square, except that a majority of the shoppers are North African or Middle Eastern.  When you start walking into the side streets you begin to notice that all of the shops are selling Moroccan or Lebanese or Algerian food, and they cover quite a big area.  I’ve been to Edgware Road in London lots of times, but there it seems that Middle Eastern shops mix with general shops, but that’s not really the case in Marseille.  I didn’t take many photos when I was there as I’d read that it wasn’t such a safe area and that there were dodgy people around, and when you’re told something like that you begin to see people acting strangely such as the guy who had 2 packs of cigarettes hidden on top of a tourist information sign, which was bizarre.

Afterwards I went to the neighbouring La Plaine area where I started off by walking along Cours Julien which is a wide pedestrianised street.  I realised it was the first place in Marseille that I really liked.  It was quiet and clean, had cafés opening out onto the central area and a nice looking water feature.  All the other people around me were also enjoying it, and maybe they were exiles from the dirty, noisy parts of the city too.  The streets coming off it were different but still interesting as they had the feel of an artistic area, with lots of graffiti and ‘modifications’ to the standard street furniture and some alternative shops.  Lots of restaurants too, but most of them were closed even in the early afternoon which was weird.  If I get a chance I’ll head back there in the evening to see if it’s a bit more alive.

marseille cours julien

Lunchtime on Cours Julien

marseille la plaine

Shops in the La Plaine area

After lunch I ventured out of the centre of the city to an area called l’Estaque which is around 30 minutes away by bus.  It was apparently an inspirational place for artists and writers such as Paul Cézanne, George Braques and Émile Zola, and I can imagine that it was a beautiful little town built on top of a rocky seafront.  Unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately) at the turn of the 20th century satellite dishes, television antennas, cars and telephone poles were not common landscape features so they don’t appear in the paintings inspired by l’Estaque.  Even if they did exist back then, artistic licence can remove things that shouldn’t be in a composition, but with photography it’s a little more difficult unless your Photoshop skills are up to removing things.  Now you can see that it’s still a beautiful place, blue sky, terracotta roof tiles, boats in the marina, but technological progress has blotted the landscape.

I also read that there are two types of food that are unique to l’Estaque, and maybe I should have taken that as a warning, Chichi Freggi (like a doughnut the size of half a baguette and covered in sugar) and Panisses which are fried chickpea paste disks.  I decided to try the Panisses because the Chichi Freggi looked *huge*, like eating 4 or 5 doughnuts I imagine.  The Panisses were odd and I can understand why they haven’t caught on anywhere else.  They taste like salty chickpeas, imagine falafel with more salt and without all the lovely coriander and other herbs and you’ll be close.  They’re not bad, just not very good.

I escaped l’Estaque a couple of hours after I arrived, and went to buy a little present for my mum.  I started speaking in French to the woman who ran the shop for a few sentences, but when I went to pay it turned out that she was American.  She said that she used to live in Paris but had moved to Marseille many years ago, but there wasn’t much to do here and she missed the cultural life that you get in Paris.  That pretty much echos my view of Marseille so far, although maybe I’ll change my mind tomorrow.  I also mentioned to her about shops and restaurants being closed, and she just replied by saying that Marseille was like that and didn’t explain any further so it’s still a mystery.

Finally I had Aioli for dinner, which is like a French-Mediterranean ploughmans lunch, with cod, mussels, potatoes, green beans, carrots and cauliflowers all cooked separately and put on the plate, and it’s served with lots of garlic sauce which is the part that I would normally call aioli.  I still feel stuffed 3 hours later and it’s time to go to bed…

French lessons

So last week was my last French lesson, and although it’s only been 9 days it feels like forever already.  I still have another month in Paris so I could have continued, but I’m taking 2 weeks of holiday to travel around France a bit, so it’s not really worth going in March.

6 months ago, I started the classes with a bunch of people I didn’t know, including quite a few that I couldn’t understand.  I guess they might have had the same experience with me too, as it seems like if you’re speaking a second language it’s quite difficult to understand other people who have a strong accent.  Unlike the Dutch lessons that I took over 3 years ago which were for complete beginners, there was pretty much no English spoken in our French classes because it was assumed that we already knew enough to get by, which was mostly true.  It keeps everyone on a level playing field, but it’s quite difficult to explain what a French word means to someone without being able to switch into your native language.  Once we left the class though, any language went.

Our first teacher was called Jean Charles, and he had a big personality.  Everyone has their own personality of course, but his really shone through and dominated the class.  After a while we felt pretty at ease with him, and as we learned things we stopped saying quite as many stupid things that he’d make fun of us for.  Not in a harsh way, just chiding us playfully, and he took particular pleasure in pulling up our English pronunciations of French words, such as “train.”  Our time with him only lasted one month though, and at that time changing teacher wasn’t such a big deal.

Next up was Charlotte who didn’t seem to be much older than some of the students.  She was very charismatic and friendly, and also very helpful.  She also had an abundance of patience as she took us through all of the important verb tenses and explained the difference between the passé composé (I have eaten my dinner) and the imparfait (I ate my dinner) multiple times, and despite which I still have trouble deciding which to use.  I always think that the problem is that I don’t know the names of the tenses or when to use each one in English, at least it just comes naturally and I don’t need to think about it.  I find it really hard to learn grammar because they use terms that I have absolutely no idea about and I have no recollection of being taught in English.

I talk to one of the guys at work in French in the mornings for 15 minutes or so, and sometimes we switch into English.  In either language we always end up asking the other person awkward questions about why you say something in a certain way, or the reason why a certain word is used instead of another.  It really makes you realise how little you know about a language when you’re sitting there just saying “ummmmm…” while trying to dig up an answer.  The French seem to be much more connected to the etymology of a word and can understand why they use it, while in English we just steal any bits of other languages that we like the sound of.

So anyway, myself and 2 or 3 other students started lessons with Charlotte at the end of September and she remained our teacher for 4 months, and over that time we built a pretty good class dynamic.  Lots of other students came and went in that time, some coming along for a few months and other showing up for one class or two before disappearing.  New students were allowed to join a class at any time, and sometimes it was interesting to get new students but if they didn’t stick around then it was a little annoying.  Just as you started to remember their name they’d vanish.  Thankfully most of the students stuck around for at least a month though.

After 4 months with Charlotte we all got to know each other pretty well during our 4 hours a week, and everything was informal and most importantly fun.  During our last lesson she tried to reassure us that our next teacher was very nice and young and friendly too, but after 4 months I felt a little apprehensive.  At the start of January when Charlotte was ill we had a different teacher for a week, and she treated us like primary school kids.  She told us what type of stationary we needed to bring and generally didn’t seem to respect us at all.  That was partly the cause of my trepidation.  That and the general “better the devil you know” feeling that likes to avoid change.

After our last lesson with Charlotte the whole class went out for a beer, and it was an interesting experience.  It’s the first time I’d been out to a bar and spoken (mostly) French, and it was OK until the barman tried to turn the volume of the music up.  I normally have trouble understanding anything in noisy environments, but it was actually OK.  At the end of the night, we said au revoir and went our separate ways.

When we started the following week with our new teacher, Marion.  Everything Charlotte said about her was true, but things were just different but it’s hard to describe.  She was a much more serious teacher, and we’d lost some of the students that made the class enjoyable as well as part of the group dynamic that we had.

I made it to the end of the course though, and I’m wondering if it’s worth continuing with my lessons when I go back to Amsterdam. On one hand I’ve really enjoyed learning as much as I have, it’s a language I enjoy, even though it’s one that I’m still completely rubbish at.  On the other hand though, it’s not like I’m going to be very exposed to it when I’m in Amsterdam.  Sure I have French colleagues, but I won’t be surrounded by it.  I won’t see it on TV, hear it in the office and attempt to speak it when I’m in the shops.

One thing that I’ve realised both from taking French lessons and speaking to some friends in Amsterdam, is that I need to integrate a little better when I go back to Amsterdam, which means that I need to learn Dutch again if I’m planning to stay longer.  It’s something that doesn’t sound like much fun to be honest, but that I’ll need to think about next month…


I spent the last weekend in 1925.

I was taking photos again at a game for my role playing friend.  The last (and first) game I was a photographer for was set in Casablanca during the time it was under Nazi control, and it was positively simple and straightforward compared to this weekend’s game.

The game was called Le Magot De Pépé which roughly translates to Pépé’s Treasure.  An old man called Pépé has died while in Switzerland, and his family and friends are gathered at his chateau waiting for his body to return and be buried in the family crypt.  He was the owner of a company which purified and sold bronze, and as well as the family who were present at the funeral there were lots of other interesting, and as we would later find out, mysterious mourners.

There were around 30 players for the game which was being played for the first time, as well as the two creators and organisers of the game and four other non-players like myself.  It’s a huge job to put it on and it wasn’t without a few hiccups and lots of late nights for the organisers.  In the end everyone received a character bio (some only 24 hours before the game started) and was well fed, and the story developed kinda smoothly through the day.

The game started at 9am with breakfast in character, after which I took portrait photos of the players for posterity.  After that I was free to walk around taking photos of anything that seemed important or interesting, and since I didn’t understand the story that was unraveling (I could understand conversations but I couldn’t put them together into anything cohesive), I just took photos of things that looked interesting.

After breakfast the body arrived and the funeral ceremony took place with all the mourners, then is laid to rest in the family crypt.  When the mourners entered the chateau after the funeral, 5 phantoms had appeared and started communicating with the living.

magotdepepe crypt

The Crypt

After this I kinda lost track of the story, and so did some of the players as far as I could tell as things kept getting weirder.  To cut a long story short, the game ended at 3:30am with lots of tired people including me.  Sore hands from carrying almost 2kg of camera all day and sore legs from being on my feet for more than 19 hours.

All of the non-players were run off their feet during the game, catching up on sleep and nutrition whenever they found a few spare minutes.  One of the guys was the chef, which by itself was a full time job, as well as creeping around scaring people between meals and setting up props all over the property.  Dinner eventually started around 11pm, which I think is the latest that I’ve ever had a main meal.

magotdepepe playing into the night

Playing late into the night

As far as the photos went I took a few good ones, and enough acceptable ones to make being there worth it.  The morning and afternoon were really frustrating though as my camera was in a mode that I didn’t understand (following it being repaired), where the flash would fire but it’d still take half a second to expose the photo.  This resulted in lots of blurry shots, and I didn’t understand why until half the game was over.  I guess if I was looking on the bright side I could at least say “at least I learned something new,” but that really doesn’t make me feel any better.

I took some really nice photos of the women who were playing.  They looked very glamourous wearing their 1920’s dresses and period hair, but the guys didn’t look very different to today.  The men generally wore hats, and the styles of shirts and suits were a little different but not hugely.

I still quite like being a photographer at the games as it’s a little like being a ghost, which is fitting in this game.  I walk around and see and hear things that other people can’t, and even if I can’t piece the story together I still understand that I know something that the other players would love to find out.  They do a pretty good job of ignoring me too, even when I try to burn their retinas with my flash.

I can normally enter rooms which are otherwise closed too, except once when I walked past the bathroom and heard one male and one female voice having a conversation.  Slightly curious, I was polite enough to knock and say “photographe” before trying the door which was locked.  Cue giggles from inside.  I still don’t know who they were or what they were doing, but I guess they were having an in game relationship.

magotdepepe korrigan

An organiser at 1am

So now I have over 600 photos to sort through and process before next Friday.  Lots of night with little sleep ahead then.  I need to try and get them finished before then as I’m in Amsterdam this coming weekend and then heading off on holiday for 2 weeks the following Friday.  That’ll come on top of the past weekend’s sleep deprivation 😦

It’s all go at the moment.


Last night a friend from Amsterdam stayed over in my apartment as she was passing through Paris, so I was searching for a good restaurant to go to in the evening. I asked a foodie colleague for some restaurant recommendations around the area that she lives in, which is near our office and most interesting place sounding place was called 37m², which she hadn’t been to but had heard good things about.

Being bad at planning things, I didn’t make any reservations and decided that we’d just walk along to the restaurant to see if there were any tables available. If not then there were lots of other restaurants that I’d eaten at when I was staying in the hotel near work from May to July, so there would be lots of alternatives.

To be honest, I didn’t really believe that there would be any free tables. It was Friday night, someone had recommended the restaurant which meant that other people would also be recommending it, and it was called 37m² which probably meant that it wasn’t very big. Roughly 6m by 6m isn’t exactly spacious.

As it turned out, we got there at 9pm and the place looked almost empty, with only one couple sitting at a table. The menu sounded good, so we went in and asked if they had any free tables, which they did so we took a seat. It felt really small, long and narrow with seating for around 24 people, a small bar, and toilet. I guess the kitchen wasn’t huge either, but we didn’t get to see it.

One of the long sides of the was almost completely mirrored, and the opposite side was a window onto the street which also had the wine menu written on it. The only problem if you were facing the wine menu was that it was written backwards, so you had to read it in the mirror.

The menu was pretty interesting too. Simple French food with an Asian twist, and in fact each person only gets one fork and a pair of chopsticks to eat their dinner with and we didn’t touch the forks all night. The other interesting thing were the “Bubble Teas”, which are black or green teas flavoured with juice or alcohol, which you can have with black tapioca balls rolling around at the bottom. I started off with a mango flavoured green tea which was a bit too sweet for me but the tapioca was interesting as I’ve never eaten it before, kind of like soft Haribo. I spent too long trying to sook the tapioca up the oversized straw though.

Apart from the tea, I had a duck confit starter which is very French but spiced with plum and paprika I think which tasted really good. For the main I had prawns wrapped in angel’s hair pasta and deep fried, with some oriental tasting sauce that looked like pesto and a separate bowl of rice.

We finished the meal off by sharing a chocolate fondant (the first one that I’ve had since I moved here) and a couple of the alcoholic Bubble Teas (Whisky and Honey for me). Luckily we were given spoons to eat the fondant as I don’t think the chopsticks would be much use. The plate it came on had the restaurant name stenciled onto it using cocoa powder which was a nice touch.

It was quite an interesting place. The waiter is French and the chef is Thai, so I guess that’s where they got the idea, and it really works. Good food, reasonably priced, and something unusual to make them stand out. I would say that I would definitely go back there if there weren’t so many other restaurants in Paris that I haven’t tried yet, but it’s worth a visit if you’re in town.