30 July 2011

I’ve always wanted to see Monet’s garden in Giverny. Well, now it is only 45 kilometres from where we live!
The little village, Giverny, is already something to see and then still add Monet’s house and garden and it is a lovely place to visit. The day started rainy, but after lunch the sun came out. We only left after 2, but you could spend a whole day in the village and gardens.

I don’t know how to describe the garden, all I can say is that it is only flowers and flowers and more flowers. And then there is the water and water-lilies. It is really beautiful.

We ended our visit with nutella crêpes and hot chocolate with cream…

I took too many photos to post here, I will put the rest on Facebook…


Moving in

28 July 2011

Last Friday morning at 9 the truck with the container parked in front of our house. A twelve meter container! It took three hours to carry in all the boxes, etc… and then the house was full…
We were really wondering where we would go with everything! But we saw as we started unpacking that half of the container was filled with packing material. Everything was wrapped in more than enough paper. Just to show you what I mean… I had to photograph this.

But this is what the house looked like after everything was carried inside…

The four guys working for Sterling are all from Algeria. They spoke arabic to each other, we afrikaans, then they speak french to us with a few english words and we spoke english to them with a few french words. That was interesting.
I bought baquettes for lunch, but could not get them to come help themselves. The one guy later said to me that in their country the children eat first, then the women and then the men, so after we all left the table, they had some bread.
They all came to tell me how good the children are, because they were helping all the time. Franci was called the ‘big boss’ of the day. She was told to read the numbers on the boxes as they carried them in to check if all was there.
The language was not really a problem, they were the funniest, friendliest people. Making jokes with the kids. Later on laughing at me! Every piece of furniture they open, they would ask me where they must put it and I could just say: ‘ I don’t know’. I just heard them speaking arabic, laughing, and saying ‘I don’t know’. They even said to the kids: ‘We ask your mom, she says, I don’t know.’
We still don’t know where to put everything, but we are almost there. Danie and the boys finished the kitchen on Saturday and we went from boxes, to chaos to an almost liveable house.

Houses in France

24 July 2011

We do find some things strange in this new house.  When houses are advertised here, it would state whether the kitchen is equipped or not. Well this one is not equipped. That means exactly that there is nothing in the kitchen… only a sink with a two-door cupboard, which was not in yet when we came to look at the house.

the empty house…

The next strange thing is that there are no lights in any of the bedrooms or lounge. The light switch is connected to one of the plugs. We had to buy lamps for each room.

Each room has a cupboard, but it is just an empty box. No shelves or rails.

But… there is IKEA just 10 kilometres away.

We bought the ‘kitchen’ with stand-alone units. Everything comes in flat boxes, so you have to assemble it. Luckily it is designed so perfectly, it takes only a few hours to assemble a whole kitchen.  We are not finished with the kitchen. After our furniture arrives we will see what we still need.

Black and stainless steel… I actually like it… I actually chose it! The units are smaller to fit in our smaller kitchen and not as expensive as the wooden ones would have been.

Our furniture arrived on Friday and we are almost ‘unpacked’! But the fun we had with the removal guys is a story to tell in a next post…

Our first Bastille Day

14 July 2011

Bastille Day is big in France. They start the festivities on the previous evening already. We only saw a bit of the fireworks from our hotel.

Then a big military parade in the morning in the ChampsÉlysées . We watched that on television. What was special is that all the planes that were part of the parade came right over our hotel. We could see the planes above us and a few seconds later we would see it on television.

The evening offers a concert at the Eiffel tower followed by fireworks at 10h30. We thought that is something one must see. (All this is free.)

We went in to Paris at three, strolled down  ChampsÉlysées (with thousands of other people) and made our way to the Eiffel Tower. At 6 the grass area was already filled for the concert. We sat more to the side to still see the fireworks. We could see the concert on one of the big screens. Then it was wait and watching people till its dark after ten. By the time the fireworks started we weren’t on the side anymore. Everywhere was filled with people.

The ‘hands’ were part of an anti-racism campaign: ‘Don’t touch my friend’

The fireworks was exciting and a bit disappointing… or maybe if you wait for something for  four hours on a very hard sidewalk you just expect it to be really special. Still… it was fun…

All the time we thought that all these thousands (or a million or two) of people had to go home by metro or train… When we left just before twelve, that was exactly it. Firstly, the trains were already closed, so everyone went to the metro. The first metro line we got to was closed as well, so we walked to the next line. We probably walked for an hour. The streets were filled with people (and cars trying to get through). The metro was more than full and keeping the family together was the biggest mission.
But we were home just after two with a story to tell and knowing that next year… we will watch it on TV.

We have a house…

18 July 2011

Last week was the week to get everything ready for the house we are renting. No, rather… get everyone else to get it ready.

Monday we had to sign the lease at an office in the very modern La Défense area. The person we signed with was a very friendly young Frenchman. He could speak some English and explained the contract to us. We are situated next to a golf course and included in the contract is a whole book of what we’re NOT allowed to do there. We are not part of the golf course, so we cannot climb over the fence and play, we cannot hang our washing there and we cannot build anything there.  : ) Things like that is in our contract. I assume we are allowed to keep all the balls. We already found 7 in our back garden!

Tuesday we were at the house for the inspection and to get the keys. Another friendly young man, but he couldn’t speak English. Luckily we still have the friendly lady from ‘A good start in France’ that organise everything for us. They were going through the house for two hours and made a note of every little crack and hole and anything not working properly.

Wednesday I had to be here at 8 am to open for the water people to switch on the water. I was five minutes late and the plumber was not happy at all, and he was an older ‘not-so-friendly’ Frenchman. He could not speak English. They did something for a minute and he told me he will be back ‘dix heure’ and I must be here. He did say ‘sorry’ when he only came after 11 and not at 10 as he said. But then something was wrong and he said ‘quatorze heure’ and I must be here! Well at three ‘A good start’ phoned to say the drain is blocked and I must wait. Then another friendly young Frenchman with no English came.  He asked what’s wrong and I had no French to tell him. So, it worked like this: I phone ‘A good start’ and let them explain to him what’s wrong. This young man worked here in the drains on his own till 6 and then told me ‘c’est bon’, with a thumbs up!

Thursday was Bastille Day, which I will write about in a next post. All I should say here is that we got to bed after 2am and I had to leave before 7 again the next morning…

Friday I had to be at the house again at 8am for the electricity people, who said they will come between 8 and 12! They arrived at 10 and quickly switched the electricity on. I had to ask them if they have replaced the meter, but the one guy just asked his friend ‘tu parles anglais?’, he said ‘non’ and off they went with no answer.

Well the week was over and we had the keys, water, electricity and 7 golf balls in our new house in Courdimanche, part of Cergy-Pontoise! Half an hour from Paris.

Bicarbonate de soude

10 July 2011

We were invited for a braai with Anelle and Pieter today. They are from South Africa, and moved here about two months ago after three years in England. Pieter works at the same company as Danie.
They stay in Ville D’Avray, closer to Paris centre. We had a lovely day and came back with enough leftovers for tomorrow and books to read and magazines, and…  That’s Anelle, she loves to help and share… She was ready to pack all we need for our house while we still wait for our container. : )
Yesterday I decided to make malva pudding to take with. Ok, to buy flour is the first challenge. It does not help you to know its farine in french. There are different farine for all different things you can bake : )  I will still have to research and translate the whole farine thing. But what I bought did work…  there was a photo of cake on the packaging… that helped.
The second challenge was bicarb. I could not find it anywhere and had no idea then what it was in french. I had to come back and after the help of the internet knew this: You do get it packed for baking, but not all shops stock it. You could find 5kg buckets in the swimmingpool isle. : ) And at the pharmacy you can buy smaller quantities, used to clean
My malva pudding tasted fine, baked with the teeth whitening bicarbonate de soude and we had it with English cream, as custard is called here.
But… Voilà!  … tjops, wors, potato salad and malva pudding with custard in Ville D’Avray!

A walk through Parc des Impressionistes

Driving and working in France

9 July 2011

Danie started work on Monday. There everyone is very relaxed. They start at 9, which is nice that you don’t have to leave home so early. Then just after 12 someone blows a vuvuzela (yes, one of the frenchmen bought one last year in SA) and then they all walk around to the Microsoft building where they have lunch.
We are still looking for the best train route. Now its bus from the hotel, RER train, a short metro trip and RER again. It takes an hour and a bit to work, but at least he can sit and read in the train, or do sudoko, as he is doing now. : )

We fetched our new car on Friday. Not new, secondhand, but new for us. An Opel Zafira. So we decided to celebrate that and ended at a Buffalo Grill. The kids thought a burger could be nice for a change (but said afterwards that the spur is much better). At least we were on the banks of the Seine…

if you look through the trees…

America in Paris…

And driving…
Well, I was lucky to be a passenger for two weeks. I could get used to being on the wrong side of the road before I had to drive. It does not feel wrong any more to look to the left at a circle or to turn short when you go right, etc. Only for the first two days you kept on grabbing the door when you have to change a gear. And we don’t always walk to the wrong side of the car anymore.
But you still concentrate all the time. Some roads are really narrow. The robots has only one light on your right, not one on every corner of the crossing as we are used to. The worst is their rule that someone coming from a T-junction has priority. There is no stop for you, but you have to just see if someone wants to turn in and give them a chance. But, we will get used to it…

Château Maisons Laffitte

6 July 2011

Maisons Laffitte is a town just across the river Seine from where we are staying now in Montesson. Me and the girls went this morning… the boys… there is no technology to see…

When you walk in a building this big, which was actually someone’s house, you really wonder about how people lived. You can not only be rich to afford this, there must be no end to what you can afford…Pillars were made with their initials embossed… Paintings and tapestries of unreal sizes…


A Sunday in Paris

3 July 2011

Much better to visit Paris on a Sunday. All the shops are closed, but attractions are still open. For everyone under 26 you can buy day cards for half price. This time we drove to Neuilly Sur Seine and took the metro from there. We took snacks in our bags and we were ready for the day. We have lovely summer weather now. We almost want to complain about the heat… but maybe we shouldn’t as they forecast rain from tomorrow.

We walked through the bird market and only looked at the Notre Dame from the outside. The queues were way too long.

French cuisine and french cars

30 June 2011

Thursday evening we were spoiled with real French cuisine. Hartman and his daughter took us out for dinner. We went to Le Clocher Voltaire in Puteaux. Luckily we had a translator to explain the menu… But lovely food, starting with aperitifs and all the way through to desserts.

Did I mention that we bought a car today? An Opel Zafira… We walked into AutoPro and only one man is in their office. He showed us the cars, we decided to buy and only when he started filling in the forms he told us that he is actually not the salesman. He only works on the internet. But what a blessing, because his english was very good and when the real salesman came back later, he could not speak a word of english.
We will get the car next Friday.

Today we took our Ford back to Charles de Gaul and rented a smaller Opel Corsa till next Friday. Unfortunately we forgot the Ford’s ‘luggage cover’ at the hotel and Danie had to just drive all the way back to the airport to take that back to SIXT. But the driving on the wrong side is now going so well. You just switch on the GPS and do everything the afrikaans lady tells you.

But… from tomorrow I must tackle the driving.