Me, RSG and Chérie FM

I still listen to RSG, Radio Sonder Grense, here at home. Mostly to lighten the task of folding and ironing washing in the afternoon, while listening to ‘Tjailatyd‘. You don’t have to concentrate too much, just some company in the background. That is a big change from Cape Town where I could listen to RSG in the car as well. Now I listen to Chérie FM while driving and now I have to concentrate to try to understand! Ok, that is only when I am alone in the car and there aren’t any teenagers to change the station to maybe Virgin or NRJ.
Chérie FM shows my age. They often play music from my highschool or university days. You could hear a song from Flashdance or Dirty dancing maybe. : ) Some french music as well, but still less lively (noisy I could say) than the Virgins and NRJs!
What made me talk about radio stations was that on Tjailatyd everyday a listener describes his or her daily trips in the car, so I was wondering how I would describe my daily time in the car here in Cergy-Pontoise.

Each morning starts with a trip to Pontoise train station. That is either at 7, 8 or 9 am, depending on the boys’ schedule. Things start a bit later here in France, so the 7am trip is very quiet, almost no cars. We know that we have to leave 5 minutes earlier for the 8am mornings. Early mornings they have their breakfast program on my radio station. We hear the weather for the day and when it is an 8 am morning I catch the ten questions in 1 minute on my way back. Even more focusing to understand at least one question… and feeling good if I actually do get some questions. Did I mention that this radio station is of course all french?
Pontoise is lovely. An old town with buildings that remind you of apartments in Paris. Two beautiful old churches and a rich history with the impressionists that lived there.

…as we come around the corner into Pontoise… 

Pontoise…

…looking up to the old church from the train station…

Driving through Cergy is nice too, because there are so many trees. Now they are all still bare, but in summer it feels like you are driving through a forest, although you are in the middle of a town. It is a new town that developed over the last thirty years and looks like any town in South Africa…

as these signs will show you… they only welcome you in french…

The next trip will be taking the girls to school. Just around the block. 8h30 or 9h30, depending on their schedules. At 8h30 it takes longer as we pass a primary and preschool and all the moms and dads are crossing the road with a pram and a toddler or two. We pass the station closest to us, ‘Cergy le haut‘, and if we look to the right at the station we can see the tall buildings at La Defense in Paris. We have to look quickly where the trees open, but if we had more time we could look for the highest point which will be the Eiffel Tower.

Because Cergy-Pontoise is an area consisting of twelve towns I do different things in different towns. There are signs telling you which town you are leaving and which you are entering, otherwise you would think you are always in the same town. Our house is in Courdimanche, but as I take the first turn the board tells me that I am now leaving Courdimanche and entering Cergy.
If I run out of something and just want to quickly go get that, I drive through Cergy for 100m and then am told that I am now in Vaureal. This Intermarché is the closest shop to me, but small. Also I have to check the time as they are closed between 12 and 2pm.
For real shopping there is a bigger Carrefour in Puiseux-Pontoise, and for real nice shopping I drive to the big hyper Auchan. I can take the highway, the A15, or I can make it a nice trip between farms and through the pretty little town Boissy l’Aillerie.

The afternoon times I can never plan before. The girls can finish at any time. Its different every day. Maybe at 4 or maybe at 5 or maybe a teacher is absent and then even earlier. The boys somedays take more busses and trains and come home or I wait for their call to fetch them again at Pontoise.

This is not the end of our day yet. I must still take the girls to gymnastics. Right on the other side of Cergy, almost in Pontoise. Now we take the A15 and only pass through the new town to the big new gym. If the boys have gym too, two days a week, our trip finish with fetching them at the gym at 10pm. Then everyone is ready for bed to wake up at the right time to start the next day’s trips on old and new roads, through old and new towns here in Cergy-Pontoise.

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Traffic circles or gardens?

2 September 2011

In Cergy there are more circles than traffic lights. The circles are big so traffic flows nicely. But the reason to mention circles has got nothing to do with traffic… each circle is a park or garden on its own, and most even have their own name.

It is easy to have so many flowers here… it rains so much! When we moved in they had to clean our garden, it was completely ‘overgrown’.  We have roses and they were pruned in the middle of summer. I’m sure that’s the wrong time to prune a rose, but now, a month later, they are green and the first roses are opening already.
and some of the circles…

rond-point des coudraies
 

in Vaureal…

one with an apple orchard…
 

flowers…!

rond-point du miroir…

…on RSG (wonderful internet!) I hear everyone talking about the flowers in Namaqualand… which is just as lovely. This morning on facebook my old afrikaans teacher added this…
No, he’s not old, its just a long time ago I was in the afrikaans class. : )

Op die groot saaidag van die heelal
het reeds ʼn entjie duskant Wupperthal
oor die kaal Noordweste
ʼn sakkie van die Heer se beste
saad per ongeluk gelek, gelek en uitgeval.
(DJ Opperman)

MOOI!

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…

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.

Groceries, diesel and a braai

28 June 2011

The closest supermarket to us is a ‘much too big’ Carrefour. When all the products are new and all words are in French, you should have a small little store to look for what you want. But not this one, you walk a mile and back to find anything. Most products are easy to recognise, the variety are just much bigger than what we are used to in SA.
I wanted to buy ingredients for crepes on Wednesday. There are so many different flours. I read later that some are for fluid batters, some for doughs, etc. The challenge was to find baking powder to bake crepes. I couldn’t… so I bought a crepes box where you just add eggs and oil. That Mandi will bake for us today.

Diesel… now that is a long story. Our very grand Ford S-max rental car is very particular on the correct diesel. Only the super, premium, excellent type. So, the manufacturers made sure you will put in the right stuff. When you open the petrol cap, the ‘hole’ is still closed.
First effort: Danie went quickly to fill the car… came back an hour later… not in a good mood. He just could not get the diesel nozzle in. (A good thing, because at Carrefour it is not the right diesel!) The hole is closed, and the car’s manual is in french! After google translate, we realised the thing about the excellent, premium diesel.
Then, second effort, we drove with the gps from total to bp to the next super diesel supplier, but it still wouldn’t open! The frenchmen we asked also didn’t know, two of them came with screwdrivers and tried to force the hole open, then we decided to rather go, before they break the car!
Back home without diesel again. But then the lightbulb switched on… maybe the car must be ‘on’ for the valve to open. And voila, without any force, hard words or screwdrivers, it softly clicked open to be filled with the excellent, premium, super diesel from the orange nozzle at Total as we now know. I did not mention that on the third effort one after the other garage was either out of diesel or busy filling up… but the end of this third effort was successfull.

After all the struggling we had our first braai in France…