Inflatable Canoeing

15 07 2012

A month or two ago, Tobias and I bought an inflatable canoe from Lidl, one of the local supermarkets. And two weeks ago, we finally had good enough weather to take it out for a spin! So we packed it up, put on our flip flops and headed to the Alster, which if you will remember, is the big lake in the center of the city.

It took a while to set it up, but we got it together and paddled it out into the lake. The freedom!

Tobias did most of the paddling, since the boat only came with one paddle. And unlike a normal canoe, the inflatable one floats mostly on the surface of the water, making it a lot easier to tip over. We didn’t fall in the lake, but we had to be careful not to shift around too much because we didn’t want to get too wet.

We went out on a Saturday evening after a long day of scouring the flea markets for candlesticks for our wedding décor, and it was just a lovely, peaceful experience to be out there on the lake. And we had views of the city we’ve never had before!

 





My beautiful birthday bike

17 10 2011

Without further ado, here are some pictures of my new bike that Tobias got me for my birthday!  I took lots of close-ups because it has such pretty details on it.  It’s shiny and girly and great!

Isn’t it pretty?  Such interesting detail on the fender.  And the fact that it says “Golden Times” makes me think of MIKA’s We Are Golden just makes me love it more!

I wanted to attach the video but I can’t find the original We Are Golden music video on YouTube.  But I did find this wonderful acoustic version!  I’m glad I couldn’t find the original!

Anyway, we took a bike trip to Lübeck this weekend (which was pretty hardcore, by the way) and I got to use my bike for the first time.  It works great!  More on the trip in another post.  And I haven’t shared about Berlin yet!  And I haven’t posted nearly as many cute pictures of my new niece Abigail as I could…  So it looks like this’ll be a busy week full of posts!





My shiny new bike

10 09 2010

Thanks to some luck on ebay, I am the proud owner of a new Jaguar.

Unfortunately I’m not talking about the luxury car, and fortunately not about the wild jungle animal either.  And not THIS awesome motorcycle my friend Sarah showed me, either.

But I finally have my very own bike, and it’s a Jaguar brand…whatever that is.

The amazing thing is, I won it for 17€!! This was the second bike I placed a bid on. I lost the bid on the first bike, which went up to 65€.

And it’s very exciting because it’s better than my old P.O.S. bike I got off Craigslist in Paris for 60€. That thing was so rusty, I was afraid it would fall to pieces.  I mean, look at it!

The brakes were very bad, and the gear shift was somehow functional, but it kept falling off while I was driving and one time almost got stuck in the spokes of the front wheel. That would have been a disaster.  I taped it up with some bright yellow tape, and that helped some, but of course it was not the ideal situation.

But my new bike is in much better shape. There is something wrong with the Dynamo light, but that can be easily fixed or replaced. It doesn’t need to be taped together, and it’s much more shiny and pretty than my last bike. It even came with a basket on the back!

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En grève

25 06 2010

Yesterday, France was on strike.  It was a national strike against the proposed change of the minimum age of retirement from 60 years to 62 years.  (Whatever, France, it’s 65 in the States.  It could be “worse”.)

The worst thing about strikes in France is that when someone else strikes, usually so does the RATP – the Parisian transit system.  That resulted in extreme delays and cancelations for metro trains, buses, and intercity trains.

This is especially bad when you have to go to the airport on strike day. Tobias had to fly back to Hamburg.  (Luckily, his flight wasn’t canceled, as some were!  I’m surprised, though, because if anyone would strike, I would think it would be Air France.  However, his flight did end up being delayed by an hour, in the end.)

C’était le bordel

It was a complete mess.  Line 1 of the metro wasn’t so bad until we got to Châtelet to transfer to the RER B.  We already knew there would be less trains (and therefore, it would also be more crowded) because the info on the RATP website said there would be 1 train out of 5 for the RER B during rush hour.  But then we get down to the platform with all his luggage, and there is a sign on the computer screens that normally say the train schedule:  NO RER B TRANSFER AT CHÂTELET.  Really?  Crap.  So we had to go back up with his suitcase and take a line 4 train to Gare du Nord, setting us back about 12 minutes.  And of course, because of that, the train was packed.

So then we got to Gare du Nord, and instead of going down to the RER platform, we had to go up to the actual train tracks to take the RER from quai 33.  We got on the train and felt relieved that we were finally on our way.

But then, just outside of Paris, at the Stade de France stop, just as we were pulling away, the train lurched to a sudden halt.

Someone had pulled the alarm.  Maybe it was an accident, but we had to sit there for at least 5 minutes (maybe more?) while we listened to the alarm sound and the driver (or whoever) checked to make sure nothing was wrong.  Of course, this delayed not only our train, but also the trains behind us, I’m sure.

Well, we finally made it to the airport.  And then it was fine from there.  At least we knew of the strike ahead of time, and we had left much earlier than necessary.  Good thing we did.  It was just crazy.

Going home

After Tobi left to go through security, I went outside.  I thought, “Maybe the Roissybus will be better than taking the RER back.”  Perhaps it would have been, but I realized that it wasn’t when 9 or 10 buses passed by our stop, waving “no” at us when we tried to get them to pull over and pick us up.  Though it was annoying to wait so long (I waited 45 minutes), it was at least nice to be out in the open air and sunshine.  I just read my book and continued to wait.  The bus that finally came was full already, such that I had to stand the entire way back.  I was very tired by the time I got back to Paris.

I went to Starbucks on the way home and treated myself to a frappuccino.  I drank them a lot last summer when I worked at Sofitel, because there was one just across the street, up one block from the hotel.  But drinking my frapuccino and walking back home to my apartment in the sun made me think, finally, “This is summer.”

Hopefully, nobody will be striking on the 30th when I leave France on a train to Hamburg.  That’s 5 days from now! Can you believe it?





Mantes La Ville

29 09 2009

I finally mustered up the courage to call my contact at my school in which I will be teaching, instead of simply emailing her a response.  She was extremely nice on the phone, and I’m glad that I called her.  She explained to me in more detail how to get to the school from the train station.  That sounded a little complicated, but not overly so – it helped a lot that she gave landmarks, things to look for to know I was going in the right direction.  That always wins.

Since the validity of my passe NaviGO began yesterday, I decided to do a practice run of my commute.  That way, come Thursday, I will know exactly where to go and what to do, and the only thing I’ll have to worry about is catching my train on time.

So I walked to the Gare Saint-Lazare, trying to figure out what the best route would be en vélo. I plan to use my new bike to commute from here to the train station, to cut down on my commute time.  That didn’t work too well, as I ended up taking a longer route that was out of the way and led me back toward my former host parents’ apartment.  (At least I knew the neighborhood.)

When I got to the station, I passed by the grandes lignes, knowing that those were the ones that went to farther away cities than the suburbs of Paris.  I quickly found the right quay…but where was the place to validate my ticket?  Not wanting to miss my train, I decided to risk it and just board the train anyway.  My ride wouldn’t be entirely illegal, since my passe NaviGO does pay for all zones, but the chances of having a contrôle de billet, where transportation police check everyone’s tickets to make sure they paid for the trip, were very slim.

So I caught a “free” ride to Mantes Station.  It wasn’t too difficult to find the school.  In fact, it was super-easy.  You pretty much just turn right out of the train station (to make sure you’re actually going to Mantes La Ville and not Mantes La Jolie, a different town) and take the first big street you come across.  From there, it’s a few minutes’ walk straight down that street until you come to la Mairie, or town hall.  The school is right there.  In fact, could it really be possible that the school is in the same building as the Mairie??  It sure seemed like it.

Well, I turned around and walked back to the train station, taking a few pictures on my cell phone of the surroundings.  I almost took the wrong train on the way back, but I noticed it just in time.  More accurately, it would have been the right train to go back to Gare Saint-Lazare in Paris, but it was a more local train that made twice as many stops.  Anyway, I am pretty proud of myself that I figured this out, and I’m also glad that I did a practice run when there was no pressure.  I will be far less stressed on Thursday morning when I go for my first day of work.

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Passe NaviGO!

28 09 2009

Because I live at least an hour’s train ride away from my school, transportation is something that I had to consider.  The last time I was here, I had something called a Passe NaviGO “Imagin’R” (pronounced ee-mah-shee-nair).  It was a discount metro pass for students, and I paid approximately $300 for one year for unlimited travel within the main parts of Paris.

The Paris metro is separated into price zones.  It goes from 1-6, with zones 1-2 being the major parts of Paris.  Anything out into zone 3-6 becomes more and more expensive.  Because my school is located in zone 6, I knew I would be paying a lot of money to get back and forth.  (Quelle chance!)

A one-way ticket from Paris to Mantes la Ville costs 7,55€.  Doing that twice per day, it would be 15,10€, or the equivalent of $22.15.  Four times a week, that would be $88.60 a week.  Approximately $354 per month.  So instead I was going to get a Passe NaviGO and recharge it each month, which would cost me closer to $180/month.  That makes a big difference!

But when I went to the SNCF office at Gare Saint-Lazare, the closest train station, the Monsieur at the desk told me that it would save me money if I bought the year pass instead of the monthly pass.  He then explained in great detail, talking very quietly (I could barely hear him, and not hearing = no chance of understanding), about the advantages an “Intégrale” (year pass) would offer me.  It would save me quite a bit of money, especially for traveling within zones 1-6, he told me.

The only thing was that I needed my RIB (relevé d’identité bancaire), or bank account transfer numbers, to set up an Intégrale.  That means the first payment could be made in cash, and subsequent payments would be taken directly out of my French bank account.  He told me that I could go get that information, and that when I came back, I would not have to wait in line again to see him; that he take me right away after finishing up with whichever other customer was at his desk.

I left the office, and then…for some reason, I cracked.  I panicked.  At first I was a little skeptical, and thought he was just trying to sell me on a year pass when I was only going to be here for 9-10 months.  It was even worse when I didn’t understand him, and the tired exasperation began to set in, the kind that gets exacerbated when you go into a situation thinking you know what you want and what you’re doing, only to find out there is a different way to do it, and it’s confusing.

I hadn’t understood the gross majority of what he said, or at least they were taking a while to sink in, and it honestly took some rehashing in English with Peter before I was able to calm down and think it through.  I felt like a complete idiot for getting frustrated enough to cry over something so unimportant.  I blame it on the jet-lag.

But I thought about it, and his explanations did make sense, the more I thought about them.  So I went back to my apartment and got my RIB information, and went back down to the station.

In the end, I got my card.  Starting on today, I will be able to travel within ALL Paris!  I guess that’s a good thing, even though I probably won’t go outside of zones 1-2 very often.

I wonder, will it get me to IKEA?  To CDG airport?

Because I live at least an hour’s train ride away from my school, transportation is something that I had to consider.  The last time I was here, I had something called a Passe NaviGO “Imagin’R” (pronounced ee-mah-shee-nair).  It was a discount metro pass for students, and I paid approximately $300 for one year for unlimited travel within the main parts of Paris.

The Paris metro is separated into price zones.  It goes from 1-6, with zones 1-2 being the major parts of Paris.  Anything out into zone 3-6 becomes more and more expensive.  Because my school is located in zone 6, I knew I would be paying a lot of money to get back and forth.  (Quelle chance!)

A one-way ticket from Paris to Mantes la Ville costs 7,55€.  Doing that twice per day, it would be 15,10€, or the equivalent of $22.15.  Four times a week, that would be $88.60 a week.  Approximately $354 per month.  So instead I was going to get a Passe NaviGO and recharge it each month, which would cost me closer to $180/month.  That makes a big difference!

But when I went to the SNCF office at Gare Saint-Lazare, the closest train station, the Monsieur at the desk told me that it would save me money if I bought the year pass instead of the monthly pass.  He then explained in great detail, talking very quietly (I could barely hear him, and not hearing = no chance of understanding), about the advantages an “Intégrale” (year pass) would offer me.  It would save me quite a bit of money, especially for traveling within zones 1-6, he told me.

The only thing was that I needed my RIB (relevé d’identité bancaire), or bank account transfer numbers, to set up an Intégrale.  He told me that I could go get that information, and that when I came back, I would not have to wait in line again to see him; that he take me right away after finishing up with whichever other customer was at his desk.

I left the office, and then…for some reason, I cracked.  I panicked.  At first I was a little skeptical, and thought he was just trying to sell me on a year pass when I was only going to be here for 9-10 months.  It was even worse when I didn’t understand him, and the tired exasperation began to set in, the kind that gets exacerbated when you go into a situation thinking you know what you want and what you’re doing, only to find out there is a different way to do it, and it’s confusing.

I hadn’t understood the gross majority of what he said, or at least they were taking a while to sink in, and it honestly took some rehashing in English with Peter before I was able to calm down and think it through.  I felt like a complete idiot for getting frustrated enough to cry over something so unimportant.

But I thought about it, and his explanations did make sense, the more I thought about them.  So I went back to my apartment and got my RIB information, and went back down to the station.

In the end, I got my card.  Starting on today, I will be able to travel within ALL Paris!  I guess that’s a good thing, even though I probably won’t go outside of zones 1-2 very often.

I wonder, will it get me to IKEA?  To CDG airport?








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