Archive for December, 2011

With our vacation over it’s time for some reminiscing. Over the past week we had our good moments and our bad. We learnt some things, too: how to party; what not to eat; the relative size of it all; and that sometimes strange things happen.SANYO DIGITAL CAMERA

We finished our wonderful ski spectacular in the mountains after our week of adventure. At the end of the week we  travelled to Saint Jean-de-Luz again to spend Christmas with some of Michel’s Family.


The temperature had finally risen and it had stopped raining so we went outside. I found myself reading this plaque in the village centre “Le 6 Mai 1808 Napoléon a peut-étre pissé ici” which literally means “May 6th, Napoléon may have pissed here.” Knowing my chances I was standing in someone’s piss. Napolén pisséThat on my mind I went home and blogged.

It was a special dinner that night, much like the Repas de Noël I had on my last day of lycée but much more grown-up. I learnt some more valuable lessons.

My family taught me how to drink wine:SANYO DIGITAL CAMERA

Then later, how to boogie:SANYO DIGITAL CAMERA

And they also taught me that sauce which looks like créme anglais (English Cream) and placed with the desserts could just as easily be vinaigrette.SANYO DIGITAL CAMERA

I took this panoramic, originally about 15000×7300 pixels – 5.29×2.58m at full resolution – which took 3 hours to stitch. It wouldn’t open on my laptop although I now realise why not.SANY0144 Stitch (10000x4885) (1280x672)

Before coming to Gourette, my family had promised me we would have a traditional mountain raclet – a huge half wheel of cheese placed on a hot rock causing the cheese to melt onto your plate over types of meat and potatoes. A dish traditionally from the alps.SANYO DIGITAL CAMERAThis wasn’t quite what we expected.

Later that day there was a midday sunsetSANYO DIGITAL CAMERA

and a PARACHOOTING FRENCH SANTA! Because being Santa just isn’t cool enough for the kids anymore…SANYO DIGITAL CAMERA

I skyped everyone, 2011-12-24 11154 skype with the family, christmas dinner  (640x375)and after we left. Our descent down the mountains was beautiful and because we had arrived during the night and a snow storm, it was completely new to me. – click for better quality…



That evening yet another Santavlcsnap-2011-12-29-00h56m37s96

Around midnight we drove across the bay into Église St Jean Baptiste, made famous by the marriage of Louis XIV (Roi soleil – sun king) and the Infanta of Spain. After the wedding, the king ordered the door way to be bricked up so that no-one would ever be married via that that door again. Inside the hallowed walls we listened to the story of Christmas. If you haven’t heard it before, it’s quite a kicker…


Sunday the 25th:
We were treated by some more of Michel’s family for lunch. We arrived at 14:00 and didn’t leave the table until 17:00IMG_0151 (640x480)

Needless to say it was de la bonne bouffe (good grub) and they made me feel like one of the family.

I sampled this particular cheese. I didn’t really want to, but it’s difficult to say no the relentless insistence of your French hosts up to 4 times your age. Honestly, I was grateful to sample something new and that I have that opportunity. But I was mostly grateful of the fact that the cheese platter had some other VERY powerful cheeses. In particular that one Roquefort which was somehow able to overpower the taste of used urinal cakes the innocently named Mont d’or  (Golden Summit) left me with.vlcsnap-2011-12-29-01h02m51s67

Even though the world had already finished celebrating, we made it home on time for Christmas. IMG_0172 Stitch (3264x2476) (640x480)vlcsnap-2011-12-29-01h21m21s130

Love you all. Hope everything was well over this special time of year.

I tried a new style of blog this week – picture blog – mainly because I had alot of photos, and because I assumed it wouldn’t take as long. It did take as long, but it’s nice not to hear me ranting for once right?
Let me know what you think. [no-one sees your email in comments, it’s aim is to stop spammers]

Also, how did you spend your Christmas?



Finding inspiration can be difficult. I have to try every trick I can. SANYO DIGITAL CAMERA


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My stardom.

It’s Tuesday and only 16:18 and I’m already in bed. I spent the whole day skïïng and abusing my natural adrenal response for a thrill. Needless to say, it was great. After I finished practising the various basics of skiing at the appropriately named Happy Place, I wanted to try out my new skills. The chairlift which had been closed yesterday would take me a little way above happy place. Getting into the chairlift was a dangerous feat by itself – which you would know If you had ever tried doing this in skis. Locked away, I waited.

At the other end I found the slope a little extreme but I told my self that I could manage. I knew I could make it to the bottom anyway. Gravity would take care of that. I set off and ended up in a ditch. Actually, I made the ditch. Skiing equipment spread over a 5m crash site. It was quite a spectacle. I checked myself. Nothing broken, nothing hurt. Not even a little. I was completely uninjured. I was unstoppable. I was IMMORTAL! But now I faced the slight problem of trying to reconnect myself to my skis on a slope which I now realised was not green but blue. Somehow I managed and was off again. I took the chairlift twice again and began falling less and less seriously, even on the blue slope. I was enjoying myself immensely, but 3 hours of rain and snow had left me completely soaked and I decided I needed to make it back to base. I had two options: to take the green slope of death which had almost taken my life the day before, or else there was the télécabin.
Back at base, my body frozen and saturated, my heart beating like a drum I looked back at the slope in all it’s dangerous glory. I had made the right choice. That télécabin ride had been incredible.*

I may have been affected by too much adrenaline in my system combined with the low oxygen, but I kept telling myself how it had been the best fun of my life. But at the same time I held a moments silence for all the lost souls who had skied too far off the side of the screen and been eaten by the yeti.


P.S. As a side note I should probably mention the Nightlife here is unstoppable. We enjoyed** some karaoke last night and on Monday, Lucas and I impromptly starred in a spectacle hosted by the lodge here. We forgot to take a camera and as a result there is no proof so I will deny these events until my dying breath.

*This phrase may have been inserted for the sake of laughs.

** If any kind of karaoke can be considered enjoyable

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My Favourite Place

Saturday was one of those days. A means to an end.

We filled our bags and I Skyped my friends, and then we headed off into the night. We did have a slight problem making it too.IMG_0130 (800x600)

In wasn’t until the next morning in the obscure mountain air that we got our first proper look of our new home.

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I liked it.

It took the majority of the morning to find our way through the snow to the rental shack, try on our skis and make our way to the slopes but we started skiing ASAP. It looked easy, but I have to hand it to nature. Something as little and harmless as snow rendering me a complete idiot (but let’s not forget how terrific I was on the ice!). I managed my way down the first slope to the télécabins (an enclosed chairlift) and we ascended up the slope to the sadistically named Happy Place. After at least an hour I had managed the basics:

  • Using the carpet (like a chairlift but on the snow)
  • Screaming and steering uncontrollably down the tiniest of slopes
  • Falling over
  • Envying the 6yr olds who had already surpassed me all the above.

I was ready to try the green slope…


(can you feel the suspense!?)


In short, I failed at the green slope. I had managed the uncontrollable steering, but unfortunately we had forgotten how to teach me to stop properly. Turns out that crashing into embankments doesn’t count as a legitimate strategy. After the 3rd serious crash and their associated tantrums, I decided it was to dangerous to continue and had to walk the last 2 km in ski boots through knee-high snow. Cold and tired we reposed in our lodge, and reminisced about how I really sucked at ice-related sports.

IMG_0143 Stitch [LD]

Tomorrow couldn’t possibly be worse, right?

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Well it was inevitable. Christmas has come in all it’s commercial glory. Decorations hung in the streets and at school. I had my last day of school for the year today. Most of my class came for the one hour of class we had in the morning, but thanks to vacation plans and for a general dislike for learning establishments, my lycée was a little empty.

IMG_0002 [LD]I live with my host family in Saint-foy-d’aigrefuielle, about 15 minutes from my High-school in Saint-Orens, a suburb to the very south of Toulouse. I’m saying this to show that I rarely get to travel into the city centre, and that is where today’s story comes from. I was feeling a little out of touch with my city. So after my 1 hour of class I decided to rekindle the romance and head back to my grand beloved. Like I said, my school is on the very outskirt of the city proper, and as a result we are the final destination for 4 bus routes, so I can usually catch a bus every 5 minutes. Of course like I have plainly stated before, this is the French system and seems to hate me so it’s a matter of chance if I can actually get back on time. Today was no different and the bus I was meant to wait 5 minutes for never came. But all was not lost. I had lovely company from 3 jeune filles from my English class who waited with me the 40 minutes until my next bus.

Eventually,  my bus came and left and we headed north. I was preparing myself for the Christmas Spirit with some music I found, while I patiently tried tried to calculate exactly how much time I would be spending in the bus so that I could work out how much time I could spend in Toulouse. It didn’t look good. If it took me 40 minutes from school to Francois Verdier station, I would only have only about 20 minutes in the city (Taking for granted the bus would actually return). I thought about how my city – like a siren – pulled me in with it’s promises of beauty, while making me traverse unnecessarily long bus routes.

Meanwhile we arrive and I get off my bus where I assumed I was close enough to the capitol, lured my the promise of Christmas Cheer. I knew exactly what I wanted:  I wanted decorations, I wanted Lights, I wanted Music and snow and fake Santas and choirs singing carols in the streets. And I was willing to risk a missed bus to find it.

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I took my chances and ventured into that concrete jungle. Walking pass churches and the homeless I arrived at my goal, Capitol Square. I always end up here. Thy had put a lot of effort in – that was obvious – but I never saw any references to anything Christmassy. No Santas, Jesus, reindeer or the like. Nothing but a lot of stores and a lot of money changing hands. All this commercialism using Christmas as a selling point. I realise that as I grow up, that this is what Christmas will become to me. We all have to lose that childhood innocence eventually, right? We become thee people who don’t mind paying overinflated prices on unwanted Christmas Gifts, but giving a dollar to the homeless is just a little too much. It’s a much repeated story, but it still pisses me off.

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Lost in trying to find my Christmas Wonderland, I realised that once again I had missed my bus but I promised myself that it would pay-off. 20 minutes later, scanning my bus ticket, I had still found nothing. I arrived at school later than I had expected, and so was sure that I had missed the Repas de Noël – A special Christmas lunch the school puts on near Christmas. I hadn’t missed it, but I had missed the queue and didn’t have to wait. It was yum.IMG_0087 [LD]

From my table I had a view of the entire cafeteria and felt a little better. I could see our German correspondent, Lukas, at a table with his host-brother and friends. Despite it being his last day, they all looked remarkably happy. This was the Christmas spirit I had been looking for and I didn’t even need to go looking for it. It had been here all along. I smiled to myself. Christmas is sooooooo cliché.

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Joyeuses Fêtes

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