Tuesday, March 15, 2011

March 15, 2011: Grenoble - Open House, Laundry....

I can't believe it's been two weeks already since we arrived. The time has gone by quickly, between settling in, discovering the city and enjoying the great weather. And I've only stepped in dog poo once (this is something of an accomplishment, since there's more dog poo on the streets here than probably anywhere else that I've traveled).

I went to the Open House coffee get-together this morning again. I met more people and heard more about life in France (bureaucracy is annoying, strikers don't get the kind of sympathy they used to,  transit doesn't always work as well as I might think, the French think there should be more signage in English for tourists, and kids aren't raised to be as polite as they used to be, although I think they are quite well-behaved compared to what I see in Canada). I had worn a light blue sweater, feeling spring-like - and then the other Canadian woman in the group arrived in an almost identical sweater. Uncanny coincidence.

One French woman gave me a comparison of markets across the country: in the south they are boisterous - you push your way to the front and handle the produce yourself; in Paris they are ultra-organized - you line up and you don't handle the produce yourself (instead you might ask the proprietor for two tomatoes for a salad for the next day, so that they can select the appropriately ripe ones for you). Grenoble seems to be a mid-way point - you pick the produce out yourself but there's an orderly line for paying, which suits me just fine - it's very similar to the Toronto way of market shopping.

There was also a bit of drama - one of the group member's dogs wasn't allowed in to the cafe - it had been fine in the past in a carrier but not today on a leash. The French expect to be able to bring their dogs everywhere unless there's a sign stating otherwise (and there was no sign posted), so everyone was quite put out that the dog had to be tied up outside.

In the afternoon I finally tackled the laundry. It was not as simple as you might think! There seemed to be many more options than I'm accustomed to, there were symbols that are unfamiliar (with no accompanying words to translate), and brief French words without enough context for Google Translate to catch the meaning. The wash took almost an hour - not too bizarre. But after two hours waiting for the dryer cycle to end, with no indication of how long it's supposed to take I started to wonder if our clothes were melting. I started searching online for reassurance that things hadn't gone horribly wrong, and was comforted to read others' reactions that doing laundry in France is incredibly slow. In the end it was about 2.5 hours to finish the drying cycle, and it still wasn't dry to my satisfaction (the clothes were hot but humid). I'm glad we brought enough clothing for two weeks so that I won't have to go through that so often.

For supper I tried making a vegetable soup with the addition of our leftover cheese rinds (a trick that was widely praised on various recipes from the internet). Initially it smelled delicious, but in the end it came out a bit blah. But it did give me a chance to use the local Savoy 'crozets' buckwheat pasta, which is in the shape of little squares - quite dense in texture - very fun.

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