February Updates

Contrary to what you may have gathered from the last few posts, we have had a life aside from the fretting over the lack of internet (which we now have if you didn’t see the last post), such as:

1. Ensuring the ongoing operations of IKEA France. Like many apartments here, ours had neither closets nor kitchen cabinets when we moved in, so we’ve had to put up our own (with the help of an Ikea installer dude). While our place is not up to ApartmentTherapy standards just yet, I think HerrKaa was happy to to muck about with tools and levels and we’re both happy having a less chaotic abode (see pics below).

Apartment – Jan 11 Kitchen & bathroom

2. Escaping the city – we’re going for some skiing in Chamonix while there’s still snow on the ground. Expat friends of ours are renting a chalet with some others in early March, so we’ll drive down to the French Alps with them (about 600 km)  and spend a long-weekend of skiing & fondueing. Yay, our first getaway!  Almost as exciting is our train ride back: we both love train travel and overnight trains (like this one) remind me of student travel days, when you’d seek out the overnight trains to avoid paying for a hostel.

3. Improving my French – I’ve enrolled in a French evening course. Most of the students are barely past hostelling age themselves, and I soon learned  that faire la fête = partying (all night) since it’s the #1 reason for explaining anyone’s absence.  The course goes from February to June, but in true French fashion we had all of 2 classes before pausing for a 2-week winter vacation (classes are held in an elementary school, so we follow their schedule). There’ll be two more weeks for Easter holidays in April, and then the usual slew of May holidays celebrating workers, the end of WWII, and several esoteric Christian celebrations. I think the reason I’m telling you so much about these classes is so I remember to go to them next week….

Oh, and our very first lesson: how to write a complaint letter. First oral comprehension recording: an irate call to an ISP help desk. First reading assignment: article on demotivated French workers rejecting the workplace. Bienvenue en France!

4. Plugging in to the rest of the world. Not only do we have internet, we now also have a VOIP land line (with free calls to Canada!) and a new TV which to my TV-ingenue eyes looks impressively wide, thin & black…too bad there’s no cable signal. So we’ll have to keep watching Battlestar Galactica and House MD on the laptop for a few more days.

We’ve also begun ‘plugging in’ to the ready-made community of HerrKaa’s expat coworkers & spouses which is a real lifesaver and good fun, although I’ve been told my alcohol tolerance leaves a lot to be desired. For more mellow outings, I now have a very sweet amie française that I met through a Craigslist’s language exchange posting. She lives in the next arrondissement and loves films and Asian food. I’ve also been able to get to know my cousin Wendy better as she also happens to be here, Au Pairing for a year while she completes her last few French courses for her degree. She has a long commute between her university in the west and home in the east, so she’ll often stop by en route and we can vent about our France Frustrations.  And it looks like Karsten’s found a group of cyclists online…so we have started to branch out socially. Our next big step is to throw a housewarming and invite our neighbours.

Phew, this has been a marathon post. For those of you that actually read this to the end, here’s a few random pixs to reward you for your stamina…



Yesterday was a magical day: we got our internet connection set up and wifi working at home!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 

Happy at-home internet user





The secret: forget ADSL and the need to arm-wrestle France Telecom for possession of the phone line. We opted for cable internet via Numéricable. It costs a bit more per month, plus 40 euros sign-up fee, then another 50 euros for a technician to come & change our cable socket in the apartment so the connection can actually connect, but by this point we just don’t care how much just so long as it works. And Numéricable has actual stores, so I can go and make sad-puppy-dog-eye contact with someone whenever something goes wrong.

Happily, right now all things are tickety boo…we were even able to watch an entire episode of House MD (our new addiction) on streaming video without a single blip – something we certainly couldn’t do on our connection in Vancouver. Bandwidth, yay!

We have immediately resumed old patterns: I’m slouched in front of the coffee table typing on the Mac, while HerrKaa is sitting 2 metres away at the dinner table, tapping on his Acer. I think we’re both researching budget options for skiing in Chamonix. The room is quiet aside from far-away traffic noises and the tappa-tappa-tappa of 20 fingers on 2 keyboards. We’re actually sending each other links. My software friends will understand this, the rest of you will think us insane.

Our new setup means we also have phone (with free calls to Canada) & TV – or rather, we will have them once we actually buy the phone & TV. We tried to today but forgot to bring the appropriate ID (and the reason why you need to bring ID when buying a TV is a topic that merits its own blog post someday).

WIFI al fresco

This is kinda neat. I’m sitting in the little park behind Notre Dame, with its bells ringing in 5:30 like crazy (is there a mass?), and I’m logged into WordPress.

You see, in spite of France generally moving like an escargot when it comes to web technology, the City of Paris bucked the trend by setting up WIFI  in a bunch of its parks and squares (and librairies). And since the Vancouver-like monsoon rains ended today, the weather outside is almost springlike, making typing outside bearable, even pleasant.

The one hiccup: parks here close at sundown, so now I’m being kicked out. Wah!