Thursday, 28 February 2008

Hitting the bureaucratic trifecta

We're on a roll again this week. Not only do I have my social security number but after visit number 5 to the Préfecture, my dossier is complete and being sent off for my carte de séjour. I'll be amazed if it arrives before my current récépissé runs out in 3 weeks but the woman thought it would. We'll see. It was a good thing we all went as we had a new woman and she spoke so fast, I could barely understand a word she said. The phrase "five year carte" was bandied about, but I'm pretty sure it will be a one year carte which I'll then have to renew. Maybe I'll be able to get a five year one next. Still, in 18 months, I'll be able to apply for my Italian passport and after jumping through whatever hoops the Italian consulate wants, I'll finally be able to stop dealing with the Préfecture.

After that success, we went next door to find out about exchanging our Australian drivers licenses. We spoke to two of the friendliest and most helpful public servants I've ever met in any country. The good news is we can exchange without any lessons or tests. We'll need to get a few documents from Australia and get them translated but we've got a bit of time. David has to make his application within a year of arriving (that is, by May) and I have a year from when I get my carte de séjour. Not that I have any intention of driving here yet, but at least when I'm ready, I'll be able to do so without having to go through the rigorous testing process they have here.

Tuesday, 26 February 2008

A big achievement

I finally have a social security number! My carte vitale will take a while longer I know, but I've been waiting for ages for this number for my application for a carte de séjour. Now, I can go back to the Préfecture and give them this one last thing they were waiting for, along with the 3 other things they requested new copies of when they wrote me a follow up letter last week. With a bit of luck, I can get my carte de séjour before they request ALL of my documents over again.

carte vitale - like a medicare card
carte de séjour - residency permit

Sunday, 24 February 2008

Back to life, back to reality

We're back from our great holiday at La Clusaz. It was sad to leave our lovely hotel La Montagne. We had such friendly service there from the staff (especially the time one of the waitresses gave me the lightest, most delicious, not to mention free chocolate mousse to go with the cup of hot chocolate I'd ordered to take back to my room to enjoy while the kids were asleep). By the end of our week, the staff knew our kids by name (I wonder if that's a good sign or a bad one?). The meals were just amazing and the kids did pretty well considering that dinner took over an hour every night. On our last night we ordered a fondue instead of that night's menu and it was so tasty.

La Clusaz is such a nice little village. We quickly found some new favourite spots - a great patissier/salon de thé that made scrumptious crêpes, a fantastic burger place. For any americans out there missing a good burger in France you must try La Chavinette Sandwicherie. But the most friendly service we had was from the guys at Ski 3000. At least one of us went there every day. They quickly got to know la famille Giorgi. And for guys who would probably prefer to be off skiing or snowboarding themselves, they were amazingly helpful and efficient.

As for the snow, with the last fall being in early February, I'm glad we went the first week of the holidays. We spent our last day skiing together on top of the Beauregard again and it was a lot slushier than 2 days before. I pity those Parisians arriving for their turn at the snow this weekend. They have the latest set of the staggered holidays here. Hopefully they'll get some snow this week. Lily did great at the jardin d'enfants again. And I skied my first blue run. It was so slushy that I fell over a few times at the top before I got the hang of it. But I found it such a challenge going down that I made myself do it again, later in the day, to show myself I could do it without falling. It was fun but for now I think I need to stick to the green runs while I practice a bit.

So its back to normal life again. We've got another week off before school starts up again. And hopefully we'll get some snow in March. I'm still waiting to see Annecy in the snow and I'd rather like another trip up to the Semnoz soon for some more skiing.

And now for the photos and there's a bit of video of Lily at the bottom

Lily luging

The view from our hotel room

Looking toward Mont Blanc from the Balme (taken by Dav - only he can ski down from that high up!)

At the Balme (taken by Dav)


View down to the pool (it has a great open air section)

Lunch at Beauregard

Fun in the snow

At the jardin d'enfants

On a bush walk

Looking towards La Clusaz

La Montagne (our hotel)

Swings with a view - at Beauregard

The church in La Clusaz

Friday, 22 February 2008

What a day!

We had a great day at Beauregard yesterday. It was our first day going out to ski as a family and it was a great indication of things to come in the future. Its hard though, getting around a ski resort with three sets of skis and stocks and two little kids.

We went up in the télécabine and then split up to try and get Lily skiing. I left my skis at the top and walked with Lily down the side of a blue run (which was very gentle at that part) while she got a feel for being on skis again. David took off skiing holding Jasper. We all met up at the bottom in a little jardin d'enfants. We've seen a few of these around but they are often like creches where the parents can leave their kids to practice some gentle skiing with toys and a relatively easy rope-lift for the kids to use. But this one was public and it was just what Lily needed. She had refused to go to the jardin d'enfants down in the village but happily skied a lot of the day at this one. It was wonderful as we could be there to help her if needed. By the end of the day she was easily managing the rope lift and skiing down through these little hoops, whacking at luges suspended in the air above her as she went through. (This would make more sense with a photo but I left my USB cable at home)

David and I took it in turns to take care of the kids and ski. Jasper has been quite amazing through all this. He happily wandered around the jardin d'enfants and loved it when David took him up the rope lift. The crunch came at lunch time when we were faced with how to get back up the piste for lunch. I didnt feel comfortable taking the téléski up with Jasper so I walked and carried him, my skis and all the stocks while David helped Lily on the téléski. Not fun! But lunch was worth it.

After lunch it started to rain a bit so we headed back to the jardin. This time we skied down. I carried all the stocks down. David had Jasper on one hip and Lily by the hand on her skis. It was all going well until something happened (no idea what) and Lily lost it so he just picked them both up and skied down carrying both. But for maybe 30 seconds there we were all skiing along togather (well, except Jas) and it was great!

During the afternoon I did a couple of green runs. They were so much easier than the Riffroids where I have been learning this week. I tell you, if you learn to ski on an icy slope, it makes most other things seem much easier. At one stage I was skiing down this great green run, wind in my hair, all alone, beautiful scenery and it was magic. On the way back up the téléski, I checked out the blue run and I think I'm ready to tackle that next.

We had to make sure to be back up at the télécabine before 5pm to catch the last one down. There was no way I was ready to take both kids down the blue run to the village! I had no energy left to walk up with Jasper, so I took him up on the téléski on my hip - luckily we got there fine. And David took all the stocks and Lily. I think there was a reason we only saw one other toddler up there - its all pretty hard to juggle. By the time we returned our skis, we were all exhausted. David says skiing with kids is even harder than skiing a black run. But it was a lovely family day.

télécabine - gondola lift
téléski - ski lift
jardin d'enfants - kids garden

Wednesday, 20 February 2008

Time to move on

We're still at La Clusaz. My skiing is going pretty well, I think. David and I have been taking turns with the kids so that we both get to ski each day. Its worked really well, although I would love to be able to ski *with* David, but that's not going to happen just yet. For now, I'm on my own.

I've been down the green run in the village about 25 times and I feel like I'm ready to move on. I can stop and I can turn - its not stylish but its functional! We've had gorgeous sunny weather which is lovely for skiing but it has taken its toll on the piste - its getting pretty icy. And it fills up with ski schools in the afternoon which makes it a chore getting on the lift.

So tomorrow, we are all heading up to the Beauregard where we went for a walk in summer. We checked it out yesterday and its got two good green pistes and a creperie so we can take it in turns hanging out with Jasper. And hopefully, Lily will want to do some skiing. She's been a bit reluctant after getting off to such a good start.

But in the meantime, its time to head downstairs for another fabulous meal. The food here is amazing. I could get used to having a 3 course meal every night!

Monday, 18 February 2008

Ski lesson number one

Just because you've been up it ten times, dont think you dont have to pay attention on the téléski. If you mess around like a ten year old boy and practice tilting your skis side to side, you are likely to fall off in an unflattering heap. Then you'll have to ski back down again only 1/4 of the way up the slope, thereby wasting the ten minutes you spent queueing for the lift.

But if, despite this sage advice, you choose to do this, try speaking your best french to the guy at the lift and he might just let you go up again for free without marking off another of your 10 lift passes.

téléski - ski lift

Friday, 15 February 2008

The Venice of the Alps

Its venetian carnival this weekend in Annecy. As we are going away, we headed out after dinner to see some of the costumes. Just like in Venice, its a mad rush of people taking photographs. But if anything the costumes seemed even more elaborate than I remember them being in Venice.

We farewelled Martina back to Italy this morning, after a fun few days together. And tomorrow we are off to La Clusaz for the week.

Thursday, 14 February 2008

Happy Valentine's Day

Here's a pic of the chocolate heart I bought David today from one of the yummiest chocolatier in Annecy. Actually, it looked even better than this as it was exquisitely gift-wrapped and contained 4 or 5 other little hearts inside. Of course, by the time I got the camera out, it was half devoured.

They had lots of these little hearts in the shop and I was having trouble choosing which to buy. And it came to me, a little song that Lily sings in the bath while pointing at everyone in turn. Lily sings it like this (and yes, she has the words a bit wrong but that's ok it's her version)

Sardine et crocodile
et rat cha cha
c'est toi, le chat

So this heart was the chat that my finger pointed to, I paid my €7 and brought it home. I think the woman in the shop thought I was nuts!

But the best part of Valentine's Day, David and I left Jasper with Martina, while Lily was at school, and went out alone, together...just the two of us!

A day in Geneva

We've been lucky enough to have a visit from Martina, the kid's italian cousin, this week. How nice it is to have family visit...especially someone who is such a great help with the kids. They cant get enough of her!

So we took a trip to Geneva for the day. Hmmm, what to say about Geneva? I liked it but it made me realize how lucky I am to live in Annecy! We did a lot of walking around the centre of town and saw a couple of the most popular sights.

Let's see if I can sum up the day with a few rash generalizations of the type that only someone who has spent a few hours somewhere can make. First of all, where do the Genevois eat for goodness sake? We seemed to spend most of our day in search of food and coffee. We seriously considered afternoon tea at Starbucks and ended up eating at the train station cafeteria where the food, at least, was good. Which brings me to the people. On the basis of 4 or 5 interactions with the Genevois, I'm going to go out on a limb and say they are unfriendly. I also realized that in the last nine months, I've got used to living in a much smaller town. I found Geneva busy and noisy and the traffic noise and fumes a bit overwhelming. Which brings me to the smoking. Ugh, its everywhere. Inside restaurants, of course, but also inside shopping centres which made the little cafe in which we finally found some food, not very appetizing.

There were some things I really liked - the lovely architecture, for one. Although I cant understand why they allow awful advertising signs on the tops of their beautiful buildings (but David says to him, that just makes it Geneva). The chocolate, of course was really yummy and kept us going while we searched for afternoon tea. And, despite the fact that a rather unpleasant woman at a butchers told us we wouldn't find them, we found some pork bratwurst in the supermarket. Hurray! A decent sausage after all these months. If only we'd brought home more than 2 packets.

Now in its defence, I'm sure some of the most wonderful things about Geneva are the things that its not easy to appreciate with little kids. There are wonderful museums, which we didn't get a chance to go into and many great cultural events. So, although I don't think, I'll go back in the short term, maybe it has more to offer when the kids are older. But for now, I'll stick to Annecy.

The famous flower clock (and what would have been a nice family photo if Lily hadnt been in a mood)

The only smiling Lily did all day

The Reformation Wall - in memory of the great figures of Prostestantism

The Jet d'eau

The Nespresso shop - sadly George wasn't there

Monday, 11 February 2008

Thinking of moving to Bris Vegas?

Our apartment in Brisbane is up for rent again - our previous tenants having decided it would be a good idea to stop paying their rent. Fortunately, its much easier to evict tenants in Australia than France. So, if anyone wants to live smack in the middle of the action in Brisbane, let me know!

Sunday, 10 February 2008

Skiing at the Semnoz

Yesterday, we took our first winter trip to the Semnoz. Its a 40 minute bus ride from home and is a great spot for kids and beginners. We hired some skis for Lily and me, and a luge for the kids, which also doubled as a great way to carry all our stuff around. It was so warm that I was skiing just in a jumper with no hat or gloves. That's right - I went skiing for the first time! Well, I dont count that time in Italy when I put David's skis on and posed for a photo.

After a bit of time practicing my chasse-neige (which needs a LOT of work), David got sick of pulling me a little way up the slope and bought me a ticket for the lift. I plucked up my courage and off I went. On my second run down the beginner's slope, I started to get a feel for it. Poor David, he was stuck lugging the kids around all afternoon while I caught the ski bug! Still, it will be worthwhile in the long run when the kids are older and we are all skiing together.


Jasper in the luge with our bags

Practicing my chasse-neige

I did it!(By the way, that slope is steeper than it looks!)

And two bits of video, if you're interested!

chasse-neige - snow plough

Wednesday, 6 February 2008

Thanks to you Grominou2!

A while ago, Grominou2 over at J'ai lu mentioned that the first book she read in english was an Agatha Christie. This advice came back to me last week when I went to the library to choose a new french book to read. I came home with an anthology of six Agatha Christie stories written in the 1930s and am half way through my first one. I have to say, I am really enjoying it and look forward to reading some each night, just as I would with an english book. For a start, I love romans policiers and I've read quite a few of her books in my time and am quite used to her style. Also, there's very little slang, lots of dialogue and the language is all quite straight forward. But best of all, there seems to be lots of use of the tenses I have most trouble with: imperfect, future, conditional and past conditional. Especially the latter. Being a detective story, there's lots of supposition about what the murderer would have done, which is great practice of the past conditional. For now, I have no idea whodunnit, but at least, I'm enjoying reading. So thanks for the idea, Grominou2!

romans policiers - detective novels

Tuesday, 5 February 2008

More peacetalks

After receiving another letter of complaint today from our neighbour below, I went downstairs for a chat. Given the small town we live in, I don't want to put up too much detail but I think that we've reached an understanding of sorts. He appreciates the efforts we have made and now understands that the remaining area of complaint (Jasper's running) is not something I can easily control at this age. I felt I managed to get my side across politely but without making any more concessions. Let's hope this is the end of it for a while.

Saturday, 2 February 2008

There's something for everyone!

My first issue of the Australian Women's Weekly arrived today. Thanks for the subscription Mum and thanks to La Poste for Saturday mail deliveries - how civilized! While Lily cut the First Lady fashion catalogue into tiny pieces and Jasper scribbled over the Doubleday book catalogue, I settled in for a good read with a cup of tea. What a treat to look forward to every month.