Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Les sans papiers

This past weekend, the Brit and I were walking around exploring my new neighborhood a bit when we came upon a group of people with various tarps up. My first thought was that they were breaking down a street market, but as we continued down the street I saw several signs. The people were sans papiers or without papers - immigrants who are in France without legal status. This was a few days before the French government disbanded the immigrant camp near Calais known as “the jungle”. The people we encountered had signs declaring that they’d gone 18 months as sans papiers without regularisation.

I occasionally whinge about the annoyances of having to renew my carte de sejour every year, however seeing these people reminded me how fortunate I am in having been able to come to France legally. There was a brief period after grad school when my legal status in France was questionable. But I had a place to live and I knew if things didn’t work out I could pack up and go home to a comfortable life. How many of the sans papiers can say the same?

Q&A: Calais camp migrants' rights

In pictures: Calais camp cleared

Police clear French migrant camp

French police bulldoze immigrant camp near Calais

Friday, September 18, 2009

Cougar extreme

You’ve probably heard about this one already, but just in case… A 107 year old Malaysian woman is looking for her 23rd husband. That’s right one hundred and seven years old. She’s currently married to a man who’s 37, but she’s afraid that he might leave her for a younger woman while he’s in rehab.

While I think it’s kind of sad she’s worried about losing her hubby, I think it’s wonderful that a woman this age is still active enough to look for her next significantly younger spouse. Madonna and Demi don’t have anything on this lady. Read about it

Thursday, September 10, 2009

To kiss or not to kiss…

It appears that residents of France, the land of romance, may have to curb their propensity to get close and kiss. Due to swine flu fears, French authorities have recommended that people stop kissing and have even gone so far in some locations as to ban giving les bises .

Anyone who has been to France knows that les bises are an integral part of French culture. Friends and family greet each other with bises; in certain social settings when meeting someone new you exchange bises; one of my former managers even greeted all of his female direct reports and colleagues with bises each morning. It remains to be seen how effective the close contact avoidance recommendations and bans will be. I however am skeptical…

For more about it click
here or here.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Sarko’s Napoleon complex

It’s been said that Sarkozy has issues with his height and if the latest news is to be believed, he’s gone to new extremes to appear taller. During a recent visit to a factory, some employees selected to stand behind the president claim they were chosen because they were short.

Read about it

Friday, September 4, 2009

Now I have two British loves…

There are a few places I’ve visited that I fell in love with immediately and the Highlands have been added to the list. For our summer vacation, the Brit and I decided to go to Scotland and being the last minute people that we are, we ended up booking things the day before we left.

We took the ferry to Dover and during the ferry ride, the Brit reminded me of a little kid on his way to the candy store. The closer we got, the more excited he became. While Scotland was our destination, the Brit took advantage of us being in a car to further his goal of convincing me that England is a nice place. I got a glimpse into his pre-Seattleite life when he showed me where he lived until he was about 10. We also stopped by the city where he attended university and considering some of the stories he has from his uni days, I was surprised there weren’t armed police ready to haul him off as soon as he entered the city. Before heading across the now non-existent border, we overnighted in Nottingham and had drinks at Ye Olde Trip to Jerusalem, which claims to be the oldest Inn in England.

Our first stops in Scotland were Edinburgh and Glasgow. The Edinburgh International and Fringe Festivals were on, so the city was pretty crowded.

Tip for anyone who likes cocktails and plans on heading to Edinburgh: go to dragonfly. The Brit and I agreed that we had the best cocktails we’ve ever tasted in Europe at dragonfly. But if you go, make sure that the guy bartender makes your drinks. My first drink was made by a young looking blond chick and it tasted like fruit juice.

We left the big cities and my jaw probably dropped as we headed into the Highlands. I’d seen photos and films, but there is nothing like seeing the heather-covered hills and lochs in person. Our first stop was on the Isle of Islay. We stayed at a nice B&B called Glenegedale House run by a lovely couple named Rachel and Alisdair. One of the options for breakfast was kippers smoked over whiskey barrels which were beyond amazing. Similar to our Ireland trip I let myself get dragged along to a few distilleries. I’ve mentioned before that I’m not a fan of whisky, but much to my surprise and the Brit’s delight we found some whiskies that I actually liked (smoky island whiskies). Being on the small island was definitely a change from Paris. Restaurants stop serving around 9 and I’m sure there are more sheep and cows than people on Islay. But I absolutely loved it and was ready to stay for a few months.

Our next stop was on the isle of Skye. I wasn’t as taken with Skye as I was with Islay, but we need more time to explore it. The island is larger, but the scenery is just as stunning. On the way to Skye there was a traffic accident, apparently a car flipped over and since it was a two-lane road, traffic was at a complete stand still. I was fine for a while until nature started to call. There were no rest areas, gas stations, restaurants or trees big enough to hide me within walking distance. And even though it was nighttime and dark, we were in a line of cars with people walking around and some headlights on. I have no problem peeing outdoors if I have to, but I draw the line at doing it in front of complete strangers. Things got desperate so the Brit was able to pull a U-ie and go to a pull over area that we had passed. After I’d contributed a new loch to the area, we rejoined the line of cars and were eventually able to get going again.

Our next stop was Loch Ness. We had a room with a balcony overlooking the loch, so like any normal tourist I went to take a look. When I stepped out on the balcony I was looking straight ahead and could see another part of the hotel in my peripheral vision. Right after I stepped out (I don’t think I will ever forget this) a man walked by the window in his room. Usually this wouldn’t be a big deal, except this man was severely obese, had several tattoos and was NAKED!! Naked as in not-wearing-a-single-item-of-clothing. His head turned as he walked by so I’m sure he saw me even though I turned my head away from his window at the same time to look at the loch. Later that evening, in the restaurant, we ended up at a table next to a large tattooed man and a lady. Fortunately I had my back to them. I told the Brit I thought that was the man I had seen until a bit later another very large and tattooed man and his lady came into the restaurant. I was a bit traumatized by the event but the Brit seemed amused.

Our last stay in Scotland was in Inverness, a cute little city where people fly-fish in the river. And next we were on to Hadrian’s wall and Vindolanda. Both of us thought WOW when we saw Vindolanda. It’s a Roman fort that was occupied before Hadrian’s wall was built. Parts of it have been excavated with many intact objects unearthed. It’s thought that it will take over 100 years to excavate the rest of the site. Our final stop was in Canterbury before getting back on the ferry to return to the continent.

During our trip we had a few cool animal sightings in the Highlands. A couple of red squirrels crossed our path, a young white-tailed eagle flew in front of the windshield and a juvenile red deer jogged along the side of the road before going back into the trees. Considering that the white-tailed eagle is quite rare in Scotland, we were very fortunate to see it especially so close. I can’t wait to get back to the Highlands and for anyone who hasn’t tried haggis, it’s actually quite good!

I’m sure some of you want to see photos. We took so many that it will take a while to sort through them, so photos will have to wait for a bit.