Fontaine à Chambéry

Fontaine à Chambéry

Sunday, May 30, 2010

American Football

Last night, the Chambéry Aigles (Eagles) played in the championship football game against the Lyon Falcons. Who knew that American football was popular in a mountain town in the French Alps? According to my fiancé, the rivalry between the Aigles and the Falcons is equivalent to that of the St. Louis Cardinals and the Chicago Cubs-- ie: the players and spectators HATE one another. The overall tension between the two was hilarious.

After purchasing a ticket to the game, Aigles
got plastic yellow horns. The spectators were ecstatic about this small compensation for their devotion to the team, and did not stop blowing said horns for the entire game. Perhaps an earlier introduction of music programs into French
schools would be beneficial; the tunes played on those cheap plastic horns were quite nice. I can only imagine the harmonious results of hundreds of musically trained Aigles fans.

Once inside the stadium, personal space was an issue yet again. While seated, my knees were on the shoulders of the girl in front of me. The teenage boy next to me was so close that I could smell his laundry detergent. It was a nice smell. Almost immediately upon sitting, someone behind me began stroking my hair. I informed Robin of this problem, and he turned to look, reporting that "No, it's not that guy's hand, it's his horn." Hmmmmm. In order to avoid having the back of my cranium fondled by a total stranger's horn, I decided to read the book I had in my purse. That only lasted for a little while, because the light began to fade and the cacophony of human voices and yellow horns grew distracting. Once it got too dark to read, I paid close attention to the burgeoning love triangle next to me, which was comprised of Laundry Detergent boy and two teenage girls. The girls, in an attempt to seem more appealing to the boy, were laughing and reading their text messages out loud. When one of them fell out of her seat, the boy laughed. Since he was practically seated on top of me, I wanted to lean over and say "Go for it man!" but couldn't do so in French, and Robin refused to translate for me. Oh well. It was entertaining while it lasted, and it kept me from having to endure watching the sport that I abhor more than all others.

The end of the game was quite entertaining. There was a lot of yelling and horn playing, but
beside that, I don't really know what was going on. The Aigles ended up winning the game (13-7 was the final score). People were screaming and running out onto the field in celebration. Someone let loose two little French bulldogs, decked out in Aigles t-shirts. The famous songs by Queen, "We Are the Champions" and "We Will Rock You" blared over the loudspeakers. Part of me wonders what would have happened had the Aigles lost...

Saturday, May 29, 2010


The French are obsessed with having clean windshields. The one seen in this picture appears spotless to the average American eye, correct? Well, you're WRONG!! It is filthy. I can guarantee that the next time Robin gets in his car to go somewhere, he will immediately turn on the wipers and give a little squirt of wiper fluid. Why, you ask?

Well, like previously mentioned, a windshield must be clean at all times. I try to understand, but fail tremendously. I drive around with bird poop, pollen, bug guts, and god knows what else on my windshield all the time! I can honestly say that a little dirt has never been the cause of the countless incidents I've had while operating a vehicle. Who cares if there are a few flower petals (see the right side of picture) on the windshield? It's not like they are obstructing one's view of the road. Aha! This is where I'm wrong!

The French police can pull over a driver and issue a ticket if the windshield is not clean. Apparently I am the only person in this country who thinks this is strange. Shouldn't the police be worried about more serious things, such as individuals driving under the influence or disobeying the speed limit? I mean, I can understand if the entire car is caked in dirt, but pulling someone over for a few flower petals or a spot of bird excrement seems extreme. I could be wrong, but I think that having an immaculate vehicle relates back to a French individual's sense of outward appearance. In France, it is incredibly important to always look très chic, and I guess this notion applies to cars too. I will probably never completely understand the obsessive compulsive tendencies for keeping a windshield spot free. It seems like a battle to be lost, in my opinion. Finally, I can't help but wonder how many bottles of windshield wiper fluid the average French citizen uses each year. It must be a ton!

Friday, May 28, 2010

French Houses (Maisons Françaises)

French houses are pretty different from American ones. First off, most of them have gates to prevent access to just anybody. I find this very interesting. In my opinion, Americans are especially concerned with privacy and personal space, so I would expect more homes in the United States to have gates. In public, the French seem relatively unconcerned if a stranger invades their personal space. It is not a big deal if somebody brushes against you or hits you with their shopping cart (accidentally of course). As an American, I get incredibly perturbed when people at the store get too close to me. I don't need to be touched by a complete French stranger! I think it is intriguing that protecting personal space in public is no issue, but at home it is a necessity.

In order to get into the inner sanctum of the French home, you need to press the call button. Inside the house, the phone by the front door will ring, and you can see who is at the gate. Then, you can either let the person in (by pressing a button to unlock the gate), or ignore them. The gate will protect you, unless of course the person decides that they really want to come inside and they try to climb the gate. I did this the other day in an attempt to prove that I could still enter even without my keys for the gate. Let me tell you, the French know how to make gates! Someone with more upper body strength than me probably could have succeeded in climbing over, but sadly, I failed, and Robin had to let me in. In the future I will be sure to remember my keys, as gate climbing is not a viable option for entry!

The French mailbox has the same fortress-like tendencies as the home. You need a key in order to retrieve your mail. Doesn't it all seem very secretive? What if you happen to lose your key? Are you out of luck? How will you pay your bills? It is all so interesting!

A final observation on les maisons de Français: some people live
in castles! Real castles!!! The one seen in the photo does not have all of the security features of modern houses, but then again, does it really need them? I mean, it has been standing since the fifteenth century or something crazy like that. I especially like the turret.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Scarlett the French Bulldog

So, I have encountered many French animals over the past few days. The most important though is Scarlett, my future sister-in-law's French bulldog who is named for Scarlett O'Hara from Gone With the Wind. Naturally because of Scarlett's name she is a diva, much like her fictional Hollywood counterpart. Scarlett the dog smells horrible. One can ignore that fact, however, when looking at her cute little face. Her tongue is always poking out of her mouth, and she appears to be smiling. To me, she looks as if she is part pig/part cow rather than bulldog. Her excessive snorting furthers my suspicion that she is part pig, or was at least raised among them. She might just have allergies though.

Since she is so adorable, I naturally love petting her and seeing if she can do tricks. This is where I noted something unusual. When I tell her to do something, she just looks at me with those wistful eyes (ie: see picture). I'm not used to this! At home, our dogs Jackie and Helen know many tricks and are glad to perform (for treats, of course). They know a number of commands, including sit, stay, speak, shake, etc. etc. Scarlett just looked at me and snorted the other day when I told her to sit. I asked Robin if she could do anything cool, and he quickly started spewing French words at her. And guess what? She listened and began sitting and shaking paws. Then I realized: she doesn't know English! That's why she always looks confused when I talk to her--she doesn't understand what I'm saying!

After solving the mystery of Scarlett, I remembered Hannah and I had the same thing happen last year in Paris. Near our hotel was an apartment and every time we passed it, there was a cat in the window. We would talk to it and try to pet it, and it always ignored us! It took us quite some time to realize it wasn't bilingual and had no way of knowing what we were saying.

Bottom line: when in a foreign country, approach the animals as you do the people. Simply saying "Hello little dog" will not cut it. You must talk to the animal in the vernacular in order to be understood! Next time I see Scarlett, I'll be sure to say "Bonjour Scarlett, ca va?" She'll most likely snort and roll over so I can pet her stomach.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

First Observations


It is my fourth day in France and I have decided to create a blog for a number of reasons. Doing so will help me remember things I do and observe and will also allow friends and family from home to see photos and hear about my experiences abroad.

I've made several observations over the past few days. The first: the French are culinary geniuses! The food is delicious and made from very little artificial ingredients. Fresh produce at every meal is standard. From an American viewpoint, the French eat slowly and savor what
they are eating. Lively discussion often ensues. Oh, and the television is not a component of dinnertime rituals. Us Americans, on the other hand, scarf our food in order to go on and do the next thing. Ingrained in us is a sense of "Go, go, go! We need to be fast!" I'll admit that eating so slowly does make me a bit uncomfortable. I feel as if we need to hurry so that we can go on to the next activity. But what exactly is the next activity? Nothing! Lately after dinner we have been going on walks or riding bikes. I will have to work on keeping my American tendencies for
speed in check.

Observation #2: With the amount of coffee and alcohol the French consume, it is amazing that anyone stays hydrated!

Observation #3: Everyone thinks Americans are fat and rich.

Observation #4: When purchasing something at a store, the interaction between the buyer and the cashier is interesting. The cashier is always incredibly polite, saying, for instance "Your total is $4.56 please." When you hand them your cash they say "Thank you," and then again when they hand you your bag of merchandise. It is all very civil.

Observation #5: Little French kids wear the cutest clothes!

Well, those are my first observations. I have to go eat lunch, which will definitely take an hour.