Adventures and misadventures in France.

Archive for January, 2014

Home sweet maison

This weekend was full of moving, settling in, and rearranging furniture multiple times. We even had the chance to hang a few pictures (which somehow required a power drill). As promised, here are some pictures from the new place!

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And if we have a new house clearly Jojo needs a new house as well. We’ll be sending it outside once the weather shapes up.

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Winter lite

Finally we had some sun this weekend! Rain and clouds every day can get depressing, but it’s unbelieveable that the temperature rarely drops below 40 degrees.

Remember this time last year when Max and I visited the Etang de Choisel? The path around the pond this time around was packed with strolling families with children and dogs enjoying some quality sun exposure.

profiter – to take advantage of, to enjoy

Je profite du soleil.

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Strip vs. chip for plastic

Even after a year in France, I’ve been determined to maintain my US bank account. While my $/USD paycheck fluctuates with €/EURO conversion rates, my bank offers free checking, zero ATM fees, and ridiculously good customer service. My only complaint is that the US banking and credit/debit system is extremely outdated. In the rest of the world, cards are equipped with a chip and PIN system instead of (or in addition to) magnetic strips. Many French stores are no longer able to “swipe” cards, as the chip only uses a slot system, so I’ve encountered plenty of bizarre looks from checkout clerks with my carte américaine.

Elise Hu of NPR posted a great article yesterday describing the benefits of switching to a chip-enabled system, linking the issue to the recent Target data breach.

Industry leaders know magnetic stripes are outdated and easily exploitable. The rest of the world moved on to a more secure, harder-to-hack payment system based on chip-enabled cards — chip and PIN. Chip-enabled cards are more secure because the data on the chip are hidden behind encryption. So even if criminals intercept what’s on it, they can’t reuse it.

This means simply entering your PIN to complete a purchase, similar to most debit cards, instead of signing. As I’m sure that everyone who has scrawled their name across a receipt or touch screen can attest, a PIN is a far more reliable and secure way to ensure that your card doesn’t fall into the wrong hands.

Hu’s article describes one major drawback to making the switch on a national level. Our current card readers are not equipped to read chip-encrypted cards. Replacing every card reader at every location of every business in the country will come at an enormous expense to the businesses. At the same time, the risk of another large-scale data breach is now a potential expense that cannot be ignored.

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Château la Ferrière

Château la Ferrière

This past weekend, our company hosted a retreat at the Ferrière. It was a great chance to bring see employees based all over France. During the day, we attended workshops and meetings. In the evening, the hotel provided a delicious dinner while we participated in a trivia contest. We enjoyed a dj, open bar, and dancing until around 3, but I hear the party continued without us until 5 am!

Fête, boum, and soirée

Fête, boum, soirée: three words with one meaning (more or less).

This year, Max and I were invited to birthday parties for Max’s cousin and uncle. As I’ve mentioned before, it’s been difficult to distinguish between French culture and Max’s eccentric family. Honestly it doesn’t make much of a difference- things tend to get weird in the best possible way.

60 ans Yannick

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Preparing the aperitif fountain!

Max’s uncle hosted a hilarious dinner for both friends and family. The family prepared des animations, entertainment, including a cowboy-themed dance, traditional dance from Madagascar, and a video slideshow. Honestly, it was comparable to a wedding reception. We also enjoyed one of my favorite French party traditions, the fil rouge. French parties tend to involve hours of sit-down meals, so the host will often designate someone to prepare a song or dance to get everyone up and moving in between courses.

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Anniversaire Mika et Béa

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Max’s cousin Mika and his wife Béa hosted a wonderful 70s-themed party in Brive-la-Gaillarde, a lakeside town in  central France. They rented out an offseason campground, complete with bunks for their guests to stay the weekend. We spent the day playing boules and strolling along hills with fantastic views of the lake and vacation cottages. That night, we enjoyed performances from their musically gifted family. The theme was the 70s, so that meant plenty of disco and hippie costumes. Kiss, Ziggy Stardust, and Che Guevara made appearances, and Max and I represented punk rock.

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La Foire de Béré

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Our Bretagne winter is well under way… not too chilly, but rain and gray skies almost every day. So I’m enjoying adding pictures and posts from earlier in the year.

The Foire de Béré is the annual harvest fair held in Chateaubriant in early September. It’s considered one of the oldest continuous fairs in France, dating back to the year 1050. I found the event very similar to typical American fairs, with the same livestock and crop competitions, farm supply stands, and plenty of snack foods and carnival rides. We spent a lot of time browsing clothing stalls, and our friend Jean-Charles managed to win a stuffed Tigger from a claw machine!

Le Nid

What do you get when you cross a passion for heights, alcohol, and birds? Graphic design artist Jean Jullien established Le Nid, the nest, a bird-themed bar located on the 32nd floor of the tallest structure in Nantes, the Tour Bretagne.

Access to Le Nid is facilitated only by one 8-person elevator, so we had the good fortune of waiting in a 45-minute line. The chairs and tables are designed to look like eggs, and the bar services is located in the body of an enormous heron, whose head and neck wrap along the edge of the bar. Bird-themed decor and overpriced drinks may not have been worth the wait, but on a clear day the city view exceeded our expectations. 360° of the surrounding urban landscape, and some of the surrounding buildings even had egg yolks painted on the roof!

Intrigued by the promise of a ‘secret ingredient’, I ordered the house cocktail. Yellow and white, it matched the egg-shaped tables and bars around us. My best guess is that the drink consists of pineapple juice, vanilla vodka, and whipped egg white. Bizarre but tasty.

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Le Nid
Tour Bretagne, 32ème étage, Place de Bretagne, 44047 Nantes
02 40 35 36 49

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