Monday, November 18, 2013

She's got a ticket to ride

Yeah, don't try to ride the train in France without a ticket.  This man happened to be very nice and saw by the panic on my face and my travel itinerary that I had in fact purchased a ticket online and was simply a France train n00b.  He told me that no, you can't print e-tickets out at the station, unless the station is open, which it rarely is in my small town.  You can print them out at the post office, though!  (Of course you can)
Travel here has been fine, but there always seems to be some little detail that trips me up.  You know the only 2 times my credit cards haven't worked here?  When I was buying a train ticket back from Geneva 10 minutes before departure, and when I needed gas late at night in the middle of nowhere.  Two weeks ago, I was riding an older model of train, and when we stopped I couldn't open the door.  There was no one around and we took off before I could open the door, so I took a 90 minute detour to the next stop and back.  Things here aren't backwards, but they are different from what I'm used to, and learning the ins and outs is a long and laborious process fraught with mistakes.  I leave a lot of margin time on my itinerary when I travel!!
So what's new in the last couple of weeks?  A lot!  Things here are going really well. 
We cleaned out the garage and moved the outdoor furniture and trampoline inside for the winter, as we've just started seeing snow in the mornings (EEEEE).  The mountains around us are slowly turning white, and everyone's gearing up for 4 cold cold months.  I borrowed a gigantic puffy coat from my host mom that I think is going to save my life.  I look like a giant black marshmallow but I love it.

We celebrated Halloween in my village, which was a treat for me.  I was shocked by how homesick I got around Halloween, thinking about my traditions like throwing a party with Hannah, going to a big PDX comic scene party, making some elaborate, geeky costume, getting crunkity with my friends on the Saturday before, and handing out candy on Halloween itself to the adorable neighborhood chitlins.  In our little French village, Halloween is in the early stages of catching on.  We trick-or-treated many houses that did not answer or did not have candy.  We received an egg from one house.  We trick-or-treated a building I thought was a house that turned out to be an industrial kitchen with several farm hands processing milk late at night.  The amazing thing was that the woman who answered the door rushed off to find some candy and returned with a ton of jelly beans!  It was a super fun night.
I made some new friends!  These two ladies from my class (also au pairs, from Spain and Italy) invited me on a day trip to Lyon, and have been very very fun to hang out with.  S on the left lives 3 minutes away from me and we've been able to carpool, which is such a treat.  We save money on gas and have company on our commutes!

I went out dancing for the first time since getting here.  I felt like I was in college again, but it was great.  So crazy.  Spanish people party hardy!
I got a library card and have been enjoying the bounty of even our tiny town's library.  So many comics!  You wouldn't believe it.  At least half of the stock is comics.  I've been continually amazing by how well-read people here are, and how often I find myself in conversations about new comics or a storytelling technique someone found clever or what materials they prefer in the comics they's unbelievable!  And I've been fortunate enough to find people interested in trading comics, so I can save a little money and discuss books with other people. :)
Annecy transformed, seemingly overnight, into a winter wonderland.  I spent Saturday in town at a BD dedicace and then wandered around the city at twilight.  It was freezing cold and gray outside, but that made the warm lights of the stores feel magical and inviting.  I got a Nutella crepe to go and learned that hot red wine is a thing here (in little to-go cups while you walk the street!).  There are Christmas lights and the lake is so, so pretty...sigh!
There's a sweet family in my village that has invited me on a few outings with them.  I signed up for the Course de l'Escalade with the mom, who is training for her first full marathon in April!  We've gone to run by the river a couple of times while the dad and kids run or play on bikes and roller blades.  On December 7 we'll run 4.8km through downtown Geneva with a ton of other people.  I've heard the whole city comes out to watch/run/party, and I'm really excited about it.  I only wish I'd brought some giant Nike or PDX sweatshirt to rep my hometown!! ;_; I might use face paint to draw an American flag on my cheeks or something...

And lastly, there was this "coq-au-vin" fundraiser for my little girl's school in the next village over.  We went to a community center and drank and ate dinner with about a hundred people from the area.  It was so fun.  It cracked me up that it lasted until 11:30, when the same kind of thing in the US would be over by 7:30!  I was amazed how welcome and comfortable I felt.  It made me step back and realize that, actually, I know more than a few people here, between waiting for kids at the morning and afternoon bus stops, kid play dates, babysitting for other families, etc...people here are great, and I'm starting to feel a little bit integrated in the community.  It's a wonderful feeling.


  1. Yeah, I always print my e-ticket at home before I go (an alternate method would be to download it on your computer/tablet/phone/anything and show that to the controller). Our train system is getting sillier and sillier, not to mention it's impossible to guess what the fare will be for a given trip (the price might double at certain times due to factors unknown) and the stations where the remployees are replaced by unhelpful robots or who are turned into shopping malls...

    1. Ha ha! Good to know that a copy on my phone will suffice in a pinch. YES, the rates change so randomly!! I can check rates for the same train for a week and get completely different results every time.

  2. Aaaaaaaaaaaaah... I always wanted to go to France to see the great architecture of the cathedrals... but you make me want to LIVE there. ;A;