April 2007


I have just spent 4 days in Cape Town and have thought a lot of all the fun times we had together over the years in Cape Town and Stellenbsoch. I was lucky enough to be invited to join Parents and Gran on this mini-break as a substitute for Grandpa, who decided not to come on this trip, which suited me well in the end! Husband is at home as he is still working out his notice period while I am already a lady of much leisure. It has been a long time since I holidayed without Husband and this has definitely made me feel like more of Parents’ Child while away than my current adult self.

We have had such a lovely time – walks along the Sea Point promenade, meals at lovely restaurants, reading and relaxing, cocktails. The weather has been typical of Cape Town – two beatiful days followed by two rainy cold days. I was quite relieved when the bitter-cold hit as I packed according to the weather forecast (a risky approach when going to Cape Town) and was running out of warm weather clothes.

We have been having our main meal at lunch around town and eating a light dinner in the hotel at night. (Our rooms are really great – very spacious and, being on the 4th floor, a stunning view of the sea, as well as with kitchens cleverly hidden behind shutter-doors.) As you know I cannot resist a geat plate of food and we have had some superb meals during our holiday. On the day we arrived, we had lunch at one of our favourites, Manna Epicure, on Kloof Street. You two would have loved the cupcakes they had there – little cupcakes with shaved white chocolate arranged as a rose on top instead of icing. The next day Mom, Gran and I (three generations!) drove through to Kalk Bay for lunch at another perennial favourite and Cape institution, Olympia Cafe . Isn’t it funny how such a seemingly rundown and somewhat grimy place can be so popular and have such divine food. I’m not sure if either of you have seen the new, separate bakery they have opened where you can buy their delicous breads and pastries. Before lunch we looked in some of the antique/junk stores – they are packed with so many things it is quite overwhelming – and after lunch we took a stroll through the harbour. Yesterday we tried a new restaurant, Showroom, which I have read about in a few magazines lately. I do love chefs – better than other ‘known’ people like actors any day – and Bruce Robertson is a perfect example of why! The restaurant is adjacent to the Investement Cars dealership so you can drool over hot cars and your food and the chef all at the same time! We had delicious meals, all presented so beautifully. You both wold have loved the dessert – Snakes and Ladders – a selections of lots of littles tastes of a few desserts from Turkish Delight to Basil Mousse. If one can get over the oh-so-superior attitude dripping off the staff, it’s a great place for a unique and intersting but very tasty meal. (The Ghost chairs are stunning too.) Today we took in the stunning views as we drove from Bantry Bay through Camps Bay, past Twevle Apostles to Hout Bay and through to Constantia where we ended up in the Constantia Winelands at one on my favourite restaurants, Constantia Uitsig, for lunch. I just love being there – delicious food in a wonderful setting is such a treat.

Other than gorgeous lunches we have had cocktails at Salt (what a view!), watched Miss Potter (you must both go and see this gem about Beatrix Potter with Renee Z and Ewan McG), enjoyed evening meals relaxing at the hotel in our PJs, and a few games of Scrabble (Dad won them all – no surprises there).

So, as you can tell, I have has a great time here and could happily spend a few more days in the Cape but I am off home tomorrow – Husband is calling!

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I have never been a fan of humiliation. I think it is silly, unnecessary and mean however in the past month of my life I have come to understand (and almost accept) that when learning a language … HUMILIATION is part of the deal, everyday, pretty much all day I am humiliated. Let me tell you, coming to Paris is fun, learning French isn’t.

Because I have progressed to A2 (used to be in A1) the classes have stepped up, instead of verb gymnastics we now do questions and answers. The teacher shoots a question and we are expected to answer … immediately … in front of a class full of strangers. Yes this ultimately results in utter humiliation. If by any chance I am lucky enough to understand the question my answer, no doubt, is completely wrong, my tenses are never right and my pronunciation is so bad that the responses I then get once I have answered are “il n’existe pas” or “je ne comprends pas” which is “this does not exist” or “I don’t understand”!

I have tried to combat the humiliation by preparing more thoroughly for my lessons. I know now that on Thursdays we are asked what we will do for Thursday late night shopping and late night museum openings and on Fridays we are asked what we will do over the weekend and on Mondays asked what we did over the weekends. Either on Tuesdays or Wednesdays she will ask what we did in the afternoon before or what we will do in the afternoon coming up. I know you thinking at least I have worked these out and I have and as part of the nonhumilatation plan I have written all these questions out in all the possible forms
that they could be asked – its taken up nearly a whole book because each question has about 8 choices of actually how to ask it. I then prepare my answers, make sure my tenses are right and that I am actually “doing” a verb and not a noun. I then learn all my answers off my heart and on the way to class in the morning practice them on the metro. I get my coffee and sit in the same place (an unspoken rule) and await the humiliation or perhaps nonhumilation this time (here is hoping) now that I have practised.
But no, I am humiliated once again, either she asks the question in the one way I don’t know or I answer and my pronunciation is so bad I get the “it’s not possible” or “it doesn’t exist” response. So, now when I wake up in the morning, I get dressed and go school and all I do is prepare for the feeling of humiliation and, to be quite honest, feel absolutely terrified!

There is nothing open in Paris on a Sunday, if one looks for a supermarket or even a Tabac, you will not find one open passed 1 o’clock. However one shop is open on a Sunday afternoon and that is WHSmith, the English book store. I love it! I am not sure what attracts me to it, whether it is the fact that the whole store is English and so walking in there I breathe a sigh of relief that I don’t have to concentrate when asking a question, or whether it is that there is so much to look at, I also think that it has become a place of comfort and the store is peaceful- it is 2 floors and has an old carpet, the walls are lined with big old wooden bookshelves which are jam-packed with things to read.

I usually enter right where the travel section is downstairs, I look over the Lonely Planet Guides and pick up a few – secretly planning trips in my mind to exotic places. I then move to the Paris section, where I look at every guide book that I do not already own, yes I own a few. I tell myself I don’t need anymore, that they all say the same thing and provide the same map – I think that deep down I am actually looking for a book that doesn’t exist, something with the title of “Friends in Paris: a list of friends that you little one, will love” or “Shopping for the poor South African: shops that you can afford and that will make you look super cool” but so far I have not found any with those titles and a certain human has said that I will not benefit from yet another Paris tour guide, I know that that the human is right so I move on. I then walk up the creaky old staircase and into the stationery section. Why do I get such pleasure out of looking at cards and stationery I don’t know, but I look for ages at the different pens and notebooks and then move through to the next room which is children’s books, allowing you to escape to a fantasy world. The next room in this shop holds the fashion books and we all know I can spend hours there, I gently page through the massive hard cover books, admiring the dresses and the photos. Around the corner, through the philosophy section (I give that a skip), is the language room and it is in here where I sit down. I put my bag down, cross my legs and stare blankly at the shelves covered with “learning French” books. Again the same Human says that I could not possibly need another book but I still look, “making verbs easier”, “learn french in 15 minutes a day” or “your guide to the language” all jump out at me but there is still not the one I’m looking for. It’s a bit like the Paris guide, there is no book thats title is “Speak french immediately little one”! I pick up my things and go downstairs again.

I then do the dreaded and enter the magazine room where every magazine is stacked neatly on the shelves, I stand there and look, then, much to my parents’ dismay, I pick up a trashy magazine, such as US Weekly, Heat or Hello and read them… why does this give me such joy?
But today was different .. .today I had a moment of genius and read the equivalent of Heat in French. Well started to and I did understand a bit. I have realised that, YES I can finally be back in touch with celeb gossip by only spending 1 Euro a week and I add all sorts of interesting words (some good, some bad) to my vocab. My reading is slow but in a way this is a good thing. Now it will take me a week to read one magazine which means that just as I finish there will be a new one out which ultimately means, I could read this trashy magazine continuously.
Suddenly, as I write this, I am not sure that this is such a good idea and whether I can in fact call this moment genius. I suppose at least I will stop getting the beady eye from the French shop keeper at WH Smith.

Bonjour little one! I read this article in the NY Times today: ‘Affordable Europe: Paris’ and, as a fellow student bounded by exchange rates, I thought of you. It has some great tips like where to shop, where to eat, free wine tastings etc. but my favorite has to be the free tango lessons along the Seine (could only be in Paris!)

Obtaining free things is somewhat of an art: it takes skill, charm, and curiosity. I could probably put together a whole (albeit not wholesome) meal from free samples around NY: starting off with trusty Gourmet Garage and their olive samples, then moving down the aisle to the cheese section for tasty square of jarlsberg, and finally complimenting the savory with a Tasti D-lite mini cup sample of the ‘flavor of the day’ across the road. Oh, and when on 5th Ave I can’t resist the free Lindt balls from the Lindt shop. Yummmo.

I agree with you Middle Sister that its great that Spring has arrived! Today, being Saturday, I woke up late and enjoyed getting dressed into a pair of shorts, sunglasses on and a big handbag, I skipped along the streets of Paris enjoying the sun, (proudly) resisting the ice cream and watching everyone around me… and suddenly I become extremely aware of how tiny Parisian women are… which led me to notice the size of my bottom, especially when I saw it’s reflection in the shop windows, it seems to “stand” out somewhat.

This reminded me of the last time I was particularly conscious of the size of my bum back when a pair of pants ate me! It was last year and I had just finished exams and to celebrate I decided to hit Long Street and Kloof, in Cape Town, for some serious retail therapy. I remember having had a fabulous morning and ended up in a gorgeous shop that was definitely way out of my price range but that didn’t stop me from trying on everything (although in Paris it does). And then I spotted them (I can still see the in my mind): the perfect pants. The shop assistant described them as ‘denim tights’ and said that they would look just fabulous on me, so I took size M and headed for the purple, fur lined, dimly lit change room. I put the pants on. It was then that I realised that no, I don’t have a muffin top but rather a couple cakes stuck onto the side of me but the pants were eventually on…however the cakes on the side seemed to be emphasised and we all know that pants that emphasise cake thighs is not a good look. I decided to take them off, face the fact that I cant wear size M super skinnys and carry on.

Well that was not as easy as it sounds. No, the pants had eaten me, perhaps they were enjoying the cakes! They wouldn’t come off! After much pulling (the pants down and my tummy in) eventually I got them to regurgitate half of my thighs but they were persistent on staying half up/half down! The shops assistant kept asking in a polite voice if I was okay (I didn’t respond), I think he thought I had eaten the pants. He then came to the door and past me a size L! Eventually after much tugging, giggling and red thighs i got the pants off! I remember the relief! I tried on the large but didn’t get them-realised that I am a true African with size L ass but only size M legs and although this was quite a disturbing realisation I think at least I have size M something.

Today as I strolled past the beautiful boutiques in the Marais and other areas of Paris I remembered my pant eating thigh experience and am not even tempted to enter the “out of my price range” stores because they definitely do not stock “African” sizes!

Spring finally arrived in NYC today. Now I hate to think I have been reduced to blogging about the weather when you are planning travels and eating crayfish, but spring is more than just sunshine. As dramatic as it sounds I feel like a new person. In a good way. In fact it seems as if the entire city (and its inhabitants) metamorphosed over night. Hard winter exteriors were shed. Smiles abound. The tulips are out, the parks are fill, the coats are packed away and warm weather clothes are making their debut (which, after being wrapped in layers for months, can make for some interesting sights…). Despite my pale skin’s testimony to the contrary, my roots lie firmly in the southern hemisphere- I was just not programmed to dress in multiple layers without looking like a bergie.  But today spring changed all that and I donned a pretty summer dress topped off with a spring trench and literally skipped out the door.
Happy spring!

Today, an unforeseen problem arose from having three sisters living in three different cities on three different continents with three different languages. (I know they technically speak English in America, however, it is not the same as the ‘Queen’s English’ that we tend to use in South Africa.) So as Middle child and Little one get accustomed to their languages, I suppose it was inevitable that we would experience some confusion along the way. Since ‘travel’ is a key theme in my life at the moment it was only a matter of time until I used the word ‘travelling’ (actually in the invite for our bon voyage party, which I sent to my sisters for comment). A short while later, Middle child sent me an instant message informing me that I had spelt ‘travelling’ incorrectly and that it is actually ‘traveling’, i.e. with one ‘l’. I was shocked and surprised as I have always prided myself in being an excellent speller. Little one was unable to comment as spelling is not one of her top talents. I asked Husband, ‘Can you believe traveling is spelt with one l? I mean hopping has two p’s and running and two n’s. Why then is there only one ‘l’ in travelling?’ As I was preparing to edit the invite I thought I would consult my New Pocket Oxford English Dictionary only to discover that in our own world’s we were both correct. English people spell travelling with two l’s but it is noted that in the US it is spelt with one l! I am sure there will be many more spelling debates between three sisters speaking English, American and French!

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