Monday, November 30, 2009
Thursday, November 19, 2009
Wednesday, November 18, 2009
Monday, November 16, 2009
I had the most amazing day today! I got invited for the first time to have dinner with a french family in the little town of Elbeuf Saint Aubin. My hosts were the most adorable french people I have ever met! They even offered to come and pick me up at my schools! My choice of wine is pathetic so I brought along a dozen apples which at the time seemed like a good idea but when the host saw my gift and burst out laughing but graciously took the offering anyway. I have decided to look up Atelier de sommeliers around my area. These are work shops which specialise in wine tasting and the various how tos of wine. I also tried the infamous Foie Gras. Its liver paste of a duck or goose spread on french toast and I loved it!!! Its not too expensive in France and so if you're visiting, take advantage!! So as appetizers or apéritif, we had the foie gras and a Hungarian wine. I was told ''a secret'' by the french host that Hungarian wines are often better than french ones! *gasps*. The wine I tried would make me second that thought. The flavour was so fruity and calm, I felt as if I was tasting apples and peaches at the same time. Its a shame that Im such a dunce and forgot to take down the name of the wine :( but all the same even if I did it was pretty expensive stuff so I would not be buying it anytime soon. For our main course we had a rice and chicken curry (they didnt want me to forgo my indianess) and a red wine, followed by curry fish, bread and white wine. For dessert we had a huge strawberry cheese cake (I think) and it was the highlight of the meal because it was sooo delicious!
The couple had been to Cochin in the south of India a while back and were absolutely fascinated by the place and the welcome they had received and all they wanted to talk about was India and also about me as an Indian in France and how I was being treated here, etc, etc. I thoroughly enjoyed every minute of the conversation and then they proceeded to show me their 2000 photographs take were taken in India. The host was especially excited that his wife got to ride on the back of an elephant. Because ofcourse how could you go t India and not ride an elephant! What I loved about them was that they understood our culture very well and were not biased towards the various stéréotypes about India (most of which are very much alive and thriving). They live in Elbeuf which is 20 minutes by train from Rouen and since Elbeuf is a tiny village there are no trains that run beyond 8 pm. So they got out their car and dropped me back home and did not let me leave without taking the parcels of various foods she had left over (about 5 containers!) I was so touched my their kindness and Im sure these are friends I will have for life. France confuses me at times, the French seem to be all high and mighty but really they are soft at heart :) So let me assure you, french hospitality is pretty awesome (on the rare occasions that it shows up!) :)
Sunday, November 15, 2009
Saturday, November 14, 2009
So another habit that Ive picked up in France is drinking tea. Well Ive always been a regular tea drinker but somehow living in Rouen has reinforced my thirst for different flavours of Tea. So today Andy, me and 3 other girlies went to tea. I still havent figured out why Rouen has such a strong tea culture. Probably because it is not too far from England and the Rouennais would like to have the numerous English tourists visiting here to feel right at home.
Dieppe is a tiny coastal town in Upper Normandy and I decided to go pay my Italian friend a visit during the Toussaint vacations. It rains a lot here and have an umbrella on you at all times! Dieppe is about 1 hour from Rouen and trains are frequent. I spent a lovely 5 days in the place and then started to get really bored because there really isnt too much to see. However I really loved the Dieppe Esplanade and went there for some really long walks all by myself and I found myself loving the strong sea winds and couldn' help staring for a long while at the ocean. They have pebbles instead of sand on their beach! It made me all homesick because back home I was at the beach practically everyday where it sand is so delicate, you feel you have stepped on satin! and ofcourse I could not swim in the sea at Dieppe lest I was up for a quick death. The water there was freezing! At around 5 or 6 pm almost everyday you can find plenty of kites dotting the skies and its lovely to find old couples walking hand in hand and smiles on kids faces when their kites which came in a myriad of shapes and colours would soar high above.
I couldnt do much sight seeing because I had really bad shoes on, they were from Bata's in Rouen and the saleswoman convinced me that even though it was a size smaller, the shoes would broaden out and lo and behold! THEY DID NOT! When I got back to Rouen I went and tried to exchange them but ofcourse they would not except because 'they were worn' they had the price tag and everything at the sole but they refused to accept them back because they were worn. Ofcourse I had to wear them to find out that they were'nt a good fit you idiot!! I was forced to buy another pair of shoes in a charming boutique in one of Dieppe's shopping lanes. Dieppe seems like a part of Rouen that was sliced off and sent to the coast. The shops and the prices are exactly on par with those in Rouen. Except there are much more supermarkets in Rouen than its neighbouring towns which is why I loove living here!
I hear that they have a lovely chateau-musée and I will go check it out the next time Im there. I could not go previously because I would wake up just in time as the museum closes. However I did visit the Café des Tribunaux in the heart of Dieppe.
I am a literature buff and I had to go visit the place that was frequented by Maupassant and Flaubert!
I went there twice actually and I absolutely recommend their Thé au Citron and when I was there for lunch I thoroughly enjoyed their well cooked beef steak. The only negative point about the Café is the service. The staff are curt and always in a
hurry. We had to debate for atleast 10 minutes on who would have the courage to ask the waiter to take a picture. I wonder how the service must have been when Oscar Wilde went there because apparently he wrote The Ballad of Reading Gaol in this café! Other famous visitors were Monet, Renoir, Pissaro and Whistler. But despite the really rude staff I think i will go here again because I checked their menu and they serve a variety of delicious things with nutella! The clientele is chic but not too fancy where you need to wear a suit to fit in.Perfect!
Besides that I made friends with assistants from England, Spain and America and together we went to many pubs and clubs around the area. This one pub called The Curling is quite a hit with the locals and the owners and bartender are really friendly. If you're in the mood for some billiards they even have a pool table and lots of space on the first floor to carry out a conversation over drinks. While in Dieppe, I was also introduced to Kebabs for which I am not thankful because I have cravings for them now more often than I should! I ate a lot of seafood, drank lots of wines and especially enjoyed the Chardonnay with fried prawns and squids. The Spanish assistant made Paella (a Spanish culinary delight comprising of 5 different types of fish) which was ever so delicious and with that we had Sangria which I thought was a lemonade at first but uh uh! Its way stronger! its red wine spiked with rum and it has apples, lemons and other fruits marinated in it, so delicious but to be drunk in moderation :)
The last few days of my vacay, it did not rain much but sure was a lot colder than Rouen thanks to to strong sea winds. I was glad it was time to leave because I had run out of things to do. I love the little town of Dieppe and I would absoulutely recommend it to anyone only for a short weekend trip. I was walking back to the SNCF railway station in a relaxed state of mind and when suddenly it began to pour and I realised I had not put on waterproof eyeliner :)
End of October hols 2009 :)
So Ive begun reading again and on reading the Curious Case of Benjamin Button, one cannot help but admire F Scott Fitzgerald, who is undoubtedly one of the best American writers we have had. Im amazed though how a film could have been based on this short story because the story lasts only 35 pages! But it is of course a master piece. Benjamin Button is born with the appearance of a 75 year old. His parents are extremely embarrassed, especially since they belong to high society in Maryland and this scandal can adversely affect the social and economic life of the Button family. One cannot help but notice certain impolite undertones for instance lets analyze this passage ‘He would have to introduce this, this septuagenarian. “This is my son, born early this morning”…they would plod on, past the bustling stores, the slave market-for a dark instant Mr. Button wished passionately that his son was black-past the houses of the residential district…’ the story has many hilarious instances as well. The times when 70 yrs old Benjamin is forced to play with a rattle and forced to attend kinder garden much to the horror of the nurse and classmates, all because Mr. Button refuses to acknowledge that his son has an abnormality and insists on giving his son the most normal childhood attainable.
Fitzgerald then continues to give us a beautiful description of Button’s first encounter with love and beautiful it is! I had to copy down this passage because the description is priceless. “It was a gorgeous evening. A full moon drenched the road to the lusterless color of platinum, and late-blooming harvest flowers breathed into the motionless air aromas that were like low, half heard laughter. The open country, carpeted for rods around with bright wheat, was translucent as in the day. It was almost impossible not to be affected by the sheer beauty of the sky-almost…..lights of the Sherlins’ country house drifted into view and presently there was a sighing sound that crept persistently toward them-it might have been the fine plaint of violins or the rustle of the silver wheat under the moon. They pulled up behind a handsome brougham whose passengers were disembarking at the door. A lady got out, then an elderly gentleman, then another young lady, beautiful as sin. Benjamin started, an almost chemical change seemed to dissolve and recompose the very elements of his body. A rigor passed over him, blood rose into his cheeks, his forehead, and there was a steady thumping in his ears. It was first love….the girl was slender and frail, with hair that was ashen under the moon and honey colored under the sputtering gas-lamps of the porch. Over her shoulders was thrown a Spanish mantilla of the softest yellow, butterflies in black; her feet were glittering buttons at the hem of her bustled dress..’
That what I love about the author, his way of romancing the reader though descriptions like these. So when Benjamin falls in love for the first time, he is 21 years old but his physical appearance is that of a 50 year old man and he’s mistaken to be his father’s brother. Hildergarde Moncrief is the beauty who catches his eye and sure enough she agrees to dance with the charming elderly man whose being so kind to her. “I like men of your age” Hildergarde told him. “Young men are so idiotic…You’re just the romantic age,’ she continued- ‘fifty. Twenty-five is too worldly wise, thirty is apt to be pale from overwork, forty is the age of long stories, sixty is too near seventy; but fifty is the mellow age. I love fifty.’ ‘Ive always said’ went on Hildergarde, ‘that I’d rather marry a man of fifty and be taken care of than marry a man of thirty and take care of him.’ In my opinion this makes so much sense and of late this is slowly becoming my motto. Older men have begun to appeal to me and true enough they seem to have much more sense and not to forget much more experience *winks*
So Hildergarde falls in love with Benjamin who adores her and soon they get married much to the shock and disgust of her family and Maryland society. But soon the war breaks out and people’s interests change from trivialities to more serious needs. Benjamin takes over his father’s business and becomes rich, contrary to what Hildergarde’s father had predicted. Slowly the society and family begins to accept the nouveau riche and life is rosy for the longest while in the Button household. As the years roll by Benjamin begins to get younger and handsomer and his wife ages (not gracefully we read) and he begins to lose interest in her! Again we come across a passionate description about age taking its toll on appearance and relationships. This is where I began to get angry at Benjamin Button
“At the time Hildergarde was a woman of 35, with a son Roscoe, 14 years old. In the early days, Benjamin had worshipped her. But as the years passed, her honey colored hair became an unexciting brown, the blue enamel of her eye assumed the aspect of cheap crockery- moreover, and most of all, she had become too settled in her way, too placid, too content, too anemic, in her excitements and too sober in her taste. As a bride it had been she who had ‘dragged’ Benjamin to dances and dinners- now conditions were reversed. She went out socially with him but without enthusiasm, devoured already by that eternal inertia which comes to live with each of us one day and stay with us to the end…”
Benjamin joins the army because he can't bear the thought of living any longer with his wife. In the army he gains a reputable position thanks to his well known business. When he returns back home, he finds that his wife has moved to Italy and Benjamin is happy to immerse himself in the company of starlets, dancers and women throng to his haunts just to be in his company. But soon Benjamin realises that he's only getting younger, he had expected that once he reaches a certain point, his body would stop "not aging". Soon Button has to turn over his company to his son Roscoe because his youthful features doesnt allow for people to take him seriously. Roscoe is embarassed to even be close to his father and agrees to let Benjamin talk to him only if he promises to enroll himself into children's hour classes and adresses Roscoe as "uncle" in front of his friends. Benjamin is left with no choice and agrees, soon he realises that his beard has stopped growing and as he grows older his physique strangely turns more boyish. His son gets angry at his father and asks him to stop whatever he is doing because these physical changes are adversely affecting the way people view the respectable Button Household. Soon Benjamin is obliged to stick to the company of children and in a last effort to prove his real age, he runs away from home and decides to enroll in the army again. This only causes an uproar in the army and the soldiers have a good laugh at the "lad trying to play general-general".
Roscoe comes and collects his father, who is very similar in height and weight to Roscoe's youngest son (not quite a toddler). Roscoe buys his father a rattle and Benjamin's life now revolves around nursery, his playmates are toddlers and his nurse is the center of his life. They go to the park every day and "the nurse points to a large grey shape and says 'elephant' and Benjamin repeats in a loud voice 'elyfant elyfant". Soon Benjamin's life is limited indoors and much later only to his little white crib."He did not remember. He did not remember clearly whether the milk was warm or cool at his last feeding or how the days passed- there was only his crib and Nana's familiar presence. And then he remembered nothing. When he was hungry, he cried-that was all.Then it was all dark, and his white crib and the dim faces that moved above him, and the warm sweet aroma of the milk, faded out altogether from his mind." So that's the ending of the story which doesnt really expose the destiny of Benjamin Button. I assume the baby died or perhaps its a cycle wherein he begins aging once he's gotten the youngest possible. It would be sad to believe the human with so much experience died an anti-death, so I personally believe Benjamin Button does have a chance of getting older. I havent seen the movie though, I would love to see how the movie ends, could someone seriously kill Benjamin Button?