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Monday, June 10, 2013

France 2012 - Day 3-7 - Rambouillet (Part 1)

France 2012
Day 3-7 - 15th October-19th October - Rambouillet
(Part 1)

This week I had lessons at l'Institut International de Rambouillet. Unfortunately this was low season, so there were no activities and only two classes. The town of Rambouillet was half an hour from Paris by train, but having been there a few times I didn't really feel compelled to go there.

I wanted to watch La Fille du Régiment and Les Noces de Figaro, which were playing in Paris, despite the lack of surtitles and thus risking violating my rule of only watching operas if there were surtitles in a language I understood. Unfortunately tickets were sold out by the time I arrived in Rambouillet; so much for wanting to assess the ground (train schedules, class timetables etc) - I should just have bought tickets and skipped classes if necessary. So I missed Natalie Dessay in the former.

There were a lot of Japanese students there, and almost all of them were girls (indeed, I was one of the very few male students - and the only one in my class). We were discussing strange aspects of Japan, and it turned out the Japanese have a word for the area between a woman's hemline and her knee, which Japanese men have a fetish for. Then an Israeli woman complained that when she talked to Japanese they stared at the area between her bust and her neck, and she wanted to slap them. According to the Japanese girls, it would be impolite to look her in the eye.

All 3 Japanese girls in my class had that ubiquitous handheld translator device.

It seems people in Kyoto are not nice beause tourists annoy them.

Apparently many Japanese are allergic to alcohol. On this subject, an American girl was allergic to wheat flour but the Israeli to alcohol, and the former preferred her allergy.

Japanese use a lot of water and leave the lights on 24/7. This is a problem when Japanese students homestay. Incidentally I suspect it's only in Europe (including the UK) where you have motion-activated lights, or lights where a button will turn them on for a while but they will later turn off.

As expected the rooms were generally overheated (at least for my tastes), so I drank a lot of water and sat near the door in the classroom. The situation in my room was more annoying: despite fiddling with controls I was unable to turn down the heating, so my room became a sauna in the day. In the end I had to open the window to let all the hot air out, which was very wasteful.

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Street sign for "Le PUNJAB", an Indian restaurant

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"Bel-Air" kindergarten. Hurr.
Also the Arbouville farm must be very famous

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Rambouillet street
Notice that the Orange store almost faces its competitor SFR. SFR didn't have an attractive pre-paid mobile phone deal: €9,90 for the SIM and €35 for 1G of data, so I held out for Orange which was closed on Monday.

The town was bigger than I thought. There was even a Carrefour City, open from 9-1pm on Sundays.

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Lingerie - behind bars

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Their pride in their history - Henry IV (strangely, spelled the English way) granted them letters of patent in 1595

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"Everything rolls [functions] cheaper with Ada"
This is a bad pun

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Hôtel de Ville, 17th century. Naturally, Rambouillet is yet another "Ville d'art et d'histoire", and this building is certainly one reason. I'm surprised that there're only 167 cities in this category.

I then went snooping in Carrefour.

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Tea. Note that little is black tea - there were 1.5 shelves of plain black tea and Earl Grey: Lipton Yellow Label and Darjeeling. The rest were Green Tea, Infusions, Fruit Tea (technically Earl Grey is probably a Fruit Tea but it's in the canon so we let it pass)

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"Carrefour prawn fritters, which are crunchy and melt in your mouth, are a great accompaniment for your apéritifs and Asian meals. These prawn fritters lack colouring, preservatives and are made from fresh prawns"
Keropok never sounded so good
Surprisingly it was only €0,73 for 50g, which was okay. It's an Indonesian recipe, but uses sunflower oil - FAIL!

BJ was more expensive than I expected: €5,92 per pint. Haagen-Dazs was a few cents more. Of course, the cheapest wine was €1,50 for 750ml.

Cookies were cheaper than in Singapore (not Malaysian crap - one cannot compare to that) and so was pasta, but 150ml of Kikoman was €4,12 (discounted from €4,82). There was also "sauce for nems".

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Bread on shelf???

Since I was going to be in one place for a week (really rare for me), I could do grocery shopping. Well, if I'd had a car I could've done that too.

They had bread marked "longue conservation". Presumably this was full of preservatives like in Singapore.

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A shop open on Sunday! Even if only for 3 hours (9 hours on other days).

Really, shops should coordinate so they don't all close on Mondays. Grr.

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Normal price for movies: 10€
One thing that is still cheap in Singapore - movies. This is called Bread And Circuses.

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Tanning salon - open 7/7 days: 10-8 on Sundays too. Priorities!

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One road, many names. 8 names in 239 years is quite extreme

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"Rue du Général de Gaulle"
They gave up on putting its old name, just writing "Ancienne Grande Rue" (former Major Road)

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This hair salon had a list of prices for male hair - but they were smart enough to specify "short hair"
If you're under 20 you get a 20% discount

Walking in the Centre-ville (town centre) I counted 5-6 pharmacies. The French are really hypochondriacs.

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"Restaurant Sourire de Saigon [Smile of Saigon]. Thanks for your confidence"
That's a great "we've closed down" sign

2 Korean girls were at the Institute to study French for 6 weeks. They wanted to take makeup courses with just 6 weeks under their belts. I was skeptical about how that would work, but the Israeli lady, after 5 weeks, was able to speak quite well when she couldn't previously. Meanwhile one Japanese girl couldn't speak it 3 month before... and now had a French boyfriend (okay, maybe that's not such a good measure).

In the 70s people were told to throw their rubbish in gullies by the road.

According to one teacher, the Paris métro is not 24 hours to ensure people are not up and about 24/7. Ahh, social engineering.

A German woman said she saw Wagner without surtitles and was unable to understand it.

I was told that cat tastes like rabbit.

In Rambouillet, if your garden is too small you cannot grow food for your family. This was very puzzling.

There are cities/towns in France where one cannot be topless. Hah.


I wasn't terribly impressed by the food (even considering it was school food; I swear I'd taken pictures of the meals on some days, but I can't find them), but I was told this chef was new and took pride in cooking (he'd come out to watch us eat), and the old one was really terrible - there were insects in the vegetables and they were too salty, the chicken was overcooked and had no salt or pepper.

Dinner was from 7-8pm which was short enough, but from 745 we were chased out. I guess the staff wanted to go home.

I actually took some photos of the food (and some miscellaneous other things) but it seems all the non-foursquare pictures I took disappeared, probably due to accidental deletion. Ah well.

We got budget pudding which was so plainly packaged (like combat rations), even pet food looked more appealing (externally).

I saw a Korean eating her own sandwich bread instead of the provided baguette. She found it too hard, hard. At the Japanese table no one brought their own bread, but only half were eating baguette.

The Israeli woman found taking pictures of food strange. Someone suggested that I say it was how we said Grace in my country.
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