Sunday, January 30, 2011

A blue sky makes everything so much better.

First of all, I’d like to say welcome to my family and friends, who I have directed here as a place to catch up with me while I’m away. Hi all! And an especially big hi to my brother, Alain, and his big bustling family over in Caboolture, Australia.

When I first considered creating a blog, I thought it had to have a theme, a direction, set and concrete! I quickly saw that wasn’t so when I wrote my first post as a way to just get into blogging!! One of the themes I contemplated was a travel diary for while I’m here in Nancy… But February seemed very far away back in October, when I was itching to get started!!

My blog is still only a baby, I definitely haven’t gotten into the swing of things and I’m not sure of the direction I want it to take yet, if any. For now, though, I’m going to write about my adventures in Nancy and the surrounding areas. I plan to spend my weekends in different cities / countries while I’m here in the (sort of) centre of Europe and Germany, Luxembourg, Switzerland, etc. are only a train journey away.* And I’d love to be able to remember all my travels in later years by rereading this blog.

So there you have it! Kittycatch Butterfly will be, for the next two months anyway, a travel diary and a testament to how I survive life in France, where they speak French, not English. I hope you all like it! (:

My first evening in Nancy went something like this:
  • Arrive in Nancy, tired and cranky, after a full day’s travelling. Lug my bag to the wrong side of the train station from where the tram stops. Lug it all the way to the other side.

  • Arrive at apartment complex, collect key from safe and head up to my apartment… Eh… 509, 510, 511… Where’s my apartment??

  • Realise apartment’s on the other side of the building, down one elevator, up another… Can’t get the door open. Argh!!!

  • Finally am let into apartment by my nice neighbour. Thank you!

  • Wow, 20 m2 is smaller than I thought!

Arriving on my first evening was daunting. I knew the apartment / studio / room would be small, but I was shocked at just how small. For instance, check out my “kitchen”.


Kitchen


I’ve since moved in properly, unpacked all my things and made a little “nice space” for my books, guide, photo album and stuff. And I realise – yep, it’s small and the bath is half my size, but I really only need half of this space anyway! There’s a whole press that’s holding only my backpack! I came here with one suitcase and everything fits. It’s kinda perfect.


ShelfYarn
Lol


Yesterday, Saturday, I timed how long it would take for me to get the tram to the New Town and walk from there to the lab, which is at the end of the Old Town**, so I wouldn’t be late for my first day tomorrow. Then I got lunch in one of the many cute cafés this place holds. After lunch, a trip to the Tourist Office, where I got advice about trams and bikes from a super sweet lady! And then a look at the Cathedral, which is A-MAZ-ING!! I didn’t take any photos though, because yesterday just wasn’t a photo day.

Then, the best part, I took a trip to la marché. Oh là là! I mean wow!! A market open five days a week so close to my route home from work. SQUEE! Oh, this is so exciting, to get all my fresh produce from such a place. This is something I’m really going to enjoy while I’m here! I made a dinner of mushroom cream gnocchi yesterday evening, supplemented with some goods bought from la supermaché down the road from my apartment. No photos again, but there will surely be food porn up later in the month! Oh wait, here, I took this today:


Port Salut
I heart Port Salut.


So… I’ve written enough already and haven’t even talked about my Sunday, didn’t really plan for that. I know from experience that when people write long long posts or travel news, I tend not to read… But this is my first weekend here, so I’ll allow myself this ramble and hope that my friends, family and readers are also as forgiving! I took lots of photos today, Sunday, glad to have my photo obsession back! It was a lovely sunny day today, which just made everything so nice. The temperature was still between –6 and 0 oC, but I was wrapped up well, so didn’t mind the cold too much.

Enjoy!


Porte de la Craffe 2Porte de la Craffe 4

The gate through which I will walk to work every day!!


Nancyville 9

My new lab.


Nancyville 15Place Stanislas 3
Place Stanislas 4


Nancyville 25Nancyville 35


Nancyville 16Nancyville 32


Place Stanislas 13Place Stanislas 15 


Nancyville 37

Kisses!


EDIT: Oh là là! How could I have gotten it so wrong. Le marché and le supermarché are, of course, masculine in the French language and I fail at French. Kisses!


*Oh, how I love a good train journey!!

**About half an hour.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Brighton is Lovely!

It’s full of puppies and nieces and family and friends. Oh, it’s great!


Puppy Penny 29


My sister’s new Tibetan Terrier pup, Penny, is adorable, such a sweetie. I know it’s not very nice to laugh at small things falling over, but she keeps on falling off the couch (and not harming herself) and it’s so cute. And seeing her and Laoisha, my niece, together is really nice. Laoisha’s such a boss when it comes to animals and kids younger than her. So here’s a puppy, only two months old and she’s all about the bossing. Argh, so cute!!


Puppy Penny 12
Oh jeez, oh jeez!!
I’m taking care of Penny today while everyone’s at work or at school, etc. She’s chewing up everything around her. And Brad, Emer’s fiancé, seems to leave his socks all over the sitting room. Penny’s chewing, chewing, chewing them up! Now she’s pooped and sleeping on my French Guide Book. And sometimes she sleeps on me!


Me and Penny 3


Penny 2


I met Ana in town yesterday for lunch, some mint chilli tea (who thought that would be a nice combination?) and a bit of window shopping. There are a few gorgeous shops in Brighton, lovely vintage ones and ones with great, great dresses! They make me want to live here so I can buy all the furniture and kitchen bits and buttons in the world. But maybe I’ll have to make do with having a friend and sister who live here and free accommodation for when I do decide to go on a big shopping spree! After a wander about town, we went back to Ana’s house to cook dinner – lentil moussakka and it was yummy! Oh, I’m having such a nice time here!


Kisses!

Monday, January 24, 2011

In other news... SCIENCE!!


I'm loving this documentary on the equation, E = mc^2.

A friend of mine on Facebook sent it to me today and I've just watched the first, of eleven, parts and found it great!!

You can find all parts of the series, in order, here.

Go, go! Educate yourself on SCIENCE!!

All packed and ready to go!!

Packing 1


I think…

When I left Galway, came home to Naas and weighed my bag, it was 19 kg. Oh no! I’ve only checked in 15 kg of a bag!! I called Ryanair today to see if I could add an extra 5 kg to my bag, but it was going to cost €30! And I know you may be looking at my bag and thinking “Well, Fiona, really. Do you need all that stuff? Your yoga mat (that you’ve never used*), your teddy??” But these things are important for me to enjoy my time in Nancy and Tigger’s very very necessary in that he may ward away the lonelies. So this evening, after a little bit of, eh, rearranging and stuffing things into my carry on luggage, my checked bag is down to 15 kg, whoop!! Packing, check!

What about that apartment? I spent a week trying to get someone to take my room permanently, but no one was biting, boo! Luckily, and bizarrely, enough, I found someone who’s working short term in Galway until the day I fly home. He seems lovely! And he’s going to sublet my flat. Great!

And that paper? Unfortunately, it didn’t go out. The data I took isn’t good enough (yet) to be put into a paper. But hopefully, I’ll present this research at a conference in Spain in September! This will be my first time presenting for real to REAL people and it’s terrifying! But it will be great and such a step for me to take.

I had a lovely weekend, filled with love, goodbyes, a few tears and seeing friends I too rarely see! Paul and I spent our last day together laughing, making pancakes and shopping for gerbil supplies. He walked me all the way to the train, which was so sweet of him, and we had a few last words, tears and then I was off. one of my good friends came around on Saturday evening for some tea and we had a really really lovely chat! And I met other good friends of mine out at the pub for a catch up, which was super! On Sunday, my parents, sister Aoife and I went to Dublin to visit House Number 29 and have a tasty meal! The house was great!! An old Georgian house full of beautiful antiques that shows how life was for both the servants and the upperclass family. If anyone is living in or around Dublin, I’d definitely recommend this house for a one hour afternoon dose of culture.

I still have some small things to do before I leave tomorrow afternoon, and then I’m flying to Brighton to see my sister Emer, her fiancé, my niece and their new Tibetan Terrier dog, squee!!

So… Yeah, stage two** of my French adventure is beginning tomorrow and I’m so excited!

Hope everyone’s well!

Fi

*I may never have used the mat, but I do do yoga every week (ish) on the mats we have in college and feel like some sun salutations in the morning would be lovely!

**Stage one is being back home in Naas, chilling out.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Paris, je t’aime…


Eiffel Tower 14


Note: that title and these pictures may be a *bit* misleading…

Some time ago, my PhD supervisor emailed myself and all the people in my research group an advertisement and a link for a chance to do some research abroad. Studying and living abroad is something I’ve always wanted to do, and I’ve always, always wanted to live in Paris!!

Well, it’s not Paris, but that doesn’t matter to me ‘cause it’s still France!

In two weeks, I’ll be moving to Nancy, in the Lorraine region of France, for two months. You would think that I’d be bouncing off the walls at this thought, and I am excited… a bit.

But at the moment, I’m feeling quite melancholy about leaving my boyfriend, family and friends for so long and I don’t take kindly to homesickness. So yeah, I’m a bit sad right now and overwhelmed with the jobs I have to do before I leave.

Jobs like:
  • Finish the experimental section of this conference paper that’s to be handed in in a week.
  • Find someone to move into my sweet little apartment.
  • Pack!

Oh jeez, packing!! What do I bring? I’ll be gone for two months, but I don’t want to bring a mountain of things. I need items that will keep me occupied mostly – books, crochet hook, embroidery. And clothes, maybe I’ll need clothes.

So much to think about and so little time!

I’ve taken a break from this post of about ten minutes, and after coming back to reread, I see that it’s shockingly emotional. I’m moving to France, for fuck’s sake! That’s awesome!! Sure, I’ll miss my friends and family, but I’m only gone for two months. It’s not the end of the world.

I’m leaving Galway Saturday week to go home and spend some time with my parents and friends on that side of the country. Then travelling to Brighton, where my sister, niece and good friend, Ana, live. I’ll be spending three days with them and mainly chillaxing in Brighton where my bag is packed and there’s nothing more I can fret about.

And then, on the 28th of January, I’ll be hopping onto a Eurostar train that will take me under the sea and straight to Nancy*. The Eurostar!! Now, that IS exciting!! Imagine, a train that travels under the sea. Say what?!!! I know it’s not a recent invention or anything, but it just sounds so cool!

And so, here are some photos of the last time I was in Paris:


Eiffel Tower 2


Arc de Triomphe 3
The view from l’Arc de Triomphe.


Sacre Coeur 2Sacre Coeur


Baby ducks!! 3
**

This weekend, I have a few things on. Tomorrow, I’ll be working most of the day to catch up with this damn paper. I’ll hopefully have most of the work for it done by the evening (yay!) and then the proper weekend begins!! Bon Voyage drinks in town tomorrow night. And I’ll be spending ALL of Sunday with Paul (the boyfriend) doing fun things and enjoying our last full day together.

What are your plans for the weekend? Anything fun happening?

Gros bisous!

Fiona

*Well, not exactly straight, there’ll be a few changes… Just three… Eek!!

**I sure hope there’ll be baby ducks again this time!!!

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Butterflies, everywhere!!

Yay!

I have finally bought some Martha Stewart punches!

Finally!

I bought three: the classic butterfly, the apple and the balloon.

It's the butterfly I'm most excited about!

Around... Oh... Nearly two or three months ago now, I bookmarked The Butterfly Project as something I'd really, really like to do.


Ask anyone who knows me even a little and they'll tell you that I love butterflies. Butterflies and cats. They're my small animal loves.*

So this seemed like a nice little project to occupy my time. Looks like it would be kinda... Calming.

I'd say I will change the project a bit. Punch out the butterflies and string them up maybe? A garland of butterflies? Any suggestions?

In other news, I just came across this article while looking for the proper spelling of "leopard". Mad! I was not aware that any birds had fallen from the sky. Were you? But now I've learnt two new words. Two words that I will most definitely forget by tomorrow. But you never know, maybe they'll come up in a table quiz some day.


I hope you're all having a nice week!


Fi

*My sisters, future brothers-in-law, cousins and I were having a conversation over Christmas about our favourite big animal and I think, although I'm so, so fickle when it comes to definite favourites, that mine would be a snow leopard. They're beautiful. 








Three or four years ago, I asked my parents to sponsor a snow leopard for me from the Dublin Zoo for Christmas. However selfless a deed this may seem, don't be fooled! I got a year's membership to the zoo, Fota Wildlife Park and a few random zoos in England out of it... So go me!

What's your favourite animal, big or small? I know favourites are difficult so you can choose more than one if you'd like. (:

Monday, January 3, 2011

Christmas Decorations

Because I live in a small apartment and I was a bit lazy on the decorating front this Christmas, no decorations went up, besides this gorgeous paper snowflake:


Christmas Snowflake 2


I found the tutorial to make this on Cut Out + Keep two years ago and have made a snowflake every year since. I made three this year – one for my apartment, one for my family home and one for the office.


Christmas 6

Office Decorating 20


Chris and I, the crafty ones in my research group, decided the office needed a bit of handmade love. Over the course of a few evenings, we made this long, long paper chain:


Office Decorating 9


We had so much fun making it! And it was easy peasy. Sitting at a desk, talking about baking, sewing and the upcoming Christmas party, cutting and stapling.


Office Decorating 3


We finally put up the decorations one weekend. Simple but pretty, in my opinion.


Office Decorating 12

Office Decorating 17

Office Decorating 18Office Decorating 19


At home, my parents went a bit wild. We had a busy house this Christmas, with future brothers-in-law and eight year olds, so they decided that our decorations needed a revamp! My Mum bought this beautiful carousel:


Christmas 9


And then the tree… So pretty!!


Christmas 1Christmas 3


Mittens certainly liked all the Christmas cheer…



Mittens and the Christmas Tree 2


See? He’s so… Excited… Isn’t he??

There was more snow over Christmas, lots of it!!



Snow 23Snow 47

Snow 53

Snow 39



Unfortunately*, it’s all gone now and, though the temperatures have risen, it’s just not the same. The Winter Wonderland has gone. But it’s a bit more practical for travelling and walking now, which is something to be thankful for.


And there’s Christmas for you! Over for another year. Back to work on Wednesday, eek! I just don’t know how I feel about that. Oh well, at least I’ll have Christmas memories to sustain me!


Fi


*Fortunately for a lot of people.
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