Saturday, 30 June 2007

Funny Frenchities

I haven't been here that long, but there are certainly some things the French do that are strange for someone coming from Australia. One is their complete lack of supermarkets. In my little village of Gif, there are 5 different banks, a florist, a travel agent, an insurance agent, about 7 restaurants, 2 butchers, a seafood place, a post office, but no supermarket! I think that is the real key to why French people are skinny, they can't buy any food! The seafood place is a bit gross though, they just stick all the fish on ice and then leave it out in the open so all the flies and stuff can crawl over it. It smells really fishy there too, which I don't think is a good sign

Today I managed to find a supermarket in another village though, which was a massive relief, I thought I was going to starve! There I found these pizza crackers which I assumed would be similar to pizza shapes, you know taste salty and have no real relation to actual pizza, but when I opened the box they looked like actual little pizzas with cheese and everything!
French pizza shapes

Notre Dame, Part 1

Today I visited Notre Dame, I have been here last time I was in Paris, but I have never gone to the top mainly because last time the queue to go to the top stretched all the way round the cathedral, and it's a massive cathedral! This time I got there pretty early and so the queue was only about 70m so I was able to get inside after about 40 minutes. There are 387 steps to the top and they are all pretty narrow and they have been worn down by all the people who have walked up there. The views from the top were pretty amazing and it has certainly inspired me to read 'The Hunchback of Notre Dame' which I actually bought while I was there. Once I got back down to ground level the queue to go into the cathedral itself stretched all the way back through the square, so I left that for another day.

I'm certainly looking forward to moving into the Cite Universitare though. At the moment I am a bit over 30 minutes from the centre of Paris, by express train. My stop is the 3rd last stop on the line and is in Zone 5, which is the furthest out zone, this means that it costs me 4 euros one way into Paris. By contrast the Cite Universitare is in Zone 1, which means it costs 1.45 euros to get around. The great thing about the French government is that they will pay half of my transport costs to get to work, so even when I'm living in Zone 1 it won't be too expensive to commute to work.

The flying buttresses of Notre Dame
Notre Dame from the side
The approach to Notre Dame
The gargoyles up close, they each seemed to have their own personality
More gargoyles, each one was different too
The square in front of Notre Dame, by the time I got to the bottom that line stretched almost to the end of the square

View of Paris from the top

Wednesday, 27 June 2007


For the first month of my stay here I am living at the CNRS guest house in Gif-sur-Yvette, where Yvette is a river so the name means Gif on Yvette. The guest house is actually in a big manor house which is pretty cool and it is set in these awesome grounds, with forests and ponds and hidden little alcoves. There is a church right next to my room and the bells go off every 15 minutes it seems, but not at night thank goodness.

It is about a 20 minute train ride outside of Paris, but it is a great little village. I went for a short walk around the place and here are a few photos of where I will be living for the next month. I braved the shops and used my pitiful french for the first time to order 3 apples, a nectarine and some rasberrys, the fruit was fantastic but I'm going to have to work up my courage before I tackle the really busy bakery.
My room in Gif-sur-YvetteThe manor house where I am living until 1st of August

The very narrow streets of Gif-sur-Yvette


So I have landed in Paris finally! I arrived at 6:50am Paris time on the 25th of June. The flight was fairly uneventful, though there was heaps of turbulence all the way from Sydney to Hong Kong. My stomach handled it pretty well, but it complained a bit when the second lot of food arrived. I apologise to the poor guy sitting next to me who got his food just as I vomited into the sick bag. I then managed to get my lip stuck to the ultra-cold ice-cream that was handed out for dessert. Took me about 20 seconds of careful licking to get it free! Apart from that it was good, I recommend Cathay Pacific, they were good, particularly their newer aircraft was fantastic!

Wednesday, 20 June 2007

Farewell Lunch

Our group went out for a farewell lunch to Montezuma's (Mexican food) which was good. It involved lots of sangria and margaritas, which is probably why my last paper still isn't finished. The dramas of last week have been sorted and so it is a little more definite that I have a job over there. I only had to get a letter from my supervisor telling them how good I was and then sign an affidavit that I have a PhD. At least there shouldn't be too many troubles from the examiners (fingers crossed). At least I don't have to do an oral defence!


Me, a big margarita and an even
bigger hat

Farewell Party

I had a farewell party at my place on the weekend, involving 44 gallon drums (for fires), fireworks (illegal) and lots of long island ice teas. All-in-all it was a good party so thanks to all those who came, it was good to see you there.

MMM long island ice teas and fires to keep people warm

Tuesday, 12 June 2007


So there have been a few dramas since the last time I wrote. This job has really been a bit on-again/off-again. I'm not going to be fully convinced I have it until I'm over there in Paris and I receive my first pay check. The main problem was that the French administration would only pay me if I had a PhD certificate and whilst I submitted my thesis 3 months ago, the examiners had only received it 3 weeks ago. The way the PhD process works in Australia is that I write my thesis and submit it, it is then sent off to 3 examiners, usually at least one is Australian. They then have about 2-3 weeks to ask for an oral defence, which is done only in borderline cases. If there is no need for an oral they will read it, note down any corrections that they think are needed and then send the thesis back to me. I then make those corrections, send the thesis to my supervisor and if he is satisfied I am awarded a PhD, so the whole process normally takes at least 3 months. Which means it is going to be a while before I have that PhD certificate in my hot little hand

Friday, 1 June 2007


I'm slowly getting closer to having a place to stay when I arrive. Though the administration wants me to give them some documents when I turn up, on of them is called "un certificat médical attestant de l'aptitude à vivre en collectivité" which google translate and other French speakers tell me means "a medical certificate attesting to the fact that I can live in a community". Have no idea where I'm going to get one of those, a psychologist maybe? They also want "une attestation d'assurance maladie" which I'm assuming is a record of health insurance, though google translate tells me it means "certificate of insurance disease" ??? Now all I have to do is somehow give them 200 euros and then my room should be reserved, I'm hoping that direct debit has found it's way to France, but they don't seem to embrace technology over there