vendredi 10 décembre 2010

Lyon Fête des Lumières 2010

Right now I'm in Lyon enjoying the Fête des Lumières (Lights Festival). Don't ask me how I managed to wrangle 2 nights for free in an apartment in the heart of the city right during one of its busiest period for accommodation... it's my lucky day/week/month! However, it seems I won't be getting any sleep tonight... It's almost midnight and there is a big band playing downstairs on the street... Everybody is in such a festive mood!

Boy on boy was it cold. It was a pretty much cloudless day and those days are always colder than cloudy days. I am surprised I managed to stay out for over 4 hours in -2°C temperature ! Incredible. At times I didn't think I could last but everyone else did, even the little kids and old people so I pushed on although I did give up queuing up for the Jungle one. I might see it tomorrow... It looked good but I really did not want to stand for ages in a queue! (I hate queues).

I'd been looking forward to this even for a year (well since the last one) so I had very high expectations and I was a little disappointed. I'm not sure why exactly. Maybe the massive crowds has something to do with it. I enjoyed the lights festival in May/June in Sydney and it was hardly crowded at all! As well as that it went on for much longer than just 4 days. I guess the crowds and the mega cold was a dampener for me but there were some nice things to see.  My fave (of those that I saw) was the one in Place des Terreaux. The combination of the lights, the sound/music and the water was just amazing!

All the restaurants were open and many had little stands selling fast and cheap snack type food, and vin chaud ((hot) mulled wine). I didn't try any though because I wanted to bring the bare essentials so I didn't even bring my wallet or a handbag! I didn't want to get pickpocketed amongst the crowds. Although I shouldn't have worried because it felt really really safe. There were stacks of police everywhere and everyone was well behaved. I kept thinking to myself if this was in Australia and it was late at night and a Friday night at that and almost Christmas there would surely be many loud, annoying drunk people about but I didn't see any of these... just annoying smokers everywhere :P


17 December: added photo

mercredi 8 décembre 2010

Ski wear and Snowboard wear in France

I'm planning to go skiing in the near future (who wouldn't when they live so close to the snowfields?!) and looking to buy some ski clothing. I've been skiing once before. A LONG time ago. I think I just wore whatever I had at home which was far from appropriate. My pants were not even waterproof! They were those thick fleecy pants you wear for sport (or in my case, for sleep). Yeah, I cringe at the thought of my lack of knowledge (or my parents' lack of knowledge rather) about skiwear...

So, a few weeks ago (before it even started snowing actually) was reading up on skiwear (and also watching tutorials on YouTube and other video websites about how to actually ski instead of 'falling gracefully')...  I discovered some key words such as breathability (respirant) and waterproof (imperméable) ratings. They start from 1,000 and go up to around 20,000+. The average ski jacket/pants in the shops is around 3-5,000 and 10,000 is very good. I doubt you'd need anything more than that unless you are a hardcore winter sport enthusiast. Of course the higher the number the more expensive the item is too. And then you have Gore-Tex which is a whole other world altogether and defies numbers.

It's all a bit confusing so I won't even try to explain it but here are two (one, two) good websites which explain it well.

I decided I wanted at least a 5000/5000 rating (or more if I could afford it).

I have a few problems:

1) I live in a small town and don't have a car so it's a pain to do any shopping for anything other than food (a whole new post on this topic coming up soon)
2) I seem to be the size of the average French woman so almost everything I want to buy is sold out in my size. This happens all the time. Even if the product is not on sale! It is beyond frustrating.
3) Ski clothing is ugly. Am I the only person who thinks this? Why can't they just come in normal colours other than black or white? I don't want to wear hot pink or puke chartreuse or look like I'm 8 years old. It's as if - how should I say this? - somebody threw up in Photoshop. Why do the patterns on ski clothing have to be so loud and garish and 80s? As well as that, it makes you look fat and/or pregnant.
Also, why are there so many white ski clothes? Do people want to be camouflaged or what? I don't get it. I keep having paranoid thoughts about being stuck in the mountains and noone being about to find me because... I am wearing head to toe in white! Hahahaa. Call me silly but I think about these things. And then to me, black is just too dreary which leaves the highlighter pen type colours, or your wacky crazy patterns.

Ho hum.

I have no choice but to buy it on the internet but I'm never sure what size to get as it largely depends on what brand it is... It's going to be very interesting seeing if I can even find anything that I like, in my size, AND in my price range!

On the plus side, ski wear (and sports wear/equipment in general) seem to be a heck of a lot cheaper in France than in Australia, and I love that there are so many sport stores with discounted prices. In fact, winter technical clothing, accessories and equipment (for randonées, skiing and snowboarding, etc) seems to be about 1/3 price of that in Australia!


Edited: I ended up buying a jacket from Intersport in Lyon. It's by the brand Protest and cost 169 euros. It's more than I wanted to spend but I figure if I can wear it as a normal jacket then it's like getting 2 in one. It has a rating of 8000 for both breathability and waterproof... waterproofability? waterproofedness? watertightness? so it's totally worth the price I think. I fully recommend that store in the Croix Rousse in Lyon. It was huge. It had 2 storeys and the largest range of ski clothing I'd seen in any store. Of course it also sells other sports stuff too including actual skis.

dimanche 5 décembre 2010

The Journey Part III

Part I

Part II

... so they took us on a quick boat ride from the floating pontoon onto a sandy beach for a.... shark feeding session! It was fun and exciting except I desperately needed to go the toilet... and then I discovered there was no toilet paper and I had nothing on me (as all our belongings were still on the pontoon). And I REALLY needed it if you get what I mean. So I asked a girl from a different tour group and luckily she had some.

Later, I realised I was really dehydrated and extremely thirsty and once again some nice person in a different tour group gave me their bottle of water. I was feeling really sick the whole time but managed to put on a happy face and enjoy myself as best I can and even get some great photos of me in and out of the water. I bet if someone were to look at the photos they would have no idea just how sick (and weak and dizzy) I was feeling...

The water was so clear and there were so many tiny little fish swimming around and I even saw some sea cucumbers. It was pretty cool.

Then they took us back to the pontoon for one last snorkel (where I did nothing and tried very hard to get rid of that nauseating feeling) before getting back on the ferry to go back to the mainland. Luckily that stupid woman was not making a racket this time!

Once we got back I was really sad to say goodbye to my 2 new friends but that's life! Hopefully we'll meet again sometime somewhere in the future...

Then everybody caught a bus back to their hotels I was last to be dropped off. The driver even forgot to drop me off and when he did, he didn't even drive me inside and dropped me at the road so I had to walk up that LONG driveway whilst feeling sick and weak... ugh... bad memories and I would complain to the company if I could be bothered.

I was thankful I had such a nice hotel room to relax and get some rest in...

I had zero appetite and didn't eat anything that night. Then the next morning I was off again! Back to the airport to go to Singapore...

I was excited to see Changi airport again because last time I was there it was some hideous hour in the early morning where all the shops were closed so I didn't get to see or do much. I had a quick look at some of the shops after I landed and then caught a taxi to my hotel.

It was taxis all the way... I was soooo glad I was in Asia where I could actually afford to take a taxi everywhere. The driver dropped me off at the wrong hotel, but it was all good because my hotel wasn't that far away and I didn't have much baggage on me (because I'd left it in my hotel in KL if you have been following my story).

I stayed at the Fragrance Selegie that I booked through Agoda, who, I discovered have lower prices than other hotel/accommodation websites (but their range isn't so big). It was exactly as advertised and I have no complaints at all. The room was tiny but for 1 person this was not a problem for me. It was well sealed against sound (as I am a really light sleeper and probably my main complaint apart from cleanliness is noise) and it had a tv, and kettle, and bathroom.

I spent the afternoon sleeping hoping this problem would go away... I'd barely eaten anything yet still had no appetite.

That night, one of my lovely friends who lives in Singapore came to visit me and took me out to buy some medicine and just have a walk around. I couldn't walk very fast or very far but I was OK. I had a light snack so that I didn't faint. I was so thankful and happy to have a friend around. It does get rather sad and lonely travelling by yourself.

After seeing her I started to feel better and the next day I even had enough energy to walk to the train station and take the train. However, it started to go downhill rapidly... I actually thought I was about to pass out at one stage and just when I made it to a GP in this big shopping mall she told me she was closed for lunch! (contrary to the sign on the door too). I was furious but too weak to argue. After walking around the mall forever (where there were no maps to be found anywhere) and getting really fed up I just decided to leave and took the next taxi out of there and told him to take me to the nearest doctor.

Luckily the driver was really helpful and said it would be better to take me to a doctor closer to my hotel so that I could just walk home afterwards (otherwise I would need to take 2 taxis which would cost more and take more time). He dropped me off in front of this medium-sized commercial building which was mostly full of medical professionals (but had a few shops and hairdressers and stuff in it too)... Seeing the GP was so easy and so great. It's usually really good in most places in Asia.

You don't have to wait long (I didn't have to wait at all), it's not that expensive, and you don't have to go to a separate pharmacy as they fill all your scripts for you right there! And they even give you the exact dose so you don't end up with half a box of (whatever) left over that you paid for and won't need again.

He was very understanding and told me basically that I had food poisoning (I don't know why I thought I didn't have it... maybe because I wasn't vomiting and I was convinced you needed to be vomiting AND having diarrhoea to have it) and that I needed antibiotics. He only gave me 2 tablets. I requested more but he said I didn't need it. Whaddya know? I didn't. He also gave me some other stuff like this probiotic powder (which was a French brand funnily enough), painkillers (for stomach pain/cramps), well basically he gave me too much and I didn't take it all but I was glad to have it 'just in case'.

It was also raining that whole day and suffice to say I did not do a lot or see a lot in my time in Singapore. I was really disappointed because the first time I went there a few years ago I was also really sick and spent most of the time feeling like death and sleeping in the hotel room... Perhaps Singapore and I just aren't meant to be! be continued...

Part IV

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