Monday, 17 December 2012

Tramway, Tire-bouchons and Travellers

What a week it’s been! I’d like to pick up with this blog on Wednesday as that is when the last few days got exciting. At 12h12 on 12/12/12, Le Havre launched its long-anticipated tram network running two lines around the city. There’s been one or two teething problems (Line A seems to be much more efficient than Line B, possibly because Grand Hameau where the A trams go didn’t have their buses cancelled and Caucriauville near where I live did) but in general it seems to be going pretty well.

To celebrate the tramway, there were different things going on at the various stops covering the route. Clowns, people giving out freebies, music, dance, giraffes that spat fake snow at regular intervals… it was bizarre but very cool. The culmination of all of this was a ‘Spectacle pyromélodique’ (pyro-melodic show) at the town hall at 7pm. This was, without a doubt, the best outdoor show of any description I’d ever seen. It was slightly similar in style to the Waterlitz show in Southampton last year by Générik Vapeur but I have to say that this one was so much stronger. Put together by Jacques Couturier Organisation (JCO), it had been choreographed down to the last second. It was just stunning.  There’s a few videos on YouTube but I’m yet to find one that can capture the magic of actually being there and seeing the show come together.  Another thing I liked about the show was that it told the story of Le Havre without glossing over anything. They didn’t try to hide the war which scarred the town so badly or the two years plus of intense road works (known as les travaux, best pronounced with a tone of disgust) that the Havraise people have suffered.

After a quiet Thursday night spent doing laundry and tidying my room, Natalie came over on Friday night. We ordered takeaway pizza (Speaking on the phone in a foreign language really is terrifying!). What arrived was the biggest, cheesiest, most welcome pepperoni pizza I think I’ve ever had. We had a really nice night with lots of laughs. At one point, we decided we wanted a civilised glass of wine. ‘When in France…’, after all. The problem? No corkscrew (Tire-bouchon). With hindsight, what I should have done was knocked on my next door neighbour’s door and asked very nicely if I could borrow one. What we ACTUALLY did was Google ‘ways of opening a wine without corkscrew’ and started trying the various methods. Knives, bashing the bottle repeatedly against the wall with a buffer, keys and paperclips all failed. Eventually, in a moment of desperation, I resorted to scissors. Cork burst inside the bottle covering me and a large amount of my bedroom floor (thankfully tiled) in wine. Not one of my better culinary moments, I can tell you!

The morning after, I had to be up bright and early to go and pick up the marvellous Ellie from the ferry port here in Le Havre.

We had such a good weekend. We went home to my place via the Fournil de Montgeon bakery at the foot of the forest (always a win, best bakery in the city by far) and then walked up the hill to my flat. I’m confident that this helped Ellie to feel at home as it’s roughly the same size and steepness as Southampton’s notorious Church Lane. After a not-so-quick brunch involving a seemingly never-ending number of courses, we headed out for our exciting day of French culture. We did LOADS. We started with Les Docks Vauban, one of Le Havre’s two shopping centres. I got a really nice case for my new iPhone 5 in Boulanger and we got to go to Plein Ciel. This shop is best imagined as someone having gone in to Waterstones and saying ‘We can do better than that.’ Across two floors, it has the most glorious range of books and stationery I think I’ve ever seen, it’s all very exciting. From there, we took a tram down to the beach and walked out to the sea. This was followed by the St Joseph’s Church and its stunning high spire. Next on the list was the Musée Malraux (France’s biggest collection of impressionist art outside of the Musée d’Orsay in Paris) where we saw some paintings by Monet, Matisse and Degas. We then proceeded back to Place Hotel de Ville via the Christmas market and the Volcan before eating quickly and heading to the other shopping centre of Espace Coty. The end result of this extremely long list of activities is that we did a hell of a lot of walking and returned to my place absolutely knackered. That being the case, we ate some nibbles (neufchâtel was involved… I’m in love with that cheese) and chilled out watching Miranda. Having learnt my lesson from the night before, I even succeeded in asking my neighbour for a corkscrew. Such a lovely day!

Sunday was a lot more chilled. We visited the jardins suspendus which give a stunning view over the city. Sadly, all of the plants are currently pretty dead due to winter and as it was a Sunday we were stuck there for the majority of an hour. Still… lovely view. In the evening we went for steak at Courtepaille (short straw) with Sam and Natalie. This was a lovely evening full of merriment and joy. I’m happy that my France friends are Brough-approved.

This weekend was all too short but much fun was had, songs sung, films watched and Miranda enjoyed. With only five short days to go, life is pretty sweet.

1 comment:

  1. Nice to have Ellie visit, looks like you had a brilliant time x