The ballet

I haven't forgotten I need to write about the ballet, but yesterday and today have been full of CV-writing, bracelet-making and talks of car-buying.

So, I'm knackered, and not writing anything at this point - it would be even more incoherent than normal!

But soon - probably tomorrow - I'll write about the prettiness that was Friday's ballet performance.


Ballet in Monaco

Tonight I'm going to the ballet - l'histoire de Manon, by The Royal Ballet, with the Monte-Carlo Philharmonic Orchestra. I've never been to the ballet before, so I hope it's as good as I'm expecting - I'll let you know tomorrow.

In case you're looking for ballet in Monaco, this appears to be the place to look for shows that might coincide with your visit (or desired timeframe, if you live here - in which case, do say hi in the comments, and let's go for coffee sometime!)


More fireworks! (Also: the moon, and the promise of a long-delayed book review)

Yesterday saw another fabulous (and totally unexpected) display of fireworks over the port in Monaco. These fireworks were full of brightly-coloured explosions, and those shimmery golden rain type fireworks, which I adore!

I'm afraid I don't have any photos - not only does my camera not take great firework photos, but it has no battery at the moment. But you can rest assured that they were lovely. I'm glad I live somewhere that has so many random fireworks displays outside my living room window!

Also, the moon. It's been a gorgeous red colour when rising for the last few nights - has it been like that everywhere, or is it something weird about the sea that makes it red? (I'm a big fan - it's stunning, seeing a dark red moon over the sea. Does anyone know anything about moons, and whether this will happen again/for a while?)

And, lastly, I have a huge apology to make. Weeks and weeks ago (months, now, I fear), just before we decided it was time for me to move down here permanently, Chris Alden got in touch with me to ask whether I'd review his book, 101 reasons to live abroad. Of course I said yes (note to any other authors reading this: I love reading, and I love free books, so if you'd like me to review your book, do get in touch!) and then promptly fell off a cliff with insane amounts of day-job work, on top of planning the move down south.

So I've not yet managed to write this review, though I did read the book and enjoyed it - I'm going to re-read it this week/next week, and will review it in proper depth after that. In the meantime, if you'd like to check out Chris' book and let me know what you think in the comments, you can find it on Amazon and you can find Chris' other books here.


Happier things

Before yesterday went badly awry in the evening, it was an awesome day! My husband has recently learnt to drive, and yesterday was the first time I'd got in the car with him. (He is, as I always knew he would be, an excellent driver!)

We rented an Auto Bleue - one of Nice's electric cars, for hire hourly/daily - and drove around the coast, heading up the mountain behind Villefranche and Eze. You get some amazing views from up there, and I'd recommend making the trip that tiny bit in-land if you're here on holiday - there are buses that do the same route, if you don't have a car or don't fancy driving on French roads!

View of Cap Ferrat



Horrible things, migraines. Last night was spent with a head feeling like it was about to explode, pain with every pulse, following by horrendously undignified, painful throwing up, until I was too tired to stay awake and finally passed out into blissful unawareness.

When I woke up, all the pain was gone - it's amazing, waking up without pain when everything has been hurting so much. I fully recommend pain-free mornings to all, without hesitation.

I'd quite like to avoid that happening again, though - it's been a long time since the last one, and I hoped they'd go away, but clearly not. Since it's so long in between them, it's hard to keep track of what might cause them - I wasn't doing anything yesterday afternoon that I hadn't done a million times before, and each of those previous times didn't cause hideous pain. Nor did I eat anything unusual, or drink anything unusual.

So, any thoughts on how to avoid them? Or, if I can't avoid them, minimise the effects and make them go away earlier?


Random fireworks in Monaco - because it's Saturday?

There are lots of things I like about Monaco. One of them is its ability to put on really good firework displays - the one tonight was a little unexpected, but all the better for it!

(If anyone knows what they are actually likely to have been celebrating, do let me know in the comments. I choose to think they are just celebrating Saturday, and this will be a weekly occurrence...)

Some somewhat blurry photos follow - you can just about see the giant ship at the bottom left of the photos, which has been parked there all week, plus a couple of other boats passing, all outlined in lights. All the boats applauded at the end of the fireworks by sounding their horns, which I quite liked in a generally anthropomorphic kind of way.

Random fireworks in Monaco port

Random fireworks in Monaco port

Random fireworks in Monaco port

Random fireworks in Monaco port

Random fireworks in Monaco port

Random fireworks in Monaco port

Random fireworks in Monaco port


Salmon, green beans and rice with a garlic-chilli-lemon sauce

Today's dinner worked surprisingly well! Salmon fillets with rice and remaining green beans, with a chilli-garlic-lemon butter sauce (based, more or less, on this recipe - except with more garlic, and cayenne pepper instead of hot sauce.)

I think I shall make this again one day, it was lovely.


I have beaten the Washing Machine of Doom!

Well, sort of beaten. More snuck past and luckily it was yawning, or something, so it didn't notice and so I triumphed! (That analogy is lacking quite a lot, I know. This is the level of incoherence my washing machine has driven me to.)

It started so well. I came back from the beach, and decided that, in keeping with my new domestic role, I'd do some laundry. I've done millions of laundry loads, this can't be too complicated. Once I'd found the laundry powder and fabric softener (the worst part about moving into an already occupied flat is finding where everything lives...), just dump that in, pick the temperature you want, and Bob's your uncle!

You'd think.

The first complication is that my washing machine speaks Italian. I, bar a few useful words like caffè and grazie, do not. Still, even with this linguistic gulf between us, I figured "30°C rapido" was easy enough to understand, and so turned the dial appropriately. There's three buttons on my washing machine - process of elimination (and Google) suggest that "Avvio" is the one to make the machine go.

And, on pressing it, lights happen and the machine starts up. Water sloshes in, all is going fabulously. I open Twitter and stop paying attention to the domesticity around me, bathing in a warm glow of success.

Some minutes later, it dawns on me that there's an odd silence. The machine is not actively washing. Even "rapido" can't be *this* quick, I think. There are lights flashing.

Lights flashing are never good, have you noticed? No rhythmic reassuring blinking ever happens, it's always "PANIC NOW SOMETHING'S BROKEN" type flashing.

My washing machine flashes the start button (which is also the pause button - do washing machines commonly have pause buttons? It's not like it's a DVD player...) and the "washing in progress" light. A blatant lie, at this point. Washing is very much not in progress.

I try tentatively prodding the start button. Maybe this would make it work again. No. OK. I try turning the dial back to 0 - all the lights go off. The door still won't open. I run the whole cycle again, thinking it was maybe just a fluke, but sure enough, the lights start flashing and the washing stops at the same point.

I call my parents. They laugh. I call my husband. "That's never happened to me before."

Bereft of other options, and devoid of hope, I turn the machine back to 0 and wait. Eventually, the door locky thing clicks, and I can open the door. For once, luck was with me and water didn't gush out all over the nice clean floor. But the clothes were soaking and not yet hang-up-able.

There are symbols at the end of my washing-machine-cycle-dial. One is a shower-head, one is a spiral, and one is a bucket with a hole in the bottom. I decide that if the cycle of 30°C rapido hasn't ever managed to finish, my clothes probably need showering (which I assume means rinsing) and set the dial accordingly. Nervously, I watch its every spin and slosh. Eventually it starts spinning on its own, and draining follows. Success is mine, at last!

Sadly, my swimming costume was in the washing machine, so going back to the beach to recover from the stress now looks unlikely. Wearing a cold wet swimming costume must be one of the worst feelings ever. I may take myself for a restorative coffee in the sunshine...


Cleaning all the things

Today, I have cleaned all the things! Well, ok, maybe not all. But I have started, that counts for something, right? (If you haven't seen this Hyperbole and a Half post, you've clearly been living under a rock. Go read it now. In fact, read all of her blog, she's amazing. Then don't come back, because the comparison is not flattering to me!)

Anyway, assuming you did come back, welcome back. Have a couple of nice pictures of some mini-boats I took this morning.

Heading out to sea...

My own epic struggle has not been so epic, nor so much of a struggle, yet. I have decided to try a new thing, and deal with the whole mess in bits, rather than doing it all, becoming knackered, and then hating everything because it's all too much. So far I have cleaned the bits that were the most visibly in need, and I've unpacked the boxes that were most in my way. (See, seeing small results motivates people - who knew all those L&D trainers and consultants were right after all?)

Tomorrow, I shall tackle the rest of the bathroom in its entirety. Once I have a clean bathroom, that's a third of the flat done. (At least - our bathroom seems proportionally big compared to the total flat size!) Then I shall tackle the bedroom, and after that I shall consider tackling the living room. This consideration may take a while, because God. Our living room.

Once that is clean, it will probably be time to start all over again - this is what I hate about cleaning. It never, ever ends. Even if no one's actually living in a place and getting it dirty, it gets itself dirty! Why dust - if I had a chance to ask one question, it might be that. (Though I'd regret it afterwards, I mean really, what a waste of a question. But still. Almost as bad as mosquitos, dust.)

Lastly, and more seriously, I have some bad news. The padlocks from the Pont des Arts appear to have spawned a Cote d'Azur branch of the species. Parasites, clutter, declarations of undying love, call it what you will. But it was bad enough when confined to one bridge in one city in one country. Since then it's started spreading to other bridges in Paris, and is widely present in other cities. And now, they've got as far as Monaco. It's like Pandemic 2, but with padlocks. Madagascar should consider closing its port...

Padlocks of love


Summer arrives - couch 2 5k and strawberries

The sunshine has arrived! This is a momentous thing, having come from the frozen north where winter lasts for ever (especially this year!) and it has inspired me to be healthier.

I know, I know, me and every other person in the Western world. But still. I'm at least 10 kilos heavier than I want to be, and 2 dress sizes bigger than I'd like, so it's time to do something about it.

In this case, "something" is starting out with beginning some exercise and eating more fruit and vegetables (bonus: they're cheaper than eating out, so there's that) - I think baby steps are definitely the way to go here.

I've started doing the Couch 2 5k programme again (I'm sure I blogged at length about this previously) - it aims to get people who do no exercise (hi!) from that point to being able to run 5km. It worked last time (in that I went from being totally utterly unfit to being able to run for 30 minutes consecutively without dying), and I surprised myself by finding I actually enjoyed it, so keep your fingers crossed for me this time too...

The first run went well - I didn't die - and I had breakfast on the beach. Strawberries are awesome. Tonight we are having salad nicoise, which rocks.

Breakfast of champions

(Side note while I think of it: I'm likely to write a bit about food and the like on this blog - and not all of it will be the super-healthy food you probably think I ought to be eating in order to lose weight. I thank you in advance for not commenting on this.)



OK, so, it's been a while. How are you all?

Me? Well, let's see. Since we last spoke, I've quit my job and just finished moving house - I'm now down south full-time again! Hooray!

All I now need is for summer to actually start... Today's not looking likely, but maybe tomorrow. It's June - is a little sunshine on the Mediterranean coast really too much to ask?

My major tasks over the next week or so are:

  • Unpack
  • Clean
  • Work out how the French unemployment system works
  • Launch the web design business I've got floating around my head
  • Make lots of shiny things!
These will all, admittedly, be easier to focus on if the weather's not so awesome. But I'd still quite like some sunshine, please...


Copyright Nicole Hill, 2009-2010

All photos and text are mine - ask me *before* you use them elsewhere. Don't just copy them and hope I won't notice, it's theft.

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