Sunday, May 29, 2011

weekend hike

This past week has been lovely; not only has the weather been nice, but Jean-Marc was able to spend the entire week with me in Vézelay (along with Domino our cat!). Of course I had to work, but at lunchtime it was nice to head downstairs to have lunch together. In the evenings we took advantage of the light and nice weather and headed out for walks around the village.

Yesterday was Saturday and we went to the local big outdoor market in Avallon, which is about 15 km away, and stocked up on fruit, veggies, cheese, and bread. After lunch, we went on a 12 km hike through the locals paths, various villages and vineyards. It was really too bad that we didn't have a camera with us because we saw loads of lovely things! (We're working on the camera thing, by the way.) When we got back, we made supper and drank some chilled Chablis that Bertrand, the maintenance worker here, had given to us as a welcome present. We still had some chèvre that Jean-Marc had picked up from a local producer and I have to say that it was an amazing combination with the Chablis (try it!).

We had some fraises des bois that we picked along the paths in Vézelay and this, mixed in with some yogurt, was our dessert. Delish. We even had enough left over for this morning's breakfast! Sometimes the simplest things are the best.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

my little apartment

I have a temporary new home, as I already explained to you. To reach it from my office, I go up two steps, down two steps, down 50 steps, go outside, down a path, up 4 steps, and I'm there. There is a sort of pathway between the main building and the grange, which is a performance space that can hold up to 100 people. I take this pathway to my front door and it looks something like this (no, not the cave below!).
This is my front door from the other angle: (apologies for the MacBook photos)
The outside looks all old and worn, but the inside apartment is brand-spankin' new. The interior design is fairly neutral with a slight modern institutional feel, but it's comfortable. If you continue down this path a few metres, a huge panoramic view of the valleys and hills below opens up. There is a bench there from which to admire the view. Nice!

This week we are changing gears at work as we welcome the singers for a rehearsal period before two concerts later this week. Julian, my co-worker, and I are expected to attend every rehearsal so that we can really familiarize ourselves with the choir, the conductor's work and the sound. The meals during the rehearsal period are provided by a local caterer, so there will be time to get to know the singers on a one-to-one basis as well.

On Wednesday night we will all head up to Paris by train and on Thursday the choir will perform at the Oratoire du Louvre (I don't think it's IN the Louvre, just close by) and the following day we will head to Le Mans by train for another concert in a close-by Abbey. Since Le Mans is only about a 1.25 hour drive from Angers, I will get to spend the weekend at home with Jean-Marc before we head back to Vézelay for a whole week together.

Is this really my new job? Somebody pinch me!

Sunday, May 8, 2011

new digs

Here I am, one week into my new adventure. One thing is for sure: it's beautiful here. Just take a look out my office window. This is what I see when I turn my head to the left.
My MacBook camera really doesn't do the countryside beauty much justice, so you'll just have to wait for me to get a camera in order to see its splendor. There are lots of rolling hills with little villages and mini forests nestled into the valleys and hillsides. This is the France of my dreams and comes pretty close to the France I love near our farmhouse.

So, the job! There were two of us who were hired at the same time and we both started last Monday. Julian is my new coworker and he's a documentary maker and producer, so he's an interesting person to have around. We have both been getting caught up on the history and recordings of the ensemble, the names of all the festivals and theatres where the group has sung (or would like to sing), and we've also been doing some writing assignments and working on the database. The first week flew by and we worked some long days.

I think I mentioned that they are offering me free housing during the first two months. My apartment is in the same building as the offices, but I have a separate entrance from outside. I don't have my own kitchen - just a kitchen sink, microwave, kettle and coffee maker - and so I have to use the office kitchen to store and cook my food. The only problem is that since everything is so new, it's not fully equipped. For example, they have one of those heat induction cooktops, but you need specific pots and pans to cook on them otherwise it doesn't work. They hadn't bought any pots and pans yet, so I bought a couple of cheap pots only to find they weren't the right kind (I didn't know about the special kind at the time!). This means that I've been eating a lot of salads, fruit and cheese & crackers. I've never really used a microwave in my cooking and I know there are possibilities there, but it doesn't seem like real cooking (to me!).

I like to have breakfast in my apartment before heading up to the office, so I pack a cooler with my milk, yogurt and anything else I might want before heading down at night. That way it's waiting and relatively cool for me in the morning. So far it seems to be working out ok.

I haven't had much time to explore, but yesterday I headed into Avallon, the nearest town with supermarkets. I stocked up and also found the nearest laundromat to do a load of laundry. I saw that there is a cinema as well as a number of shops, banks etc. There is a Saturday morning market but I missed it because I slept in a bit. I'll have to check it out next week.

Today I went out for an exploratory walk down and around the many winding trails of Vézelay. The village is on a hill, with the Basilique at the crest. Most tourists just walk up the long hill straight up to the church, but if you go off the beaten path, there is not a tourist in sight and you can walk in silence, with the just the birds and crickets providing the natural soundtrack. I happened upon a 12th century chapel and a sort of monastery today, and I'm looking forward to discovering more!