Monday, July 31, 2006

Having been in the Riviera for just over three weeks, I've learned six important things.

1. Clothes. The French don't wear any. Queuing up for McDonald's in a bikini is perfectly acceptable, as is (to my horror) taking all your clothes off on the side of the street and changing into a baggy thong for the beach, as demonstrated by an old man last weekend. Not sure if my eyes will ever recover after my sheltered existence in the Gulf.

2. Cars. Size counts, but the smaller the better. The French seem to get an adverse pleasure out of showing their status and, well, Frenchiness, by having a teeny micro car that only looks suitable for Scalectrix. I have fitted right in by hiring a Fiat Panda, which passes a striking resemblance to Noddy's car, which struggles into fifth gear but is fab for parking in ridiculously small mountainside spaces. In fact, the only gas guzzlers I have seen have been those driven by Arabs on holiday.

3. Dogs. Truly man's best friend here. They go into supermarkets, and banks, and even offer great barking welcomes in the arrival terminal of Nice Cote d'Azur airport. And they are almost always smaller than cats, or even rats (see point 2).

4. Paperwork. Second only to wine in the national league of importance table - a whole rainforest was destroyed just for my bank account application forms. Online applications? No chance.

5. Air-conditioning. Truly a luxury and one that very few have, which makes the 36 degree heat far more unbearable than a sweltering Dubai summer.

6. French TV sucks.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

I tried to find the only English language (VO) showing of Superman Returns this weekend in Cannes. Having been stuck for ages in traffic, dodging vacant-gazed, St Tropez tanned (real and otherwise) rich people, and swerving to avoid gas-guzzling G wagons and Porsche Cayennes (sound familiar?). I failed to find the cinema. Apparently it's too small to warrant a) a sign b) flashing neon lights or c) a car park. Will try again next week, when I've gathered more strength.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

I may have travelled to another continent, but I'm still being spammed by Etisalat SMS ads. I didn't go to any of those club nights when I lived in Dubai, so why on earth would I bother now?

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Even for someone that has had years of Dubai's 50 degree humidity in the summer, a sweltering French summer is proving to be hard work. The mercury's hovering around 31 degrees, but there is no AC - and we are wilting. I had to resort to primary school origami by making a paper fan, so we have issued purchase instructions for an electrical variety.

Meanwhile, the flies are out in force, inspiring my colleagues to buy up the local supermarket's stock of insect killer. So now the office is adorned by hanging sticky tape traps, sprayed with chemicals and books are thrown at lingering bluebottles - a positive war zone here.

Monday, July 10, 2006

What a week to move to France - the glorious last seven days of the World Cup. During the flight from Dubai, Zidane had a renaissance and started playing like the spring-heeled former World Footballer of the Year that struck fear - and goals - into the opposition.

Unfortunately, five days is a long time in football; from the horn-honking street parties following Les Bleus' semi-final win, to the eerie silence that followed Zidane's red card. I was watching the game in Monaco, where a bizarre time lapse in TV coverage meant we heard the Italian cheers before they had even taken the fifth penalty. The French press claims Zizou was hard done by, but the inexplicable head butt was a sorry note to end the competition.

Meanwhile, I switched my allegiance from the "ruggedly handsome" Zidane to Fabulous Fabio Cannavaro, having broken with my countrymen and supported Germany in the third-place play-offs.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

I've finally left the crane-filled Dubai for the Cote d'Azur. Dubai gave me eight good years, but it's goodbye to Seattle's Best coffee delivery and traffic jams, and hello to fresh air, European culture, mad French drivers, cobbled streets and no air-conditioning.

Spot the before and after photos.