At the start of my second week here I began my course to become a Microsoft Certified Technology Specialist - and spent a couple of days learning about the wonders of SQL Server 2005 and what the heck it actually is. The course material itself was very good, lots of explanations, demonstrations and interactive scenarios, all helping to explain the subject matter.
That being said, sitting behind a computer screen attempting to learn by yourself for several hours each day is by no means an easy task - so I was thankful when Nelly asked me if I wanted to go to the market in Thonon, another little town on the French side of Lac Leman.
Here comes the tram
As we headed to the market via the little tram, I imagined lots of little stalls with hand-made bits and bobs, little decorations and knick-knacks, interesting items as far as the eye could see. Instead what I found was a couple of streets filled with stalls selling clothes (mainly women's clothes) and food (mainly cheese).
My disappointment was enhanced by the fact that it was incredibly cold - the wind blowing through the town, combined with a complete lack of sunshine, probably dampened my opinion of the market.
A very much appreciated cup of coffee
In fact, the only items I bought at the market were a pair of gloves and a hat to try to keep warm, something that we attempted to do by stopping for frequent cups of coffee. On the way back to Lausanne we passed through the town of Evian (famous for the water), and stopped at the local McDonalds.
This being France and not Switzerland, they were not doing the "Semaines Suisse" special burgers, so I opted to have a Chicken Mythic instead - this gorgeous thing was a very nicely made chicken burger. Three words sum this up - yum, yum, yum.
Earlier in the week, Bernard had asked me if I fancied going to a model expo in Nyon - thinking he meant pretty women, I said yes (only joking Chris). Accompanying us on this voyage through the model world were Chris' cousin Jerome and his boyfriend Patrick.
The expo was very interesting, with lots of little model towns and railroads. I particularly enjoyed a very detailed street (that I nicknamed "Tiny Town") surrounded by various shops and buildings and with tiny people everywhere.
They even had a model church complete with a stained-glass window and a wedding going on inside. The hours of work that go into these models is almost unthinkable - you really have to be passionate about this sort of thing to devote that much of your life to building these miniatures.
At the expo they also had a room filled with scale models of trains and buses, a lot larger than the inhabitants of Tiny Town mentioned above. Whilst looking at the selection of London buses on one display I spotted a bus from the Green Line, and was then shocked to see the destination town name of "Hertford" sitting proudly at the front of the bus.
A long way from home
For those that don't know, Hertford is about 10 minutes from where I lived in England, and is actually the town that I was born in. So, imagine my surprise that here, some 900 kilometres from home, I should find a bus with the name of my birth town. What a small world it really is (much like Tiny Town).
To round off the week, Chris, Caroline, Nelly, Bernard and I drove to Fully (in Switzerland) to experience the joys and delights of the Fête de la Châtaigne (the Chestnut Festival). It is exactly what it sounds like - a festival, lasting 2 days, that celebrates the town's history as a producer of chestnuts. Aside from the chesnuts, which we ate with some nice cheese and grapes, washed down with a glass or two of wine, Fully also had a large market with various locally produced goods, like jams, spreads, cheeses and other food stuffs.
Other stalls had little knick-knacks and thingamajigs galore, the kind of thing I had expected to see at the market in Thonon. After our lunch we were serenaded by a young looking bloke with an accordion - an instrument that is normally played by the buskers that we all ignore in town centres. He was actually pretty good, although I didn't have any change to give him (not sure if he was actually busking or not).
Anyone for line dancing?
Awkward smiles all round...
Whilst wandering through the market we spotted a few people wearing traditional Swiss clothes - and Chris made them take a picture with me, although I still can't tell who was more embarrased, them or me.
One stall we came across sold various types of hats, so the girls posed for a photo, forcing a reluctant Bernard to do the same. I don't think he was particularly pleased with the resulting photo, and might not be enthralled at seeing it now posted on the Internet.
As the afternoon wore on the market became flooded with people pushing past us as they clambered for a gander at the next stall. Having had enough of being jostled and unable to move, we decided to leave the crowds and head back home with the memories of delicious roasted chestnuts fresh in our minds.
Left: mmmm... chesnuts... Right: the throngs of people at the Fully market