A Travellerspoint blog




August 11~31, 2008

~Our new Temptation Cat Treat receiving address:

Dana Biernacki (& Carburetor & Gasoline)
75 Rue de Font Carrade
Residence La Guirlande
Batiment B3, Appartement 302
34000 Montpellier

~”La Guirlande” means garland in English, so, I’m celebrating Christmas all year! I’m actually labelled apartment number 1935, should you visit in person and need to pass the security entrance or should you want to retrieve my mail! I now need 7 keys and/or key-like things called Bips, to live here. The French are a much more complicated species than the Spanish! In France…they actually have guys that board the public transit systems to check the validity of your ticket!!!


~Apartment hunting, an annual sport for me, is a mervielleux way to become acquainted with parts of a city one would never venture into otherwise! Walking is a safer bet of getting less lost than buses which spit you out in unknown places, which you then have to locate on your Montpellier tourist street map, which only indicates the name of about every 10th street and incidentally has a lot more folds than my Jaca map!

~By the 2 week mark, my feet were fried, my brain was burnt and my tan was darker than ever! Then a magical thing happened…2 apartments appeared on the same day! (Never trust a Secondary School Counsellor…thanks Leslie!)

~Definition of a “critical/crucial moment”…

…You’re standing at a Bank Machine about to withdraw $$$$ to secure
an apartment…that accepts cats, finally, and a phone call comes in on
your Virgin…that new French cell phone Xavier sold you, offering you the
apartment you REALLY want!
…You’re making arrangements, by phone, to meet and sign the lease of
the apartment you REALLY want, and your Virgin…that new French cell phone Xavier sold you, runs out of $$$$ mid-call!
…while all of the above is happening…you start your period! Where is
the justice in this world…and where is menopause when you really need


~Once in possession of said apartment you REALLY want…having NOT told the landlady about your possession of deux chats…I studied every balcony in the Residence complex of about 15 apartment buildings, for signs of domestic animal life, fearing the “what if pets are forbidden within La Guirlande”. I even searched the grass for dog poop!

~But, as time passed, we quickly discovered oodles of cats strutting around the grounds and even more oodles of dogs leaving the building with their look-a-like masters to be walked and relieved in the park next door! Whew! (But I still haven’t told the landlady about Carb and Gas.)

~It’s definitely going to be cheaper living here than in Jaca…Carb and Gas now have freedom…to roam the wild yonder of the vast residence grounds and shit where ever they like! So, Carb no longer uses the civilized kitty litter box…so, half the cost of kitty litter, and half as many trips to the store, not to mention half as much poop to scoop! God I love nature! Gas, on the other hand, is such a city mouse…he doesn’t even know how to squat in the bush!

~Carb and Gas have a social life…they have made beaucoup de French cat friends in the 2 short weeks it’s taken me to clean and get us settled in! They need to get their priorities straight…there’ll be time for socializing later!

~The price of freedom and happiness…Carb and Gas have itches!

~When Carb is happy…everybody’s happy! (i.e. Gas and I)

~Unlike Jaca, my skyward neighbours don’t drop laundry fluff/lint/hair or any other debris on my personal space. I only get the occasional dog drool drip, which doesn’t occur frequently, only when our neighbouring canine directly above us is sojourning on his balcony, gawking and wishing he could eat Carb and/or Gas!

~I think moving residence is an excellent “weight loss program”! It accidentally happens every time I move. But I’m eating lots and eating well, cooking on my little 2 burner stove with a matching little fridge in my little kitchen in my little apartment…the only big-ish thing here is a monster Clic-Clac that has the potential to eat cats!

~So if you like cosy, I like cosy, then come and visit! I’m here till August 14th, 2009. Book your vacation package now! And note that Ryan air flies from London, Stansted, or Frankfurt to Montpellier, cheap.

~No beeping fridge! My fridge is undersized, ancient, tacky…and quiet! I love it!

~I have scoured every possible surface in the apartment…even my belly button got it’s whenever-I-think-about-it cleaning! Now the dirt is ours, and I can live with that.

~A lot of Europeans iron their sheets…I vacuum mine! Lesson learned…never buy solid coloured sheets when 2 cats, donning orange, black and white coats, share your Clic-Clac! I swear they can selectively shed whatever colour they know will be viewed most easily!

~My apartment possesses those peculiar southern European blinds, that live on the outside of your windows…great for blocking out the light…if that’s what you want to do with all that glorious Mediterranean sunlight…but what a bitch to clean!

~Anna…I need you to visit…I’ve got some more ugly dishes needing breaking! They’re of the same clone as my Jacian repertoire…must have been a sale on ugly dishes in France and Spain!

~It’s a 5 block walk to the periphery of Montpellier’s Centre Ville! I pass through Little Morocco to get there…and actually, Centre Ville is like a Moroccan Medina, ever-confusing to find a place twice. Honestly, Montpellier is a phenomenal city. I picked a REALLY good dot on the map.

~Montpellier has a lot of good garbage! Like really a lot! Man, every time I turn a corner, there it is, more really good garbage. But I have to be very selective in what I drag home…remember, cosy. Plus, I’ve already made several trips to IKEA (say it right) and Pier 1, ‘cause setting up house is just so much fun! So, considering I entered Europe with one backpack and two cat crates…you’d be totally impressed with my home!

~The sound of the French accordion makes me melt! Or is it the French man playing the French accordion…doesn’t matter…I know the perfect street to stroll if you ever feel like melting!

~The only French I’ve learned is on a need to know basis! Like apartment hunting associated vocab…I’m good! Creating accounts for electricity and gas, I’m awesome! Buying smokes…I got it! But when bank account guy asks me if I have a visa…I know he’s not talking credit card! And I’m not sure I had enough French lying words to convincingly talk my way around that one!

~ I just got my first French haircut, in a Hair Salon Academy…and, well, it’s different, but different is good, right? I think maybe next time I shouldn’t say, “comme vous voulez.”, as you like. One side of my head is whispy and one side isn’t…and she meant to do that! I definitely look Frencher!


~I won’t be doing any baking this year…I’m oven-less! But I’ve got a BATHTUB! A soak in a tub surpasses even Butter Tart squares! And we have a magnifique ground-floor terrace that opens into a groomed jungle of Palm trees living in harmony with Pine trees, flowering shrubs, and grass! It’s Eden, especially for freedom-deprived cats! A squirrel accidentally wandered into our terrace one day…tsk, tsk! How was he to know 2 of the 3 new residents of apartment 302 or 1935 were carnivorous felines suffering from predatorial withdrawal. Carb and Gas thought they had died and gone to heaven…and so did the squirrel!

~I meet escargot in person every day! They attract to and walk around my terrace like teens to a shopping mall, no apparent purpose and nothing better to do!

~The terrace is my summer home, my clothes drier, my smoking room, my sanctuary! It’s big enough that I have both sun and shade all day! If it ever rains here, there’s coverage for that too. And at night I can sit in my new purple canvas chaise longue, my gift to me, listening to music by candle-light sipping whatever I care to sip and count stars, escargot or my blessings!

~French poodles aren’t an urban myth! They’re as real as croissants, crepes and baguettes, and as shaped and manicured as the jardin of an OCD victim.


~I washed my entire bathroom. I actually meant to wash my clothes but the washer hose sprang a big pressurized leak so I changed my focus of my list of things to do. A video camera could have captured the eternity of moments of chaos until I could see clearly enough through the spray of really cold water to find the water turn-off valve! A huge task replacing a washer hose in a foreign language…a lot harder than cleaning my bathroom!

~My toilet has it’s very own room. That’s all that’s in that room, my toilet.

~What colour toilet paper would you prefer? Pink, purple or peach…none of which match my simply white toilet room.


~CBC’s ”Sounds Like Dana” (copyrighted by the Toopes, I like it!) isn’t happening…seems I didn’t “fit” the criteria of “Far Flung Canadians”! I think I’m too far flung!

~You know you are Canadian when…you cook supper at 5:00 PM!

~Carb, Gas and I have finally resumed our siesta habits…you just can’t take the Spaniard out of a true Canadian!


~I have a religion which I’ve cultivated over time, it’s all my mom’s teachings condensed into 7 sweet words…”be the best person you can be”!

Bon anniversaire Dean and je t’adore Lauren…

Dana, Carburateur et Essence xox

P.S. My SINCEREST apologies to my Spanish seemingly-non-sucking vacuum, whom I have cursed relentlessly and kicked on many occasions over the past year! I just discovered the suction adjustment knob!
…Sometimes I am such a 3-dimensional loser!

August 4~10, 2008

~I’m going to be on CBC radio this week!!!

The CBC radio program, Sounds Like Canada, does a feature called “Far Flung Canadians”, and we’re taping via telephone this week! Day and time, to be announced. If we can swing it, Lauren will also join us on the show as she is a Canuck who has flung herself abroad! As soon as I have the details, I’ll post the info on Facebook and can email a brief note out to everyone!

~My Skype name is: hiitsdana if anyone wants to call me (for free)! It’s also free to downloadin case you didn’t know, and with the help of my buddy Mac, you can see me and Carb and Gas via Mac’s built-in web cam! I promise I’ll put clothes on when I answer!

~If you scramble the letters in the word “EVIAN” (a French brand of bottled water)…you can spell the word “NAÏVE”! I learned this in Finland from Darin! So, I bought some, because, I am! … but Darin, naïve is spelled naïf in French…it only works in English eh?

~OK, so the first studio I looked at was a dive…but it allowed me to practice my bad French language skills, master Montpelliere’s fantastic Tram system and get some perspective of what 450 /month will not buy us!

~2nd potential studio…apparently doesn’t like Canadian cats…so we won’t be living there!

~3rd and 4th possibles insisting on letter stating I have an income…hmmmmm, they won’t take my year’s rent upfront! French systems…I know, the Spanish warned me!

~So people in Montpellier wear shorts…and everyone has a tan!


Do you know what a Clic-Clac is??? Gas knows it IN-timately…it’s a sofa bed also known as a fold-out couch, and Gas got folded-in this morning!!! He appears to be OK...but then that’s what I thought after he went through the x-ray machine back in Madrid!

~Gas is completely confused…inside the dehumidified and air conditioned hotel apartment he grows his fur, then out on the 35° in the shade balcony and he sheds his fur…he doesn’t know if his fur is growing or going!

~Gas also seems to prefer Spaish shadows over French ones!!!

~Think I found a potential job for me…do you think my experience in Madrid’s nude bicycle rally will serve as adequate qualifications?

“strip teaseuse lap danceuse”

~I’m in the land of Dijon Mustard, it grows on trees here and it’s cheap and I love it and I feel more French when I eat it!

Well, mes amis, wish me more than luck in finding an apartment that likes Canadian cats and doesn’t mind if I’m not working…and if any of you have any connections here in Montpellier that could help me out (Nick) please feel free to give them my number 06 456 38 38 5! Thanks, et jusqu’à la prochaine…

Dana, essence et carburateur xox


August 2, 2008

~The Med is my neighbour, but I haven’t met him yet! Apparently there’s a massive nudist beach in the neighbourhood…stay tuned!

~Day 2 shopping at Inno, le supermarché près de moi, and I discovered what was missed on day 1’s investigation…Smirnoff Ice…so I’ve decided I’ll stay in Montpellier!

~Had to buy a Virgin today…a new phone…NB a French user manual is somewhat easier to figure out, even without pictures, than the Spanish one I still can’t completely read!

~Here’s my new #:

From Canada:
(011) (33) 645638385


~Today I walked the periphery of the old, central and “c’est COOL” section of Montpellier. It took over an hour…a tad bigger than Jaca, and I only got temporarily displaced once and that was in the shopping centre looking for the grocery store!

~Carb and Gas update…not much to report. I think they’ve got the hang of this moving thing I do to them. They only spoke for the 1st hour of the 8ish hour car journey. They approve of our air-conditioned hotel room with the glass walled balcony, although gas’ fur is confused by the cool air and growing thicker as we speak, and he has only dived into the glass wall once…that I noticed!

~I, too, seem to have the hang of moving cities, cultures and languages! It just isn’t as scary here…have more confidence in my French education than I did in my Spanish pocket dictionary! Plus, now I have experience and just know what I need to do.

~So if you’ve got the notion to do what I’m doing…definitely read the following…

8 simple steps to sorting out your new life when moving to France:

1 Get there, somehow…trickier with cats…I can give you Anna and Phil’s
phone #.
2 Find a temporary place to stay…that likes cats.
3 Find a phone store that employs a Canadian guy named Xavier to help you pick out a new cell phone that suits your purposes, no frills. Then Xavier becomes your first and only friend and throws in a phone case for free!
4 Ask your new and only friend if all stores in France are closed on Sundays.
5 Learn how to say “carton” in French so you can buy cigarettes.
6 Spend hours in the local grocery store until you find Smirnoff Ice, Canada
Dry Ginger Ale and Werther’s candies. (Don’t even look for peanut butter
if you’ve brought residual gifts.)
7 Find a real place to live for a year…that likes cats.
8 Find a job.

Easy as pie and your sorted!

~Day 3 is reserved for reading French newspapers! Emma, can you google who invented the French-English dictionary…I really want to thank them!

~That’s all I know for now…and now the real work begins…finding my sanctuary and a job to pay for the sanctuary…it is exciting!

Je t’embrasse,
Dana, carb et essence xox

July~August 2008

~Cigarettes in Finland are sold in “Family Packs” (as Darin calls them), 28/pkg.

~Retraction from last update (July) “Men are slobbish”…amendment…”but not Darin!”

~I hope, Ali and Darin, you enjoyed your beer as much as I appreciated the lift to Tampere airport Ali and for lookin’ after me Darin…I miss you and the refugee camp…in a strange kind of Punkalaidun-ishy way! Still awaiting your updates!!!!

~My stint in Finland, July 13~28, was welcomed by a Finnish text message, which I received July 28th on my way out of Finland!

~I resisted Stansted airport’s floor, as inviting as it appeared, as a most hospitable Finn/Brit couple whom I met in the Tampere “International Airport” offered me a bed in their London home. My inflatable pillow, Thermarest and sleeping bag traversed Europe twice, for not! The bed was accompanied by morning coffee, a shower and a walking tour of Stoke Newington. Plus, they’re kindred cat folk. They took a risk inviting a complete stranger into their home…I never forget kind and sharing people like this…perhaps they noticed my cat hairy apparel. They definitely get to be added to my collection of good people in this world!

~Piko and Mike’s 1846 home is older than my country!!

~The 2 day journey to Finland, in perspective, was short, in comparison to the 3 day journey back to Jaca!

~I’m thankful I’m not young and attractive…waiting in bus and train stations would be even more annoying!

~Travelling teaches you there are good people worldwide…but it also confirms there are losers in every language!

~I had under 12 hours back in the Jac to drink and pack up! My boxes and bags are as disorganized as my emotions!


August 1, 2008

~You know the expression ”Get a Life”…well, I’m on it!

~If first impressions are true impressions…then, I LOVE Montpellier!

~Day one in Montpellier…international cuisine, copious grocery food selection (including Canadian maple syrup!), Gitanes cigarettes, French men, really yummy fermented grape juice, Mediterranean sunshine and heat, and clumping cat litter…yes!

~By the way, if you happen to be waiting for a personal invitation to visit me…you could be waiting a long time. Here’s the thing about me, I have an open door policy…you just need to confirm I have a door at the time you invite yourself to visit me! Once you have crossed my path in a positive kind of way…you make my email list…I only delete those who ought to be deleted from the human race!

~Brendah…you have no idea how often and regularly the word “Bella Bella” comes up in my day-to-day conversations!

~Lauren’s response to my last update…”it made me laugh, it made me cry, it made me miss you!” Awwwwww. The next person to cross Lauren’s path, could you please give her a really big hug for me?

Well, all’s well east of the Pyrenees…French day one was wonderful…can’t wait for the next 364 to come!

À toute a l’heure,
Dana, Essence, et Carburateur xox

Posted by hiitsdana 04:36 Archived in France

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