lundi, avril 03, 2006

A Bit of Me in Stuttgart (Brunch, House...)

French people usually do not like buying second hand (not applicable to antiques or spouses, of course). But here in Stuttgart where they're stingy and love recycling, garage sales are popular and you have at least one in the neighbourhood every Saturday afternoon.

So I found myself manning a table half-filled (I usually give my stuff away) with some books, CDs, DVDs, shoes and clothes last Saturday, just for the sake of being a little like everybody else. And I had to bake a (Spiced Chocolate Banana and Coconut) Cake as part-payment for the table.

I had a horrible time. I've always said that Hubby and myself, we're both Buyers. He spends his company's money and I spend his. Trying to earn some was tough and my heart wasn't in it at all.

To start with, before I've sold anything I had already bought two. A board for DUPLO bricks and a carrier for BABY BORN dolls. And boy was the afternoon long, just standing there among 4 walls watching the world dig through your stuff. At the end of the day, I didn't even sell enough to cover the cost of renting the table, but well, I was especially bad at selling (''How much does this cost?'' ''Er...I dunno..''). The cake I baked was a hugh success though. Pity I had no share in the proceeds. I should have sold cakes instead.

Sunday we had a nice brunch at Pier 51 in Degerloch. Just 15,80 Euros per head, that's really reasonable for Western Europe. When the weather gets better, we'll do a few garden parties at home, but right now, it's better to brunch out.

Pier 51 is an International Bar and Restaurant. The usual pizzas, pastas, salads, a few soups, grilled meats and lobster. For brunch, there is usually a decent buffet spread with salads, cold cuts, smoked fish, cooked salmon, rolls, bacon, scrambled eggs, hot dishes like roast pork, veal, pasta, rice, mixed vegetables and a few desserts like Tiramisu, Crème Brûlée, Panna Cotta... But it is of course not half as good as the buffets we have in Singapore.

Life in Stuttgart is not very exciting but it is not bad either. Comfortable and quite predictable. The winters are cold and looong, but the sky is often blue. The transport is clean and punctual and they rarely go on strike (not like in Paris) and best of all, they usually have at least an escalator if not a lift. When you move around with a stroller like I do, it helps.

We are renting a house in the suburbs, and the forest starts where our garden ends. At all times of the day you can actually hear birds singing. It isn't a pretty house, but comfortable, modern and functional. We have 3 bedrooms, a kitchen (looks like some Austrian chalet), a big living room and 2 terraces on the ground floor, and in the basement, 2 badly-lit bedrooms, a hobby room, a small indoor swimming pool and a garden where hubby had installed a swing and a slide (complaining for weeks about the hard work, see picture with snow).

One of the bad things about the house is its stupid white carpet. An absolute nightmare when you have 3 young children. And there are always spiders, their webs and other insects somewhere. I'm really not a very nature kind of girl.

We've learnt something new since we came here and that was how to recycle. There is a bin each for plastics/aluminium, organic refuse (if you over-fill the bin they will refuse to empty it for you, so you're forced to re-cycle), compost and paper. And bottles have to be divided into brown, green and white glass. And you'd better remember to bring a bag of some sort with you when you go to the supermarket or you'll have to pay for one when you're there. When we buy a bottle of soft drink or beer, we're charged a deposit for it and will have to bring back the bottle when it's empty to get a refund. This is all very good, except that hubby and the kids often forget about keeping the empty bottles for the refund and this would freak me out.

Shopping is not as exciting as in Paris or even Singapore, but most of the shops are in the City centre (Schlossplatz, very pretty with a few parks and squares, museums and Palaces...) and therefore easily accessible. German fashion is pretty conservative and lacks colours, so I usually return to France to shop. But I like buying toys in Stuttgart, they usually have promotions and discounts all the time. And toys are the same everywhere you go.

There is however a town named Metzingen about an hour away from Stuttgart and it has factory outlets of brands like Hugo Boss, Puma, Esprit, Polo, Joop, Bally of Switzerland etc. Not a bad place to shop in and there's even a nice Italian restaurant there to have a risotto in.

On certain Saturdays, we'll drive to Strasbourg in France for lunch (Kammzler opposite the Cathedral is a must-try), do a bit of shopping (very pretty boutiques), buy food (meat, seafood, foie gras, quality wine vinegar etc) and have a few cakes and pastries chez Christian. It is interesting how Strasbourg is so near Germany and yet remains unquestionably French. There is dogshit everywhere and food and fashion are much better than in Germany in general.

I attend German lessons on Monday and Thursday mornings and the class is slow-moving, but I can't really complain since they are subsidized by the State and baby-sitting for Armand is provided at no extra charge. There are 2 Albanish women, 3 Turkish women, 1 American/Peruvian woman and my Colombian girlfriend and so there are basically 3 cliques of women in the class. Except for my clique, the rest of them have been in Germany for years and still do not read or write the language, which is why the German Government has decided to subsize German language lessons and get more of their immigrants to take them up. And there are only women in the class because usually if there were men in the group (even one), the Turkish women would refuse to attend the class. Don't ask me why.

Voilà a short presentation of my life in Stuttgart. Not much for the moment since I've only been here for 7 months and the bulk of it I was hibernating since it was winter. Hopefully when the weather improves I'll be able to do more things and move around more and will have something more interesting to talk about.

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