Friday, 14 August 2009

first job completed successfully

apricot photo from here (source)

Sorry I haven't updated this blog in so long but apricot picking really makes you tired after a long 10 hour day. I finished working at Pitlou Fruits yesterday and I guess I should start off explaining exactly how it works.

every morning I would get up around 5.30am, prepare some lunch maybe some pasta, bbq chicken, sandwiches or just bread and cheese, not forgetting to pack a litre and a half of water.

at 6.30 I was picked up in a small minibus from the train station with a crazy bizzaro mix of people who had managed to score the same job as me. The language of choice was Portugese, not good for me, especially after hoping I would get some time to practice my french. Among the crowd of fools were Polacks, Moldovians, African political refugees and the odd french or german dude.

It was ten 15 or 16 people to a 13 person minibus winding up the mountainside to the depot where we would split up and assinged a patch for the day, after that its just lots of picking using a basket with a hook to hang it on the trees.

There was ridiculous views of the mountain and sion airport where I would watch planes cruise into the blue sky, plenty of birdsong, awesome banquets for lunch and even the odd garbled french conversation. Sometimes I was lucky to be paired with an English speaker which is probably the only thing that stopped me from getting brain damaged from lack of conversation. I met some awesome guys from Normandy, one with a outrageous understanding of international slapstick humor, making me laugh without speaking a word of any language and another who spoke amazing English who really helped me with my french!

Anyway im tanned, happy, have a little money and I'm waiting to start work at somewhere that turns fruit into something useful... Alcohol! Next I'll be working at the famous Morand Distillery in Martigny, Switzerland

helping to make this

anyway enough about work, now lets talk about play...

I've had so much fun and awesome adventures, most recently at the weekend it was my friends Pablo & Julies birthday party held 1299 metres up on the north face of mount-che, the views were breathtaking, we had bbq's and beer and raclette and french boules with finnish cyclists and lost scouts, I have too much to write and none of the motivation to do so, there are a lot of pictures I will upload too when I get the cable to get them off my camera. In the meantime heres a photo of looking confused with a giant beer in my favourite bistro in sion, La Grenette.

and one or two from when we climed Mount Noble

my friend Steffan showing me where all the cool places are including a fascicst village :O
At the top
map at the top showing us all of the mountains in site! including Mont-Blanc!

Steffan and Bastien enjoying a well deserved sit down and coffee afterwards in a small stereotypical wooden swiss village.

Stay Safe
Sam x

Monday, 20 July 2009

holed up in sion, waiting for the apricots to ripen

where im sat right now, Bastiens appartment, a beautiful place to be imprisoned.

The problem with fruit picking is its so dependant on the weather, I've been holed up in Sion for 2 weeks now waiting for work and whilst its been quite incredible, I've at least tripled my vocabulary of french and met some beautiful girls. I've finally run out of money. I don't mean that in a 'no money for luxuries' kind of way, I literally have £4 in my bank account and 70cents on the window sill.
vineyards stretch up the hills near sion, nearby to the orchards I soon hope to employed by

Fortunately my friend Bastien (a true Gentleman) isn't asking for any rent but i'm still in a pretty dire situation, with no money for a flight home & a maxed out overdraft I'm playing the waiting game for work. Some people in a situation like this would accept defeat but I'm no quitter.

So far I've busked in Sion on market day making about 15francs an hour and yesterday me and some friends cleaned the bar we frequent for a bottle of gin & a magnificent meal of canard, champignon, pomme de terre and ratatouille cooked by the owner who grew up in southern france explaining his cooking prowess.

The difference between the UK and Switzerland is its so much easier to have fun without spending money, I've been hiking in the mountains, swimming in freshwater lakes and enjoying live music almost every night.

2000 metres or so up with my Valaisian friends, Elda, Frederic, Yan and Oila

This weekend an incredibly talented Parisien musician and his girlfriend Stephan Lipiansky AKA Lafayette Young stayed with us for 3 nights at Bastiens appartment on Friday playing a night of amazing music a La Grenette (the aforementioned bar, the only one I know with a lobster on the ceiling and an owner who serves me suze in pint glasses) I had a great time speaking with them and I urge you to check out the music on his myspace. deep brooding voice, beautiful lyrics and a distinct guitar style that make me want to give up playing myself and cut off my hands. The one song he performed with his girl fired synapses wildly in my brain as the harmonies cut through the night air and the sound of falling rain.
The same night I enjoyed the music and company of Pierre & Marie a musical & romantic duo who play Belle and Sebastien-esque (hate grouping people together, they have their own sound but you get the gist) folk pop which I fell in love almost immediately.
Pierre started finger picking, tapping his converse and Marie acommpanied him with a cornucopia of wind instruments and occasionally a tambourine and cutesy dance. taking everybody on the bar on a sorrowful ecstatic adventure through life.
The next day Me and Bastien spent the day with the two parisian couples walking, drinking wine and eating some traditional swiss food (a beef cottage pie style dish & of course... fondue.) I've developed quite a passion for good fondue accompanied with white wine and the second best I've tasted was that day at Cafe des Chateuax in the old town district of Sion. The best continues to be served at Cafe Du Midi (Martigny, Valais)

crazy cacti spring up in the swiss mountains and wilt in the blazing sun
As always I've got so much to write but my attention span has already left me bored of what I have already spilled out of my brain so before I delete everything I'm going to post this entry and try to write another soon, remember open your eyes and look around you.
Stay Safe

Sunday, 12 July 2009

Back In Switzerland For The Apricots

I couldn't stay away forever but obviously being the ridiculously skint student that I am, I had to get a job in Switzerland to visit again.

The problem with working en suisse is the outrageous language barrier. My french vocabulaire is limited mostly to fruits, stationary, shop names and numbers (everything I learnt in school) this left me pretty stumped last night when I tried to have a conversation about gallerie du rhone with a dude in a bar especially when it turned out he was Italian.

Fortunately in summer Switzerland has a ton of jobs involving menial labour without much french necessary. My friend Bastien who I am staying with called up a few places and asked around to see if anyone needed a skinny english kid to help them pick fruit.

It turns out they were happy to take me, surprisingly most people don't want to spend 10 hours a day in the blistering sun picking fruit from row after row of trees. Personally I couldn't see it being worse than being stuck in a stuffy office filing mounds of meaningless paperwork (my only alternative job offer in England)

Anyway to cut a long boring story short. I got the job, booked a flight, caught a plane to Geneva and hopped a train to Sion (Capital of the Swiss state of Valais, a popular tourist destination with a thriving cafe culture) and thats where I am right now, sunk into a leather sofa drinking coffee and listening to church bells ring out from the 3 churches nearby. Its a hard life riding the wave of my youth pushing my luck to the last minute.

I should have started work on the 8th but apparently the apricots that im going to be picking won't be ripe enough until the 15th so until then im trying to conserve my last 40 francs (difficult when a beer is 5.80 and you can't get a coffee for under 4, necessities you understand.)

Tuesday, 29 April 2008

uh oh

Cow Fight!

sorry I haven't made a post in a while, I've been busy adjusting to being back home!

anyway on the 13th of April....

we started the day at Bastiens mothers house for pancakes and coffee, i also tried every single jam under the sun from hazelnut to kiwi all really great and all homemade by Bastiens mum! I even got given a jar of Quince jam home with me!

we piled into two cars (Me, Bastien, Julie, Nadia, Pablo & Bastiens Mother) and set off down the straight road through the centre of the valley to a small village near sion for an afternoon of cow fighting & raclette. Both of these I knew very little about!

the place was packed with excited specatators, proud owners and of course the cows themselves, I was suprised bulls weren't the ones fighting but the local herens breed of cow is used and apparently the cows fight naturally in the mountains to establish hierarchy
 in the herd. hence the name of the sport 'combats de reines' (combat of the queens)
the prizes are shiny new bells!

its traditional for people to drink white wine and eat the mysterious local delicacy 'raclette' 
i had heard so much about whilst watching the cows fight, so we headed straight over to the food and drink tent! If i haven't mentioned already, swiss white wine is great, really fresh lots of peach and pear notes, not too dry and a great length.
They don't have much room to grow the wine though so not much gets exported, they just drink it all! Raclette turned out to be anothe cheese based meal, basically the raclette cheese is put under a heater until the top layer starts melting, this is then scraped off with a knife onto a plate, the melted cheese is served with a gherkin, some pickles and a potato. you don't need any salt but i found black pepper went down a treat! Raclette is even more localised than fondue, being a completely Valaisian tradition (Valais, the region of switzerland i spent most of my time in!)

this is pablo eating raclette!

Then it was up to the arena where we found some wooden supports on a hill to sit on giving us a great view of the action, behind us two cow fight enthusiasts talked excitedly, Bastien found out what we had missed and which cows we should look out for! then it began! its a lot like arm wrestling really except instead of them just using their arm they use their whole humongous body to try and push their opponent to the point of giving up! its quite exciting, especially when the dust is flying and the crowd is cheering! everyone reassured me that its rare for a cow to get more than a chipped horn in combat, which made the animal activist part of me feel alot better however in the similar japanese sport 'Tōgyū' they apparently sharpen the horns!

after a few hours of watching cows tussle in the beautiful sunshine , drinking white wine I felt i had absorbed enough swiss tradition for the entire trip but the day (my last day) wasn't over yet! so we hitched a ride down to Sion, one of my favourite places in switzerlan and went to went o one of my favourite bars of the trip, La Grenette! owned by a crazy bearded dude, this tiny place is overflowing with characters, traditional swiss wood layouts and probably just about enough room to swing un petit chat! cheap beer and everybody smillng! we met up with Bastiens friends (and now mine I guess) Christian, Eilda & Frederic who had come straight from a birthday party and we spent the majority of the evening with them talking and laughing before catching a train to sion, grabbing a great pizza and chilling at the appartment.

it was my last night and I thanked Bastien for the amazing hospitality he had shown me, it was great to hang out with someone so far from home who was exactly the kind of person i would hang out with now im back here! Can't wait for him to come to manchester in a few months and i can buy him a beer!

The next day i caught a train through the longest tunnel in switzerland to the german speaking city of Basel where i caught a flight to Liverpool airport, I've been back for a week or so now and although its great to see some familiar faces, i'd love to get away again! I've got the bug!

Stay Safe
Sam x

Friday, 11 April 2008

Venice Is Sinking!

hi I just spent a night and two days in venice it was really magnificent i couldnt really fully imagine it until i saw it, there are NO roads! all canals and they still use them for transporting building materials getting rid of rubbish and as floating shops, it was really cool, I went St Marcos square and got lost in the maze of streets thousands of times it was crazy

this is my `help im lost in venice face`
if you want masks you go to venice, this is the shop where Stanley Kubrick got his masks for the Movie èyes wide shut`

so the weather wasnt sunny but rain in venice is pretty magical everywhere you go you can hear a thousand raindrops hitting water and a million little splashes appearing all over the canals!

anyway im back in switzerland today we`re making music and sushi and on sunday I get to see some legendary swiss COW FIGHTS!!!

stay safe

Tuesday, 8 April 2008

more photos from switzerland

hey guys thought id let you know i`ve booked a train to venice tommorow morning where I will be staying for one night before returning to martigny until my flight home on the 14th!
ok heres some more photos from switzerland its a really beautiful place but very expensive!

learnt how to cook tomato fondue at Bastiens mothers house, it turned out super super tasty!
fork in the lake outside the food mueseum in Vevey