Au revoir, Cambrai

I can’t believe its over. 😦

Don’t get me wrong, I’m excited. The assistantship program has been interesting to say the least, but there’s no way I could do it again. These past few months I really felt like I was just wasting time here, waiting for it to be over so I can start my real life again. I’ve met a lot of great people though!

The hardest part is that I still love France. Sometimes I can’t even figure out why, but I love living here and I would stay forever if James and Henry were here too. Hopefully someday we’ll be able to.

Here are my top 10 moments of the past 7 months:

#1. James proposing 🙂
#2. New Years at the Eiffel Tower (and the walk home)
#3. Christmas at the hostel in London
#4. Surprise birthday party from the English teachers
#5. My parents visiting and everything we saw
#6. Seeing Erica, twice!
#7. Christmas markets and hot wine
#8. Couchsurfing in southern France
#9. Participating in a teacher’s protest/demonstration
#10. Having one of my students tell me he couldn’t guess my nationality by the way I look (“you could be French!”), what a complement! 🙂

Here’s hoping to a stress-free day of travel on Wednesday (all 22 hrs of it!) and to seeing James!!!

La grève

France’s sport national: faire la grève et les manifestations. Usually I’m excited when its strike time (no work!), but tonight I found out there will be a train and RER strike on Wednesday when my parents arrive. Bienvenue en France!

I checked on my train tickets and my first one is canceled, so it means I’ll have to take the earlier train at 7. Boo! I should be able to make it to Paris on time though. The tricky part will be the RER since two out of three will be running and we need to make it to our place by noon. Oh France, always trying to make things interesting.

In the spirit of strikes I’m posting a few pics from our last big teacher’s strike and protest. Actually it was organized by the students…they start young.


Vacances d’Hiver, Semaine 2

Just found the draft of my second week of winter vaca, whoops! Here’s to another vacation in just one week! 🙂

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Our second week started with Montpellier where we would meet up with Kristen.

Our first day we just wandered around the city. Most of the old town is pedestrian, with very quaint, winding streets. They have a very large, beautiful (yes, in the winter too!) botanical garden/park that we strolled by as well as an Arc de Triomphe and an aqueduct. Their Cathedral was closed by the time we arrived, but it is unique from the outside in that it has a lovely canopy over the entrance.

While in Montpellier we also took a day-trip to Nimes. Nimes is known for its Roman ruins: an arena, a temple, and a tower. We visited all three but my fav by far was the arena. Its smaller than the Colosseum in Rome, but far better preserved. And we had sweet audio guides to listen to.

Next up was Toulouse, another one of my favorite cities. Toulouse is known for its violets and pink-colored buildings. Its also a major stop on the pilgrimage of Santiago de Compostela, which I’m currently obsessed with.

Our day trip from Toulouse was to the fairytale city of Carcassonne. A-mazing. The only downside was it happened to be dreary and raining the day we planned to go.

Next we headed to the Basque Region of France, Bayonne and Biarritz. I’ve been really interested in the Basque culture since I studied it in a cultural geography class, so actually seeing it was really cool. In Bayonne we spent the day walking around the old town (notice the cute red and green shutters!), visiting the Basque museum, and drinking fantastic hot chocolate!

It rained a bit in Biarritz as well, but it was fun to walk along the beach and see the ocean. Our big trek was out to Rocher de la Vierge.

Vacances d’Hiver, Semaine 1

I feel like all I ever post about are my vacations, but really it is quite amazing how much time we have off. During February we had our two week winter vacation and I went with a couple other assistants to the south of France, in search of warmer weather. Which did not happen. Okay, maybe a couple days in the beginning it was nice, but thank goodness I brought my hat. In order to make this trip actually affordable we decided to do couchsurfing. I know it probably sounds like a crazy idea, but it is such a good community of people! We had amazing hosts the entire time.

Anna and I started off in Marseille. Lovely and sunny when we first arrived, then it turned to rain. A nice city, but not one I’ll be running back to. Favorites from Marseille: Notre Dame de la Garde, Vieux Port, the Cathedral, and Les Iles de Frioul.

From Marseille we did a day-trip to Aix-en-Provence. Which I’m sure is absolutely beautiful in the spring, summer, and fall, but not so much in the winter. It still was a very cute town and I could see how studying/living there would be really cool. We walked around, looked at the Aix Cathedral, and then went to a really fun English bookstore/coffeehouse call Books and Bar. Highly recommended!

Next up was Avignon. One of my favorites from our trip, but the winds were insane! They call them mistrals. These ferocious winds come down the Rhone river and can happen any time of the year. I literally had to hold on my hat! The weather was also surprisingly cold. My favorite thing we saw there was the Palais des Papes (yay for free audio guides!!!).

Carnaval de Bergues

I missed the Carnaval de Dunkerque because of our winter break (post coming soon!), so when Doug and Marion told me they were going to one in Bergues I took my chances and went along. (side-note: I’ve started to avoid the massive travel groups, things just end up going badly.) Also, Bergues is the town from the uber-famous French movie Bienvenue Chez Les Ch’its. If you haven’t seen it, you should! But I heard Will Smith will be making an American version soon. Its about the stereotypes of the North and is super funny.

Train travel, in general, is wonderful in France. That is unless you’re trying to get from one little nothing town to another little nothing town. We had to leave a little before 9 to get there in time for it to be worth our trip. Since we arrived before things really got started, we walked around the city for a bit, trying to find the places from the movie. Bergues is a lot cuter than I imagined!

Belfry from the movie! And of course a Friterie!

I think this is from the movie as well...

We then headed back to the main square where more people were slowly started to show up. I didn’t realize that “dressing up” meant men dressing as women. Do they do this in New Orleans too? I couldn’t remember. Anywho, a lot of men dressed as women and then just lots of really bright pink. Which is very contrary to the all black French people usually wear. Vera (Doug’s friend) said this was their closeted version of a gay-pride parade. Quite close, I think.

lovely French ladies

Our group enjoying the festivities! My mask and beads are courtesy of Erica!!

Marion, Doug, and Vera

me and Marion!

my new friend

The main part of the carnaval that we participated in was the parade. Their version of a parade was a small marching band followed by a crowd of people. We joined in once it passed us and followed it until things fizzled out. There were a few moments when I thought I would be crushed to death, but overall it was fun. We did run to the side a few times to avoid the pushing/dancing. Oh, and Doug saved me from some overly affectionate French men.

I’m not sure how late things went, but we had to catch our train at 5:30. Just when they were throwing cheese from the town hall! At least we have the Carnaval de la Betise coming up in April!