Friday, November 30, 2012

Turkey update

Sorry for the absence everyone! Let me catch you up;

Thanksgiving was fantastic, food from all over, wine and lots of wonderful people. After wolfing down all the food and being told by our neighbors that the building “is not a nightclub” (perhaps they were enraged by our choice of Spice Girls' hits?) we headed out on the town. The group got split up a bit but we ended up at a bar with live music and later on, some of us made it to Arena, a local night club. Arena is actually a proper club, one that would not at all be out of place on Austin's 6th street. However, given that “carding” does not exist here, the clientele is a little different. And by different I mean teenagers. That didn't bother us given that we had our own fun group going, but it did catch up with me on Monday morning.

Student: "Miss, Do you, uh, fête, uh, celebrate Thanksgiving by drinking and dancing?"
Me: "Not really, it's a day to be with family and friends."
Student: "Oh, I saw you at the, uh, boite de nuit, uh club, this weekend."
Me: fml (vdm)

Ah, well. You can't have everything. Now the list of “Things my students will see me doing and I will be embarrassed by” will be shortened as everything is already on it anyway.

Since Thanksgiving I've been into Clermont- Ferrand again. Life as an immigrant means paperwork. Last week I went into Clermont for a chest x-ray (to prove I don't have tuberculosis) which took all of 5 minutes and then I was free for the rest of the day. I walked around a lot and had a lovely lunch at a tea shop. Sadly, my sense of direction failed me again and it was only as I was leaving that I saw where all the main (chain) shops were. Oops. It was probably better for my bank account anyway.

This week I was in again on Tuesday, this time for the 5 minutes (but hour long wait) medical exam that basically consists of height, weight, “have you ever been to Africa? Yes. Did you have malaria? No.” and being shuffled out the door with more papers with official stamps all over them.

The immigration office wasn't open at that point in the day, so I had to spend the night. Ania, another assistant, and one who was at Thanksgiving very kindly offered me a place to stay at her apartment. We had a great night with some very strong beers from the beer bar around the corner from her. Even better, I was actually able to get up and out the door to the OFII office before it closed. Ania also came along on my adventure to find the H&M which was located on kind of a highway in a shopping mall. I have to admit, it kind of makes me feel like I'm at home in Jersey when I'm in a mall. I was able to get a sweater and some socks at H&M which was nice as well. It was after taking the train back and arriving to my apartment that my roommates told me we had been paid early and I could have gone on a real shopping trip! Once again, it was probably better for my bank account that I didn't know this.

I really love Montluçon and I'm sad to think about leaving here, even though my departure date is still months away. That being said, I've had a bad case of the homesick lately. I haven't really worked out my Christmas plans yet which I think is a major factor. (On that note, anybody interested in an impromptu trip to Europe? I'll be your tour guide!) I'm sending out some couchsurfing messages and I'm hoping to go to Strasbourg and some of the surrounding towns for picturesque and lively Christmas markets. My NYE plans are still very much up in the air, but might have me end up in Paris. After that I think it will be back to Montluçon to spend some time with the families and friends I've met here.

Do you guys have any suggestions of what I should do? Know of someone else in Europe looking for a travel buddy? I'm all ears; send me an email, fbook me or leave a comment.  

Friday, November 23, 2012

Turkey Trot

I ran my own personal turkey trot is there isn't much to do here on actual thanksgiving. That gave me enough time for 12k!

I am so thankful for the amazing people in my life and for the fantastic party we are having here Saturday!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Immigrant Life

As an immigrant in France much paperwork is required of me. Part of this is a chest X-ray and medical visit. I have to return next week for the doctors visit but the appointment for the chest X-ray meant I got to play hookey from class and spend the day in Clermont.
Most of the day was spent wandering around. I'd never really been to Clermont before and the majority of my time was spent wandering around the cathedral and pedestrian zone around there. It was only as I was leaving that I discovered the real shopping areas Damn and oops. That's alright, I'll wait on the next paycheck until I have more fun in Clermont.

The main sight is the volcanic stone cathedral. The dark stone makes it look like Death Eaters took over the Ministry of Magic. All the same, the interior was impressive somehow over coming the air of gloom that the outside holds.

While I didn't find H&M, I'll get there next week when I go to the doctor to prove that I don't have tuberculosis but I do have a heartbeat.

A beautiful sunrise sky

The downsides to the beautiful sunrises I see is that it means I am up too damn early.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Des Pierres Jaumatres and a home cooked lunch

Didier and his wife Blandine were kind enough to have over me and Alex for lunch. They live in a cute little duplex which overlooks the Saturday market in Montlucon. Didier cooked a fantastic boeuf bourginon followed by a tarte tatin for dessert. Upon discovering that Alex has a car the possibilities for the afternoon opened up. They have three kids (Adrian (12), Claire (9) and Lucie (6) so the seats were all full up in their car, but we were able to follow behind in Alex's. 

We headed to "Des Pierres Jaumatres" Which is roughly translated as "The Sorcerer's Rocks." "Jaumatres" is an old local patois word for magician. I understood why the rocks got that name once I saw them. They are boulders that had been moved and placed by glaciers and some of them seem to be precariously balanced, even if they are steady. 

I had forgotten my camera and ipod, so the photos are from my cheapo French phone. 

Didier is a bit closer to me than the rocks in this photo, so those boulders are even bigger than they appear here! I have to say that I got a bit nervous standing under them as well, even though they are firmly in place.

It was lovely spending the day with a family, especially one with adorable kids running around (especially Lucie). Oh, they also have some pets; a bunny named Treasure (who I hope is never eaten), and two fish- Sonic (as in Sonic the hedgehog) and Louis XVI. How French. 

Friday, November 16, 2012

Beaujolais Nouveau and Bowling

For a change of pace from our usual bar scene, we decided to go out bowling on Thursday evening. 
Maria, Me and Alex- the roommates!
The bowling alley is pretty nice with a good number of lanes, lazer tag, pool tables, a snack bar (which is very typically French- it has crepes and croque monseiur on the menu)- oh and a bar as well. Maybe it wasn't such a change for us :)
Maria, Eddie, Me, Alex, Martin, Naomi, James and Sarah
After two games where I think only 1 person broke a hundred points, we reverted to our typical selves and to drinking. Eddie, who is French and therefore much more on top of things like this, has purchased some bottles of Beaujolais Nouveau. 

Beaujolais Nouveau, how to describe you? First, let's deal with the name. Beajolais is a region and Nouveau means "new" thus Beaujolais Nouveau is the result of the year's harvest, being released for sale to the public. The day is very similar to Oberon day from Bell's for you Michiganders out there reading this. 

EXCEPT for the perception of the drinks. People look forward to Oberon Day because that beer is DELICIOUS. People look forward to Beaujolais Nouveau as a bit of a  joke. It's a bit like if there were "Franzia Day." 

In fact, the wine was considered so awful for a while that they were in danger of losing the right to call it "Beaujolais" any longer. It's a bit like going around the US and telling crappy pizza shops that they need to stop selling their crappy pizza as NY pizza because it's an insult to real NY pizza.

Beaujolais has turned it around a bit, and the wine isn't all that bad anymore (well, not all of it). Though they definitely still play up the crappy origins ex. One of bottles/ varieties was called "Pisse- Dru" a play on "hard piss." Part of the reason for it's reputation is that it's a young wine, only fermented for about a month or two and has a fruitier flavor. 

It's played up quite a bit in the USA for turkey day, as Beaujolais comes out the third Thursday of November and Thanksgiving is just a week later. I'm sure it's likely to make an appearance at our Thanksgiving as well- though with our Thanksgiving potluck being composed of almost entirely 20-somethings, it's possible it will be a liquid Thanksgiving!

So don't feel ashamed to put Beaujolais on the Thanksgiving sideboard, but I owuldn't show it off to your French friends either. 

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Remembrance day- 11/11

I love chrysanthemums- they mean it's time for fall. Chrysanthemums have been decorating Montlucon, but with a sadder background behind them. They are seen as mourning plant, often placed at grave sights. Between Toussaint (November 1st) where people go and visit the graves of relatives and leave the flowers and Remembrance Day (November 11) which commemorates veterans in general but more specifically those of WW1, these flowers have been all over town. I've been tempted to buy some for our apartment as a way of celebrating fall, but I know the nieghbors would think it's quite weird. 

The World War I memorial in town, decorated for Nov 11th. 

Mums in the center of town with the Chateau in the background.

Traditionally a minute of silence is observed for all those who have fallen at 11:11 on 11/11. 
I know he was lucky enough to live a long life after his service, and he served in WWI, but the phrase that keeps popping into my head when I see the mums is "Always steady, Always kind."

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Vacation! Part 8- Avignon and the end

I got to dance by the Pont d'Avignon today and walk the many rooms of the Palais des Papes but tomorrow I head back to Montluçon and back to "real life."

It's been a fantastic vacation am I'm so happy to have explored more of France. I hope to have something even half as awesome during the Christmas break. More updates to come (hopefully tomorrow) though I've got about 4 lesson plans for Monday staring me down.

Sur le pont d’Avignon
L'on y danse, l'on y danse
Sur le pont d’Avignon
L'on y danse tous en rond

Vacation! Part 7- Arles

While the cities we've visited have been diverse in general, Arles brings a particularly interesting flavor to the table. Arles has many old Roman ruins throughout the city. With a cheap 4 sight combo pass, we were able to visit many of ruins. Before heading to the ruins we first stopped by the cafe where Van Gogh painted his "Cafe de la nuit." Our pictures don't perfectly line up, as it wasn't nighttime, but the similarities are certainly still there!

At the arena where they still hold bull fights in the summer
Overlooking Arles from the Arena

On the roof at the cloisters
Caitlin, Catriona and Me

Friday, November 9, 2012

Vacation! Part 6- Aix en Provence

Aix en Provence is known for its student population but fancy shmancy settings, many many fountains, and for being the longtime residence of Cezanne. We got to know Aix through its burger bar, walking through the city about 7 times, the free map self guided walking tour provided by the tourism office, and a hunt to find many of the rumored "1000 fountains."

Calissons are a regional specialty. They're ok, mostly an almondy taste to it, but sugar as well

Mossy fountain

Do we match?

Look at the pretty color of those buildings

Same with these

I told you there were lots of fountains in this town!

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Vacation! Part 5b Marseille in the Day

We had quite a lot to do and see in our day in Marseille. With some good planning we were able to see all that we had set out for, while still getting in some relaxing Starbucks (!) and gelato time as well. 
Vieux Port

First thing in the morning we headed to the Vieux Port to catch the ferry boat out to Chateau d'If, which is on a small little island. Chateau d'If is also the setting for the Counte de Monte Cristo, the famous work of Alexandre Dumas. Because we had taken the first boat out, we had the place almost completely to ourselves. That and it was free since the ticket taker lady hadn't shown up so they were short staffed and elected to run the gift shop rather than the ticket sales.

Caitlin, Me and Catriona

The inner courtyard

Chateau d'If and Me
After being back on the main land, we walked around the Vieux Port, headed to a pretty church that ended up being closed, soaked up the sun and got some delicious gelato. After that we head to the bus stop to Notre Dame de la Garde. The church sits up on a hill, overlooking Marseille and the port. While we had just come from the Alps, the towns had sat in valleys and it seemed that Marseille was trying to break our quads.

I'm so glad we were able to get the bus up, as even the walk back down the hill later was killing us. More importantly, Notre Dame de la Garde was one of the most unique cathedrals I had ever seen. It had hanging mobile type items with boats all over, as I believe that it was the place of worship for many sailors.
Looking at Notre Dame de la Garde from Chateau d'If

Starting the long walk down...

The final kick to our quads- the steps up into the train station

Vacation! Part 5- Museums in Grenoble and an evening arrival to Marseille

After a trip to a museum in Grenoble, we parted ways with L. who was continuing her journey and vacation solo to Nimes and Montpellier. After some time spent in a tea shop, we boarded our train and headed on to Marseille.

We arrived in Marseille at night, with a vague idea of where to head. Luckily the train station had maps to provide us, the apartment we had rented wasn't a far walk away and the information guy was able to give us some pretty good directions. The apartment was perfect little studio, right off one of the main streets in Marseille. 

The view from the balcony, 5 stories up
The downside to the beautiful view was the 5 flights we had to walk up, with our bags- no elevator. 

Elections Abroad

This time around I only made it until 2am to watch results come in (aka barely any) but waking up to Obama's win is a wonderful way to start the morning! Maybe in the next presidential I'll even be in the USA instead of casting an absentee ballot!

This is the body of an email I just received from a French born naturalized American citizen;

"Congratulations to the American people for a wise choice.

And for not electing another insensitive reckless frat boy at the White House."

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Vacances! Part 4- Grenoble

Grenoble would continue the rainy theme of the trip but we persevered anyway! We found the tourism office and headed out with a map of the city with a marked walking tour. The tour had some uneventful bit to it, like the first stop which was a wall. Other parts improved, but the definite highlight to the day was taking the cable/ bubble cars up to the top of la Bastille and seeing the amazing view of Grenoble and the Alps.

An excited start to our self guided walking tour

Crazy dolphin cherub fountain

Passing the other cars on the way up

An amazing view! I may have also started singing "The Hills are Alive with the Sound of Music" despite being in the completely wrong mountains/ country

Caitlin, Me, Catriona (our 4th travel buddy, L. prefers not to have her picture up)

Breathtaking views

Cable cars, Grenoble, Alps

Me and Caitlin on the way down

L., Catriona, Caitlin