27 October 2012

One-month anniversary

As of yesterday I have been living in France for a month! And so to celebrate, I spent the day trying and almost failing to get back from Poitiers...

You'll know from my last post that I spent Thursday night in Poitiers for another assistant's 21st. Stupid buses combined with a train strike had meant that Mike and I were surprised we actually made it to the city on Thursday. 

L’hôtel de ville de nuit

The party was very enjoyable, allowing me to meet lots of other English speakers in red and orange attire (the theme of the party). The majority of the people present were Erasmus students at the Université de Poitiers, so it was interesting to hear about people's Years Abroad from a studying point of view. I must say, the more I hear about the excessive hours of lectures and early starts for students doing Erasmus, the more I'm glad that I chose to be an assistant. Lack of hours, no essays, and the fact that we get paid way more than we deserve really do make taking part in the assistantship programme seem the right decision.

Having no plans on where we would sleep on Thursday night, Mike and I had anticipated hanging around in Poitiers all night and jumping on one of the first trains back. We ended up being very lucky in that Bethan ever so kindly let us sleep on her floor. Not waking up until 10am on Friday meant we needed to re-consult our train and bus timetables and work out what the best option was. Once we'd figured what train/bus combination we were going for, we had about an hour and a half to spare. We killed time by having a coffee and pastry in the main square followed by a spot of sightseeing.

Mon chausson aux pommes ;)

One of Poitiers' many rues jolies
We ended up killing too much time and missing our train. PUTAIN! Consulting our trusty timetables encore une fois, we opted for the next train, which was an hour later, but we'd then have to wait 2 hours in Niort for the next bus back to Melle. And it was now raining. Add this to the fact that we were tired (and for Mike, hungover); still in last night's clothes; with unbrushed teeth; and, for me, make-up still on from the night before, these were bad times... So we sat in a nearby café for 45 minutes feeling sorry for ourselves, kind of like that bit in The Apprentice when the losing team sit in the Bridge Café debating where they went wrong.

Luckily we got on our train in good time (which then took years to actually leave the station) and got transported to Niort. In Niort we took the opportunity to spend the couple of hours before our bus was leaving by doing some more sightseeing. Although no French people I've spoken to seem to think that Niort's anything special, I really like it. The pedestrianized area in the centre has got a nice quaint feel to it, the city's relatively buzzing (OK, living in Melle, that's not difficult in the slightest) and it's got a pretty river.

I've never really appreciated autumn in the past

La Sèvre Niortaise
...And 24 hours after leaving Melle, we arrived home.

My next excursion takes place on Monday, when I will travel north-east to the city of Tours, where my housemate from last year is currently an assistant. My other linguist housemate from uni, Morgan, is also coming down from Paris, so I can't wait to see them both again and find out how their Years Abroad are going! I shall return on Wednesday, so it is highly probable that Wednesday shall be the day when you next hear from me. Until then, goodbye and keep warm.

25 October 2012

Buses hate me, and I hate them too

It's just coming up to midday and I've already woken up, walked to the town centre, come home, gone to bed, and woken up again. As a result I am feeling a bit disorientated right now. Allow me to tell you about my Thursday so far.

It occured to me a couple of weeks ago that I hadn't yet informed my uni that I'd arrived safe and sound in France and that I had indeed started working at the schools to which I had been assigned. As this 'certificate of arrival' meant that my next Erasmus grant would get sent to me, I thought I better get my act together and sort it out. But because it needs to be signed by my lycée, and I'm only at my lycée once a week, last Thursday was the day I had in mind to get this done. However, other administrative issues and lack of time resulted in an unsigned form at the end of the day. Nevermind, hopefully I can get it done at my collège on Tuesday, I thought to myself, assuming that any official signature and stamp from a French education establishment would suffice. But no, the secretary at the collège told me it had to be done at my main host school. Having a day off this week from the lycée, I realised I would have to make a special journey there and back simply to get this done and sent off to England. I looked at the bus timetable last night (as before I've always got a lift to the lycée) only to see that, due to the stupidly irregular times, the only way I could get there and back without changing other plans for the day was to get the 7:37 bus there, and come back on the 13:20 bus! Oh well, that was my only option. 

At 6:30am 'Surfin' Bird' blasts out of my phone as my alarm, and I get ready to go out, making sure I have all the appropriate documents, and something to kill the time between finishing my task and getting on the bus back to Melle. I walked into the town centre, once again in pitch black and waited at the bus stop. And waited. Ah, there's the bus, I said to myself excitedly as one came along....and drove straight past my signalling arm. Merde. Maybe I'll wait a little longer in case that wasn't the proper one and the actual one's just running really late. At about 7:55 I gave up, and wandered back home. But about halfway back to my flat, the bus drove past me, on it's way to the town centre bus stop! I legged it back up the hill...but it had been and gone. Cue melancholy violins.

However, waking up this early for basically nothing did mean that I got to see the beautiful sunrise that happened this morning, which almost made it all worth it. Just almost.

After my little photography session, I sent an email to my uni to ask if they'll still send me the cheque if I don't send them my form until after the holidays. Then I went back to bed.

3 hours later, I woke up feeling slightly more refreshed, checked my emails, and yay, they will put my cheque aside and save it for until they receive my forms.

Now I can get onto enjoying my day. Weather should be pretty good again, and this evening I'm going into Poitiers for another assistant's 21st which will be my first proper night out in France (I will never be able to call Melle's clubnight a proper night out...). With nowhere to sleep and being too tight to fork out for a hotel room, it looks as if Mike and I are going to have to stay out all night and catch the train back tomorrow morning. Apart from that, it should be a great night!

Oh, and this is the outside of my flat I've been living in for the past month, just after sunset:

My flat is the greyish bit on the left

Happy again

It is November next week, yet today I managed to sunburn my face. Not serious sunburn, but still, it's slightly pinker than it was this morning. In no way am I complaining though. The rain has finally cleared and made way for some beautiful sunshine. That was all I wanted to say.

This picture was taken neither today nor on a sunny day, but it's still Melle, and I think a Melle photo is overdue on my blog:

21 October 2012

Recipe: Boudin noir aux pommes et lentilles vertes

In Aldi the other day, I came across a pack of boudins noirs, which is basically France's version of black pudding. Being a fan of the British equivalent, I threw them into the trolley, wondering what I could do with them. Having a quick scour on the world wide web, it became apparent that the French commonly eat these sausages fried with apple. I like to do one-pot cooking, so I combined this idea with the apple one, thus creating my own French-inspired dish. 

Boudin noir aux pommes et lentilles vertes

2 onions
2 boudins noirs
1 apple
6 prunes
1 litre chicken stock
200g Puy lentils

Serves 2-3

  • Chop and sweat the onions in a little oil or butter.
  • Peel and finely chop the apple. Add to the onions.
  • Slice the boudins noirs about 1cm thick. I think you're also meant to remove the skins, as I had some strange chewy bits in mine. Add to the pan. Cook for a couple of minutes, stirring regularly.
  • Pit and chop the prunes. Add these, the stock and the lentils to the pan.
  • Bring to the boil. Cover and simmer for about 30 minutes. Stir regularly, as lentils have a tendency to stick. Use your judgement, you may need to add a bit more water now and then.
  • When lentils are cooked, remove from heat, and leave to rest for 5 minutes, allowing it to thicken slightly.
  • Serve on a bed of mashed potato.
  • And bon appetit!

It tasted nicer than it looks, promise!

20 October 2012

Rain rain go away

I realise I have been neglecting my blogging duties, but believe it or not, I've actually been really busy for once! We left off on Sunday after my epic meal, so I shall take you through my week since then.

Okay so perhaps Monday wasn't as eventful as I make out, as I'm struggling to think of what I actually did. Let's move onto Tuesday. Tuesday was the second of our two training days in Poitiers, and as last time was quite dull, we were hoping this would be more interesting and useful. With CoVoiturage.fr saving the day yet again, I set off from my flat at 7am in the pouring rain and absolute pitch black to walk to where our driver, Katia was picking us up, meeting Mike and Alfredo along the way. When we got in her car at 7:30, we probably looked like we had just got out the shower, we were that soaked. Anyway, we arrived in Poitiers without any trouble and with a bit of time to spare, which meant we were able to chat with some of the other assistants before things got underway. The main aim of the day was to discuss effective ways of leading English oral classes to collège and lycée students, and I came away having quite a few ideas up my sleeve. The general concensus was that game-style learning is the most effective way to make people speak in the target language, so we had a good brain storming session to see how simple game ideas could be adapted to various learning topics.

Apart from the training, it was also a great day socially. A group of us went for lunch in a pizzeria, which allowed me to meet more assistants I hadn't yet seen. We had a couple of hours to spare at the end of the day as well, before our lift came, so we went for a drink in the lovely square in front of the Hotel de Ville, even though it really was quite chilly.

Wednesday was spent sleeping and lesson planning for Thursday. Sandrine (my supervisor at the lycée) had emailed me on Tuesday evening telling me my timetable, and it said I only had two classes where I was completely on my own, and I could do the same thing with each class, so I didn't have too much planning to do. I really wanted to be prepared though, so I even did a timeplan for the class. It felt like I was doing homework again!

Thursday was a long and tiring day, even though I only did 5 hours of lessons. Having been expecting only to have to do my last 2 classes on my own, I was surprised when Manue (the other English teacher) said at the beginning of a class 'Is it OK if I leave you now?'. It went well though, and it was quite exciting actually, being in charge for a couple of hours! Also, the pupils were quite participative and well-behaved, so it wasn't too difficult. My last 2 classes were a different story, however. I had 5 or 6 pupils in each, but their level of English was so much lower than what I had expected and therefore planned the lesson for, that we were all equally relieved when the bell went. They literally understood nothing I said, even though it wasn't humanly possible to talk any slower, and one girl just kept having laughing fits everytime I said something to her that she couldn't understand. What's more, they kept on mocking my English accent!?! At least now I know how weak they are in the language, so I can plan accordingly. It'll certainly be a challenge.

I was meant to be going to La Rochelle on Thursday evening with Anne-Lise and her husband, and Mike was going to come along as well. But she sent me an email during the day to cancel as she was too tired, which was a shame. Instead Mike and I just went for a drink at Café du Boulevard, but that was short-lived when it became apparent that it closed at 10pm.

It's worth mentioning that it literally has not stopped pouring with rain for like the last week. It's so depressing. It makes me want to hide away in my flat with the shutters closed so I can't see how disgusting it is out there. I absolutely had to go to the supermarket on Friday though. I had said the previous Friday that I needed to go shopping in the next couple of days, so I'm not sure what I was living off to get me through a whole week with next to no food in the flat. Anyway, with a 15 minute walk to Aldi and back, I was once again a rather soggy excuse for a human being. 

You may be thinking that nothing particularly exciting has taken place this week, but things are about to change. For Friday night was Club Night at the Café  Yes, I was as intrigued as you are. Having seen no one under the age of 50 at the Café before now, Mike and I were wondering how Melle's beret-clad residents would fare with a 'DJ récent' taking over the place.  

Apparently we'd stepped into the 80s. 'DJ récent' was a lie; the only song I recognised was one from the Dirty Dancing soundtrack, and I witnessed some of the oddest dancing since I was last at a party with my dad. It was quite an hilarious night though once we'd embraced the stark contrast from a typical student club night and once we'd discovered the local cocktail of cognac, triple sec and orange juice. As a result of the latter, I am writing this post in bed, where I have spent the whole of my Saturday not feeling particularly perky. And now I'm going to go to sleep, so bonne nuit.

Mike with potentially the coolest man in the world. Meet Beret Man.

PS. Sorry for the lack of pretty pictures; the weather has temporarily subdued my inner photographer

14 October 2012

Food glorious food

I'm currently in a very good mood because I just had SO MUCH YUMMY FRENCH FOOD!! As I wrote yesterday, I was invited for lunch around Anne-Lise's house, and I'm now going to tell you about what I ate. So if you have no interest in food, then don't waste your time reading this post.

Apart from Anne-Lise and myself, there was also her husband Dominique, two friends of theirs called Danielle and a name I've forgotten, and their one-year-old son/daughter called Marin or something like that (I didn't manage to work out bébé's gender over the course of the afternoon). When I got there, I was poured a glass of Pineau as an aperitif. They explained that Pineau is a regional alcoholic beverage, and in my opinion it tasted quite like a sweet sherry. Small tart things were then brought out that were filled with egg, cheese and ham. I had quite a few of those, as they were delicious and I didn't quite realise how many courses were involved in a French lunch, and thought that they were the starter. After that, the actual starter was served, which was cold beetroot, with a garlic/mustard/vinaigrette dressing to go with it. I went back for seconds, so I must have enjoyed it. For main course we were given roast veal with sauted potatoes. Veal is the only meat I really try not to eat for ethical reasons, but I really couldn't say no in this situation! When it came out all pink in the middle, they were murmuring among themselves, and I could tell they were worried that I'd find it too underdone because I'm English. When I told them 'J'aime le sang' (I like blood) they literally all cheered and told me I must be part French. Of course, next came the cheeseboard. Including a HOMEMADE goat's cheese by Anne-Lise. Say whaaat? Apparently French people that work full-time and have a baby to look after still have time to make cheese. Along with a nice chunk of Roquefort and some crusty bread, it was perfection. Danielle had brought along a tarte aux pommes she'd made, so that finished off the feast in true French style (although the British part of me craved a dollop of creamy hot custard to go with it).

Obviously, conversation was all in French, which I was a little worried about. But I was quite pleased with how much I mangaged to follow, and I think I only said 'Comment?' about 2 or 3 times when asked a question. So there's progress on the language front, it seems.

Lunch was followed by a walk around their quaint little town of Prahecq where we were followed home by a cute little white cat. And then Anne-Lise and her husband showed us all the vegetables they grow, and the animal section of their garden. There were pigeons, ducks, 2 varieties of hens, and hutches full of rabbits. It was when Dominique pointed to each hutch saying 'these are for October, these are for November...' that I realised all the animals there were to be eaten at some point. As Dominique said, 'Les Français sont barbares'! I realised how immature I am when I kept silently sniggering to myself everytime Dominique mentioned 'mon coq'. Don't tell me you didn't enjoy that one too!

All in all it's been a lovely day. The teachers really do try and make me feel so welcome, which I really appreciate, as otherwise it's a struggle to meet people, especially in Melle. I would have loved to have taken photos of my meal (anyone who knows me will know I love taking pictures of food!) but I figured it may have looked a bit odd or rude to those I was with this afternoon. So it's not a very pretty or colourful post today. However, the sky was quite fiery this evening, so I got a snap of that:

La crepuscule melloise

13 October 2012

Getting out of town

I actually did something on my day off yesterday, you’ll be pleased to discover. Having a nice lie-in and awaking to sun and blue sky for a change, I FINALLY made it to the market. And it was very exciting indeed. So many good smells, so many French people milling around, so much traditional produce waiting to be brought home and devoured. Despite there being some really naff clothes stalls selling frumpy underwear and the like, Melle market, like most French markets, is principally a food market. Cheeses, meats, fish, pate, fruit, veg, bread, cakes, local honey, local apple juice, local wines… It took a lot of self-restraint not to buy a bit of everything that took my fancy, but I ended up coming away with some Roquefort and some pâté paysan

My market purchases; Roquefort and pâté

So that was my lunch sorted, and it was definitely one of the best lunches I’ve had since I’ve been here. It may surprise you to read that after 2 and a half weeks I have so far resisted the temptation to buy a fresh baguette from the boulangerie. I know that once I buy one, it will end up being a regular occurrence, so for the sake of my hips I am sticking to the supermarket sliced brown stuff for as long as I can muster the strength!

I decided to get out of Melle for the afternoon, so I got on the bus (which is more like a coach) to Niort. The journey takes about 45 minutes, but the landscape’s so pretty, and it goes through some nice looking towns, so it’s an enjoyable ride. I got off in the city centre called Place de la Brèche which is a square with lots of bars and restaurants in. Just off it is the main pedestrianized shopping street which I went straight to. After seeing what clothes West France has to offer, I took a little detour off the beaten track (OK fine, I got a bit lost), but I found some nice little narrow streets and a church.

So my first venture into Niort has been a good one. There’s some castle thing there as well, so when I fancy a bit of culture I’ll go and have a look at that. And it’s much livelier than Melle, so I’m hoping a night out there might be on the cards at some point.

Back in my flat in Melle for the evening, I had an impromptu visit from a girl I met the other day. She’s Moroccan, is currently living in Brioux (the town where my college is), works in Melle, and gets quite bored and lonely. So she’s befriended me, and she was here for hours last night, fascinated by my British toiletries and make-up. In fact, she’s written me a list of all the things she wants me to bring back from across the Channel after Christmas! She’s lovely though, and it’s really nice to know another relatively young person in the area. And I get to practice my French without feeling under pressure at all.

Now it’s a Saturday morning, and I’m wondering what to do for the day. Tomorrow I’ve been invited to Anne-Lise’s house (one of the English teachers at the college) for lunch, so I’m excited about a proper French Sunday lunch. But for now, bon weekend.

11 October 2012

The main reason I've come to France

I don’t think France likes me very much, as I’ve now lost 4 things in the past week. Last Saturday, an Aldi trolley refused to give me back my 1€ coin when I plugged it back into the other trolley; the washing machine gobbled up one of my favourite socks on Monday; on Tuesday a teacher stole my favourite biro; and I’ve just arrived home from the lycée work to realise that the computer forgot to remind me to take out my memory stick, thus leaving me USB-less for the foreseeable future. Quite worried about which precious item of mine this country’s going to target next.

So I’ve now had my first week as an assistant where I wasn’t just ‘observing’, but actually had to stand in front of the class and talk (albeit I only ended up doing 6 hours of lessons instead of 12). As I wrote in my previous post, the English department at the collège where I work on Tuesdays was being inspected that very day. It turns out that teachers tend only to get inspected once every five to ten years, just my luck. Needless to say, the teachers were all rather stressed. I had to do a lot of acting and role-playing in the classes in front of the inspectors, but the teachers were all hugging and kissing me and the kids now all say hi to me as I walk past them in the playground and the canteen, so I must have done something right. I really enjoy it at the collège; all the staff are so welcoming, the pupils are very friendly, and the school dinners are yummy and totally French.

The lycée is very different; the lessons are much less structured, the pupils are less enthusiastic, and despite the fact that they’re older than those at the collège, their English is weaker. So I’m going to have to get used to talking in English very slowwwwwly. That’s not to say I don’t still enjoy it there, I do. Also, Alfredo (the Mexican assistant who lives in Melle) works at the lycée the same day as me, which is nice to have. He’s easier to talk to than the teachers as well, so I get to practice talking French more.

Apart from work, I haven’t actually been up to very much at all these past few days. The weather has been rubbish for the past week (as in I got woken up by a storm this morning, and there has been some of the heaviest rain I’ve ever seen), so I haven’t exactly been venturing out around town or exploring the rest of the region. It is autumn now, I guess, so I shouldn’t be too surprised. The autumn leaves are beginning to look quite pretty though:

Melle in autumn

07 October 2012

Naked like a worm

It’s the end of another weekend, and I’ve had a very lazy couple of days, so I’m afraid this isn’t going to break any records in the world of blogging. But I thought I should do an update so as not to disappoint my avid readers, or rather my dad.

I left you all in suspense on Friday evening, as I was about to go and check out the height of Friday night entertainment in Melle. As a student, I’m accustomed to being greeted with loud music, unpleasant smells and drunken revellers as I walk into a pub on a Friday night. On entering the Café du Boulevard to meet Mike and Alfredo, however, the majority of the punters were in their 50s or above, sitting around tables playing board games. This is Melle, I suppose…

After chatting in French for a bit (as Alfredo doesn’t speak English, so French is the only common language for the 3 of us) we decided to do as all the others were doing and get a game out the cabinet. We picked Scrabble, as it was about the only one we recognised, and in fact we ended up having a great night! Who knew you could learn so much new vocabulary whilst drinking vodka and cokes?! That’s another thing about the Café (or it might be France in general, I haven’t discovered yet); there seems to be no such thing as a measure for alcohol, they just freely fill half your glass with vodka and dilute it slightly with coke. Anyway, the most interesting piece of vocabulary we learnt, and which I give you all permission to use when an appropriate occasion arises, is ‘être nu comme un ver’ which literally means ‘to be naked like a worm’, but which idiomatically translates to ‘to be stark naked’.

Apart from having a French woman come up to our table and tell us that some of the words we’d spelt didn’t in fact exist in the French language, we finished the game (or rather, gave up) feeling quite proud of our achievement. Here’s how it ended:

Saturday consisted of buying food from Aldi, and sitting in front of Skype for the rest of the day, and Sunday wasn’t much more exciting. Although I did go to church in the église Sainte-Hilaire, my favourite place in Melle. With it being an 800-year-old World Heritage Site, I felt quite lucky to be able to celebrate mass in such a beautiful building that’s only a 3 minute walk from my flat.

Today also involved receiving lesson plans from the teachers I’ll be working with this week, which was a little bit scary, especially as there are going to be inspectors present in 2 of my classes. Obviously they’re there to inspect the main teachers and not me, but it’s still a little disconcerting!

Oh and I also made myself a sort of Croque Madame for lunch earlier, which I got quite excited about. Here it is, my first attempt at trying to adopt a more French way of life:

That’s actually quite a long post for having done so little this weekend, but my lovely boyfriend’s waiting to Skype me, so I shall bid you all au revoir.

05 October 2012

Paperwork, paperwork and more paperwork...

Now I understand the extent to which everybody detests French administration. Instead of having a lie-in on my day off and finally getting to the market in town, I had to wake up at 6:45 in order to get a lift to the lycée, where I have now been for almost 4 hours trying to work out what documents I need to send off to get paid, as well as struggling to figure out how I should receive my social security number, which is compulsory if living in France. Anyway, after a whole morning of having teachers phone around, photocopying paperwork, reading advice online etc., we’ve ended up guessing what we should send off in the hope that I will receive some sort of payment.

I realise I haven’t blogged for 2 days; Wednesday was rather uneventful apart from signing up at the local médiateque so I can take out French books and DVDs for the year, and yesterday was spent in Poitiers along with all the other assistants in the Académie de Poitiers, for an induction course.

The initial challenge of the day had been how we were going to get to Poitiers for 9am, what with the public transport option meaning that we’d have had to take the 5.55am bus from Melle. Luckily, the other assistant in Melle, Mike, found a carshare to and from Poitiers at the right times for us. It worked out brilliantly, especially considering it only cost us 4€ each for the round trip.

The day in general though was pretty boring, with its focus being on administrative necessities. However, it was great being able to meet the other assistants and find out who else is living relatively near to me, as well as getting out of Melle and seeing a bit of Poitiers.

Poitier's Hotel de Ville

So overall not a particularly exciting few days, in fact it’s been quite frustrating, but tonight I’m hoping to go to a games night at the Café du Boulevard which takes place on the first Friday of every month. Hopefully that will be fun and I’ll meet some more French people. I shall let you know how it goes!

02 October 2012

Au collège

Today marked my first official day as une assistante, and as I awoke to my 06:45 wake up call, I won’t deny I was slightly nervous. I really didn’t have anything to worry about though; the teachers were all so friendly despite my difficulty in understanding them sometimes, and the kids were lovely and really well-behaved. I didn’t have to do any teaching just yet, but was instead subjected to a Q&A session from 5 different groups of children. I think the most complicated question I had to deal with ‘Who is your favourite celebrity’; although I was a bit taken aback when a boy asked me if my parents are divorced.

It will be more of a challenge when it comes to having a more proactive role in the classroom, but I’m really looking forward to working with the pupils over the coming months and hopefully witnessing an improvement in their language proficiency.

I also (finally) set up my French bank account today, so I can get paid, yay! Absolutely no idea what the bank person was telling me as I signed about 20 different documents, my first proper taste of the good ol' French bureaucracy, but I trust it’s all legal as my supervisor was there with me throughout the meeting.

Not a particularly interesting day in terms of blogging potential, but I now have no work for a week, so who knows what adventures I’ll have until then! Stay tuned, mes amis!

01 October 2012

A beautiful realisation

Who said Monday is the worst day of the week?! On the contrary I’ve had a lovely day. The fact that I’m not working on Mondays might have something to do with it I suppose…

I woke up to another beautiful day, with a list of errands for the day. I needed to go to the office de tourisme as I still didn’t have a map of the town, collect a letter from the post office, and go shopping for food. Having faffed around as usual in the morning, I didn’t make it out till about midday. Once again I had forgotten that every single establishment closes down for lunch in France. Arriving at the post office, I found it had closed 9 minutes ago, my trip to the tourist office following suit. Putains!

I ended up, however, wandering around the town a bit more, discovering even more little roads and alleys, visiting inside the churches, and falling in love with the town. 

Une rue Melloise

I can now say that I am so happy to have been placed in this part of the country, in such an historic and picturesque town. It may be a bit out in the sticks and lacking in people my age, but it is so typically French, and there are certain areas where I could happily sit for hours admiring the scenery.

Eglise Saint-Savinien
It’s going to be a good year, I feel.

And the weekend has arrived...

My first weekend in France has been a weekend of 2 major discoveries! Firstly, there exists another English person in Melle, and secondly, I am incredibly unfit.

Prior to Saturday I’d come to the depressing conclusion that I was the only foreigner in this oh so French town. Add to this the fact that my French ‘housemates’ are the most boring and unsociable people that I’ve come across, and I was feeling pretty lonely on Saturday. A sudden brain wave reminded me of list I’d been sent a couple of months ago of all the assistants in France, and their whereabouts. A quick look down the list told me that there is indeed another assistant placed in Melle. One email later, and I now know another Englishman in Melle. Phew.

My second discovery came about through a 9.15 Sunday morning cycle ride. My supervisor had texted me the night before asking me if I wanted to go with her, so I thought why not, should be a nice fun way to see some of the Mellois countryside. What I didn’t realise was her husband was coming along as well, and the two of them go cycling every Sunday morning through hilly terrain, meaning their bodies were slightly more in form than mine. 3 hours later and I couldn’t feel anything waist-down. Ironically, the majority of the route we took was along the Chemin de la Découverte (for any non-French speakers, that literally means ‘Road of discovery’)! Needless to say I won’t be taking up her invitation for a repeat next Sunday if I should get one…

The one and only plus side to the morning was that I got to see another nearby town called Celles-sur-Belle. And in the morning sunshine with its ‘Royal abbey’, it was rather glorious! I also got to watch a bit of honey extracting by a local bee-keeper, which was nice and culturally enriching.

L'abbaye Royale in Celles-sur-Belle

Followed by an afternoon and evening of skyping family and friends and the boyfriend back home because my poor overworked legs wouldn’t take me very far, it ended up all in all not a bad first weekend in my new country of residence!