29 January 2013

The night I got into a Frenchman's béret

I've been holding off blogging until I have something vaguely interesting to blog about. This 'vaguely interesting' event is yet to materialise, however I feel the need to write something nonetheless. One of the main factors for the limited excitement in my recent life is the weather. I feel like I am back in England; it has rained and rained. And when it rains I hide away. What's particularly annoying is this morning I was talking to Dominique and she said these past few months have been exceptionally wet. Anyway, I'll stop being English and moaning about the weather.  

In fact, I lied when I said I'd done nothing at all interesting this week. Friday night was fun. It was the monthly 'club' night at the Café, which Mike and I had put in the diary ages ago after having had such a crazy time last time we went (and missing the 2 subsequent months' offerings due to being either in Paris or England). With it having been my birthday the week before, Mike and I saw this as a good opportunity to try and get the other assistants down to Melle for the first time and allow them to experience a night out like no other. Flu sweeping its way through the Niort assistants meant that only myself, Mike, Aurelie, Alfredo and Lewis were present, but this didn't stop Melle from delivering another great night. I think I may have witnessed even crazier dancing than before, and my night year was made when Béret Man not only posed for a photo with me, but LET ME WEAR HIS BÉRET.

I mean, just this photo with the man, the myth, the legend
would have made me a very happy girl...
...but this just surpassed all my childhood dreams.
In other news, Mike and Alfredo have a new roomie in the shape of a Polonaise called Agneshka or Anaiskha or something of that nature. I met her for the first time last week for a drink and she seems lovely and fun. So another young adult in Melle to hang out with and speak French with is a very welcome arrival!

And on that note, I think I'm going to turn in early and read some more French. Buona notte xox

18 January 2013

Settling back into French life

Wow it's been a busy couple of weeks since I've come back to France (which will hopefully explain my absence from blog). So as not to bore you all with too much detail, I'll instead just give you a brief overview of what I've been up to in this time.

Thursday 10 Jan
Had Galette des Rois at school today, and my slice had the fève (lucky figurine thing) in, so I got to wear a crown. Yay!

We should totally have 'Kings' Cake' in England
This evening Mike and I were blessed with Aurélie's offer to drive us to Niort for a meal, and as a way to allow us to easily get out of Melle. The 3 of us met Lewis in town where we went for a meal in a 'pub', and I had a yummy pizza. We then met a couple more assistants, and headed on to a bar where there was a Couchsurfing soirée happening. Met more cool French people and spoke lots of French. Great evening.

Friday 11 Jan
This evening there was a gig going on at the Café, so Mike, Alfredo and I went along for that. Performing was a folk/ballady duo, comprising a singer and guitar player. Pretty easy-listening tunes, although they got a bit samey after a while. Nevertheless, was very French, and the Café was buzzing.

Singer Claire Dousset performing at the Café
Saturday 12 Jan
The sales in France don't start until the 2nd week of January, and so this marked the first weekend of the sales. Mike and I headed up to Niort to see what bargains we could find. Bought a nice cosy red jumper.

Sunday 13 Jan
Aurélie once again was kind enough to offer to take us to Niort today to go and watch a film. We saw 'Foxfire' which is about a group of girls who rebel against society by setting up their own secret gang. The film was long and had a dark theme to it, but it kept me entertained to the end. And we later found out that the director of the film (whose most successful film is the famous Entre les Murs) was born in Melle! A proud moment for the 3 of us.

Tuesday 15 Jan
Mike and I organised to go to La Côte de Boeuf (the local steak restaurant) the following day with Aurélie and Alfredo to celebrate my 21st birthday. However, as I was sitting in my kitchen that evening, I got a call on my English phone from my boyfriend. Yes, you guessed it right. Rob had decided to surprise me (once again) by turning up unannounced and spending my 21st with me!

Wednesday 16 Jan
My 21st birthday. And it snowed in the night! Well, a little bit. But it still felt magical!

My wish for snow on my 21st birthday came true!
After a lazy morning opening cards and presents, Rob and I took a walk on the outskirts of Melle, after which I made the most of his biceps by suggesting we go to Aldi and stock up on heavy things so he can carry them home. Ssh, it was my birthday. 
Opening a bar of Dairy Milk was very welcome indeed
Crispy snow on the soggy leaves
I'd cancelled dinner with Mike, Alfredo and Aurélie since Rob's parents had decided to treat us to a meal, just the 2 of us. So we set of to La Côte de Boeuf on a bitterly cold Wednesday night, only to find.....the restaurant was shut. Gutting when you have been excited about the prospect of a succulent juicy steak all day. We ended up instead going to the pizzeria, which was still lovely in any case. I haven't been that full since Christmas Day though. Coming home and watching Notting Hill, it was the perfect birthday surprise to have Rob with me, and I don't know how I'm going to match it when his birthday comes around...

Rob and I pre-dinner
The French really know how to do a good salad
Pizzaaaaaaa :D
Thursday 17 Jan
Said goodbye to Rob as I went off to work, since he was leaving later on. Only worked 2 hours, so was done by lunchtime. Enjoyed a massive school dinner as usual, introducing me to yet more French food. Today was Hachis Parmentier, basically a French version of Shepherd's Pie, followed by French-style trifle. Delicious. After returning to Melle for the afternoon, Mike and I decided to not waste such a sunny day, and so went a nice long walk. And after 4 months here we still discovered hidden parts of Melle we'd not yet come across!

Mike and I discovered on our walk that at the back of the derelict
hospital in Melle there is a chapel. Who knew?! 
Memorial statue to Jacques Bujault, who also has a place named after
him in Melle. I can't remember exactly who he was though
Old water pump

This evening was exciting too. The association that runs where I live had organised a big meal in a nearby village, to which staff, volunteers, and all residents of the association's 10 appartment blocks were invited. Travel was all arranged, and the 3-course meal was all paid for, so I only had to wait for my doorbell to ring. In total there were 25-30 of us at the meal, and apart from the food (salmon terrine followed by pork, pasta and carrot soufflé, followed by pear tarte tatin), there was a quiz and a charade-type game. My table didn't win, but I learnt many interesting things in the quiz, such as the étiquette when a man takes a woman to a restaurant is for the man to enter first, check said restaurant is safe, appropriate and worthy of the woman, then allow the woman to enter! I also met another really nice girl from my block called Angélique, so all in all today was a pretty good day.

Woke up this morning to a little bit more snow, but from seeing friends in England's photos, it's nothing to get excited over! No work for me until next Thursday now, which probably means I should start cracking down reading for my research project :( Bye.
View out my kitchen window this morning. I want more snow!

09 January 2013

Pros and cons of France, according to me

The Christmas holidays were brilliant. I saw family. I ate. I saw friends. I ate. I saw the London lights. I ate. I celebrated my 21st birthday. I ate. I spoke no French. I listened to no French.

All good things come to an end though, and I returned yesterday to dear Melle. Needless to say, the abundance of English and lack of French that I have been immersed in for the past fortnight made work today pretty difficult. Hopefully I'll be able to get myself back up to speed within a few days though.

It's not that I completely removed France and everything frog-related from my brain over Christmas, however. In fact, I had a bit of a reflection session one afternoon, in which I thought about the things I like and dislike about France having now lived there for 3 months.

  1. The first thing that comes to mind when I think about France's plus points is its trains. I know it's something the French pride themselves on, and I'd prefer not to boost their egos any further, but the trains are pretty damn good. TGVs speak for themselves, but even the TERs are nicer than most English trains I've been on. I'll admit I felt a bit embarrassed for England when travelling with First Capital Connect over Christmas.
  2. Another thing that I love about France is the fact that it seems that every town or city has a château or overly impressive building that has been there for centuries. And what's more, people just walk past them as if they're nothing special and it's perfectly normal for a town to have a 30ft historical stone monstrosity plonked in the centre. The thought of one in Potters Bar just makes me giggle. But in France it just works.
  3. Not sure how this next one ended up third on my list rather than first but, I truly love France for its amazingly-cheap-it-shouldn't-be-legal wine prices in the supermarches. My local Aldi has a bottle of red for 0,99€. WHAT?! It's not even like it's low alcohol. I haven't actually bought this particular bottle yet as I'm a classy bird who splashes out on the 1,50€ bottle, but it would be criminal not to give it a go once before I leave France. So watch this space.

I think 3 compliments are enough. We wouldn't want the French getting too cocky. So, now for the aspects of France that don't please me quite so much.

  1. It's something everyone questions, but it's worth mentioning; why oh why are French train tickets so huge?! One third of an A4 page per ticket is just not acceptable in an age where the world is striving to be more green in my opinion.
  2. On the subject of train tickets, here is my 2nd dislike. It's not a dislike as such, more something I just don't understand. Composter votre billet baffled me the first time I used French trains. 'Is this some special compost heap especially for train tickets, in order to try and compensate for their ridiculous size' I thought. No, it turns out. Composter simply means 'validate'. So you're validating a ticket that you've just bought for a specific train that you're about to board anyway. Please somebody, anybody, explain this incomprehensible madness.
  3. I have been trying to go to Church as often as possible here in France, being a Catholic and all that. The thing that struck me immediately is that the French use the 'tu' form of 'you' to address God. Surely this is totally disrespectful to God...isn't he meant to be the most superior being to us Christians? There must be a valid reason, but once again, I can't work it out. As before, please educate me on the matter if you are able to.
  4. Zebra crossings are death traps. For us Brits who have grown up with the knowledge that a vehicle will automatically stop for you if you approach those thick white lines on the road, it came as a surprise when I first started coming to France, to discover that in this country cars are not obliged to stop for pedestrians here. As a result I find crossing roads in this country quite difficult, and am always hesitating as to whether or not to cross, in fear that an approaching car will plough straight into me. Maybe I just need to learn to be more French and just fearlessly stroll over the crossings with that swagger all French people seem to have.