Vacances de la Toussaint: Paris

Hi followers – so, if you haven’t figured it out already, I’m not a huge fan of this blogging thing. I keep a journal, I post the occasional picture on Facebook, and I’m always snapchatting fun events, so updating this blog seems to be the last thing I think about. But don’t lose faith – I haven’t completely forgotten about it!

I got back from my Toussaint vacation on October 28th, so it only took me another 3 weeks to get my thoughts and pictures sorted to post…Anyways, this post is probably going to be filled with more pictures than words, just because I think they can speak better about my experience. So here goes:

 

20 October 2016 – 23 October 2016: Paris

The first stop on my nine day trip was Paris. On the morning of the 20th, I took a bus from Barcelonnette to Digne-les-Bains, then a bus form there to Nice, and then a TGV from Nice to Paris. The journey took about 12 hours. During my stay in Paris, I walked around both the Montparnasse and Pere Lachaise Cemeteries, explored the Latin Quartier and Sorbonne University, visited the Notre Dame and the Sacre Coeur, spent an evening in the Louvre, went for a run around the Eiffel Tower, and climbed to the top of Montparnasse Tower, where I had a view of the entire city – among other things. Here are some of my favorite shots from the city of love:

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Street Performer near the Notre Dame

 

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The Louvre Pyramid – it wasn’t until I saw this that I felt the reality of being in Paris

 

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I know everyone’s got one but…my picture of the Mona Lisa. TBH the crowd around the painting kind of ruined the experience for me.

 

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A cute English bookstore in the Latin Quarter where I found a used copy of the second book in the Millennium series 🙂

 

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Made it to the Arc de Triomphe just before dark

 

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And then it got dark.

 

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Interesting tombstone in Montparnasse Cemetery

 

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View of Paris from the Sacre Coeur

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****LONDON AND AMSTERDAM: Coming soon****

 

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Orientation and Getting Acquainted to Barcelonnette

Ok, sorry followers. I know it’s been almost 3 weeks since my last post, but I’ve just been so busy here in France, it’s been hard to find time to just sit and write! In the last few weeks I’ve: been to Marseille again (for my orientation), moved into my new apartment, opened a French bank account, started teaching classes, and spoken a LOT of French! I’ve had small bouts of homesickness here and there, but I’m mostly so happy to be here, and although a lot of things are still very foreign to me, most people here have been extremely helpful.

 

My orientation (“formations”) in Marseille was quite an interesting trip. Before I got to France, I knew there was one other language assistant in Barcelonnette (a Spanish assistant who I am now rooming with!), but I thought that we were the only two. The morning I left for Marseille, I learned that there is not only one other assistant, but there are three Italian assistants here as well! I ended up meeting them when I got into the city with the Spanish assistant (my roommate).

Marseille was pretty much exactly like it was two weeks before: a little grimy but filled with so many interesting people with a thousand different backgrounds. The Academie d’Aix Marseille (my employer) put us up in a hotel for two nights in the city, which was great, but unfortunately, as I learned when I got into my room, there were two assistants per bed, so I had to share my hotel room and bed with a complete stranger. Luckily, my temporary roommate (who was from Germany!) ended up being really great, so I had no problems.

 

The first day of formations was mostly just filling in paperwork, handing in paperwork, and watching really long and boring presentations of a bunch of stuff that I could probably have read online. But during the process, I got to meet a bunch of other assistants. The assistants naturally ended up separating into language groups, so I spent most of my time with the other English assistants, which was nice because I got to speak English. I met a group of people from England, a few from America, and even someone from South Africa! I also met many more Spanish assistants.

After the formations the first day, we had a bunch of time to explore the city, so I walked around Marseille with some other English assistants, mostly window-shopping during the day, and at night we found a really cool cafe/bar in an area called Cours Julien. Most of Marseille was filled with graffiti, but this area almost looked like a museum. Here’s a picture of one of my favorites:

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The second day of formations took place at a collège (middle school) in Marseille. We were purposely split up into language groups this time, so most of the orientation this day was in English. I got some lesson plan ideas and met a few more assistants (more Americans, more Brits, and a few from Ireland and Scotland). I only had a small panic attack at the end of the day when I realized I had missed the last train to Barcelonnette (and the other assistants had left on it without me), and I ended up having to stay with one of the collège teachers from the seminar, but luckily she was extremely hospitable and brought me to the train station the next day.

 

Back in Barcelonnette, life is a lot slower. This is by far the smallest town I’ve ever lived in (or even stayed in), so there are a lot of things to get used to. The main difficulty is simply how far away Barcelonnette is from EVERYTHING. To get to Marseille (which is the closest big city), there is only one bus that goes in and one bus that goes out every day from Barcelonnette, so if you miss it, you’re stuck (this is why I wasn’t able to get home from my formations). And things that should be easy to do end up being more complicated, like renting a cello (I’ve got to go to Gap for this, which is more than an hour’s drive away), buying wifi for my apartment (my roommate had to drive about 45 minutes for this I think), and planning flights for my vacations – for example, to get to Paris next week I’m going to have to take a bus to Digne (about 1.5 hours), then a bus to Nice (2.5 hours), then a train to Paris (almost 6 hours).

But the small town life does have its perks. I run into people I know every time I go out (which definitely helps me feel more “at home”), I don’t have to make difficult decisions about which bar or restaurant to go to (there are really only two places that my friends regularly go to), and I can walk everywhere (to work, to the grocery store, to the bar) in less than 5 minutes. Also, there’s the bonus of living in the mountains – I can casually, last minute decide to go for a hike (there are trails within a ten minute walk from my apartment), which I did last weekend. I don’t think I’ll want to live in a town this small ever again, but I am certainly very glad to have this experience, especially in France.

That’s all for now! I still don’t have WiFi in my apartment, so I’m only online at nights usually (afternoon in the United States) when I can make it to a cafe with wifi, but hopefully I will have it in my apartment soon. Facebook continues to be the best way to reach me, but I’m also checking Snapchat when I can and What’s App. It looks like I won’t be posting as often as I said I would earlier, but I will continue to update you all when new things happen here in Barcelonnette. My next adventure is coming up soon, as the two week Toussaint school vacation starts next Thursday. I’m headed from Nice – Paris – London – Amsterdam for about 9 days. I’ll definitely take lots of pictures and will be posting about it when I get back. Until then, keep reading and commenting! 🙂

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Panorama, Barcelonnette

My First Week in France

It has now been almost a week since I arrived in France, and QUITE a lot has happened already! I was in Marseille for two days where I had an amazing stay in an Air Bnb and got to explore the Vieux Port and climb to the top of the Notre Dame Cathedrale, where I had an amazing view of Marseille almost in its entirety. I arrived at Barcelonnette on Wednesday morning, where I was greeted by a friend of the previous American assistant here. In just a few days, I’ve already met many of the locals, and I’ve pretty much seen the entire town (it is that small).

Biggest difficulties so far:

  1. The obvious: Speaking French
    • Surprisingly, in Marseille, less people spoke English than I expected. My Air Bnb hostess only spoke French, so it was a bit hard to communicate at first, but she turned out to be so helpful, accompanying me to the bus station to buy my ticket to Barcelonnette and helping me purchase a French SIM card for my phone. Without her, I really don’t know how I would have gotten anything done in Marseille.
    • It is the opposite in Barcelonnette – most people here speak at least a little bit of English. My biggest allies are probably the English teachers, because I can actually have conversations with them in English, and they all have been so helpful and understanding so far. Most of the time, if I am hanging out with multiple people, I am just standing there listening to them talk back and forth, trying to understand at least a little bit of what they are saying, and then someone who speaks a bit of English will turn to me and explain what they were just talking about.
    • In summary: the language barrier is a bit difficult right now, but I know it will get easier every day.
  2. Food
    • As I expected, the French way of eating is quite a bit different from ours in the United States. The biggest difference for me is dinner time. Usually I will eat breakfast here sometime between 8 and 10am and then lunch sometime between 12 and 2pm, which isn’t so different, but dinner doesn’t usually happen until around 9pm, which is a long time away from lunch so I am always hungry in between!
    • Also, the brands of food here are all COMPLETELY different from the ones in the United States, so I have to stand and read each label for at least 2 minutes to figure out exactly what I am buying. (Also all the labels are in French, so…it takes even more time.)
  3. Internet Access
    • This has been one of the biggest difficulties for me, especially for the last few days, because the person that I am stay with does not have WiFi in her apartment, so I have been running around the town every day, searching for little bits of free wifi here and there. I had also been using the small amount of data I had with my French phone, but I just used it all up last night…and I still have another 3 weeks to go until the plan refreshes. So if anyone has been having difficulty reaching me…now you know why.

 

I won’t bore you all with any more details…I think the correct slang to put here would be

TL; DR.

 

Now I’ll finish off this post with some pictures (I took many more, but these are my favorites):

 

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Vieux Port, Marseille

 

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Mairie de la Major, Marseille

 

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MuCEM, Marseille

 

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Ferris Wheel at Vieux Port, Marseille

 

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View from the Notre Dame, Marseille

 

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Ceiling of the Notre Dame Chapel, Marseille

 

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Rue Manuel, Barcelonnette

 

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Place Manuel, Barcelonnette

 

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View from a parking lot in Barcelonnette

 

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View of Barcelonnette from the local mountainside pool

Welcome to my blog!

Hi everyone! I’ve never made a blog before, so just bear with me as I struggle through this new experience (blogging and being in a new country). I’m currently sitting in Logan Airport, waiting for my flight to Marseille, France, with a layover in Madrid. I’m unbelievably nervous, but it helps knowing I’ll have all of you following me through my journey. I’ll probably try to post once or twice a week, depending on my availability. There will be lots of pictures and probably a little bit of French as well! Feel free to let me know if you have any requests for blog posts and I’ll try to do my best to follow through 🙂 Until the next post, (insert witty closing line here).