So I have been living my French Adventure for over two months now and so much has happened! Where to start??
Daily Life: I live in a school building about 30 seconds from the town centre which is great, even if I do spend slightly more money on baguettes than I would like. The apartment came as part of my teaching job which I am so grateful for-it can be quite a struggle to find affordable accommodation in France-even more so from the other side of the world and in a different language! I am also the envy of all other teaching assistants as my apartment is outrageously cheap, €52.10 per month, utilities included, to be exact. I have heard horror stories of assistants in Paris who are paying around €1500 per month for prison cell sized studios-this figure is nearly double our monthly salary!
I teach every Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and one lesson on Friday mornings. My students are aged between 7 and 11 and for the most part are quite delightful. I much prefer the littlies as colouring, counting games and songs will never cease to amuse. The older kids are unfortunately a bit “too cool” to learn English and are concerned about appearing “know it alls”. I only teach 11/12 hours a week so I have a lot of free time for cooking, walking, facebooking (guilty…) and hand drawing activities and worksheets for my kids.
Traveling: My first week in France I spent in the tiny village of Fougères, Yssingeaux with Sophie and her family. I am so lucky to have this family reasonably nearby in France-they were definitely a life-saver during my first week. Sophie’s family runs an Auberge- it is such a beautiful place with incredible food-I can definitely recommend the frogs’ legs! Sophie, if you ever read this, thank you so much!
My first weekend of “officially” working was spent near Grenoble with all the other assistants from the entire Grenoble department-about 275 in total. We were overloaded with social security information, immigration information and bread… Huge laundry baskets placed in the dining hall of our youth-camp accommodation that were always full of freshly sliced baguette! It was great to meet other assistants from all over the world and definitely a new experience for French to be the common language! Elle, Pippa, Rachel and Sarah (also my flatmate) are all other assistants in the Haute-Savoie area and we have become good friends-in spite of the communication difficulties our different English accents present at times!
A few weeks later we had only just begun, but holidays already! During the 2 weeks leading up to the holidays we had all experienced the absolute grid lock France becomes in strike season-I’m sure you all saw it on the news-a very frustrating time. I would have another story about Corsica to add to this traveling chapter but, alas, the entire weekend had to be canceled and I was literally stranded in Bonneville!
The first weekend of the holidays I made a slow trip down to Marseille to visit fellow NZer and teaching assistant, Ivan. Marseille is an amazing city! It has an incredible atmosphere and lots to see and do! My highlight was visiting Les Calanques-tiny little port towns located in a national park just out of Marseille. The national park has amazing geography and really great walking trails. This was such a fun weekend and it was very refreshing to be in a big city again. I like Bonneville but I think I am a city girl at heart…
The second week of the holidays I spent a few days in Mulhouse with Brett, also a NZer and an assistant. Mulhouse is a city in Alsace of about 200 000 people. It is rather industrial and not very pretty like Bonneville but it does, however, boast a shopping mall! I have never been a great mall-goer, I much prefer shopping streets, but here after so long without shops I totally embraced the experience and…bought cooking scales, a cook book and socks, not the most indulgent of purchases but I am now the proud owner of a real french cook book!
Last weekend was my most recent and possibly most exciting traveling experience! Elle, Pippa and another German assistant, Barbara and I hired a car and drove to Zermatt in Switzerland for the opening weekend of the ski slopes. Zermatt is in the German speaking part of Switzerland, just under the Matterhorn. The drive alone was quite amazing-all along the edge of the lake, through mountains and it even started snowing on the way. Elle, our driver, was less than enthusiastic about this part of the journey! We had hired an apartment/Chalet in the nearby town of Tasch and so Saturday morning began with a rather fresh walk to the Zermatt train shuttle with skis, boots and poles slung over our shoulders.
I am a “real beginner beginner” (as quoted from the boss of Stoked Ski and Snowboard School when discussing my skiing level) but unfortunately weather prevented my first lesson going ahead so Elle bravely volunteered her skills. No nursery slopes for me; my first “taste” of skiing was off the gondola and down to the ski lift! It took me an hour to do my first run, after which hot chocolate and toe warmers were definitely required! I think I got the hang of it pretty quickly but not after several impressive wipe outs-I think Elle was seriously worried for my life at one point…
Sunday the weather was a better, not so that we could see the Matterhorn but we at least could find its general direction. I had a very good lesson with my lovely instructor Hannah-snow on nursery slopes was touched this time! I even did several really good runs but after 2 and a quarter hours of solid skiing I was knackered. Zermatt is a beautiful town, though seriously expensive!
Food: I find it slightly ironic that I have come to France, one of the most renowned culinary capitals of the world, where meat is a staple on every menu and I have pretty much become a vegetarian. Fruit and vegetables are the easiest thing to buy. Market day is every Tuesday and Friday and while the supermarket is only 500 or so metres from my apartment by the time I get through the fruit and vege part of the supermarket I find my basket is full. I am going to be champion vege soup maker when I return to NZ.
My favourite shop in Bonneville is called “Maison du Fromage”, yes people, House of Cheese! It is a truly amazing place-deli meets bakery meets cheese maker meets gift shop meets wine cellar meets butchery. And all locally produced, I could spend hours in here tasting everything! It is my goal over the next few weeks to try le boudin noir or blood sausage. I hear it is an acquired taste and I am determined to acquire it…
One thing I really love about the food in France is the “bio” trend. The French are so succinct; the word “bio” can pretty much be used to describe all food products that are organic or gluten free or vegan or locally produced or just generally outrageously healthy or all of the above. There are whole supermarkets of “bio” yet everyone smokes and thinks absolutely nothing of sitting down to devour a millefeuille or pain au chocolat everyday. I don’t really understand…
That’s all for now, off to eat fondue!
I will try to write reasonably regularly and keep everyone up to date.
Hope you are well 🙂