Goodbye France

It’s been more than a month since I last wrote a post about my travels. After my last post I did indeed head north to a cooler climate, all the way to Calvados to help Nick and Sue.My first task was helping show two young future race horses at a national show in Haras du Pin. I helped groom the horses, run around and find out what we had to do and then take some photos.
Once the excitement was over with the horses I spent three weeks with Nick and Sue, eating very well and helping out with all kinds of things, from feeding and walking dogs, to herding sheep, preparing the raspberry patch, stacking wood, building fences, cleaning the house when it was too wet outside and a few more things with the horses for good measure.

Haras du Pin


In my spare time I read more books, did more yoga, walked and talked as well as tried to write two presentations for the upcoming conference. I also watched some of the first TV I’ve watched in almost a year (and decided it was still bad)!

I also met some of Nick and Sue’s friends at dinner parties, fashion shows and at the local Tabac on a Friday night. The percentage of expats in the north of France is high. At the end of three and a half weeks I was very sad to be leaving but I had a whole week in Paris to look forward to. 

Galleries Lafayette, Paris

Jardin des Plantes, Paris

Eiffel Tower, Paris


A week in Paris was a perfect way to say goodbye to France. I stayed with Emma (thanks!) and did my last sightseeing and visiting. It really was a great week, here is some of the stuff we/I got up to: visited the Opera Garnier, Gallerie Lafayette department store, watched The All Blacks playing Australia at Café Oz (go the AB’s!), went out to the Comptoir General (a bar with an African general store feel near Canal St Martin), wandered the streets of the 6th with Emma, Jardin des Plantes, the Grande Mosquée de Paris (mint tea and middle Eastern treats), saw a partly naked man sunbathing in the Jardin du Luxembourg, got throughly creeped out at the Catacombes, visited the Cité de L’Architecture et du Patrimoine, said goodbye to Naomi over some beer, visited CF for one last day trip, where I finally climbed to the roof of the cathedral and ran some errands.

Clermont-Ferrand


For my last pastry in France, I got a raspberry and almond croissant, must have been about 1000 calories, going out with a bang!

More next post,

Amanda xx

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A hot and quiet three weeks

I finally made it to Paris after my extended stay in London. We were slightly delayed coming through the Chunnel as more migrants had managed to get inside the the tunnel the night before. I was so glad to be back in France! I helped a woman navigate the metro and then headed to my hostel.
In the next two days I went to the Louvre (twice, since I have my teacher card and it’s free, why not?), the Orangerie and saw Naomi an assistant doing an internship in Paris.

View from one of the Louvre galleries, Paris


I then spent two weeks at a homestay near Guéret. I helped with the garden, the horses, the dogs and keeping the grandma entertained. Also having a look around the area, relaxing, walking, yoga, and sorting out much life admin for the next destinations!

Guéret


I also made a couple of trips into Clermont-Ferrand to pick up mail from the school, my payslip, say goodbye to the office staff and to see my doctor and pharmacist. I also had to put fix a problem with my phone plan, go to the post office, sort out stuff for my insurance claim and send many emails for a conference I’m heading to in Budapest in September. Thanks Jon and Jenna for having me to stay. Not many people are left in the city, it’s summer and it’s pretty hot so most people are heading for the seaside or north to Normandy, just like I’m about to. 

Clermont-Ferrand


More news next time,

Amanda xx

Lots of travel

As I wrote in my last post, the week after finishing work I had to make a quick trip to London via Paris. The purpose of this trip was to take a small suitcase of winter clothes for my parents to take back to NZ at the end of their trip. They had little luggage and we didn’t want to carry it around for four weeks!

The Eiffel Tower, Paris


Well I had a short amount of time in London but it was by no means a short trip! I left Monday for Paris where I spent the night at Emma’s and went out for dinner and up the Arc de Triomphe (at night) with a friend from NZ, Rhea and her friend. Lovely to see you! The next day I took a bus to London (it was cheap and I got to go through the Chunnel on one of those car trains) and arrived in to meet Matt after work for some Thai food (yay finally some decent ethnic food)! The next day I visited the Sony Photography Awards exhibit (excellent by the way!) and caught up with Jess who is now living in London. That night I had to take a night bus back to Paris (this time we went on a ferry). After arriving back in Paris and picking up the rest of my luggage (I’d left my pack in luggage storage – didn’t really feel like lugging an extra 20kg to London when I already had 25kg with me…) and then after a slight problem with the RER, I made it to the meeting point for my covoiturage to Valence. I actually needed to go to Avignon but that was the best I could do for that time on a week day. So when we arrived that afternoon I took a train to Avignon. I got into Avignon around 7pm on Thursday. I was absolutely exhausted! I had been travelling for about 24 hours and had little sleep despite my incredible ability to sleep on any form of transport.

Avignon, France


After a rest I explored Avignon a little before getting dinner and heading off to bed. 

Avignon was gorgeous and the weather was stunning too. I wandered around the city and visited the Palace of the Popes. Nine popes lived in Avignon after one decided he didn’t want to live in Italy and moved the papacy to France some time centuries ago.

Paella, Markets, Arles

Markets, Arles

Strawberries, Markets, Arles

Lavender, Markets, Arles

Cheese, Markets, Arles


Next I spent a morning in Arles at the weekly market (which is known as the best in Provence). That afternoon I met my parents in Marseille and we headed off to spend a week in the lovely South of France.

Monaco

Nice

Cannes


And what a week that was! We visited Monaco, Nice, Cannes, St Tropez, Aix-en-Provence, and small towns around the Cote D’Azur region. Cannes was a highlight because we were there at the start of the film festival but unfortunately we didn’t see anyone famous, just an empty red carpet and a million paparazzi. We did really enjoy having a good look at all the fancy boats docked though.

Les Arcs


Our rental apartment was great and the weather was stunning (almost a little too hot) so we got to make full use of the pool.

Our next stop was Italy.

More next time,

Amanda xx

Spring weather

March has been a month of very unsettled weather here in Clermont-Ferrand (and indeed most of the country) as we headed into Spring. After my weekend in the Alps with Dom that I wrote about last post I haven’t had any weekends away. I’ve been waiting for a fine weekend! We have had some incredible weather just not at the weekends!

While I have been unable together away I’ve been enjoying my time in CF hanging out with friends and planning my next adventures. Highlights have included going out for St Patrick’s Day dressed as an Irish flag (somewhat strangely I have a green skirt and an orange cardigan here with me in France), and watching a few matches from the 6 nations as well as general hanging out with friends.

I haven’t completely failed to get away however as in the last week I have been to Paris for the Nicki Minaj concert with Laura and Emma some fellow Kiwis and I’ve been on a day trip to Le Puy en Velay (and I must say the weather was incredible). In Le Puy I climbed a few basilic formations and checked out the cute city.

You might wonder how I’ve managed to fit those in within the school week. Well classes here are almost done for me, I have three weeks left of teaching but plenty of my classes sitting exams so I actually only have about 10 classes left! 

I have a couple of blogs coming up about teaching and French schools and another one about cultural differences I’ve noticed. Look out for those coming soon!

Tomorrow I am heading away for four days as I only have to teach on Thursday this week! More about that trip in my next post.

Until next time,

Amanda xx

Charlie Hebdo

We found out about the attacks while ice skating. It wasn’t obvious at first the extent or how it would continue. Some people gathered in my city, Clermont-Ferrand (about 300km from Paris) out of tribute to those killed. The rest of us continued our lives. The next day was declared a National Day of mourning, I didn’t really know what that would mean. In effect flags were flown at half mast or tied with black ribbons and across the country people took part in a minute of silence, stopping work, school, the trams etc.

On the Thursday it was revealed that there were two separate groups of terrorists (and at this point they weren’t said to be related) and that the two original terrorists had held up a petrol station in Villers-Cottêret the small town where my friend and fellow assistant Laura teaches and lives. Of course I contacted her straight away and she confirmed saying that school had been cancelled and the kids sent home with their parents and the residents of the town were told to stay inside. Laura has previously made comments about how there is nothing to do or going on where she lives… Luckily for Laura the guys moved on and life could go back to normal but with an added celebrity status as she became the go to person for NZ media to interview on the matter.

After what seemed like a long time waiting for them to be caught the whole thing unfolded as you can read elsewhere online.

By this point news was out about those who had been killed and why. One person from my town was killed while he was visiting the Charlie Hebdo offices.

Vigils were held in cities across France.

By the Friday many businesses around the city had #jesuisCharlie signs out in support.

On the Saturday after the attacks my friends and I had tickets to the rugby, the local team was playing and the stadium was packed. A short speech about the attacks and listing the names of those killed (including local man Michel Renault), was followed by a minute of silence and the national anthem.

On the Sunday after the massacre I attended a march/rally in my city in support of freedom of speech and to remember those killed. Between 50 and 70,000 people turned out which is about 20% of the population of the city. I carried a sign that simply said “Unite” while others carried signs talking about freedom of expression (one read: Press liberty RIP with the date ending 2015) and in memory of those killed. It was peaceful and almost completely silent with occasional bouts of applause.

Despite the call for unity, the feeling in France is very divided. Muslims are feeling persecuted. This is an ongoing image issue in the minds of some French people that was in the process of changing prior to the attacks. My kids asked me things like “Are you Charlie?” And “what do you think a terrorist looks like?” In school. I hopefully answered those questions appropriately.

The whole of Europe is crawling with police and military now. In my city there is added security on public transport and military personnel walking around the city in full kit with their machine guns and helmets at the ready. Even in Luxembourg where I was this weekend Amélie (my friend that lives there), noted the additional police patrolling the streets.

Today I was in Paris and walked past Place de la Republic and the Liberation newspaper offices (another media outlet). The square is still filled with tributes to those killed but mostly messages in support of freedom of speech. The offices were guarded by private security and police and barriers were put up to stop anyone from getting close to the building. Tensions are high.

Nudity at the theatre

So far this year I’ve been busy with a French road trip and a visit to a new country. France has also been hit by one of the biggest acts of terrorism in recent time with the Charlie Hebdo massacre, more in another post.

Last weekend Dom, Jon, Nigel and I rented a car and spent the weekend exploring the Loire Valley: Tours, Blois, Amboise, a creepy empty church and a couple of Chateaux. We had a great time and managed to fit in plenty of wine drinking and cheese eating as well as an adventure to get a selfie with a cow, you really had to be there.

This weekend I went to Luxembourg to visit Amélie who I met in Lisbon. Luxembourg is beautiful if very small. The beauty of the place was increased after some snow on the first night I was there and we spent the next day checking out all the beautiful snowy sights and MUDAM the modern art museum.

Other monthly highlights include: seeing an ASM rugby game at the stadium (with a minute silence for the Charlie Hebdo massacre victims), meeting some of the Kiwi players in the ASM team, attending the rally for #JeSuisCharlie with an estimated 50-70k others, an afternoon at the Louvre, a catch up in Paris with a kiwi assistant, teaching the kids kiwi slang (we love the word ‘piss’ don’t we?! To get pissed, to be pissed off, to go to a piss up and isn’t it pissing down outside?), tutoring and going on field trip with my school to see The Taming of the Shrew (in French of course).

This last highlight was an extremely odd experience for me. Firstly the performance was in French which meant I understood maybe 10% but also it was a crazy 21st century adaptation that included so much nudity that I’d feel uncomfortable seeing it with my mother let alone a couple dozen of my students! For the record I saw two sets of breasts (one set within the first minutes of the play and then repeatedly for the next two hours), and three penises. France…

Until next time,

Amanda xx

What’s that? Another holiday?!

Since I last wrote I have had nearly two weeks off travelling. I wrapped up classes with a relaxing class where we watched Alice in Wonderland and I had my last night out with my friends before heading to Paris. In Paris I did a little sight seeing and went to a museum and on the Saturday night two other kiwis and I found an underground live music club and had a fantastic night dancing and meeting new friends while listening to some awesome beats.

After Paris I headed to London and picked up a rental car (yes I drove in Central London!) and clocked up quite a few miles on my UK road trip. I saw friends/family in Cambridge, Leicester, Yorkshire, London and Oxford. The highlight of the sightseeing was visiting Fountain’s Abbey in Yorkshire. Christmas was spent in Oxford/London with Clare and her husband and dinner with their friends. I ate way too much food and the evening was wrapped with some Cards Against Humanity which was great fun. In London I saw old friends and my good friend Fiona who has just moved there for work. We checked out the Camden markets and on the Monday I went to the British Museum and to the Christmas Markets.

Next stop was Brussels for three days with another assistant, Ruth. We did some sightseeing, waffle eating, beer drinking and celebrated the new year in a big square full with people, music and some amazing fireworks! Way to go Brussels, such a great city. I also managed to get some relaxing in and TWO baths.

Now we are in Bruges for the last night before we go back to France (and back to work on Monday). We arrived this morning on the train and spent the day checking out the canals and the sights. We ate some more food and drank more beer, bit of a theme there! Tomorrow we are back to France with a stop for a station change and some lunch in Paris. The holiday is over for another few weeks.

Amanda xx