Friday, December 3

It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas!

Happy December! It has definitely gotten cold here, and it snows close to everyday so I thought I would warm up with some tea and do a little update.

Santa's Mailbox
Crèche (Nativity Scene)
After America's real Thanksgiving, I had quite the 'holiday' weekend. Friday night the Marché de Noël started in front of the Parliament building. While some of the vendors have some 'different' things, most of it is knitted hats and gloves, or jewelry, or pottery - but most importantly, food. They have hot churros (basically like a thin Spanish doughnut that you dip in hot Nutella), gaufres (which are essentially Belgium waffles, but with Nutella, and you eat them for dessert), and all kids of candy and chocolate covered fruit (salivating yet?). So I walked around with some friends and admired the quaintness of it all.

Our beautiful, fresh, farm turkey

bon appétit!
Me and Berit
Saturday was the big day. On Wednesday a few of us had gone to a market to seek out a special butcher for our Turkey. Turkey's are NOT easy to come by like they are at home, but we found a really nice man who gave us a HUGE turkey to feed about 15 of us ... it was enormous. And not to be too graphic, but he informed us he would get it fresh and proceeded to tell us he would kill it for us on Thursday afternoon to be picked up on Friday. When a friend of mine went to pick it up, his main question was "Head: on or off?" - I guess you can't get fresher than that! So by Saturday morning everyone had gone to the market, picked up their last minute produce and began to cook. A few of us tended to the turkey starting around 5 with some appetizers and cocktails. We had to cook the turkey in one oven, then carry it across town to eat it at my friend Caely's - quite a production. We ended up having an incredible, incredible meal: baked brie, stuffing, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce (which is genius because it definitely does NOT exist here, so bravo to my friend Julia for making-do with some hard-to-find and très cher dried cranberries), sweet potatoes, brussels sprouts, salad, and paté - not to mention about 12 bottles of wine and apple pie, apple brownies, ice cream, pumpkin bread, and pumpkin pie (another incredible feat, due to the fact that nothing exists here to actually make pumpkin pie, so one has to find a real pumpkin and purée ... intense no?). After overeating, some of us cleaned, while others took a short nap. No one left Caely's until about 3 am - it was quite epic. 

And don't forget dessert ...
In other news ...

Teaching is going well. I've had some difficult kids the past couple of weeks, but I also was able to work with my favorite class for 2 hours this week. They are all sophomores - so about 15 - and they are so smart and funny and really fun to be around (aka they laugh at my jokes). There is about 36 of them and they are ALL really great - it's cute to see them outside of the classroom too because they are always saying "Hello miss - How are you today?" - I think they get confused sometimes if I respond in French. 

Tomorrow is the big Monaco vs. Rennes match in Rennes so I am going to that which will be great - hopefully the snow will hold off. 

Going home in about 3 weeks from tomorrow! Very excited because the peanut butter I brought has already run out, so I need to do some work stocking up.

À bientôt!

p.s. Thank you for the pics Caely!

Thursday, November 25

Ode to Pumpkin Pie

Happy Thanksgiving!

I hope everyone had a wonderful day full of family, friends and of course, food. While my Thanksgiving was on the lamer end of things (laundry, rain, and leftovers), I did happen to have the best piece of pumpkin pie ... ever (sorry Dad!). Remember that café I told you about Apple Pie? Where I had an incredible organic Welsh Rarebit? Well my friend Caely (a fellow foodie) and I decided to grab a cup of coffee there today in order to chat it up with the owner about Caely's hope to break into some kind of food-writing-blogging-experience while in France (à la Julie and Julia, her most recent success was boeuf bourguignon, not an easy feat). Coffee turned into coffee and pie, because after seeing the pies "no" was not a valid answer to the question "Would you like a piece of pie as well?" So cheers to Lisa at Apple Pie for making the best pumpkin pie and bringing some American Thanksgiving to France.

Not to make you jealous or anything ...

On that note, I am thankful for living in France, for my family, for my friends, for my students, and for pumpkin pie.

Sunday, November 21

New in November

Trying new things (and yes, most of it involves food).

So much has been going on since the departure of my mama. It has definitely been a month of firsts! So here is a list of things I have done for the first time in November …

1. Tried Tibetan food: at this place called Dolma, we had vegetable curry with rice, which was incredible, and afterwards instead of mints, the woman gave us this interesting bowl of mixed spices almost. It had bits of mint and licorice and many other flavors, which I imagine is some sort of palate cleanser? Who knows, but it was good!

Mysterious post-dinner mints from Tibet
2. French film: First French film of the year, no subtitles and very hard to understand, but nonetheless WONDERFUL. If you get a chance to see “Les Petits Mouchoirs”, do yourself a favor and go. And bring lots of tissues.

3.     3. Karoke: Ok, not me, but my students. A teacher approached me about doing it with the students with English songs, as sort of a voluntary thing for the kids to do during study breaks. I thought it would bomb considering we have tried to have an “American Cinema” hour that hasn’t had anyone show up. But I was wrong – the kids loved it! They sang ABBA, Jason Mraz, and The Kinks for an hour and were quite happy. Currently doing some research for next week …

4.     4. Prom: After learning I had helped plan proms in high school, I was recruited to help the students plan their prom. They are so interested to know what a prom is and how to get dressed for it and who will be the king and queen. We have our second meeting next week to discuss music because we’ve already settled on our masquerade theme – Gossip Girl fans would be proud.

1.     5. Degustation: Holy merde. This was incredible. Two friends and I, Seth and Julia, heard about a tasting where the market is and decided to check it out. It was a lot like the market, but essentially you pay 3 euros to get in, and you can sample champagne, wine, cider, cheese, bread, sausage, honey, chocolates, cookies, macaroons, whiskey, apple juice, mushrooms, oysters, foie gras, paté … you get the picture. We went around and tried to taste as much as we can before buying goat cheese, bread, and smoked salmon for a little lunch. They set up tables and chairs and gave out paper/plastic plates and utensils, and wine glasses (of course) for everyone to enjoy what they had purchased. It was lovely and I really hope they do it again very soon!

Julia enjoying Breton Cider at the Degustation
Trying goodies at the Degustation

Welsh Rarebit: my friend Julia introduced me to an incredible little café called Apple Pie in the center of town. It opened about a year ago by a lovely Irish woman named Lisa. She lives next to a farm and therefore posts the menu every Monday depending on what was good from the farm that week. She also makes her own flour and has specialty desserts every week. Saturday she has special brunches so after the market, a few of us checked it out. This Saturday was a Welsh special called “Welsh Rarebit” – first of all I learned that it isn’t “Welsh Rabbit” as I had thought, and second of all, it’s amazing. If you’ve never heard of it, it sounds odd, but it’s basically bread soaked in a sort of chedder cheese and beer sauce. Take my word for it, it’s amazing. She is planning on having some sort of American Thanksiving special on Thursday so perhaps I will have to check it out. In addition to her incredible plats du jour, apple pie, scones and cheesecake, the space is adorable. If Anthropologie was going to have a cute French brunch place, this is what it would look like …

Tea and Date/Apple Crumble

Welsh Rarebit

Adorable Setting in Apple Pie
Art Walk: much like First Friday in Portland, Rennes had a huge art walk this past week. A bunch of us met up and trekked across the old city seeing art and stealing hors d’oeuvres. Most of the art was a bit bizarre, but below is a photograph from one of the galleries I really enjoyed …

Favorite Paintings from Rennes Art Walk

1.     Derby: not a derby like you are thinking, but a derby Breton, meaning two teams from Brittany playing each other in soccer. I went to the Brest vs. Rennes match on Saturday night, which was great. Because Brest is so close, it is a huge rival and there were so many people there – the most I’ve ever seen at a game. Rennes ended up winning 2-1, and had 2 incredible goals (Brest scored off a penalty kick, boring). Anyways, it was very exciting and I’m anxious to see the next game against Monaco!

Corner kick from one of Rennes' star players: #8 Sylvain MARVEAUX
1.     Parc Gayeulles: very much like Smiling Hill Farm (for those of you who know Maine), but it is a wonderful park that has animals and big fields and running paths. It is enormous. Fabienne, the German assistant and I, went for a long 2 hour walk post-lunch last Sunday and it was really nice. As you can see we had a bit of an obsession with the miniature horses …

Fabienne and the mini horses at the Park

Duck Pond at the Park

Autumn at the Park

Mar (from Madrid), Marisa (from Italy), Raquel (from Spain) and Fabienne (from Germany)
Enjoying hot chocolate!

Monday, November 8

Mère à la Mer

Me and Mom in Saint Malo

After traveling and having guests for almost 10 days, I had one day of rest until Mom arrived in Rennes! I picked her up at the train station – with lots of goodies of course – and we refreshed back at the hotel before walking around Rennes. I first took her to my “apartment” and we did a bit of grocery shopping (aka wine and cheese) before heading back into the city. That night I took her to a traditional creperie where we had galettes and crepes. She was exhausted so I dropped her off at the hotel and stayed in town to meet some friends for a drink.
View of a fort from main land
in Saint Malo

 Friday morning we both woke up late and I joined her in town. We grabbed croissants and walked around before meeting Staci and Daniel, my program directors for CIEE when I studied abroad. They are SO nice and we had a lovely café with them before my class at 1. Mom came to school with me on Friday and watched me help some of the advanced students with a debate on whether or not prostitution should be legal. The kids did an excellent job and I think Mom was impressed. We then headed back into town and walked, walked, walked and shopped a bit. We had some wine and cheese before dinner then began our search for some traditional French food. First stop was one of my favorite bars/cafés called “Le Chat qui Peche” (tha cat who fishes). We met some of the other English assistants there for an aperitif, which was very nice. Sans reservation was a little tricky, so we ended up eating at a fondue place. 
The waiter told us the plates weren’t for sharing, but he was misinformed. Literally the biggest plates of food I have ever seen. I’ve had my share of potatoes, ham and cheese for the rest of my life. We laughed throughout the whole meal – unfortunately she has the pictures so I will post them as soon as she sends them to me. But really – it was the most enormous meal I’ve ever seen.

Saturday morning we went to the market. Of course it was raining, but nonetheless it was still really fun and Mom was amazed by all the colors and food and vendors. We got sausage, fresh tomatoes, fresh goat cheese, and some organic bread and headed for a café at Saint Anne to enjoy our picnic. We also bought some Kouing-man and chocolates for dessert. Kouing man is a typical Breton dessert that is basically like a cinnamon bun, but with butter, sugar, and caramel. It’s incredible. We sat and had our café and ate our meal under a tent in the rain. On Saturdays you are more then welcome to eat what you have bought at the market at any café as long as you order beer, wine, coffee – some sort of beverage. 
Mussels in Saint Malo YUM!
They will also give you a plate and a knife and are always very nice. We met up with Jeanne (Sarah’s old host sister who is now studying in Rennes) and her sister briefly to say hello – they are absolutely adorable. We decided to head home and dry off and lay down for a minute as we digested our French brunch. It was a crappy day so we went into town to get our haircut from someone Staci had recommended on Friday. She did a wonderful job and we were both very satisfied. (She asked me if I died my hair, and she was very impressed I did it “myself” so thanks Linds). By the time we were done with all of that it was time for showers and to think about dinner. Saturday night we had a MUCH better meal at an Italian place with fresh pasta, good wine, and delicious thin crust pizza. We were very satisfied and rolled home to get some serious REM before our big day on Sunday.

Rennes is a beautiful city and there is a lot to do! But it is also nice to explore Brittany as much as possible to really get the full experience. I took Mom to Saint Malo on Sunday for the day (I’ve been twice before and it is the perfect place to see the ocean and eat some good food). There is NOTHING to do on Sundays and everything is closed so it was the perfect day for a getaway. First we met Lise, my contact at my school, for coffee and croissants. She is SO nice and she and Mom had a nice conversation about both of their involvement in horseback riding as a form of rehabilitation. Hopefully Lise is going to take me to the stables close to Rennes in the coming weeks before Christmas! We got a train to Saint Malo around 11:30 and arrived in the rain – but of course – thank god the sun came out just as we approached the walls. Saint Malo has an older part of the city that is completely surrounded by water and walls – much like a fort. There are tons of restaurants and pastry shops and touristy shops inside the walls that make for a perfect afternoon. Not to mention the view. It was low tied so she was able to see the beach and the forts on the surrounding islands. We even found a ramp up to the top and we were able to walk on top of the walls, which was so beautiful. Late in the afternoon we sought refuge from more rain and had moule frites (mussels and French fries) along with some typical Breton cider. On our way back to the train station we discovered a bakery with SIX LAYER cake – it was incredible and overwhelming – so of course we got some. We got back around 6 in time for us both to pack up, have some tea, and enjoy our cake. Best dinner I’ve had all semester.
6 layer cake!!

It was sad seeing Mom go, but we had such a good time and I was really glad she got to see “a weekend in the life of Emma.” She met pretty much everyone I see on a regular basis, saw my apartment, saw my school, met my co-workers, explored Rennes – it was really nice. It also made me realize I’m LIVING in France. Everyone who has visited so far speaks the language and it was so interesting to be the translator (and definitely frustrating at times).  It also made me realize how fast this year is flying. While there are so many frustrating things about living here, it really is a wonderful place and it is a challenge every day. Only about a month and a half until I go home – crazy!!

Back to the full grind this week. I’m currently writing this entry from the CMP, which is the high school I teach at on Mondays for students with mental/physical/psychological disabilities. Doing a conversation lesson on fashion today – oh la la. Thursday is a holiday, like in the US, so I’m hoping things will be open in town so I can spend some time with friends.

I’m sure I will have more to report as Thankgiving approaches so stay tuned!

Sunday, November 7

This just in ...

Two things.

One. Based on an impulse buy at the local grocery store, my hair is now purple/red/dark brown. Pictures to come. (Thank you Lindsay ...)

Two. Best phone call I've received all semester? MY MOM IS VISITING. She claims it's to check in, but I think it's an excuse to eat bread, cheese, croissants and drink wine for 4 days (can anyone blame her?). Either way I can't wait to share the details of her visit!!

Aaaand We're Back

Home Sweet Home.

Rennes in Fall!!
After a 6 hour train ride Lindsay and I arrived back to Rennes. Starving we headed right to the grocery store to pick up some provisions for the week (cough cheese and wine cough) and got ready to head into Rennes for the night. We went to La Phoenician, a Lebonese restaurant in the city (where the owner knows me, if that doesn't say something about what I've been doing since I've been here (eating) I don't know what does ...). We had an incredible meal of different mezze plates and finished it off with delicious honey desserts. We headed to our favorite bar Le Saint Michel, that we use to go to when we studied here. It was the same bartender who remembered us and he was really sweet and bought us drinks as we waited for him to get off work. Our original plan of heading home or going somewhere else failed when he invited us to a party he knew of down the road - and thought "when in Rennes." It ended up being incredible - some underground battle of the DJs. Strobe lights, bouncers, huge speakers and all the three of us danced with tons of other Frenchies to original beats by a male and female DJ until the wee hours of the morning. It was so so much fun and very surreal. The next day we slept in, made a nice brunch, and headed into town for a conference that was taking place in town on Feminism. There is a group in Rennes called "Mix Cité" and they have counterparts in Nantes, Paris, and Toulouse. Sunday there was lunch/discussion that we sat in on and while I barely participated it was so interesting to hear their interests and topics of discussion. I have been back to the regular meetings since and I'm very interested in continuing to learn about what they are doing in the community and in France. (In case anyone is interested, you can learn more here  Sunday night we celebrated Halloween - yay American holidays ... - at one of the American assistants apartments, very fun - lots of costumes and too much candy - Halloween à la francais. (For lack of creativity, I went as Jackie O and Linds went as a French man ... très original).

Monday was Toussaint, "All Saints Day" in France, a huge holiday. We headed to Lindsay's old host family's house for lunch around noon and left at 7 pm ... talk about an epic lunch. It was so great to see them and her host mom is SO nice and an incredible cook. Tuesday we walked around Rennes, met some English assistants for galettes in town, met Fabienne (the German assistant I work with) for hot chocolate at Haricot Rouge (no joke, best hot chocolate I've ever had) and they played tourist as we wandered inside the Cathedral and visited some of the oldest parts of Rennes. Lindsay had to leave pretty early the next morning so we made dinner at home and met the assistants in town again for some Breton beer on tap before returning home for a good night's sleep.

It was so nice to have Lindsay here! It was almost like she never left Rennes and I am going to see her at the metro station in the morning for school. Both playing hostess worked out great and was so easy. We will see each other for New Years in Paris - I can't wait!!

Bienvenue Novembre!

Disclosure: I have so much to say so this will either be a very long blog post, or I will do it in multiple installments to avoid complete boredom ...

Notre Dame de la Garde
On top of the hill in Marseille

To begin, France loves vacation and any excuse not to work, so I worked for two weeks before I had a break for Toussaint (All Saint's Day). I got basically two weeks for one holiday, not too shabby. My friends Abbie and Sarah (roomies sophomore year at Bowdoin) and I decided to go to Marseille and Toulouse for break. Abbie is in Scotland and Sarah is in Brest, so we all had some time off and we are all (relatively) close. Sarah studied abroad in Toulouse, and my friend Lindsay who studied in Rennes with me is doing the teaching program, so lots of reasons to head south!

Abbie and Sarah on top of the hill
Trash ... I'll spare you the other pictures
Abbie, Sarah and I started in Marseille on Monday. I arrived at about 3 o'clock in the afternoon and the girls forewarned me about the trash situation. See, the trash pick-up is on strike in Marseille. The trash was absolutely everywhere. You had to walk in the street because the piles were so huge they had spread all over the sidewalk. To add to it, the wind in the south is very well known and strong, so the smell wasn't exactly pleasant. Don't get me wrong, the port was beautiful and we went to the top of the Notre Dame de la Garde and the view was absolutely incredible, but due to the trash situation Marseille isn't exactly my favorite city ... We made the most of it, found a great restaurant for dinner and walked around a bit. It was cool to hear the southern accent too. For instance if you say "demain" (tomorrow) in French is sounds like "de-meh" but in the south they would say "de-mane". Or "matin" (morning) is usually "mah-teh" but they would say "mah-tane" with a huge emphasis on the N. We could barely understand our cab driver the first day. The next morning we decided to spend the afternoon in Aix en Provence which is a cheap and short train ride away. Aix is where Cézanne painted and lived. It is filled with history and reminds me so much of Italy with its tiny, winding streets that you could walk around in for hours. Not to mention we really lucked out with the weather. We stayed through dinner and got home close to 10:30.

Funny sidenote: We attempted to sleep early because of our early train, but, of course, there is a discotheque above the hostel and they had an un-announced party from 1 am - 5 am. So instead of sleeping I listened to drunk people shouting the words to house music. The hostel was nice enough to reimburse us for the night - I'm not sure what's better, no sleep and a free night, or lots of sleep and spending extra money? I like house music, so I guess everything worked out.

Off to Toulouse!!
Boardwalk along river in Toulouse

Toulouse "la ville rose" was incredible! The architecture is really beautiful, all made of brick (hence the nickname "the pink city"). There are small streets reminding me very much of Nice and lots of great shopping. We absolutely lucked out with the weather, one day it was 70! It was so nice to sit outside and get some sun. I stayed with Lindsay, my friend from abroad, and she has an adorable house. She lives with a woman who rents out two of her bedrooms in her house to foreign students, so it is Linds and Gabby, a really nice girl from Venezuela. Because Sarah had studied abroad in Toulouse we met up with some of her friends from when she was there and had a blast. Some highlights were:

- going to a house warming party for two of her friends, it was so fun, we met really nice French people and it was so nice to go to a low key party have a bit of a US/France mix.
- eating incredible gelato in town O'Sorbet is where its at. Just to make you drool, I had mascarpone fig and creme brulée. Enough said.
- COOKING. Lindsay has a full kitchen and it was so nice to use an oven and make goodies like quiche and homemade pizza.
- walking across all the bridges that run from one side of Toulouse to the other, reminded me a bit of Paris, and was absolutely beautiful at night.
- eating tapas with Sarah's French friends and another fellow Bowdoin grad, Marissa Moore, who came in for the night (she is teaching outside of Toulouse in the country) and we all ate at a small small restaurant with only about 15 places on high stools, it was SO good and had so much personality.

Toulouse is such a beautiful city, and I would definitely go back. The weather was great, I had wonderful company and the people there were incredibly nice.

Very early the morning of Saturday, October 30th Lindsay and I headed back to Rennes ...

Sunday, October 17

Finally Somewhat Settled ...

The last time I wrote I was full of optimism after visiting with my friend Sarah and having my host family’s house to myself, and things are still good, but I have truly been through an administrative nightmare. It has come to my attention that no one really knows what is going on here:

-       A very nice Madame may tell you that you need to come back with the following paperwork, and when you return a not so nice Monsieur might tell you he has “aucun idée” or “absolutely no idea” what you are talking about.
-       There is also the possibility you go to what you think is the correct office for something, only to be told you must go somewhere else, to find out you must in fact return to the office in your neighborhood, etc, etc.
-       Also, people tend to make plans to meet at 1:30 lets say, or pick you up at 3:30, but alas will call you half an hour later to see what your plan is for the rest of the day instead forgetting completely your meeting over half an hour ago, or show up early to announce they forgot you were even coming.

It really is hit or miss. And there is a different office for everything. You can’t do everything at once. And of course everything is all over the city, so it takes you about a month to feel as though you are finally settled. Needless to say I have no Internet at the moment, but I have been to the Internet store three times and spent over an hour on the phone with them and it looks like as of October 22nd I will be with wifi. I have been very lucky in that I have (for the most part) been meet with nothing but hospitality even if it means running around the city like a crazy person and acclimating to people not always understanding my French …

Even though I’m exhausted everyday and have very very long days, I’m really enjoying being here. I was less than thrilled about my apartment until I hung up dozens of photos of friends and family, along with some Hepburn paraphernalia, a new Ikea duvet and some candles and I’m almost ready to call my studio chez moi. The other assistants live very close by and we grocery shop together, or go out to dinner, or go for walks, and it is wonderful because they are all extremely nice and our common language is French so I have to speak it with them all the time and they are very patient and unintimidating. They share my interests in wine, American film, American music, discovering new parks, French, and travel, so like they say “it work!”

The English assistants live all over Rennes, but I see them from time to time. Tuesday we went for coffee and walked around sharing our good/bad stories from lessons (it sounds like I lucked out because the teachers and students at Chateaubriand are nothing but nice and accommodating, though I’ve heard it has a reputation for being very smart and a bit uppity, which I don’t find at all, just very nice.) Last weekend, we walked around the market together, and later a bunch of us met for galettes in town and after had a drink at La Laverie, which is a place to wash/dry your clothes by day, and a salsa dancing/beer patio by night – very cool. A British assistant has found a feminist group that meets once a week in Rennes, so once the strikes calm down (see rant at bottom of post), I am going to start going with her and listening in on their meetings.

School is going very well also! I had my first lessons on Monday and Tuesday. Mondays I’m at a neighboring high school for students with psychological, mental, and physical disabilities. For instance if a student has struggled with depression and they are unable to return to a regular classroom they are able to stay at CMP to finish high school. Or if a student has a serious injury, there is a hospital there and they can have physical therapy or doctor’s visits in between classes. This might seem intimidating, but in fact the students are really smart and determined. They speak great English and I have two of them for half an hour just to talk, about anything. We mostly talk about American fast food or American music, or television – some of their favorites are How I Met Your Mother, Dr. House (aka House), True Blood and Desperate Housewives, needless to say we get along fine. Tuesday through Friday I have regular class, and Tuesday I did a lesson on ‘An Inconvenient Truth’ where we discussed global warming, it’s consequences, and what you can do alongside showing clips. I had all boys who were 15 so half of them could fit in your pocket while the other half already needed to shave and were 6 feet tall – but all very polite and smart.  Wednesday I helped them with their project on alternative energy and heard what they had to say about solar, wind, water, and nuclear energy. Fridays I will be leading debates on the subject of the week, this week it is obeying authority and next week it is on legalizing prostitution. The students will prepare and I will pretty much be a monitor, but I think it will be really interesting!

All of this is happening so fast, and I can’t believe next week is my last week before vacation! France has holiday for Toussaint (All Saints) which is November 1st, and sort of our version of Halloween. I have almost two weeks off so I’m planning on heading south to visit my friend Lindsay in Toulouse along with stopping in Marseille with Abbie and Sarah, my sophomore year Bowdoin roommates.

Alors, time to end this painfully long excerpt about my life. The last thing to add would be that yet again the French are striking. There were no buses/public transport on Tuesday, and Wednesday morning the teachers were in a circle in the teachers lounge (where I spend quite a bit of time) wearing signs that said “Je suis en grève” (I am on strike) and holding signs. Apparently this is the same strike that was going on when I first arrived, about changing the retirement age and I had someone explain it to me today. While it doesn’t affect me so it’s not appropriate to strike, it is starting to make a lot of sense and actually effects mainly women in France which is why the female teachers at my school seem to be taking it on very seriously. So I hope Sarkozy starts to listen or else I have a feeling things could get complicated … 

Thursday, October 7

Paolo (grandson) helping with dinner!
Thomas (grandson)

As of Tuesday, I have officially been in France for two weeks. I would like to say for the record, it has poured rain No joke. Welcome to Brittany. That being said, I am so much more settled then I was last week, and I'm starting to get a hold of things. Last week was an absolute blur/disaster - attempting to send in immigration forms, getting my apartment keys, setting up my bank account and meeting all of the teachers from my school (who are all painfully nice and accommodating). I was so lucky because Sarah Marston, one of my best friend's from Bowdoin, is teaching in Brest (which is about two hours west of Rennes), so she came to visit me for the weekend, and we had an absolute blast! Friday we went to the movies and that night I took her to my favorite galette/crepe place, then we met up with another assistant for a drink. Saturday we went to the market, which never fails to amaze me, and we met up with her old host family from Toulouse, who recently moved to Paris, but the daughter, who is completely adorable and our age, is studying in Rennes. We had some more down time before we made an incredible dinner: chicken, with a goat cheese and fresh fig salad - incredible. We went out on Saturday - drinks and dancing - and had a wonderful lazy Sunday with homemade french toast!

Rennes v. Toulouse
She left Sunday night, and I went to the Rennes v. Toulouse soccer game, which Rennes won! Now are number one in the country - allez, allez! Monday was orientation for all of the assistants in Rennes. I was completely exhausted by the end of the day, but it was so nice to meet new people! I met some nice girls from the UK and two of the other assistants at my high school (one German and one Spanish), who couldn't have been nicer. On Tuesday night, there was a little soirée for the new assistants at my school in order for us to meet all the teachers, and each other. The headmaster made a really nice toast while introducing us, and the 5 of us were able to chat a bit and hopefully see each other this weekend as it is suppose to be beautiful Friday and Saturday (finally!).

mmm figs from the market!
Crepe chocolate pear at my favorite creperie
Yesterday (wednesday) I moved into my student housing! It was a really long day, but it feels good to know I'm able to unpack and not live out of a suitcase for the first time since I've been here. The residence has it's quirks, so if I'm not going to hesitate to look for other options, but I'm lucky to have somewhere very close to the school to call home! I also found out I will be teaching at two high schools, and visited the other one yesterday. It is called CMP, and it is for students who have had problems in regular high schools in the past, whether it is because of mental/psychological problems, or physical disabilities, or just troubled and unable to excel in a regular school. I met some of the students and they are really good at English, and super excited to meet an American. I will be having small conversation groups of 2, which will be great.

I still have so much to do and think about so I'm hoping next week (my first full week of work!) I will slip into some sort of routine. I do have to say that one of the teachers from my school has been so nice and driving me everywhere. People in France drive like crazy people and I miss being able to drive myself, so here are some other things about the good ole' US of A that I miss:

1. Ice (no ice sodas, cocktails, no ice trays ...)
2. To-go coffee
3. Driving
4. Wheat bread (sliced, delicious wheat bread, none of the wonder bread crap anymore ... although, why would you eat wheat bread when you can have baguettes all the time?)
5. Skim milk
6. Grilled meats (they rarely eat chicken, and most of the time is some sort of cold cut ham)
7. Mexican/Thai food, not a lot of options as you can imagine
8. Normal sized refrigerators (mainly mini-fridges here)
9. Spatula (for making eggs etc, they only have awkward, flat, wooden utensils that are not as helpful)

So that's a pretty good list consisting of mainly food, but you get the point. It looks like the sun is finally out today, so I'm off to school to say hello and then into town to purchase some necessities.

À bientôt!

Saturday, September 25

Revenir à Rennes

Hydrangeas at the market
Photo exhibit in front of l'Opera
I arrived by train to Rennes on Friday, and my host mom met me at the station to take me home. It was so nice to see a familiar face. She dropped me off and went back to work and I got myself organized before my host sister, Lucile,

her older brother, José, and his two kids, Paolo (8) and Thomas (3) came over. I played with the boys for a while, you know legos, marbles, trucks, Shrek - my jams. We all sat down to dinner when my host mom got home and I helped clean up and get the boys organized before they left. My host mom, José, and the boys went to their summer house for the weekend, in Pornic, while Lucile and I stayed here. I slept in, Lucile and I had brunch, then I decided to venture into the city. It is very cold here suddenly so I bundled and stepped out with my iPod. It was really nice to be back in the city. Everyone was out and about, and I watched them close down the market. I walked everywhere, including finding an outdoor photography exhibit which has some hilarious photographs. Tonight I'm making Lucile and I some chicken before I go out and meet some kids from my program. I have a lot to do this week so I'm planning on just lying low this weekend and practicing French, in preparation for setting up a bank account and meeting the heads of my department ... yikes. It is so weird to be here without my friends who I met when we all lived here, but I know I will meet more people as the program seems to be pretty big.

Paris: one of the oldest cities in the world, never gets old.

Place Saint Sulpice
Due to a liberal arts, post-grad mentality of putting off finding a real job, I applied to a teaching assistant program through the French government that has landed me back in France! I'm so lucky and excited to return and get started. Even more exciting, I'm going to be back living in RENNES! I'm teaching at a lycée (French high school), and I will be the English teaching assistant. I will be living in student housing on one of the university campuses in my own apartment, but surrounded by other French and international students my age. Before my teaching program starts, I was lucky enough to spend a few days in Paris. I am now at the house I stayed at when I studied abroad, and I am staying with my family until I can move in on October 1st. It is so nice to have my own space and be comfortable - it feels very much like home. I got back to Rennes yesterday after four wonderful days in Paris ...

Lindsay and Julia at Place de Saint Sulplice
I got to Paris early, early, Tuesday morning and after the longest taxi ride (thank you Paris rush hour) I arrived at my hostel - Oops! Hostel in the 13th arrondissement. I met my friend Julia (from Camp Huckins) and my friend Lindsay (who studied abroad in Rennes with me) at the hostel. Julia and I waited for Lindsay's arrival by getting coffee and un croissant amande and sitting in a children's playground. By the time Lindsay got to Paris it was around noon, and despite Lindsay and I being completely exhausted, we decided to go for a walk. We went all the way to Saint Sulpice, stopped for macaroons at Pierre Hermé (we tried olive oil and vanilla?! incredible) , and sat in the place surrounding the famous church. I sat in the sun while Lindsay napped and Jules did some writing. Lindsay and I wandered back around 4 to nap and shower before dinner, while Julia explored. For dinner we settled for Italian pizza close to the hostel (and a carafe of red wine, bien sûr), while afterwords we ventured to the Latin Quarter and sat outside at a wine bar on Rue de Moufftard - which was very busy with lots of young people. Back to the hostel by midnight for some much needed sleep ...

Boardwalk along the Seine
Wednesday morning we slept in, and got coffee at Place d'Italie while people watching before Julia left around 12:30. Lindsay and I decided make the most of our free time, and run some errands. We walked to Gare d'Austerlitz where we bought train tickets to our respective cities (Linds is teaching in Toulouse). We were scheduled to leave on Thursday, but of course there was a strike, so we decided to leave somewhat early Friday morning. We had an absolutely lovely picnic in Jardin des Plantes with bread, tomatoes, cheese, wine, and salmon. After lunch we walked along the Seine and ended up finding a beautiful walkway on the left bank, accessible by ramp. We walked along the
river all the way to Notre Dame. We grabbed a bus back to the hostel and showered and cleaned up before returning to the Latin Quarter for dinner. Honestly, one of the best dinner's I've ever had. We had discovered L'Ecurie with Julia the night before, and decided to try it for dinner. It is tucked away by the Pantheon at the end of Rue de Moufftard. We waited for about 15 minutes for a table (they brought us homemade Sangria while we waited) and had a lovely table outside. The menu said the restaurant had been around since about 1684 - it was amazing, and according to Lindsay, the bathroom is proof that it has been around forever. I asked the table next to us a few questions about the menu and they were nice enough to recommend several things. I settled for a formule (app. + entrée + dessert) so we could split the salad and crème caramel, and I got lamb, while little miss vegetarian got the shrimp. We were also given a free digestif. It was I would absolutely go again. The wait staff was more than friendly, and the food was delicious.

Thursday - my third and final day. Up early for the hostel's free breakfast, then off to figure out phone details. Success! We grabbed a bus to the Bastille, where Lindsay was hoping to exchange some travelers checks, but didn't get very far because of the strike. Sidenote: the strike was because the French government wants to change the retirement age to 62 ... it is currently 60. Anyways, we walked to the Bastille only to discover the march was starting there. Literally, like a circus. Music, balloons, megaphones, face paint, and tons of street food - it was a carnival. We got overwhelmed and headed to our destination: La Conciergerie, a former prison where Marie Antoinnette was held during the revolution, one of the tourist spots I have always wanted to visit. We stopped at Place des Vosges (where Victor Hugo lived and definitely one of my all time favorite places in Paris) and in the Marais for a quick sandwich. We got to the prison and it started to rain - at the same time we looked up and saw a huge sign "FERMETURE POUR GRÈVE" - translation "Closed due to the strike". Of course. We headed back to the Marais, for a cup of coffee, some vintage shopping, and people watching. Again, success. It was close to 5:30 pm, and the buses still weren't running so we walked all the way back to the hostel - which in retrospect was a lot easier then we anticipated and I walked through a part of Paris I didn't even know existed. We bought a bottle of wine on our way back and chilled for a bit packing up and showering before dinner. Lindsay was craving pasta so we walked down to Rue Saint Marcel where we there was a place recommended to us called Pizza César. Yet again, jackpot. It was delicious, and truly Italian. Lindsay had incredible, incredible pesto, and I opted for eggplant pizza. We made friends with the Frenchman next to us who was from Toulouse and was giving us the low-down on everything about the city. I think Lindsay was relieved to hear such wonderful things about it. We went back to the hostel where we went to bed pretty early as we were both leaving in the morning.

Striking at the Bastille
Place des Vosges

I have to say it was a wonderful trip and I had such an incredible time in only 3 days. I think it is because Lindsay and I travel so well together, and because I have been so so many times, I'm able to enjoy the different neighborhoods and I'm not stressed to run and see all the attractions. I also have to say that the Parisians couldn't have been nicer. Everyone was so patient with my French and more then willing to help in every capacity - so in sum, some people say people in Paris aren't nice, but I say, don't believe everything you hear ...

See my next post for everything about Rennes!