Friday, December 10, 2010

Paris & Strasbourg

So I've had a pretty good few weeks and its all going well although I think all the assistants are looking forward to a rest and most of us get to return home. This past week I took 2 trips out of Reims. Last Saturday, I alongwith several other assistants went to Paris for the day taking advantage of the proximity & high speed rail to go and spend a day there sightseeing, shopping or meeting other hands. I had gone primarily to see one of my very good friends who was visiting from Italy & celebrating her 21st. It snowed quite a lot whilst we were there and I have to say the weather wasn't great but highlights of the day included a walk down the Champs Elysée including going stores like Louis Vuitton & Cartier & going to La Durée. La Durée is a famous macaroons, cakes & pastries store founded in 1862. It was lovely & the macaroons were delicious although expensive. I also met up with friends from Bristol & went to the Sacré Coeur which is my favourite religious building in France (perhaps in the world).

The day, however wasn't successful for all. Unfortunately one of the other assistants was pickpocketed on the Paris metro & lost some money and her cards etc. I felt really bad for her especially as I lost my camera just before the October holidays so know exactly how she feels. Nevertheless it was a nice day & it was great to escape Reims for the day.

I also went to Strasbourg on Wednesday to do the wonderful christmas markets known as the best in the world! The tickets were considerably cheaper thanks to 'prems' which are special, non refundable tickets which occasionally come out. I'm glad I went and felt I used my day off wisely as I normally sleep in till late, do very little and then go to the pub on Wednesdays. Overall a great day was had. Strasbourg is a really cosmopolitan city with both a very German & European feel to it. It has a very interesting past and present & its Cathedral is very very impressive. The Christmas markets are huge & it takes a really long time to cover all of them. Some of the markets are really good, others are more clichés; having the same, old tacky stuff. The food is amazing - we went to a traditional Alsatian restaurant where I had a pigs head & snails- I felt very French!! The weather however was absolutely terrible. It poured down all day so I had to buy an umbrella although I brought a EU brolly which looks pretty awesome. Also there were delays on the way back due to snow in Reims so I had to wait at Champagne Ardenne station for around an hour and a half. Despite the weather, I had a great time & it was lovely to get out of Reims & explore a new city.

Typical Strasbourg Marché de Noël

La Cathédrale de Strasbourg

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Things I've learnt and discovered since coming to France

1. The novelty of drinking champagne hasn't quite worn off. I expected the novelty to wear off within a few weeks but I still love tasting & buying the stuff. I also very much enjoy  going to the champagne houses in the region and hope to do more in the new year.

2. Beer and wine is often cheaper in restaurants than soft drinks - this would probably be against the law in the UK?

3. Everything is more expensive in France except beer, wine and bread. Of course being in the champagne region, champagne is marginally cheaper.

4.French McDonalds are so much more sophisticated than any other McDonalds that I've been to. You can get a real cup of tea served in a pot. But there is more security there so you can't just nip to the loo as I've often done in Croydon- a man stands on the staircase checking if people have purchased food.

5. The French are extremely bureaucratic. They love their forms. At the bank, everytime you go to sign something you have to write - lu et approuvé meaning read and approved!

6. France is a socialist country. President Obama would be seen as far-right by many French people. The only thing in which the UK is more socialist is when it comes to the healthcare system & that is probably a good thing!

7. French drivers are the worst I've ever seen after Indians!

8. You have to "composter" your bus or train ticket. The act of composting means to validate, punch or stamp your ticket through a machine. No one checks on the buses & you can simply get away without buying a ticket. The public transport system, however is much better than in the UK.

9. First class seating on trains can often be cheaper than second class or only 1 or 2€ expensive.

10. I've gotten used to having the Euro as my currency but it has confirmed to me that I do not want it in the UK.

11. I don't want to be a teacher!

12. I find it very uncomfortable when intelligent, polite kids call me "Monsieur" at school. When the nasty ones calls me "Monsieur", I love it and refuse to correct them.

13. French classrooms are much more backwards than English ones - many of them still have blackboards & none of them have interactive whiteboards.

14. Who to call "Tu" & "Vous" - the French words for you, the former being informal & the latter being more formal still confuses me. I sometimes say "vous" to both my students & to teachers who have already told me to say "tu" to them.

15. French studio kitchens are not cooking-friendly. No oven & no microwave!

16. My favourite French word is  'un coquelicot' meaning poppy. My second favourite is 'un pamplemousse' meaning grapefruit.

17. Everything is shut on a Sunday except the laundrette & McDonalds.

18. That Christmas markets are wonderful with lights, food, mulled wine and other various bits and bobs. The only thing I don't like is the fact they use real animals and they aren't treated very well, for example the donkey and sheep do not have enough space to move around and are not given adequate water.

19. I have made some amazing friends here!

20. I love my vie française!