Tuesday, January 25, 2011

What I've been up to recently

Sorry I must apologise for not blogging for a while. It has been a rather busy few weeks which have really flown by but its been really nice. On Saturday 15th January, I & four other assistants went up to Nancy for the day. Nancy is a city in the North-East of France, not far from Germany and a short train ride from Reims. Its a very attractive city and I was particularly impressed by the town centre, Place Stanislas which was built by Stanilas, the Duke of Lorraine & former King of Poland at some point during the 18th century. There's not a whole lot to do there but it was very pretty and it was nice to just get out of Reims for the day, have a wander, explore the little shops and eats lots of yummy food! 

Otherwise I've been getting on with teaching which has been going well. Having done lots of stuff on the UK last term with my groups, I've begun to focus more on the USA with the majority of groups. Although I'm a British assistant, the school see me as an international assistant because of my strong interest in US culture and politics as well as my Indian heritage therefore I've been encouraged to do things like US politics/Indian culture with my groups.

I've also been enjoying Reims too! On Friday night, we celebrated Adrien (one of the American assistant's) birthday. We went to a karaoke bar which was a lot of fun ! We've also been doing regular games nights playing articulate which has become a little addiction of mine & everyone gets very competitive. I've also been trying to plan a trip I'm taking next month with 4 of the other assistants. We are going interrailing and going to Vienna, Budapest, Prague & Munich. I'm really looking forward to it especially as I've never been to any of these places.

That's all for now. My next blog post which I plan to write asap is going to be about my verdict of the year abroad so far as we've just hit the half way mark of the teaching assistantship !

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Games night, football and les soldes (just another example of French socialism)

Since I last blogged a week back, I've had a really nice week in Reims. On Friday, we had a games night at 2 of the English assistants' appartment. We played articulate, had a few glasses of wine and laughed over the most random things. The game got very competitive but I was pretty pleased with my performance at the end of the night - winning the first game & coming second in the second game. We all enjoyed it so much that we have decided to have another one on Friday.

On Saturday, we decided to make our way to the Reims football stadium to see my first French football match (and second ever). Reims were playing Montpellier for la coupe de France (the French cup). Montpellier were the favourites to win as they are in the division above Reims but we went to cheer our local team on! The tickets were really cheap (only 5€) and we had pretty good seats. It was a really good match and Reims scored a goal at the 77th minute winning 1-0!! We all really enjoyed the match and were so ecstatic that Reims won! I would definitely be up for going back to the stadium and seeing another match soon.

Another event that began yesterday was "les soldes d'hiver". This is the French winter sale. The sales are very different here than to the UK/US as they only officially by law take place twice a year for 3 weeks - the winter one being in January and the summer one being in July. The soldes are regulated by the French government who decided that the winter sale will begin on the second Wednesday of January.  They command that all shops do the sale at the same time. French shops can do promotions and things at other points in the year but they can't officially call them sales. In the soldes, there is a markdown on the first day then next week, there will be another markdown and there is usually another one during the last week of the sale. In addition, French law also forces shops to have the items out in the shop for at least before the start of the soldes.

So like almost every other French person in the land, I headed over to the soldes yesterday. The shops were a lot busier and there seemed to be lots more enthusiasm. There were lots of good discounts but I didn't want to spend too much on the first day so I picked myself one shirt for 20€ which I liked the look off! I do however plan to return to the soldes.

However whilst I enjoy shopping for bargains and see this as a French tradition, for me the soldes are just another example of how socialist this country really is. The nanny state is once again meddling in people's lives again as shop owners do not  have the freedom to put sales on at any point of the year. If a French store breaks the law then they are fined by the French government - a bit harsh if you ask me!


Thursday, January 6, 2011

Long time, no write

I'm sorry that I haven't written on here for a while. I had been meaning to write a post over the Christmas holidays but just didn't get round to doing so. So I want to wish all my readers a very happy new year or bonne année et bonne santè. I hope everyone has a great 2011 and hope that everyone has success, luck & happiness.

I went back to England for the first time in 3 months for Christmas. Unfortunately my trip home was rather eventful and I mean eventful in a negative way. The terrible snow caused my Air France flight to be cancelled on the Saturday (18th December). I wasn't very well at the time and was running a fever and all I wanted to do was go home to bed which of course I couldn't do! I went to see a representative from the airline but they refused to give me any help (hotel accommodation, food voucher, taxi, train ticket back to Reims etc) as I had purchased my ticket in France & they claimed they only helped passengers on the return leg of their ticket. Despite pleading with them for help, I got nothing and I along with a friend, I made at the airport - a very nice American girl named Ana decided to check-in to a hotel. The next day, we learnt that Heathrow Airport remained closed so we booked Eurostar tickets. We had to wait because of the weather conditions at Gare du Nord for around 7 hours and then when we finally got on the train, it took 5 hours as it couldn't go fast so I didn't get back to Croydon till nearly 4am and I was still ill!

So overall my visit to England wasn't great. I spent most of it not feeling very well and in bed or on the sofa watching telly. Christmas Day itself was nice and we ate good food, had lots to eat and it was nice to relax! I then went to Barcelona on the 29th December for 2 of my university friends' 21st birthdays as well as for new years! I had visited Barcelona around 8 years back but had forgotten a lot of it so it was really nice to return. The birthday party itself was very good with excellent food and stunning views as we were on the 23rd floor of a really nice hotel. The people there were also really nice & it was nice to get to know some new people as well as see some old, friendly faces! We also went out clubbing so got to experience the Barcelona nightlife!

On New Years itself, we went to my friends appartment where we ate delicious Spanish food and drank sangria & cava (I probably shouldn't say cava too loudly as I might get arrested by the Reims police for treason!) But it was awesome and great to see the new year in a different place. We also did the Spanish tradition of eating 12 grapes (1 at each chime) after midnight before wishing everyone a happy new year which I did successfully.

During the daytimes I saw a bit of the city walking along the Ramblas, going to the Sagrada de la Familia (although I couldn't go in because the queue was too long). I also went to Parc Güell which was really magical with sculptures and other little houses! I also saw the Cathedral of Barcelona, the Columbus monument and went to a couple of museums. I walked around the port and even got to dip my feet in the sea! I'm so glad I visited Barcelona - I had a really nice time & would definitely like to go there again.

Now I'm back in France and really glad to be back here. This week has been about getting back into the swing of things, preparing for lessons and giving a few classes. Next weekend, we are planning a trip to Nancy which I'm really looking forward to!

So that's all for now but I thought I would put some pictures up from Barcelona-

Just one of the displays on the Las Ramblas. I liked the fact that they have Carrefour in Spain too!

 A very awesome sweet shop where you choose the sweets you want and put them in a jar!

 Market de La Boqueria - a market that does all sorts of amazing food (just off Las Ramblas).

Me at the Sagrada de la Familia.

Boats at the Port of Barcelona.

The view of the city from Parc Güell.