May 5, 2010

Spain! Part 2

Posted in travel, Uncategorized tagged , , , , , , , at 9:20 am by Fat Girl Dancing

Tuesday we tried to be up and out of the hostel by 9:30am, but with five women it was closer to 10am by the time we’d all finished breakfast and were ready to go. The original plan was to hit the beach just two blocks from the hostel in the morning and the further beach in the afternoon, but it was still fairly cool that morning so we went shopping instead!

Spain doesn’t have the restrictions on sales like France does, so there were some great bargains to be found. We went to some of our favorite French stores (H&M and Pimkie). I bought a Hello Kitty shirt-dress at H&M for only 10 euro. At Pimkie I was delighted to find a skirt I’d had my eye on back in France was marked down 40% here in Spain!

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Melanie’s new look

We finished shopping for souvenirs in the old section of town and walked back to the hostel for lunch. I had bought a microwavable potato tortilla from the grocery store the day before, and it turned out to be quite delicious and very filling! I had to share it with everyone else, because I couldn’t finish it all on my own.

Fed and shopped out, we were finally ready to hit the beaches! We started at the close beach, which was really the “surfer’s beach” because it was directly on the ocean and had very large waves. We spent a few hours there and then walked to the other beach — this one is actually in a bay, so the waves are much more calm. Melanie and I braved the cold April waters and went for a little swim! I love playing in the waves!

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We spent the last, dwindling hours of sunlight playing cards before walking back to the hostel to get cleaned up for dinner. As we were once again walking across town, we managed to catch the last rays of the sun before they disappeared behind the water.

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The hostel had recommended a Pintxo bar to us for dinner, but we’d had trouble finding it the last two nights. Finally I asked for directions (in Spanish!) and was able to understand the answer well enough to lead the group to the bar. The menu was all in Spanish, and everyone immediately demanded a translation, which was a bit overwhelming, but fortunately there was one employee who spoke English well enough to translate for all of us. It was only at the end of the evening that we saw a French translation of the menu hidden behind the bar! If we’d seen that earlier, it would have been much simpler ^_^

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Scallops (wrapped in ham — beurk!)

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Duck

We tried lots and lots of tiny dishes, including a superyummy risotto. It was a fun way to try lots of foods and get a very filling dinner. Once again we tried to find some kind of non-sketchy nightlife, but had no success with it, and went back home too early ūüė¶

Wednesday was our last day in Spain! The day began warm and just kept getting hotter. We ate breakfast outside on the terrace, packed our belongings and checked out of the hostel. They very kindly allowed us to keep our luggage in a private room since we didn’t need to leave the city until 5pm. We did some more sightseeing, wandering around the city, up hills, and around the bay.

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And of course we needed a Cheetos break.

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Alicia, Karin, and Melanie nom some Cheetos

We walked towards the opposite side of the bay to see a sculpture that some members of the group were interested in, but as we hiked further and it got hotter, I could feel myself wilting. I knew if I continued the walk without water or rest (we were pushing ourselves because two members of the group had an earlier train to catch), I would dehydrate or get sick. When we passed a little cafe on the beach, I told the others to go ahead and catch up with me on the way back. Melanie decided to hang back too. We had drinks (I had a sangria!) and played cards while listening to Spanish conversation and watching the beautiful blue ocean.

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Back at the hostel, we said goodbye to two of our group and the rest of us changed into our swimsuits and went back to the surfer’s beach for the last time. Melanie and I tried to go swimming again, but the waves were definitely much bigger here than the ones at the bay! It was scary, but exhilarating.

We showered (the hostel was SO GREAT, letting us shower even though we were already checked out. Seriously. Olga’s Place in San Sebastian. Best hostel evar.), stopped to stock up on Cheetos, and headed back towards the train and to France. In the border city of Hendaye I grabbed a slice of gateau basque. You can’t come all the way to Basque Country and not have gateau basque!!

It was a great vacation with great friends, and I’m glad I got to go and have such fun times!

May 1, 2010

Spain!

Posted in travel, Uncategorized tagged , , , , , , , , at 9:13 am by Fat Girl Dancing

This week, for three days, in order to somewhat salvage our vacation, my friends and I headed south to the warm and sunny beaches of San Sebastian, Spain.

I had been to San Sebastian once before, two years ago, on the fourth of July, for about 6 hours. I was looking forward to spending more time in the city and really exploring it. Once again I was the only Spanish speaker in the group, and I was looking forward to blowing the dust off my Spanish brain and getting some use out of it again. Living and breathing French for the last 7 months, plus not studying Spanish for 10 months had made me VERY rusty.

We met bright and early at the train station at 7:30 on Monday morning, and we were off! I tried to read a little of Crepusculo, my copy of Twilight in Spanish to help orient me, but we were all too excited to do more than chat. Once we got off the train in Hendaye, the border town in France, I took charge and got everyone to the Spanish train that would take us to San Sebastian. My first attempts to speak Spanish — to the ticket agent — didn’t go so smoothly. I was able to say I wanted a ticket to San Sebastian, but when he asked me if I wanted one way or round trip, I couldn’t remember how to say the word “today!” (as in, “just for today”) It wasn’t until we were on the train that I remembered it. Fortunately I had my French-Spanish dictionary, which came in very handy.

Once we were in San Sebastian I discovered we had bad directions from the station to the hostel. The group bugged me to ask someone on the street, which I did awkwardly (“Oh yeah, ‘z’ is pronounced like ‘s’!”), but she had no idea, so we went back to the station where the woman at the desk spoke English and had a map. Very helpful.

The hostel was about a 20-minute walk from the station, but it was a GREAT hostel. Only 14 euros a night for our room, and we had a balcony with a view of the ocean!

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View from our balcony

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I totally climbed that mountain

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Sangria!

The first thing we did was celebrate being in Spain with a bottle of Sangria we’d bought in France. Then we decided to climb a mountain. We’d gotten a map from the front desk of the hostel, and the woman there had marked interesting places and attractions for us. One place she’d marked was a mountain very nearby the hostel.

No kidding, this was a fucking mountain. Straight up climb, great picturesque scenery, but I was sloooooooowwww to climb, while all the others just kind of hopped up. My body just does not like gravity.  It took me a long time to get to the top, but the view was so worth it.

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Then we climbed back down the mountain because we were STARVING. Down is much easier than up. It was too late for lunch in most places, but one restaurant was willing to serve us bocadillos. I had a queso tortilla bocadillo that was AMAZINGLY delicious.

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YUM

We did some grocery shopping for breakfast and lunches for the next few days, and I bought CHEETOS. This became the Cheetos vacation. There are no Cheetos in France. I remembered from my last trip that there were Cheetos in Spain. I wanted Cheetos. Everyone thought I was nuts until they too tasted the Cheezy goodness. Then we were all going nuts for Cheetos, stopping in alimentaciones wherever we found them for MOAR CHEETOS.

We came home and passed out. It started as just having a bit of a lie down and turned into a three-hour nap. So much for going shopping! We headed back out to the other side of town just as all the stores were closing.

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But I found a Sanrio store!!

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This paella was so good, I wanted to eat it forever. And ever.

We passed a gelato place, and I had been named decision-maker for the evening, so i said, “DECISION MAKER SAYS GELATO.” Fortunately they agreed with me. The place was so good and cheap, we went back every day!

We wandered around forever, trying to find some famous Spanish nightlife, but everything was either really seedy or empty. We settled for a drink along the quai and then went back to the hostel for the night.

March 14, 2010

Playing catch-up (part 1)

Posted in travel tagged , , , , , , at 12:41 pm by Fat Girl Dancing

Guess I should finally update, then!¬† Since my last post, we’ve had our winter break here in the French school system.¬† Only one more vacation period left….I know, no one really feels very sorry for me, but those last two months without a break are going to be tough!¬† They’re helpful not only for the children, but also for the teacher’s sanity!

My winter vacation was fantastic, but it passed way too quickly.  The first week I did absolutely nothing, and it was glorious.  After a long, cold and rainy winter, moving, and school stress, I spent the week sleeping, hanging out with people who were still in town, and organizing my room to my liking.  The week just flew by.

Saturday, February 27, I set off for Paris to be ready to meet my mom and my cousin who were flying in the next day!¬† I hadn’t seen my mom since I left on September 15, so I was terribly excited to finally see her again. The weather was absolutely gorgeous in Paris on Saturday, and I remembered why I was so in love with the city — it had also been since September since I’d been there.

Sunday France and other parts of Europe were hit hard by tempete Xynthia, and I got a text from Mom saying that their flight was being redirected to Brussels instead of Paris. As Mom put it, “The flight was fine until about an hour before we were supposed to land. The pilot came on, and I thought he was going to say we were about to start making our descent, but he said Charles de Gaulle airport was closed and we were being rerouted to Brussels!”

The winds in Paris were about 60mph, and there was no way they could have landed that early in the morning. I tried to take a walk around the neighborhood, and couldn’t make it down the street. I saw motorcycles and fruitstands blown over, but all I was thinking was “I WANT MY MOMMY!!!!” I went back to the hotel and cried and watched French music videos and waited for updates.

They waited in Brussels for 2 hours, then the winds shifted and they tried again, landing safely in Paris. Unfortunately, there was no gate for them, so they sat on the tarmac for another hour or so (having now been stuck on that plane a good 11 hours!). The later it got, the more plans we kept having to cancel, until they finally showed up around 4:30pm and everything was scrapped except Hard Rock Cafe, the Eiffel Tower, and dinner. (We’d bought tickets online for a bus tour that we never got to use :-() I was just so happy to see them!!!!

We started off at the Hard Rock Cafe with appetizers and drinks so Mom could get her souvenir Hurricane glass.¬† Going back to the metro to go to the Eiffel Tower, we discovered that mom’s 3-day metro pass wasn’t working, so I went to the cashier and explained the problem (in French). Mom and Jenny were terribly impressed. I began planting the seeds that I was helpful and they’d be lost without me when they returned next weekend, so they should bring me back with them, to make up for the day we lost.

We arrived at the Eiffel Tower just as it was sparkling, and they were very impressed. We could only go to the second level and not the top (see above re: windstorm and 60mph winds), but it was still a great view and a good time was had by all. We took a taxi back to the hotel and then picked a small brasserie on Place Maubert for dinner.

Jenny and Mom in front of the Eiffel Tower

January 3, 2010

Happy New Year!!

Posted in travel tagged , , , , , , at 5:41 pm by Fat Girl Dancing

Happy 2010!¬† I’ve now completed three and a half months of living abroad.¬† It’s been very trying sometimes, but I’ve really enjoyed it.

I spent the New Year’s weekend with my good friends from Ohio who are also assistants.¬† We met in Angers (where none of us live) because David had studied there last year and knew of some parties and a place to stay.

I left  Bordeaux on the morning of the 31st, and as the train was crossing over the Garonne, I saw a beautiful rainbow hanging over the city. It has to be a sign of better things to come.

David’s friend picked us up in downtown Angers and drove us out to his house for the party.¬† We spent the evening with his friends and his (American) girlfriend, talking, drinking and eating.¬† Apparently it’s a tradition for the reveillon to eat and drink as much as possible.¬† We had raclette for dinner, and they kept trying to force more and more cheese on me!¬† “Eat, eat!” I was told.¬† “It’s the New Year!”¬† (I was only able to eat potatoes and cheese for the raclette, as everything else offered was pork.¬† But I did try cavier earlier at the party, and it was pretty good!)

Much merriment and festivating was had, and at midnight we all went outside to watch neighbors shoot of fireworks.  The French sang the Marseilles and David and Wes sang the Star-Spangled Banner.

David wanted to stay up and watch the ball drop in New York at 6am, even though he’d been traveling since the 30th and awake for nearly 40 hours.¬† We tried, but we just couldn’t last.¬† I fell asleep around 5-ish and woke up briefly to hear Ryan Seacrest say it was now 2010 in the US.

Friday and Saturday we explored the city of Angers.¬† David loved living here and was happy to show us all his old haunts (even though it was hard to find many of them open on the national holiday of New Year’s Day).¬†¬†¬† We went bowling, and I played miserably, not even breaking 50!¬† I think the lane was at a slant…

Cointreau is the official liquer of Angers, since it’s produced there, and it was offered in lots of drinks.¬† I had a great (decaf) coffee drink with Cointreau and whipped creme!

Cafe Angevin

All the partying and tourism is just too much for poor David!

Oh, David!

Friday night David’s former host family had left us more raclette, but since I would just be having potatoes and cheese again, we ate a little of it and then picked up a few pizzas and spent the evening watching a movie.

We had nutella crepes for breakfast on Saturday.  Wes had to leave, but David and I got changed and ready to go out clubbing with another friend of his.  We had some good conversations and I had a GREAT tuna and shrimp panini at his favorite panini shop.

We went to a few clubs and did a lot of dancing, before I started to get a terrible headache around 2am and had to cut the evening short.¬† Despite that, I had a great time in Angers, and I’m glad I got to ring in the New Year in France with my friends!!

Angers

Back to teaching tomorrow…I hope I can remember how!

December 25, 2009

Happy Western Holiday of Your Choice!

Posted in la vie bordelaise tagged , , , , , , , at 5:12 am by Fat Girl Dancing

Today is Christmas, a day with important meaning for many people, but usually just a day of rest for me!¬† My normal tradition involves going to see a new release movie in the theatres and then eating sushi or Chinese food with friends, but here in France, NOTHING is open on Christmas Day; no movies, no restaurants.¬† I’m surprised to hear that the tramway is running.

The parents of another assistant are coming into town today, so my roommate and I are going over to her apartment for a Christmas dinner of raclette.¬† I took the plunge yesterday and baked my first batch of cupcakes here in France, so we’ll have those for dessert.¬† I absolutely love to make cupcakes from scratch, and at home I’ve experimented with a variety of different delicious flavors.¬† Here I’ve been so overwhelmed with the fact that 1) they don’t even understand the concept of a cupcake in this country; 2) the ingredients are hard to substitute (I accidentally used baking powder instead of yeast when trying to make rolls for Thanksgiving last month); and 3) the measurements are hard to convert.¬† With those three obstacles, I’ve been avoiding making cupcakes, even though it’s something that makes me happy.

After plans to travel over Christmas fell through, however, I decided to spend my free time experimenting with baking.¬† I used a nice, simple vanilla cupcake recipe and spiced it up for the holidays with a little nutmeg.¬† I bought a hand-crank mixer, and I have to say if I’m going to make any more cupcakes, I need to invest in a real electric mixer.¬† My hands just can’t take any more of that!

But the results were so worth it!

Vanilla nutmeg cupcakes

Vanilla nutmeg cupcakes

Now that I know it can be done, I hope to make a lot more interesting varieties and bring these treats in to share with my teachers!  I must introduce France to the cupcake!

November 15, 2009

Toussaint vacances part 2

Posted in travel tagged , , , , , at 5:25 am by Fat Girl Dancing

I’ve been so tired this week, so my blogging has slacked. *kicks self in the butt* Get back to it!

You may remember I went on vacation what now feels like a million years ago. The first post is here. The second post is the one you’re reading now ūüėģ It’s all meta and shit!

Part II

When David and I woke up on Friday, his roommates were already gone, having left on an early train for Paris where they were spending the next four days. David made us a Spanish-style omelette (tortilla) for breakfast.

1030_davidomeletteAfter showering and getting dressed, we set off to explore the town of Vitré more thoroughly.

By the time we got to town it was nearly 2pm, so we sat at a Creperie and had dessert crepes. We like to eat dessert before our meals. I had chocolate and banana, of course, and David had caramel and butter.

Then it was exploring time! We started with the castle. We each bought a ticket to the museum that would allow us inside to explore the castle and would also allow us free entry to four other museums in the area. I was hoping to get to see Madame de Sevign√©’s house, since I did a report on her a few years ago, but it was just too far away and there wasn’t enough time.

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David in the chateau

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Weird statue-thing

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Where's David?

Mostly the castle was a museum for different paintings and tapestries, but it was still interesting to walk through. There was one turret that was swarming with flies crawling all over the windows — it was seriously creeping me out. Then there was a death room: dead insects, dead animals and even a dead baby skeleton. That was when the tour was over. WEIRD, Vitr√©.

We walked around to find the other museum that was close that we could get into when our friend Wes texted us that he’d gotten his pay advance and he could come up Sunday maybe. We called him and convinced him that he needed to come up tomorrow because it was Halloween and he should spend as much time as possible with us.

The other museum turned out to be a disappointment. It was a tiny catholic church with gorgeous stained glass, but they didn’t allow photography and the rest of the “museum” part was catholic relics from the 20th century.

We walked around the town some more….there was a lot of walking. We decided to finally have a late lunch — it was nearing 5pm by this point. We went into a bar and ordered steak hach√© with fries — the first time I’d had fries since Paris. The bartender made a point to tell us he only served us the food because we were Americans, normally he didn’t serve food at that time.

After eating, we walked through the local park.

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Butterflies

I climbed trees.

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Lots of low trees - great for climbing!

And then we walked to the grocery to get fixin’s for dinner before they closed at 7:30. We spent a looooong time in the store (it’s like a Meijer) because David kept remembering things he needed. We were going to make tacos, but they only had fajita seasonings. So we bought it.

We got home, and I cooked everything. It felt nice; it was my first time cooking in France.

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Taco salad in France

Our little taco salads were actually quite delicious!

David wanted to go out dancing that night at a club that didn’t even open until midnight, so I took a nap about 10pm. He woke me at 1am, and we went to the club. It was small but nice, and we drank and danced and talked with French people in the smoking area outside while he smoked. We stayed until nearly 4am and then staggered home, where we watched an episode of 30 Rock and then I passed out from exhaustion.

We slept until nearly noon the next day and then showered fast, ran into town, grabbed food for lunch from the market in town and arrived at the train station just as Wes’s train was pulling in.

We walked him back to David’s apartment and had lunch. We took a late train into Rennes and explored a little more of this big town (but not as big as Bordeaux ;-p). David bought a Brittany (Bretagne) flag he’d been wanting from a stall at an open-air market and I bought a great pair of earrings. We went back to that same bar we’d had trouble finding Thursday night and had caf√©s.

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David and Wes

We kept seeing little kids in costumes wandering around, and I remembered that in France kids don’t trick-or-treat from door-to-door but from shop-to-shop! They would go into any candy store or patisserie or grocery store and beg for treats. It was adorable. I tried to get pictures but couldn’t without looking stalkerish.

We decided Wes needed to try gallettes, so we sat down at a gallette place for dinner. I had the same type as Thursday, but it was just as good!

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Halloween light display

Vitré at night was just gorgeous.

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Vitré at night

The boys changed their clothes to get ready to go out to the club, but I hadn’t really brought any “club wear” since I was trying to pack lightly, so I caught up on some things on the internet.

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Wes and me

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Me

We stayed for maybe an hour and a half before David saw some of his students! He felt uncomfortable being in a party-type situation around them, so we left.

We came back, watched some more 30 Rock, and fell ASLEEP.

November 7, 2009

Toussaint vacances – Part One

Posted in travel tagged , , , , , , , at 7:07 am by Fat Girl Dancing

My vacation was so AMAZINGLY AWESOME it cannot be contained in one post. I have an idea it might be that way for all my vacations here.

I left Bordeaux early on Wednesday morning, October 28. I stopped to buy half a dozen Cannelés as a thank-you gift for my couchsurfing host.

Normally I love riding on trains, so I didn’t mind that the train from Bordeaux to Nantes was four hours. I had movies, books, music, and a travel pillow. Oh, and a screaming baby two rows behind me. The child screamed without ceasing for THREE HOURS of the trip. I was about to throw the kid off the train myself.

I was so happy to be off the train and in Nantes right on time (normally French trains are very punctual). I left the train station and went across the street to the tram stop to look at a map. I had vague plans for my day: I wanted to see the castle and the Jules Verne museum, and of course I wanted to see downtown Nantes! I studied the map for a few minutes and then promptly began walking the wrong way. Oops ^^;; Bad moment for Direction Man. I took the tram back the two stops to the castle.

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Chateau Nantes

The castle was really impressive — not as big as other castles in France, but the first one I’ve seen on this visit to France! I did the self-guided tour and took lots of pictures which can all be seen on my Flickr

I took the tram to the stop for the Jules Verne museum and then walked up a GIANT HILL to get to the museum. I was mostly exploring it to see if my dad might like it when he comes to visit at the end of my stay in France, but it ended up being pretty cool and mostly about astronomy, which I love.

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Musée Jules Verne

I still had time to kill, so I took the tram back to downtown Nantes and wandered in and out of the shops for awhile. They had a long pedestrian-only shopping street with the same stores as Bordeaux, so I was a little disappointed that the commercialism layout was the same as my own town.

A little before 8pm I made my way by tram to my host’s apartment. I got a little turned around, but thanks to my GPS and GoogleMaps App I found it! The other couchsurfer from Bordeaux was already there, and both she and the host were very nice. The host made us (vegetarian!) dinner of lentils and rice that was delicious, and we played a weird game that she’d invented. She gave up her bed to the two of us surfers, so I slept comfortably and soundly!

I woke up early, tried not to disturb the other two who were still sleeping, took a quick shower, got dressed and left for the train station. I had two more trains to ride today before I would be in Vitré. They were both fairly uneventful, though I did finish one of my books.

The last train pulled into Vitré (a small town in the Brittany region) right on time, and as soon as I stepped off I saw my friend David holding a welcome sign (and a baguette)!

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Welcome to Vitré!

I was so happy to see him! I hadn’t seen him since we’d parted ways in Paris in September! His German roommate had come along too, so the three of us walked back through the town to their apartment. I met his other roommate, from Spain. I was too nervous to speak much Spanish to him yet — all this intensive French has erased a lot of my Spanish.

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Cidre

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Chicken curry

The boys put together a great apero and lunch spread — wine, cheese, bread and olives first and then chicken curry. It was my first time having chicken curry, and it was actually pretty good! Not too spicy.

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Downtown Vitré

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Downtown Vitré

After lunch David and I walked back downtown to show me the castle and the shops. Vitr√© is an absolutely gorgeous little town. Definitely in the northern part of France…I noticed immediately the lack of palm trees (and I already missed them) and the different styles of architecture.

We walked back to his apartment (I cannot adequately express to you what a hike it was from his apartment to downtown and vice versa….up a major hill each way, and a good 15-20 walk. We DEFINITELY exercised, which is good, because we definitely ATE) and hung out talking until his roommates were ready to go into Rennes — the major town about 45 minutes away by car. His roommate from Germany had driven (wouldn’t that have been easier? Someone build a bridge) so we piled into his car. It was definitely weird being in a car and on a highway. As we were coming into Rennes, David and I started pretending that we were coming into Dayton:
“Look, we’re just leaving Oakwood.”

“I know, can you see the Crowne Plaza up ahead?”

“Oh yeah! And look, there’s the Denny’s right there.”

“Yup.” We’re weird.

We wandered around downtown Rennes for a bit before deciding to have a traditional Brittany meal of gallettes for dinner. I had a gallette with spinach, crème fraiche and a fried egg. And of course, cidre. We had a lot of cidre. It was all really good!

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Gallette and cidre

After eating, his roommates left to go to their heavy metal concert and David and I continued wandering around looking for cool bars. He texted a friend of his to find a fun bar, and we spent nearly an hour walking AROUND it, asking strangers on the street, getting close to it but never finding it until finally we stumbled upon it. It was nice with good techno music. We stayed there for awhile and met his friend. Then we went wandering and found another bar, had more drinks. I was freezing, and David kindly lent me his coat, since I’d decided not to pack my heavy coat and just had a hoodie.

We were about to sit at yet another place with his friends when his roommates texted him that the concert was over and they were coming to pick us up. Which of course said to us that it was the perfect time to get paninis. David had to repeat his order about 20 times, to the amusement of the other French people in line, but we finally got our order…mmmmm, tuna panini! We ate them as we rode back to Vitr√©.

My first two awesome days of vacation…I miss them already! All this stupid work is getting in the way of my having fun ;-p

October 26, 2009

Chez médecin

Posted in la vie bordelaise tagged , , , , , at 5:29 pm by Fat Girl Dancing

I woke up rather early, on this, my first real day of vacation, to call the doctor I’d selected from the “Pages Jaune” (Yellow Pages).¬† I asked for an appointment, and a rather abrupt voice told me that the doctor had open office hours today beginning at 2pm.

I was nervous about having to go see a doctor, and I would have put it off if at all possible.¬† I don’t have my Carte Vitale (health insurance card) yet, and I specifically decided I would NOT. GET. SICK this year!¬† Clearly, my body was not listening.

The cause of all this distress? A urinary tract infection.¬† Normally I’d spare you all such intimate details of my life, but in this case it does happen to relate directly to how I experience France and French culture.¬† So we continue.

I began noticing the first symptoms Saturday night.¬† I tried to deny them, but they haunted my dreams.¬† Sunday I made up my mind that I would call the doctor.¬† To put it off any more would only make my vacation miserable and put my body in more danger.¬† I’m prone to UTIs and have been having them with greater and greater frequency over the last few years.¬† Don’t get older, kids.

Around 1:30pm I set off for the doctor’s office.¬† It ended up taking me much longer to find it than I’d thought, due to some bad directions from the online map, but I found her office.¬† And five other people waiting outside to be seen.¬† By that point, I already had to pee again.¬†¬† I asked a nice, elderly lady if we were all waiting for the doctor, to verify I was in the right place, and she said yes.¬† And then started talking to me for the next hour, complaining about the wait.

The doctor didn’t show up until 2:30 (despite telling me to come at 2pm!) and after she unlocked the door to her office, we all filed into her tiny, closet-sized waiting room.¬† After another 15 minutes of waiting with no patients being called, the elderly woman gave up and left, wishing me good luck.¬† Only 4 people ahead of me!

I HAD TO PEE.¬† There was a small bathroom, but I didn’t use it in case she needed a sample.¬† I mean, at home my doctor always takes a sample and analyzes it in the same building.¬† I wasn’t sure if this was the same.¬† So I held it.¬† And held it.¬† And held it.¬† For nearly two hours.

Finally it was my turn.¬† The doctor was very nice.¬† We sat at her desk first, while she listened to my symptoms.¬† I told her, “It seems I have a UTI.” I mean, I don’t want to be presumptuous, but I’ve been through this and I know what it feels like. If you’ll just give me some drugs, we can all go home.¬† I managed to explain all my symptoms and answer her questions in French.¬† She had me hop up on the examining table while she poked at my kidneys¬† (and I tried not to pee on her table), and then she took my blood pressure.

She complimented my French skills and accent, which pleased me.¬† She said she had a neighbor who was American who had lived in France for years whose accent wasn’t as good as mine.¬† I need to send that in an email to my former professors!

The doctor told me I would need to go to a lab to get a urinalysis done, but she was going to give me antibiotics now anyway. PHEW.  She wrote the order for the lab test and the prescriptions, I paid her (22 euros) and thanked her, and then I USED THE BATHROOM.  There was no way I could wait until I got to the lab.  This proved to be a mistake.

Receipts and reimbursement form in hand (not having my Carte Vitale, I paid the full amount and will be reimbursed later…much later), I set off to find the lab.¬† The doctor had been vague…”It’s on the street with the tram.”¬† Yeah, that’s a really long street.¬† I found a pharmacy on that street first, and got my prescriptions filled.¬† Even using a generic antibiotic, it was still 23 euros for three boxes of pills! That’s expensive for France.¬† The pharmacist also gave me a reimbursement slip, and then gave me more precise directions to the lab.

French drugs!

I was seen quickly at the lab, and I knew the drill.  One problem: now I was empty!  I sneaked back out to the sink and swallowed some water quickly.  That did the trick.  What an ordeal!  I rewarded myself with Cadbury Chocolate Chip cookies from the market across the street.

I’m learning the ropes! Socialized medicine can definitely have it’s pluses and minuses.¬† It seems that Mondays are the only “open office” days — if I’d gone another day I might have gotten a real appointment and not had to wait so long.¬† But time was not on my side, since I leave on vacation Wednesday morning.¬† It’s definitely not convenient to have to go all the way to a lab just for a urinalysis.¬† But the doctor’s office was very intimate, and she was exceptionally nice and caring.¬† Which I appreciated, being sick and scared in a foreign country!

October 25, 2009

Sunday morning musings

Posted in la vie bordelaise, travel tagged , , , , , , , at 5:42 am by Fat Girl Dancing

It’s hard to wake up from a dream where I’m home and holding my kittens again and snuggling them after so long.¬† I like it here, but it’s so hard to believe I have to be away from them for another 9 months : (¬† Last night I dreamt I was holding Sabrina, and I was so happy to have her in my arms again, but she didn’t really remember me. : (

It's hard not to miss her!

It's hard not to miss her!

I remember when I could just throw some clothes in the laundry two hours before going to work, and have them washed and dried by the time I needed to leave.¬† No longer.¬† The cleaning process is at least a two-day operation here.¬† Hope you didn’t need that for tomorrow!

Absolutely no hope of throwing something in the dryer for a minute or two on a cold morning to warm it up.  What a luxury!

I find it weird that my US phone and my US-based laptop computer both automatically updated themselves for Europe Daylight Saving Time, but my French phone didn’t.¬† For the next week, I’m only 5 hours ahead of everyone on EST!

I was thinking of going out to the Jardin Public for a pique-nique today, but it’s been rainy, so the ground will be wet… And I’m not sure if I feel like going all the way into Bordeaux.¬† Maybe I’ll just have a lazy day here in Talence.¬† I have bread, cheese, and smoked salmon, anyway.¬† What more do I need? (maybe some wine…)

I’ll be heading up north on Wednesday!¬† I’m doing a whirlwind tour in a week.¬† Bordeaux to Nantes to Vitr√© (with a day to visit Rennes) and then from Vitr√© to La Rochelle and then back down to Bordeaux!

October 22, 2009

Impractical boots

Posted in la vie bordelaise, travailler tagged , , , , , , , , , at 12:32 pm by Fat Girl Dancing

Woot, Bordeaux won the football match last night!¬† It’s nice to be in a town that actually wins sporting events.¬† Yeah, I’m totally looking at you, Cincinnati Reds and Bengals.¬† And Dayton Dragons, while we’re at it.

Yesterday I went into Bordeaux and spent a good chunk of my savings (that I hadn’t already spent on tickets to London or Wicked tickets).¬† First I bought some ridiculously impractical and expensive new boots.¬† But I wanted them.¬† I wanted them more than any of the other practical or cheap boots.¬† Plus they were warm (the only impractical aspect is that they have 2-inch heels! Well, it doesn’t snow here…)

Impractical (but warm!) boots

Impractical (but warm!) boots

I also bought a set of hand weights, so I can continue my workouts here.¬† I’m getting in a lot of good walking, but my arm muscles are turning to jelly from lack of use!

I continued walking up rue Ste. Catherine, the major shopping street in Bordeaux, and entered the SNCF office.  It was still an hour before they closed and the place was packed.  Moments after I took a number, the manager locked the door and removed the number tickets so no one else could come in and get in line.  I just made it!  I waited nearly 45 minutes to buy train tickets from a very nice woman.

I needed lots of different tickets because I’m city-hopping instead of going directly from Bordeaux to Vitr√©.¬† I needed a ticket from Bordeaux to Nantes and then from Nantes to Vitr√©, and on the way back I needed to go from Vitr√© to La Rochelle and then from La Rochelle to Bordeaux.¬† She printed the tickets, I paid for them, and then she asked me if I planned to make a lot of trips around France.¬† I said yes, and she asked me why I wasn’t using a discount card.¬† I explained I was too old for the 12-25 discount card, and she told me about the Carte Escapades, which was only good on weekends.¬† Which would normally be when I’d be traveling in France — when I’d want to make trips down to Pays-Basque or other close towns.¬† She re-ran all my tickets with the new discount — even though they weren’t on weekend days.¬† She was incredibly helpful, and I thanked her profusely as I was leaving.

I bought a croque-chevre from a patisserie for dinner and ate it in the square near where my language group meets.¬† It was pretty much a chevre pizza on toast, but it was delicious.¬† As I was eating, a little girl about 5 years old entered the square, pushing her family’s garbage can out so it could be emptied; it was taller than she was.¬† She came over to talk to me.¬† She told me about taking the garbage out and about her mother, and then she asked what I was eating.¬† She asked if she could have it, and I laughed and said no, it was mine.¬† She said, “Please, just a little?” So I relented and tore off a corner for her.¬† She ate it and scampered off.¬† She came back out several more times to talk to me, in-between running in to other places on the square.¬† At one point I saw her run into a bar and come out with bread and cheese!¬† I don’t think she was homeless, judging from the trash can and good coat she had on.¬† She just wanted food!

I declined going out to the bar with the folks from the language group because I didn’t want to stay out too late and disturb my host family, plus I had to get up really early this morning.¬† I got home a little before 10:30pm to find they were all already in bed with the shutters drawn and all lights off!¬† Very odd, since sometimes we’ve only just barely finished dinner by that time!¬† I climbed the stairs in complete darkness, not wanting to wake anyone.

Today was my last day with my secondary school until after the vacation!¬† We worked on Halloween words, and I gave the two older classes a conversation to practice reading.¬† They have real trouble reading English words right now, but that’s to be understood, since they’re completely unfamiliar with them.¬† My older class (around 8 years old) did the best, and I was able to have two groups stand before the class and read the scenes in front of everyone.

They were very basic, but incorporated everything we’d learned:

“1: Hello.

2: Good morning.

1: What is your name?

2: My name is Dracula.  I am a vampire.

1: Nice to meet you.  I am a witch.

2: We are very scary!”

I showed several videos at the end of class; since it’s right before vacation, I can’t expect them to work too hard.¬† They loved the video for the Monster Mash and also The Skeleton Dance; my youngest class wanted to watch the Skeleton Dance again instead of something new!¬† And I’ve now heard the Monster Mash so many times it’s like I was home hearing it on the radio.

One more day of classes!¬† And it may not even be a full day, since it’s at clusterfuck school, and I heard they’re planning a Halloween event in the afternoon, so I may not teach my afternoon classes!¬† But of course no one’s told me anything yet!