Tuesday, 10 May 2011

Paris, Venice, Greece, Croatia

I leave tomorrow morning for Paris, where I will spend one night, then for Venice on Thursday morning, where I will spend two nights. Then I will meet up with Claudia on Saturday morning and we will embark on ou 8-day cruise along the coasts of Italy, Greece, and Croatia.

This is all assuming that Claudia can successfully get to Venice and they let her on the boat with her temporary visa. Because of course something had to go wrong in all this goodness! She lost her passport while in Spain and, being from Colombia, Europeans FREAK OUT enough as it is, and now without a passport and her visa in it, she's not even sure to be able to leave Spain!!

So I'm going to try to convince some Vichysois that I need a copy of her passport and visa (two different establishments will have photocopies on record, and I'll explain the whole story if I need to) and, along with what the French Embassy in Barcelona gave her, and these photocopies (and some pleading on her part) MAYBE she'll be allowed aboard. If not, then I have to decide if I'm going to just go back to Vichy and give up a TON of money (there's absolutely no refund this close to the embarkment date) or go on a cruise all my myself and feel sad and pathetic!

And the worst part is, there's not much I can do but wait...

Monday, 18 April 2011

England and after

Oh. My. Gosh.
What an amazing time I had in England! From April 6 to the 13th I traveled with 45 students and three other adults to York, England. The weather was INCREDIBLE for us, if you can believe it. Sunny and warm, with rain only once which lasted about an hour and a half (not normal for England, eh?)

The kids were amazing; friendly, polite, well-behaved, fun. York is a nice city, and being there when it was sunny made it seem even nicer. Martine (my favorite teacher) and I stayed with Jack and Anne Redfern, a wonderfully animated couple from Lancashire. We had such a blast getting to know them. Once the kids were in their host families (around 6pm), we were free to do as we pleased. A couple of different nights, this meant going to the pub, or just staying in for a nice meal. Anne is a fabulous cook and we ate a lot of traditionally English meals (fish and chips, Yorkshire pudding, Shepard's Pie.) They've both been all over the world (Jack worked as a pastry chef in the British Army for 30 years) so they've got tons of stories, most of which are hilarious, especially when told by Jack.

I should have written this post AS SOON AS I got back from England, as I could have given you a day-by-day run-down of our time in England. Oh well, here's just the general synopsis:

We drove 11 hours from Cusset to Zeebrugges, Belgium, where we then boarded a ferry for Hull, England. We ate well on the ferry (buffet-style, which pleased the students) and went to the discothèque at night. Once in Hull the next morning (we had cabins on the boat to sleep in) we drove about an hour to York.
In York, we had a tour of York Minster and of the Shambles area--small streets with shops. The Shambles were particularly interesting because a lot of the buildings still have hooks up above their windows and doors, where meat was hung out to dry in the sun.

We spent an afternoon in Haworth, where the Bronte sisters are from. Visited the family's parsonage, which was my absolute favorite thing of the entire trip.
One day was dedicated to the seaside town of Whitby, where the book Dracula was written. Ate fish and chips on the beach. Some of the boys stripped down to their underwear and ran into the ocean, which was FREEZING I might add. It was really, really funny though. We visited the remains of the Whitby Abbey, walked around the village in the sun (though this was the day where it rained a little bit.)

I spent a lot of time getting to know the other teachers, but also the kids. At first, everyone was a little reserved, even with me, but a couple days into the trip (and especially after having danced with the students on the ferry) the students were opening up and having a blast and (after I'd given them permission) were using the informal pronoun with me and we were laughing and having fun. A couple of them in particular attached themselves to me, which was fun. They were all so interested in the differences between the American and French cultures, where I live in Cusset, which supermarket I shop at, what I like to do on the weekends. So cute.

On the ferry back, we went to the discothèque again, and this time was even MORE fun because everyone had been traveling with each other for a week and had gotten to know each other better. It was sad to leave England behind, and then to leave each other behind (I had seen another side of the teachers that I don't see in school!) but it was such a great trip overall, with great pictures and great memories.

We really did luck out with our group of students. The biggest problems we had the entire week were one of the girls not liking her host family's house (a problem that got resolved pretty quickly) and then about 10 kids getting sick on the ferry ride back because the ocean was a lot more rough than going over.

Now it's school holiday, plus my contract is up so I'm technically on summer holiday. My (Scottish) friend, Sophie, and I are planning to go to Toulouse this coming week for a couple of nights. Then in a week and a half I leave to go to Paris (May 11) for one night, then take a flight to Venice and stay there for two nights, then meet up with my Colombian roommate, Claudia, on the 14th to then take a cruise around Italy, Greece, and Croatia!!! Afterwards, we'll stay a night in Venice (the 21st) then two nights in Paris (where we'll see some friends I have there, visit Versailles- which we've never seen!- as well as Montmartre and some museums- for free because we have a Pass d'Education as teachers), then I'll come back to Vichy on the 24th. Thennnnnnnn I'll pack like mad, go down to the department of Lozère from May 28-29 for a French friend's bday, come back to Vichy, pack some more, go to Paris on June 1, then fly to Virginia on the 2nd.

Let's just hope the weather stays as nice as it has been. I've definitely realized what a beautiful place Vichy can be, when it is good weather.


Friday, 25 March 2011

short update

Tonight I went over to my friends Laurence (who works at the library at the middle school where I am once a week) and Emmanuel's for dinner. We had raclette (with ham and potatoes-- no veggies, which I thought was funny) and then Manu (Emmanuel)'s homemade waffles for desert... with jam or nutella or powdered sugar or honey on them as you like. I was there almost 5 hours and didn't even see the time pass-- so much fun! It's silly (and they thought so too) that this is the first time I've been invited to someone's house for dinner. I was invited to a German prof's house, but that was because Lisa had been invited and Christine, the teacher, knows me too (perhaps better, at this point, because Lisa's never around). But none of the other profs have invited me over. They've TALKED about having me over but time's running out and I'm leaving soon. Even the cleaning lady, Marise, is having Claudia and me over for lunch next Saturday!!! Oh well, whatever. I don't take it personally, but it's still weird. People are just different here (than in the countryside of Aurillac, that is.)
Laurence and Manu said that they want to have Dad over for a bar-b-q if he ends up coming to Vichy!

Tomorrow Allana and I are going to Clermont to climb then we'll get kebab for dinner (excited!!) and catch a train back to Vichy at 20:32. We get so excited about kebab here because it isn't the stick with pieces of meat and veggies on them like we're used to. They are HUGE sandwiches with meat that's been sliced off of a huge leg (usually lamb or beef) that's been turning on a stand and roasting behind the counter. Then they add lettuce and onions and the most AMAZING (and probably awful for you) white sauce. It originally comes from the Middle East and, being so much closer to this area than, say, the USA, usually the people who run these doner kebab shops are Turkish or sometimes Moroccan (I know, I know... that's not the Middle East...) Anyway, SO good and SO worth getting excited about! And not expensive... 5€ for a sandwich and awesome fries. And we always go to the same place in Clermont so the guys recognize us (plus we're cute haha) and give us as much sauce as we want and then Moroccan mint tea afterwards. Yummy. This is one thing I will miss terribly once I'm back in the States.

My roommate, Claudia, and I are trying to work out some details as far as visiting Greece in May goes. I also want to see a couple places in Italy as well as Toulouse, Versailles, and Bordeaux in France. I need to start making concrete plans!!!

Off to York, England next week with a 35 14-year-olds and two teachers. We'll be there a week and, as a chaperone, I don't have to pay a penny for the trip. In fact, they're paying ME to go!