Welcome! Bienvenue Willkommen Bienvenidos
(Those are the only ones I know.)
Hello there! Kali here.
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Nice's adventures haven't ended yet. This time it's the after-dark giant float parade that winds around the city to honor the Italian traditional l: Corso Illuminé.
For this entry, I'm really only including photos--they speak for themselves.
|Okay, one caption: yes, I did reach out and touch it.|
|Two captions: this guy definitely hit me in the face.|
If you'd like more commentary you can visit this helpful little link to read a vivid description of the atmosphere at Carnaval in Nice (the blog is from 2009, when the theme was King of Masquerades.)
End Nice adventure. Exhale.
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Welcome! Bienvenue! Wilkommen! Bienvenidos!:
During my vacation in Nice I took a (very delayed) train trip to Arles to visit my best friend Marina, who was also an English Assistant this year. I didn't take too many pictures since I knew I'd be going back there for the Feria (running of the bulls!) the weekend of Marina's birthday, but I did get a fun picture of her rolling a cigarette and looking so European it hurts.
Arles is famous for its Roman amphiteatre, one of the oldest surviving Roman ruins in southern France. When I visited Arles on my very first trip to France EVER (freshman year of college, April of 2007), the amphitheatre was entirely under construction. We still got to go inside and explore and pretend that we were prisoners preparing to fight a lion to the death....
|...but it didn't look nearly as restored as it does now.|
After leaving Arles, I took a train to Menton for the Fête du Citron, or Lemon Festival. Menton lies just a few minutes from the Italian border, and the train ride to get there was one of the most gorgeous I've ever experienced: most of the train tracks are built into the side of the mountain, so we'd pass through a lot of tunnels and then exit into bright sunshine and the ocean immediately next to us. Then, next thing you know, we'd be heading back into the mountainside.
|And when I got off the train, this was the view that greeted me.|
|This year's theme was "Ancient Civilizations."|
|It included Greek and Roman mythology alongside actual civilizations, like the Vikings and neanderthals....ALL made out of lemons and oranges.|
|The requisite Trojan horse|
|Mayan temple, complete with Mayan calendar|
|Super cool Viking ship!|
|Gorgeous Roman bath with a breathtaking view|
|The whole fête was set up in a park in the middle of town, and the whole park smelled fantastically citrusy fresh.|
|There were vendors set up selling fresh lemonade and lemon- and orange- and lime-infused liqueurs, jellies, candies, and syrups. Yes, there were free samples. :)|
|My favorite part about the wooly mammoth was her baby :) So mangy and soiled!|
|Another favorite was Stonehenge and its in-house sorcerer|
|A stately citrus Sphinx!|
If you've been keeping up with my schedule as a Teaching Assistant, you know that we have more vacation time than we know what to do with. Basically it comes down to this: the French go to school for 6 weeks, then have a mandatory 2-week vacation. In the middle of the year. Literally, every six weeks.
When you're only teaching 12 hours a week to begin with, that vacation can seem daunting/exciting/tiring/or just poorly timed....when I get into a schedule, I like to...you know...stay there for awhile. Enjoy the routine till it becomes too routine, then find a new routine!
But, I have to admit, I really enjoyed the French school/vacation system. With two of my schools the vacations kinda cramped my style, but with my worst students, it could not come at a better time, any time it came. Literally, I counted down to vacation, and sometimes even left early on the day it started.
For winter vacation I went to Madrid and Segovia with a dear friend for a couple of days, then returned to Nevers, had some unexpected adventures, and then found myself with a whole week of.....[crickets]
No, that's not true--if you know me at all, you know I'm WAY too high-strung to leave myself that much leisure time! In fact, a couple of weeks before, on a stormy night that saw me crouching alone at the foot of my bed with an empty bottle of wine and a credit card in hand, I found a sweet deal on first class overnight train tickets to Nice.
That's right: I paid less than half price to take a night train to the French Riviera for a long weekend during Carnaval.
The rest of this blog will be filled with the exorbitant amount of photos I took on that trip. (Please, don't leave now! You're so close to spiritual enlightenment or something!!)
|I'm still not entirely sure what the museum was a museum *of* (as it had a strange mixture of hand-hewn harpsichords, pharmacy paraphernalia, and ornate bedchambers) but I saw this awesome mock-up of a traditional French apothecary|
|And it had some stellar statuary and tilework (this photo is for my boyfriend, simply because I think he'd like it.)|
|I made my way down to the coast and sat on the pebbled beach and reread The Great Gatsby; I had the miraculous feeling of not being watched, of enjoying my "I-am-an-island (on-a-beach)" anonymity.|
|See those orange arches leading all the way up to the top of that mountain? Yeah, they're stairs. I climbed them.|
|Here's the requisite picture of my face halfway up the mountain (which turned out to be a gigantic, pretty-much-vertical city park called Colline du Chateau [Castle Hill] that subtly showcased Nice's Roman history. Very cool.)|
|Colline du Chateau offered some incredible views of the city. The weather wasn't perfect, but it certainly didn't dampen my spirits, and in fact I think the aggressive, roiling horizon really made these pictures.|
|At the very top? A cemetery. I want to go to there...to die and stuff. Imagine the eternal view.|
|From up high you can tell that the city has hills...but when you're down in that maze, it just feels insulated and intriguing.|
|What goes up must come down, so Kali followed the checkerboard road into the heart of the Old City once more.|
|The thin mountain air (yuk yuk yuk) made me forget that it was Carnaval, but a fearsome (aka adorable) parade of baby lions reminded me of that fact real fast.|
|I stopped at this plaza...|
|for this gelato...|
|and got swept away by this parade.|
|The sun had set, and the city was glowing.|
|I made my way to the beach for a well-deserved night shot,|
|Then headed back to Place Massena (the main plaza with the carnival rides, parade floats, and bleachers).|
|I then rode the Ferris wheel alone, and had a very satisfying Personal Moment.|
|I then went out for dinner, as all the Niçois do during Carnaval, and treated myself to dinner and a remarkable lemon tart. +Strawberry. :)|
|I then enjoyed a late evening of local folksy-jazz funtimes|
|And then ended my evening with a glance down this mysterious gilded alley.|
On a slow day between vacations, I got to spend the afternoon with some good friends in the nearby town of Moulins. They'd gotten married nearly a year ago and had yet to receive their wedding china, but it had finally arrived in the store in Moulins, so we piled into the car to go pick it up.
|We're still in France, right?|
|The china arrived safe and sound, and I felt the need to document this momentous day in their married lives. Also, I just can't stop taking pictures.|
|Moulins is known as the City with Two Cathedrals; this is one of them. Little known fact: Coco Chanel started as a cabaret singer in Moulins.|
|We had coffee at Le Grand Café, opulently decorated and pretty Baroque in appearance.|
|Definitely not my personal style, but I can always appreciate a well-executed optical illusion!|
|After our café we went to the National Museum of Stage Costumes, which was mind-blowing.|
|We "tried on costumes" (wink wink)|
|And I REALLY wanted to make this one my Facebook profile pic and forgot about it.|
|All kinds of signs forbade me from taking pictures in the museum....|
|So you probably shouldn't ask where all these pictures actually came from.|
|The museum is poised with a view of the city that showcases both cathedrals. The red glass in the window just makes it cooler.|
|Driving back home we saw some interesting median sculptures...|
|and eventually we passed the chateau where my good friends got married! I wish I could share some better pictures of the grounds and the buildings and their gorgeous wedding. If you want to check out some more pictures, click here.|
|We even saw some moulins on our day trip to Moulins :)|
We had a fun, pretty last-minute adventure, on the most minimal of budgets. Sometimes that's all you need :)
While Therese and I were in Madrid we took a day trip via bus to Segovia, which may be one of the most beautiful cities I've ever seen.
|The best thing about going by bus is the scenery, and how long it stays beside you. The Guadarrama mountains accompanied us for the whole trip.|
|After we traversed the staircase next to the aqueducts, this is the view we were rewarded with.|
|I fell in love with the architecture--every single building had its own unique pattern pressed into the concrete, and they were all painted in the warm colors that a Mediterranean climate evokes. It was really incredible!|
|Sometimes we had the impression of being in Morocco instead of Spain. Love this courtyard :)|
|This is the last Gothic cathedral built in Spain|
|and the nave is 33 meters high! I don't know if I've ever felt so small in my life.|
So, Therese and I were walking down a narrow back street and a car pulled onto the street we were on. We ducked into an alcove to avoid getting hit by the car, and in that moment, I--thinking it would be funny--pretended to bang on the door and yelled, "Sanctuary! Sanctuary!" like in The Hunchback of Notre Dame. (Therese didn't even laugh! That's when I knew I was in trouble...) Then the car stopped...and a woman got out...and she opened the door I had just been banging on. Then she turned to me and asked, "What do you want?" :| Mildly embarrassing, mostly because I was stumbling over so many Spanish words trying to explain to her, "I was just pretending that I was Quasimodo!!" and she was just waiting to see why I was assaulting her door. Meh.
|The narrow side streets of Segovia|
|The best part of her door was the knocker. Tell me what YOU see....|
|Even the view of the city from the castle was phenomenal|
|What I want to know is, does a pig this happy taste better?|
Because of the awesomeness of the French school year calendar, we work for 6 weeks (which, especially at 12 hours a week, isn't much!) and then we get 2 weeks of paid vacation. YES PLEASE. I'm sorely going to miss that scheduling; it's been so nice to be so greatly rewarded for our "work" (read: entertaining adorable French children by pronouncing funny words from a language they've never heard before) by being given frequent vacations. American workaholics could really learn a thing or two ;)
After our Christmas vacation, we worked for 6 weeks and then had our confusingly-named "winter vacation;" I kept referring to it as "spring vacation" until I realized that we had one of those, too! For winter vacation, a fellow English assistant, Therese, and I flew into Madrid to visit a friend-of-a-friend whom I'd never met but whom I loved instantly :)
We flew out of Paris, but first had a café and visited the still-drab (but soon to be magnificent) Jardin des Plantes.
|Why even bother asking what my favorite part was? You know it was the dinosaur out front.|
Our plane arrived safely in Madrid several hours later. This picture proves what a long day of travel it was.
|I'm a pretty pretty princess?!|
|As for the people in costume? Not...|
We wound our way through the Barrio des Letras, or Neighborhood of Words. It reminded me a lot of La Charité sur Loire, France's answer to the call for lexicographic cities, but in Spain the words are written on the ground.
|A beautiful time of day to stroll|
|It's official: spring has arrived in Madrid|
|...the Palacio de Cristal (at sunset)...|
|...a live jazz/blues band that sounded like it came straight out of the French Quarter...|
|...and a statue of the Fallen Angel, the only known public sculpture of the Devil, permanently surrounded by people rollerblading. Wait, is this what hell is like?|
For anyone who has ever been in a long-distance relationship, you may agree with me when I say that Valentine's Day in the US can really suck. Luckily, here in France, almost NO ONE celebrates it. So, even though I'm separated from my beau by an ocean, 5,000 miles, and a 7-hour time difference, it was nice to almost be convinced that the day wasn't a holiday :)
Still, despite the distance, we did have plans! Even though the internet is frequently out at my house, we planned to cook a meal together--using the same ingredients and making the same dishes--via skype, then eat it together with candles and wine and celebrate our second Valentine's Day together as a couple. The time difference meant that I ate dinner at 2 a.m. my time, but it was worth it :)
|This is what we came up with: ribeye with gorgonzola cream, mashed potatoes with mushroom and onions in a red wine sauce, and Brussels sprouts with orange and almonds (and also bacon, apparently :P)|
|I made palmitos, my favorite little cured ham-and-cheese pastry roll-ups.|
|Therese went all out and made coq au vin, which I'd never had before!|
|All those root veggies, sooooo goooood.....|
|Our faithful cook, hard at work!|
|The finished product--sooooo goood :)|
|Appropriately heart-themed dessert|
|Plus another one called bras de Venus (Venus' arm). So that's where it went...|
|Happy Valentine's Day, les filles :)|
In the beginning of our stay in Nevers we met an American friend who just got married to her French husband and is living in Nevers. We became good friends, and she invited us to her 26th birthday party, the theme of which was "Sweet 16 Fiesta, 10 Years Later." She and her husband made Mexican food, the cool people dressed up in costume (:P), we had a piñata and played games all night.
|I dressed up as a bottle of Corona, complete with lime wedge :P|
|Lovely host and hostess, dressed up in the cutest Fiesta wear ever.|
|There was also a mustache....|
|That got passed around...|
|Quite a bit.|
|Sarah eating her handmade taco piñata|
|Innovative swinging range|
|My first real game of Uno...Kali-sized! :)|
There is a group of people in Nevers who know each other only from CouchSurfing; that is to say that they were complete strangers until they slept on each others' couches. Pretty fun system for budget travel :) One night, this group met up at a bar, we got to introduce ourselves to everyone, and the very next day we were invited to tag along to a wine tasting in Auxerre with them.
|The countryside on the way there was so beautiful, and we left early enough in the morning to watch the fog lift out of the valleys. It made the whole pasture look enchanted :)|
|The first stop we made in Auxerre was this church, which from this angle looks one-dimensional--but I promise it's not! The friend who drove us wanted to go to a special mass there that morning, but we ducked out and had a coffee instead. Oops.|
|We did stay long enough, however, to see a parade of winemakers strutting with their musical instruments, period costume props, and homemade wine shrines and banners. They were all so proud!|
|Live music was playing everywhere at this festival; we'd turn corners and find new bands playing completely different styles of music, from jazz...|
|...to cow print, boa-bedecked, kilted a Capella music :)|
|Right at the center of town sat a gorgeous clock tower, and as the light changed (since we were there from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.) we could see how many different parts of it were gilded in gold. It was really breathtaking.|
|And another thing that was breathtaking, but in a completely different way: the making of blood sausage. |
Yes, I did try the blood sausage. Yes, it was just about as gross as I thought it would be :P
|The architecture in Auxerre reminds me of Germany, or of the little town where Belle lives in Beauty and the Beast! It's so charming and homey, and the whole town makes you feel so warmly welcomed.|
|They had games set up for kids (and, of course, me and Jess) like this barrel roll. It was actually a lot harder than it looked! I won :) Thanks, Ian, for your photography skillz.|
|I don't remember what this man was doing or selling, but he just looks so French, I had to throw him in here :) He almost looks like an organ grinder--where's yer monkey, monsieur?|
|As we left, the sun was setting, and the two cathedrals and their ripply reflections showed up on the water. Auxerre is a beautiful city, big and vibrant in ways that Nevers isn't, and we really enjoyed our day trip there :)|
Before taking James to the airport to fly home, we did what any good tourists would do: we camped out in a hostel for a few nights, criss-crossed the city, and took more pictures than either of us thought possible. It was a great weekend :)
For the first time ever, in all my little trips to Paris, I saw the SUN come out! Complete with blue skies--it was a real treat for my anti-French petit coeur ;)
As it was James' first time in Paris, we did the usual tourist-y things: the Louvre (even though we were there on a Friday night, we missed their open-late hours for students, which was a real bummer!), la Tour Eiffel, Cathédrale de Notre-Dame, etc. Thus, this blog will be mostly pictures with captions. If you want the details to any particular story, just ask ;)
|Our hostel was really near Sacré Coeur, so we toured the inside (which I'd never seen) and marveled at the view from the top of the hill. We also got stopped by rogue Africans who made us bracelets and then insisted that we pay them. :||
|This one was one of my favorite views--look how small the tower looks from up here!|
|I can never get over how beautiful the basilica is. The inside is really astonishing; unfortunately, pictures aren't allowed.|
|The sevice was terrible, but the café was cute, and crème brûlée is always good :)|
|On Friday night we took the metro from our hostel to the Louvre, which unfortunately we'd just missed being able to go inside. Instead we walked along the river, which was beautiful.|
|Especially when the Eiffel Tower did her faithful little light show every hour for us :)|
|At Place de la Concorde there was a giant Ferris wheel, and from the top of it you could see l'Arc de Triomphe and the Champs Elysées all lit up for Christmas. We didn't ride the Ferris wheel, but the view from the ground was still beautiful.|
|In an ad in the metro, we found a cartoon girl who looks just like me :)|
|Saturday morning was sunny, so we ventured out to see l'Arc de Triomphe in the daylight. We walked all the way down the Champs Elysées, taking our time, window shopping, enjoying the blue skies.|
|We eventually made it to the Grand and Petit Palais, which--believe it or not--I'd never even seen before. James loved them; the architecture really is awesome!|
|Across the bridge was the gold dome of Les Invalides, Napoleon Bonaparte's burial ground. For the first time I saw the dome glinting gold instead of reflecting grey skies; that just makes you feel good :)|
|So good that we felt the need to take a picture :)|
|And what better way to send mon amour back to the States in style than a giant advertisement for a McDonald's McFarmer? :P|
After my family left, my sweet boyfriend came to spend Christmas and New Year's with me :) After touring around Nevers for a couple of days, we made some NYE plans: first we were going to go to Lyon for New Year's Eve, and then Dijon for New Year's Day. We found hostels, booked our train tickets, and headed out, completely unaware that New Year's Eve and Day in France are treated like Sundays, and one of them actually was a Sunday, so we were hard pressed to find stores or restaurants that were even open.
|Lyon, still intriguing in the drear of January|
We literally walked for hours before finding a McDonald's, where we shame-facedly ate fries and had what we thought was going to be a latté (that turned out to just be ice cream). Then we rode on the Ferris wheel, which gave us incredible views of the city!
Soon after we got off the Ferris wheel, the sun went down and we went to see the remaining lights left over from the Fête des Lumières. I got to show James those birds I loved so much, and gave him free reign of my camera since I'd already seen the lights. Somehow, he took the exact same picture as I did. Great minds ;)
We were starving and roamed around for hours looking for dinner; finally we found a Japanese restaurant near the train station where we had some pretty incredible sushi, then bought some Japanese beers to go and went to see the 11:00 showing of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. We set an alarm on my phone and kissed at midnight (just like we did last year); when we left the theater, another year had begun!
|New Year's Eve in Lyon wasn't all it was cracked up to be, but the skyline was certainly breathtaking :)|
The hostel that we had booked in Dijon had called earlier in the week to say that they'd actually double-booked our room and were sending us to a hotel across the street, but then we found out that neither hotel was even in Dijon proper, they were about 30 minutes outside the city, so we canceled the reservations and just started from scratch when we got off the train. Luckily, one of the first hotels we tried--Hotel de Paris--was clean, affordable, central, and run by the nicest French woman I've ever met in my life. She set us up in her last available room, and since it wouldn't be ready until 3:00 p.m., we had a delicious lunch of moules frites--mussels in mustard sauce served with fries--and then we set off to explore.
Remember that one time I told you that nothing was open on Sundays in France, or (apparently) on New Year's? Yeah, I wasn't exaggerating. We walked around for a little more than 3 hours and could count on one hand the shops that were open. I had such grand ideas--I wanted to show James the cathedral and la petite chouette that you rub and make a wish on, my favorite tea shop that has the most incredible chocolat chaud in all the land, the world-famous La Maille mustard shop that has all kinds of delicious samples served with homemade pretzels--but NONE of them could come true. Womp womp :P
Finally our hotel room opened up, and we took a much-needed nap, then went downstairs to the welcome desk for some advice on how to spend our remaining hours in Dijon. She was so helpful, giving us maps and circling places that would be open, including a grocery store that had special NYE hours (open till midnight!!) and sold cheap bottles of champagne. We found two restaurants that were open for dinner, so we ended up going to both of them :P
We started at L'Imprimerie, which was right up our alley: the entire restaurant was decorated with books, newspapers, printing presses, woodblock cuts of letters and numbers and symbols; it was SO cool.
|Seriously, I'm going to decorate my personal library like this when I'm rich and famous.|
We spent the rest of the night eating delicious leftovers from a soggy pizza box, drinking champagne, and watching French dating shows.
Not a bad start to the New Year after all! Though I'm still banned from planning next year's celebration :P
Soon after the Fête des Lumières, my family showed up :)
They drove all day and finally arrived, and I met them by the cathedral and brought them back to my Hobbit Hole for some hot leek and ham shepherd's pie. I think they enjoyed it, though we barely all fit in my tiny apartment!
During the week that they were here in Nevers we did a lot of exploring, though the weather wasn't exactly cooperative. On the Sunday before we left for Paris, we took a day trip to La Charité sur Loire based on a tip that one of my colleagues gave us; there was a Christmas market and book festival going on, so of course we couldn't pass up the chance to go to there!
Like most French cities, La Charité is just...sooooo....old! I can never get over how ornate the buildings are and what a great mixture of architecture there is based on who was building what and when, nor can I stop guessing when they were built, who lived in them, what they did, who they loved. It's an astonishing timeline, and we miss so much of it in the states because life there is so NEW!
|...and a sax-playing Santa!|
|At first glance, I thought this was a giant meringue!|
|Only in France :)|
|If these aren't the best souvenir of France, I don't know what is...unless you get to eat the escargot beforehand :)|
|"And it's sometimes in a look, a smile, where hide the words that we never knew how to say."|
|Rotor Machine, whose CD we own if anyone is interested ;)|
|I think this was right before I spilled my vin chaud all over Mica :P|
|A dresser straight out of Alice in Wonderland.|
This year, I was there :)
The Festival of Lights started in 1643, when the Plague hit Lyon and the magistrates promised to forever honor the Virgin Mary with candles and lumignons if the town of Lyon was spared. Thus, still today, the Lyonnais people light candles in honor of Mary, and the municipal buildings of the city are lit with extravagant displays of lights.
Jess and I took a train to Lyon to visit a new friend, Claudia. She's one of those people we'd never actually met, but once we did, we felt we'd been friends forever. That's a great way to start an adventure :)
The crowds were incredible, and sometimes literally impenetrable. To escape the throngs in the streets, we ducked off into a Christmas market...which was almost worse!
|The mass of people at the Christmas Market, all craving a vin chaud!|
|One that was lined entirely in wrapping paper...|
|One that had a vat of homemade tartiflette--potatoes, bacon, and reblochon cheese--which smells rich and hearty and just reminds me of cold winters|
|One that was full of liqueurs with risqué names|
|One Canadian booth that sold a hot drink called Caribou|
|And one that made Nutella crêpes (and LOTS of them).|
Each light show was mapped on a plan of the city, and we tried to hit as many as we could. There were solar-powered windmill lights, pots of fire on the retaining wall leading down to the river, and--my personal favorite--trees filled with hot-pink and bright white origami birds, all illuminated and bright against the dark blue sky.
There was also....
|A whole hill full of dancing space invaders!|
|Another favorite of mine, the squid that took over an entire alley full of art galleries|
|Yet another favorite, the GIANT Pixar lamps, all with different colored light filters|
|And this museum, which danced....|
|And then turned into a face that moved along to the words when people from the crowd sang into a microphone!|
|A mermaid in the fountain fishing for rubber duckies|
|The church that went back to Nature; this one reminded me of my sister :)|
|And the crowning jewel, Place des Terreaux (I think), where the fountain changed colors along with the tie-dyed ponies.|
Now I just need to find a way to get to Lyon every December for the rest of my life.... ;)
I went to a party the other night. And not just any party; this was thrown by a Spaniard, for his French and American and British friends, and there was no single language in common. It was quite an experience.
I'm really only writing about it here because I learned a new game from the British girls. It's called The Cereal Box Game.
You set an open cereal box on the floor, and take turns "swan diving" and picking it up with your mouth. After each turn, a little bit of the box is cut off. It gets shorter and shorter, and you get drunker and drunker...
|Ruth taught us the game...|
|Javi laughed, "Es impossible!"|
|Stephanie just showed off all night (:P)...|
|And Étienne surprised us all.|
Recently I've been taking guitar lessons from a friend of one of my colleagues. One day I went to Catherine's house (the most charming country cottage I've ever seen!) for lunch. She knew I played guitar, because I taught the kids a song on the second day of class and she provided the guitar, so she invited her dear family friend Rémi to lunch so that we could chat. He hosts guitar lessons every Thursday night at his house for a few hours, and invited me to attend. Of course I couldn't say no :)
He also gave me a child-sized guitar to play on because all the Real People Sized ones were too big. Womp womp.
It's definitely the highlight of my week, even though Thursday is my longest day of work. Nice to have something to look forward to at the end of the day!
|Oh, Audrey. Too cute for your own good.|
|The only good picture I got (from the LAST row of the balcony), but you can tell who it is! (Don't forget that clicking on the picture makes it appear in its original size, which is downright Brobdingnagian.)|
As some of you know, my contract here has me working a total of 12 hours per week divided among 3 schools. One of those schools is in the city center of Nevers, and the other two are a half-hour bus ride away in a little town called Fourchambault. The far away schools are my favorites, not only because of the teachers and students, but because the buildings themselves are so old and have so much character :)
I've already posted pictures of Chevillettes, so now I'm posting pictures of the other school in Fourchambault, l'École du Vieux Moulin.
|The outside of it is such a fun peach color|
|And the art deco stair railings always make me happy :)|
|This is one of my favorite views of all time; you should have seen it under the snow!|
|Sleepy lil town of Fourchambault|
|One of the churches in town|
Well, I've been back for awhile, but too busy having adventures to force myself to sit still for long enough to blog. However, I've decided that I need to get caught up a bit before I have any more adventures (unlikely and we all know it) so that I won't be too bogged down when it comes time to blog about all of them :P
One factor that throws a wrench into my blog plans is the perfectionist streak in me; she wants everything to be in chronological order, but I'm starting to think it'd be easier to just write in the order in which the inspirations come to me :P
That being said....are you ready to hear about the time we made Baked Macaroni and Cheese at one of my schoolz?!
One of the teachers I work with asked me to send him a simple recipe that kids would be able to translate (with a little help) and that they'd enjoy eating....so I thought of the ultimate kid's food, the one and only mac-n-chee, and sent him the first recipe I came across.
Having never made Baked Mac-n-Chee myself, I have no idea if it was a good one :P
That Monday, we told the kids (level CM1, so about 9 years old) what we were doing...and they were SO excited! They already knew the words for all the ingredients--butter, salt, cheese, etc--and had absolutely no trouble translating the directions; one kid raised his hand at the very beginning and said, "I know what this means!" then translated the line "Preheat the oven to 180˚" into perfect French. I, for one, was really impressed!
We moved downstairs into the kitchen (which you may remember; I've already posted a picture from this very kitchen, one that involves a mini-fridge stocked with about 8 bottles of wine!) The kids started measuring ingredients and mixing them together. For some of them it was their first cooking experience.
Nicolas (my French colleague) and I did all the "dangerous" work so that none of the kids would get hurt, but somehow I still got burned :P I made a tough face and didn't let any of the wee ones know, though! We cooked our rather dubious-looking casserole, and it came out looking golden, crusty, and like something only a child could love.
Nico had forgotten the forks, so we just doled out a finger-sized amount for each child and told them, "Dig in!" For the most part I've noticed that French students are far more terrified of NOT being given directions (especially when we made Christmas cards and they stared at me blankly when I said, "do whatever you want!"), but these kids seemed to take these particular directions in stride.
|"Raise your hand if you want more!"|
After we returned from the Christmas market, we had a cross-cultural, multi-lingual holiday bash in the common kitchen at the Foyer where I live with Stephanie and Maisie. Everyone brought something to eat or drink, and we partied like we were about to start our last week of teaching before Christmas vacation...mostly because we were :)
Maxine and Jess went up and down the hallway we live in, knocking on all the doors and inviting all our "neighbors" to come party with us....and two new friends showed up! Erwan and Étienne, both Frenchies, joined us in our little Christmas soirée...
|They even helped us open....|
|...and consume Stephanie's Disney Princess apple cider (though they admonished us that, were we to ever buy it again, they'd no longer be our friends.)|
For once we actually ran out of alcohol, too, which Étienne remedied with 4 bottles of hard cider and Erwan fixed with a bottle of some illegal apple moonshine.
|We can see how that worked out :P|
Even though the Marchés de Noël, or Christmas markets, are typically a northern French/German tradition, the tradition has migrated through much of France. Even Nevers, petite little ville that she is, has a bustling one :) Most stores had Christmas specials, but one weekend was set aside for an actual outdoor (=frigid) Christmas market, with stalls, artisan vendors, free samples of wine, cheese, baked goods, bread, and other goodies. Our usual crowd of English- (and Spanish-) speaking assistants went, and we came home with some great buys!
|Even the giant grocery store got festive for the holiday season! I lovingly dubbed this iteration of Father Christmas "Touchdown Santa." Patent pending.|
|Place de la Résistance is all lit up at night|
|Our very own Arc de Triomphe (really called La Porte de Paris), lit up for the Christmas market|
|Goat Cheese Man, who insists that he's going to move to the USA to sell his artisan-made cheese because "there'd be no competition." He's got a point....|
|Alsacian specialties.....yum :)|
|The Flavors of our Regional Terrain. Also delicious, all of them :)|
|This man was selling churros!|
|So of course we had to buy some :)|
|My friend Jess is obsessed with roasted chestnuts...and now I know why!|
All in all, this was a great first Christmas market experience. In our small town the market wasn't anything extravagant, but it certainly did the trick to get us all in the holiday spirit :)
During the second week of December I went to Lyon with a friend for the Fête des Lumières, or Festival of Lights. Every year the city of Lyon hosts the Fête des Lumières and people come from all over the world to see the city lit up for Christmas. This year, Nevers did its own version of the Festival of Lights. It was nothing like the original (which we saw the following weekend, and which you can see in a few posts!), but it was still a lot of fun!
The rest of the girls were in Paris visiting Disneyland (a very cold excursion for them indeed), but Jess and I stayed in for a relaxing, blue-skied, snow-filled weekend of Christmas lights in what we've come to consider our hometown: Nevers.
|Nevers, charming and snow-laden|
|Old man dishing out our steaming cups of vin chaud--our first of the season!|
|Sometimes service in France isn't that bad :)|
|They were fun to watch, even though we had no idea what they were doing there...?|
|At one point he lost his pants...? Entertaining indeed.|
|Ooooh! Ahhhh! Pointy!!!|
|The pedestrian street, all lit up for Christmas|
|Happy Holidays, says the Christmas hut!|
|Place Carnot. You're lucky the internet spares you the frequency of the flashing....it's really painful.|
|Palais Ducal, regal under its blanket of snow and adoring spotlights|
Though it's a bit late, I hope you all had happy holidays and that the holiday spirit kept you cheery through those short, dark days!
|By the morning after Thanksgiving, our courtyard was completely white!|
|The sun came out after all the snow had fallen; there's nothing prettier than fresh snow on a sunny day! Enjoy the pictures : )|
|Snow hats on the cathedral!|
|Icicles hanging from my window|
|I like to think my handmade snowflakes invited the real snowflakes into town for the holidays.|