Monthly Archives: September 2014

It’s Been Awhile

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Wow! I didn’t realize how long it had been since my last post. Life has been both eventful and uneventful over the past couple of weeks. Below you will find a quick summary of what’s been going on in my life. Next week I will post more thorough updates on my life.

Let’s start with the reason I haven’t been able to update in some time. Last week, I had an accident involving my laptop and a glass of water. Needless to say, it was out of commission for nearly one week. The good news is that my patience seems to have been worth it. My laptop (for the time being) seems to be working just fine. Fortunately, I have a comprehensive insurance/protection plan on my laptop that covers liquid damage. My plan is to continue to use the laptop as long as it is properly functioning. Being in France makes the timeline for repairs much longer than normal. Almost one month ago I dropped and broke my iPad. I am still waiting for it to arrive in France…The moral of this story is that technology hates me!

Other than dealing with broken technology my life has been relatively boring. Two weekends ago Matt, Ben, and I went to Loches for a Medieval costume exhibition. I will post pictures and tell more about that trip next week.

Last weekend was la Journée du Patriomoine and we were able to go to the top of one of the towers of la Cathédrale de Tours. It offered an excellent view of the city. Again, pictures will come next week, as well as a full synopsis of the day.

Tomorrow I am headed to London for the weekend. I feel completely unprepared for this trip, but am looking forward to a low-key weekend. The one experience that I must have is visiting the wooden hippo on the River Thames. 🙂

The apartment hunt is also in full swing. I’ve only ever been apartment hunting once in my life (during college), but it is much more stressful than I remember. I’m keeping my fingers crossed and an optimistic attitude toward the whole experience. Next week is my first meeting for my position. Here’s to hoping that everything goes smoothly.

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La Loire at twilight.

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La Braderie

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In the spirit of “becoming French” I am trying many new things. While I love most things French, there have been a few differences that have taken some getting used to. Honestly, I thought that I would miss my to-go iced coffee way more than I actually do. In fact, I’ve found a place in France that makes similar beverages to what one might find in Starbucks. Even more surprising is the fact that I am drinking considerably less coffee on a daily basis. There are many days that I do not have any coffee, and I am perfectly okay with it.

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Part of the Braderie

Another big difference between Michigan and France is the general hours that stores are open (or more likely, closed). Most stores close at 7pm everyday. This isn’t that big of a deal, as I do most of my errands during the afternoon. What is most difficult for me to accept is the fact that most places (restaurants and stores) are closed the entire day and night on Sundays. In fact, many places are closed both Sunday and Monday. Again, not a huge deal, but this has proven to be mildly inconvenient when I want a baguette and the bakery on the corner seems always closed.

I think what has been most difficult for me to accept is the general pace of life in France. People here are rarely (if ever) in a hurry. Walking proves to be a test of my patience multiple times each day, as the French always seem out for a stroll at any point in the day. The French will stop for no apparent reason, with no warning, whenever they feel like it. In the middle of the sidewalk, crossing the street…I feel like I am always running when I go out, but then I realize that I’m simply moving at a ‘normal’ pace.

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Balloons, because why not?

While each of those experiences is something I have experienced since arriving in France, they do not begin to compare to what I experienced yesterday. Each year, for one day, the city of Tours has what is called the Braderie. I thought I understood what was involved in the Braderie, until I got there. What I understood from my conversations with friends was that the Braderie was basically a sidewalk sale. Seemed simple enough.

Sidewalk sale is a gross understatement. The Braderie was actually closer to an outdoor version of Black Friday. The main streets in the centre of Tours were shut down and tents were set up with merchandise of every kind. The streets were full of French people (the same ones who struggle with walking on a daily basis). While parts of the Braderie did seem very similar to a sidewalk sale, other parts of it felt more like a garage sale. Except on an extremely massive scale. About an hour into exploring the Braderie I had had enough. Luckily, we did not spend the whole day shopping.

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Seven years later.

My favorite part of the day was reconnecting with a friend I met in 2007 and my host mother from when I studied abroad. Seven years later we are still close and remain in contact. Wendy, Matt, and I cannot believe that were are all back in France at the same time. It’s funny how even though time passes there are some people who will always be exactly as you remember them. Wendy is currently living in Paris, France, so I am hopeful that I will be able to see her many more times this year. I have a number of adventures planned in Paris and it would be great to truly reconnect with her this year.

The fiasco of the Braderie concluded with an excellent dinner of Moroccan food. What I found most exciting about dinner was the fact that there were many vegetarian options. Possibly even more exciting than having vegetarian options was the fact that one of the salsas that came with the meal was actually spicy. As in there were actual chili peppers in it. YUM! While the Braderie was not on my initial list of things to do in France, I am glad I experienced it. However, if I never experience it again I think I would be okay

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Standing on Rue Nationale looking toward city hall.

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Pont Wilson on the way home from dinner.

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Becoming French

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I have moved many times in my life, but always within the same state. Of all the things one must do in life I find moving to be one of the most overwhelming experiences. Moving to away to college was more of an inconvenience than anything else. Moving from the dorms to an apartment was just annoying. Luckily, once I moved into an apartment in college I remained in the same apartment until I graduated (primarily because I hate moving).

After college I moved several times, but always within 75-miles of my parents. I’ve always had friends and family to help make the move a smooth one. What was hardest about my last move was the fact that I could only bring with me the items I could carry. I had to leave behind my furniture, most of my clothes, my puppies, and my awesome kitchen. Since arriving in France I recognize those items (with the exception of my puppies) to simply be things, most of which I do not actually need.

Making it safely to France with all of my belongings was just the beginning of becoming a temporary resident of France. Things that I take for granted because I did them so long ago are suddenly new and exciting. When one moves there are many steps to take to ensure a smooth transition. Opening or transferring a bank account, figuring out transportation, getting a cell phone, finding a place to live…and these are only the things that I am currently trying to accomplish, not everything that needs to be done.

What is interesting in France is that in order to do any of the above, one must follow a certain number of steps in exactly the correct order. The first and most important task for my transition to France was opening a bank account. In order to get a public transit pass or a cell phone, one needs to have a bank account in France. Opening a French bank account is not much different from opening an American bank account, with the exception that the timeline is much longer.

I successfully opened my bank account last week and have since received my debit card. As exciting as it is to have this happen, I am still waiting for my PIN to arrive so that I can actually use the card. The PIN was supposed to arrive today, but it did not. Hopefully it will arrive tomorrow.

The next step in becoming French was to get my public transit pass. Matt and I made the mistake of trying to get the pass during the first week of school, on a Wednesday, when most schools either are not in session or are in session for only half a day. Because of the ridiculous number of people waiting at FilBleu we decided to return another day. At the end of last week we made it to FilBleu and successfully opened my public transit account.

Next on the list is figuring out what to do regarding a cell phone. That’s going to be an interesting adventure, to say the least. It’s been an eye-opening experience to only have a cell phone that works when connected to WiFi. Here’s to hoping the next administrative steps go as smoothly as those that have already been accomplished.

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Celebrating being productive.

 

La Loire à Vélo

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There are many aspects of living in Tours that I adore: the people, the châteaux, the wine, the weather, and the location, just to name a few. Since this is not my first time in Tours, I have created a list of things I would like to do over the next year. I still can’t believe that this is my new life and that I don’t have to run around like a crazy person to see and do everything that I would like. As a result of living in Tours I have become a much calmer and more relaxed person. There are days when I am stressed, but for the most part everything is going well.

Living close to the Loire makes it easy for me to bike/run/walk along a wonderful path, La Loire à Vélo. Having friends who live here also make these adventures much easier, as I don’t need to figure out everything by myself. Since Matt and Benoît own bikes I did not have to figure out how to rent a bike. Benoît and I went biking on Saturday morning. This was our second time biking this path together. Our goal was simple, to ride our bikes to Vouvray (a nearby village) to go wine tasting. This was the same route we took last weekend, but seemed much easier and shorter this time.

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View of la Loire

As we biked I took in the scenery and tried to appreciate everything around me. The sun was shining and the sky was a beautiful shade of blue. The only aspect that could have been more perfect was the temperature. If it were on few degrees cooler it would have been absolutely perfect. However, I am not complaining about the gorgeous September weather. Once we arrived in Vouvray, which is a village known for its white wines, we realized that we weren’t entirely certain where we were going. We found one of the wine stores, which Ben recognized as belonging to the producer we wanted to visit. It turns   out that the cave was not located in Vouvray, but rather in Rochecorbon, which we passed through on our way to Vouvray.

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Wine tasting.

We turned around and rode back to Rochecorbon to do our wine tasting. The ride was still great, until we turned off the main street to go to the cave. All I can say is holy hills! It was definitely one of the most challenging roads I had biked in quite some time. We eventually made it to the cave, just in time for the tasting. The tour was conducted entirely in French, and I was able to understand almost everything that was being said. After the tour we tasted some wine. What I found most interesting about this experience was that all of the wine from Vouvray is produced here. I thought that each farm had its own facility for producing their wine, but I was wrong.

After the wine tasting was finished we began our journey home. Ben suggested that we stop at La Guingette along the way for a drink. La Guingette is a cute restaurant along the path, next to la Loire. Once again, the surroundings were perfect and it was so peaceful to sit along la Loire and have a glass of wine. After our short break we continued toward home. Overall, it was a perfect day.