Tag Archives: Manchester

Fevrier

Welp, I clearly have not been doing that great of a job keeping up with the blog but I’ve been busy! I’m in the midst of applying to grad schools/jobs and preparing lessons and spending time with my friends here! But because I havn’t posted in a while, it’s difficult to remember everything I wanted to write about but here are the highlights:

The first weekend of February Anna’s sister Mary to came to visit and we had a nice dinner at Jeanne’s with our French friends! They did a great job cooking dinner and we tried a gateau nantaise! The next day I got to meet Josephine’s grandparent’s puppy Ipswich (so cute) and she and Jeanne introduced me to Bottereaux which are pretty similar to donuts but deff better.

Des bottereaux...miam!

Des bottereaux…miam!

One Saturday here there was this animal rights demonstration right in the middle of Place Commerce. There was a huge crowd just watching these humans with pig and rabbit masks on, have “dinner” which consisted of a human head. There was also red corn syrup splattered on the ground…it was a bit intense.

yum?

yum?

We celebrated La Chandeleur on Feb. 2nd (also Groundhog day) which is a French holiday with Catholic origins celebrating the Presentation of Jesus at the Temple, where you make crepes and try to flip them in the pan while holding a coin in your other hand. If you can do it, you’re supposed to have a prosperous upcoming year. There’s also some kind of indication of how long winter will last like Groundhog day. So we all went over to Jack and Sarah’s to make some crepes. They were a lot better than the ones I made when I was home which might be because we used just a regular frying pan or because Josephine recommended putting rum in the batter…La Chandeleur always reminds me of French Club at Greenhill when Madame made like 100 crepes for Bagel Break! I was able to flip the crepe and hold the coin so hopefully there’s some extra money heading my way!

I call this Jack's double flip

I call this Jack’s double flip

I spent last weekend with Grams in Manchester!! We did a bit of shopping and watched a little of the Olympics and drank plenty of tea and did lots of laundry! She also taught me how to make pancakes for Candlemas/Pancake day which is the UK’s equivalent La Chandeleur but celebrated on Mardi Gras.
The day I left Nantes, there were some strikes going on that would effect the bus schedules. My bus line to school wasn’t effected but the airport bus was working on a different schedule and there were people “protesting” in the street. I havn’t really been effected by strikes while I’ve been here so far but I’ve read about a couple of them and I find it funny that they plan a strike and everyone knows about it and they figure out alternative ways to compensate for the workers on strike…like it’s just so weird to me that they can all just agree to not go to work and everyone just works around them.

strikes!

strikes!

photo 3

On that note, since my classes have still been talking about the French bashing that occurred in that Newsweek article I posted in my last blog entry, I encountered a real-life example of someone taking advantage of the “nanny” state: We met this guy who paints houses for a living but is unemployed right now and he was telling us that he missed an interview for a job earlier that week and we asked why and he said he makes more money off of the unemployment benefits than he would working that job…Also, I’m sure if you’re in the US you’ve seen this, but my parents sent me this funny commercial which pokes some fun at the French! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qGJSI48gkFc&feature=youtu.be

We went to our first English night since we’ve been back in Nantes this past Wednesday. Our French friends were a bit drunker than usual so we had a lot of fun. It included an impromptu musical session outside the bar and a macarena line…

English night concert

English night concert

I’ve also joined a French acting class with the woman I’m going to the Alps with in a couple weeks. Last week, I survived an improv scene in French, quite the victory since I was never a skilled improv-er and it was in French! I’m working on a scene from Antigone (pronounced Anti-gone in French) which seems fitting because it is such a classic and I’ve worked on it multiple times in English.

I also had a great Valentine’s day filled with good French food and even better French wine with great friends! It’s definitely not as big of a deal here though as it is in the US.

Steph and I have officially booked our tickets to go backpacking this summer…if anyone’s planning on being in Europe, let me know!

Le début de décembre

Brrrrrr! Welp- time seems to be speeding up, I can’t believe it’s already December. It still feels like I arrived only a month ago but I’m excited to be home in two weeks for Christmas…just hoping the weather in Dallas won’t be so wintry by the time I get there!

The week leading up to Thanksgiving was pretty uneventful because I was sick, I spent the days either in my bed or at school. It was so weird to work on Thanksgiving Day and for it to be just another Thursday here. I did teach the same Thanksgiving lesson about 10 times but it was definitely difficult to go through it that day because I was missing everything at home! I skyped with the whole fam in Milwaukee which was nice but I missed the football and the annual movie we watch afterwards and of course all the food! So we celebrated at an assistant’s apartment on Saturday. It was a large group of all the assistants including the Germans, some Spanish, Canadians, and the Brits, and of course we invited our French friends. I was sufficiently stuffed that night and it was nice to share our holiday with so many people from around the world; as Obama said in this year’s Turkey Pardoning (which I watched at least 5 times in class…the French students thought it was weird and learned what turkey’s actually look like), Thanksgiving is the quintessential American holiday. There was plenty of wine and good conversation and some dancing before we went to the bars. I had so much fun but I really missed the atmosphere at home with preparing the food all day and eating and watching football/a movie and falling asleep! I missed the comforts of Thanksgiving at home and of course my family but I’m grateful that I have friends who hunt down turkeys at every butcher in the Nantes area and know how to cook it too!

Thanksgiving spread...There was even more food than this!

Thanksgiving spread…There was even more food than this!

For about the last month, the issue of racism has been a hot topic in France because of this incident. Basically a picture of Christiane Taubira, the French Minister of Justice who is black and born in French Guinea, and a proponent for gay rights, was published in a right-wing magazine next to a picture of a monkey with the caption “clever as a monkey”. This has rightly caused an uproar throughout France and I think shocked a lot of the population because the extreme right-wingers have been seen publicly yelling insults at her at rallies and supporting the magazine and what not. So on my way to the grocery store Saturday, I saw the March against Racism that was organized in Nantes which I knew was happening because there was a sign posted in my school. The issue is obviously something the majority of French people are pretty passionate about; unlike the US and the UK, France does not have a free speech policy in order to prevent things like this. I think this editorial from a French journalist for CNN summarizes the French opinion well. But, the French version of Elle has named her Woman of the Year!

racisme

Marche contre le racisme

Marche contre le racisme

I spent my day off last week shopping (finally!) and wandering around Nantes, trying to get lost. I feel like my entire world here revolves around Place du Commerce because it’s the city center and I live right here so it was nice to walk even just a little further than the true center and see what else is near by. On this walk I found the town hall and a park right next to it guarded by these lion statues.

Look at those teeth!

Look at those teeth!

Of course, I went to weekly trivia on Thursday at Dave’s, Vanessa’s and Tristan’s place. We started a little earlier than normal this week so we didn’t have to rush to catch the last tram so we spent the last 20 minutes with people playing the guitar and harmonicas (!) and having a sing along…nothing makes me more sentimental than a sing along! And it just made me feel really lucky to be here with all these other people who are just as passionate about the French language and culture 🙂

This weekend I went to Manchester to see Grams and my dad who was visiting for the week! It was such a short trip but I’m so happy I went. It was nice to speak English in public for a little bit though I did say one or two “merci”s at the airport. We put up Grams’ tree on Saturday and headed to the Christmas Markets at night. Manchester is supposed to have one of the best German Christmas Markets outside of Germany and we’ve never been since we always arrive on Boxing day and are too late for them. I found a cute winter hat and scarf and we drank gluwein and ate bratwurst and had a crepe (not up to the French standard) for dessert! I’ve come back to Nantes with a few Christmas decorations from Grams and plenty of British treats to get me through the next couple months!

Christmas Market selfie!

Christmas Market selfie!

Christmas time at Grams'

Christmas time at Grams’

La Toussaint

So my La Toussaint vacation is officially over and it’s back to school tomorrow. After Paris, I took the Eurostar via the Chunnel to London and then a train from London to Manchester. I have to say, I really enjoyed traveling on the trains. It’s a little more comfortable than a plane and the TGV and Eurostar are super fast and it’s just so much more laid back than flying.

I loved spending the week with Grams in Manchester and it was fun to be there in time for her birthday! We of course did a little shopping and a lot of relaxing and since it costs me 5.50 euros to do my laundry, I brought it all to England so we had a big laundry day.
Things of note:
-People in England are just really friendly. The guy I was sitting next to on the train offered me his power cord because I was reading on my iPad and it was about to die. I had a great conversation with the taxi driver who took me from the train station to Grams’ house. Even when you’re in stores, the way salespeople or cashiers talk to you is just very friendly. Maybe I’ll move to England next 🙂
-I forced Grams to go to Starbucks while we were out shopping to get a Pumpkin Spice Latte! So good! We also spoke to an older gentleman who spends his days in this particular Starbucks and he started showing me pictures and emails from his Chinese fiancee that he met 3 months ago and who could not have been older than 20…then asked if I was married yet…
-English TV is now basically American TV. I remember when I was little, there were no American shows on TV in England except Friends. Now there’s still a lot of Friends but everything on the E! channel plays in England and I think the only English show we watched the whole week was Law and Order: SVU UK…so that is basically American.

Pumpkin Spice Latte <3

Pumpkin Spice Latte ❤

So Bordeaux ended up not working out (we're trying to go next weekend when we have a long weekend for Armistice day) but we took a day trip to Rennes which is a city about an hour north of Nantes. It is the capital of the region of Brittany and my French friends said when you go there you can really understand that Nantes isn't actually apart of Brittany (I think I mentioned in an earlier post that it used to be the capital but then the region Pays de la Loire was created and Nantes is the capital of this region). There are traces of the Breton culture in Nantes; for example, my school is right on the border of Nantes and a city called St. Herblain and so the sign says "entering Nantes" but underneath it says Naoned which is the Breton word for Nantes. I also read an article in the newspaper that there is a small group of people who meet weekly to learn the Breton language and my students have told me that Nantes being apart of Brittany is still a contested issue.

Anyways, instead of taking the train, we decided to do Covoiturage, which is car sharing, since it's way cheaper and our French friends said it was the best way to get there. Basically drivers sign up with this website and put down where they're driving/making stops and passengers can book rides through the website. There was four of us going so we figured it would be pretty safe. We met the woman who was driving us at a tram stop and she was super nice. It was a great way to practice our French and we learned a bit about some cultural/historical things in France. THEN she told us she had to stop at her mother-in-law's to pick up some chestnuts…I'm pretty sure we all thought she said she was going to Rennes to pick up the chestnuts and then going to drive to Normandie to meet up with her kids and her parents. But we ended up stopping in the middle of no where in the countryside in a city called Derval at her mother-in-law's farmhouse! Her mother-in-law didn't know we were coming and when we came inside she said something like "invasion of the young people!" She was really nice and offered us coffee and cookies and it was a fun but weird experience! In moments like these, our motto has become "just go with the flow".

Anna, Sarah, and Jack
Anna, Sarah, and Jack having a coffee in the countryside…

So Rennes apparently wasn’t bombed during the war as much as other cities such as Nantes were (side note: Anna and I were commenting about how different it is here compared to the US because there is so much history in European cities and the war had such an effect on these cities) so a lot of the buildings are still standing from the Middle Ages and look like this.

Buildings actually used to (and still do!) look like this!

Buildings actually used to (and still do!) look like this!

Not all of them look like this because there was a big fire in Rennes in the 18th century so part of the city still looks like it’s from back then and part of it looks new with those streets in a grid. Nantes is sort of similar in that there is a Medieval part of town and then a newer part. And I think all of the signs we saw were in French and Breton, so there was definitely a difference between being in actual Brittany and being in Nantes. We saw the Cathedrale and the Parc Thabor and the Parlement of Brittany. And had crepes, which the region of Brittany is known for! We did so much walking and we had to get up early to get there that by the end of the day we were definitely ready to go home and go to bed! I loved Rennes but it felt a bit too small to actually live there but I’m so happy I can say I’ve officially been to the region of Bretagne 🙂

We spent Halloween with our French friends which included shopping for dinner together and then getting dressed up. While we were in the grocery store, Anna and I realized how French our French friends Josephine and Romane really are; they spent FOREVER looking at what kind of wine to buy and then there was debate over what kind of cheese and sausage to buy and of course a discussion about how many baguettes to buy! The French really do love their food but we appreciated their expertise because everything was delicious! And it turns out the French really like to dress up scarily/intensely. I was almost a hedgehog and my French friends suggested I be a dead hedgehog. I went with my default costume of a cowgirl…despite their suggestions, I was not a dead cowgirl.

French Halloween Dinner

French Halloween Dinner

Yesterday we went to the mall to see Le Chamoh! So the people of Nantes really enjoy mechanical animals and the Camel was in town for about a week. I do have to say it was pretty entertaining and unique!

Le Chamoh

Le Chamoh

Today Anna and I went to the art museum because it’s free on the first Sunday of the month but there was only a temporary exhibition since the actual museum is closed for renovations. Hopefully next weekend will be spent tasting wine in Bordeaux!