Saturday, March 28, 2009

Little punks, all of 'em

I just saw the new trailer for Where the Wild Things Are and it just made me feel so warm inside! What a wonderful, wonderful book. The movie looks great, especially since they're using Jim Henson monsters. Excellent choice. In the trailer is a song by Arcade Fire which fits perfectly, but of course isn't an obvious choice of soundtrack for a children's movie. In one of the comments on the story I read about the trailer someone suggested a Very Hungry Caterpillar with a Sufjan Stevens soundtrack. Hmm, why not? Personally, I'd like to see a Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day movie with a Muse soundtrack. I can just see him contemplating the injustice of his lack of dessert in his lunch box to the tune of Apocalypse Please.

My students were so squirrely yesterday because on Sunday most of them are going on a skiing trip to the Alps, so I couldn't really blame them for not wanting to pay attention. Bernadette barely gave me a thing to go off of as far as lesson plans went so it was hard to engage their attention when I was just winging it. During the first hour I had three kids who were helping to translate a piece of text for an upcoming event. The text wasn't difficult, but it wasn't very easy, either, and they were almost flawless in their translations. They are so, so intelligent. Both of my classes with children of that age (13/14) are brilliant and adorable.

Then there are my older students. They give no effort and don't care at all. I've been told that they used to be just as brilliant as the younger ones, but then they just stopped caring. There's still evidence of the former intelligence as a few of them speak English remarkably well and with very clear accents, and still more could if they just tried.

Regardless of their behavior yesterday I fear I shall miss the little hooligans! I won't be seeing them for another three weeks because of SPRING BREAK! WOO!

Thursday, March 26, 2009


Yesterday I went on a field trip with my class to Rennes, a large city in Brittany, to visit the headquarters of Ouest-France, France's most circulated daily newspaper. I was interviewed in it once after the elections, and I'm glad that at the time I didn't know it had such a large readership! It was very interesting because I have never seen the big machine thingy where newspapers are actually made. It was just nice to get out of Caen for a day! My friend Lauren and I ate at a Moroccan restaurant where the management was so incredibly sweet. Plus, I love any restaurant that gives you a free aperitif and a free coffee or tea! Especially as tea is ridiculously expensive here!

We got home at around 3:00 AM which was fine with me as I have nothing to do on Thursdays. I like taking the day to walk around the city, shop, eat, read, etc. Today that wasn't in the stars because I feel so... icky. Just icky. I spent the entire day in bed which I hate doing. Then my internet stopped working and so I ventured out into the gray, Normandy drizzle to take my computer to the internet store, where of course it began working again. Sigh. At least I was able to get through the transaction without fumbling up my French too terribly much!

Because I was downtown anyway, I decided to pop into Memoranda, my favorite used book store, to pick up a couple of books and to have a hot chocolate. It's the only book store in Caen that understands the beauty and comfort of books, food, and hot beverages in the same place, but stores in France are usually too tiny for such things. Memorandum is different from other bookstores, though, because there is a lady baking things inside the bookstore all day long-- breads, brownies, apple crisp-- and the aroma wafts through the claustrophobic bookstore creating the most cozy and soothing atmosphere. I purchased a French translation of A Series of Unfortunate Events and Asterix et Obelix, which is a very famous French comic book about a little village in Gaul that has resisted being conquered by the Romans. It's adorable.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

My new little friend

On Monday Heidi, Zak, and I went to Bayeux. Part of that time was spent lounging in a little park. I spread my coat out on the ground, laid on my stomach, and took a nap. When I woke up, I saw in front of my eyes a little boy in the same position I was in, staring at me. We just stared at each other for a minute. He stood up, began to talk to me about the little flowers he was picking, and kept walking around, toward me, then away, toward me, then away. Finally, he came back and I just had a little conversation in French with him. He came closer, picked some of the daisies and the bright yellow flowers that were everywhere on the ground, gave them to me, then after a few minutes ran away to play with someone else. Heidi and Zak captured the moment I woke up and the moment he gave me flowers on camera.

Isn't he just precious? I believe his name is Anzou. Click on the pictures to make them bigger.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Loire & Order

On Wednesday Zak rented a car and we drove to the Loire Valley to tour some palaces. We spent the night in Amboise after seeing the chateau there, as well as Leonardo da Vinci's home and tomb. The next day we saw Chenonceau, which was my favorite palace to tour the inside of (even more so than Versailles) because you get to see the kitchens! It made me miss cooking and baking with Heidi. I miss that girl SO much! After Chenonceau we went to some place I can't remember the name of... we saw the outside of the chateau and had a picnic there, which was so pleasant and CHEAP. The last chateau was Villandry. We didn't go inside, but just explored the expansive gardens. Oh, they were so beautiful. They'll be even more beautiful in April when the flowers are in bloom, but then there will be tons of tourists, so I'd say we came at a good time! Another advantage of seeing the Loire in a relatively off-season time is that they keep some of the fires lit in the gigantic fireplaces. I could have read in front of them all day had time permitted!

Also, as a side note on pretty much all of the historic sites I've been to... it's disappointing to know how much has disintegrated over the years, and how things have been modernized for either practical or commercial purposes, but considering how old these castles and chateaus are, it's amazing that anything survives at all. Despite their gift shops the French are usually very good at maintaining the historic integrity of each castle, palace, or what have you. It's just so amazing to promenade around the same hallways that Leonardo da Vinci would have walked around or to think of the hands that built a cathedral. Some of the many reasons I love traveling and living in France!

We finished off our time together with a scrumptious French dinner at Carambole, my favorite creperie/galleterie/tea room in Caen. As predicted, Heidi and Zak fell in love with the kir normand, galettes, and dessert crepes! How could you not? Heidi and I will work hard this summer at recreating all of my favorite French foods.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Heidi and Zak Attack France!

Heidi and Zak are here in France! It's been so nice to have someone here who can see what I see! Studying abroad is so much better when you're able to share it with people from back home, even if they only get a taste.

Hah, I say studying abroad quite loosely. I'm skipping all but one day of class this week in order to spend time with them. It's been pretty awesome! I met them in Paris on Saturday and left Sunday afternoon. We saw:
--Versailles. Zak is from Versailles, Kentucky, so he was able to see the real thing! My favorite part was Marie Antoinette's little hamlet that she had constructed so she could go to it and pretend to be a peasant. How uppity is that? Erin tells me that she used to have the sheep perfumed and dyed to match her dress for the day. There was a small farm in the hamlet and it was so full of the cutest sheep and goats you have ever seen! What a beautiful place, even if the flowers in the gardens haven't yet grown.

--Sacre Coeur, which I've been to before. This time it was night. I love Paris because things are just as spectacular by day as they are by night.

--Musee D'Orsay. Definitely more fun than the Louvre. I was beside myself being able to see Monets, Manets, Van Goghs, Toulouse-Latrecs, and so much more in person. If you've ever seen Moulin Rouge, the Musee D'Orsay is the train station that Ewan McGregor arrives in when he first comes to Paris. If you ever go to Paris, don't miss it.

--Notre Dame. I didn't take pictures there because we really went to get ice-cream at Berthillon, a very famous ice-cream shop, but the line was so long that we got way overpriced ice-cream at Haagen-Daaz instead. Boo.

Sunday they came to Normandy. We had lunch in my favorite restaurant in Bayeux, Heidi and Zak saw the tapestry, and then we went to a park to relax. I have a cute story about that, but it will have to wait for another post.

Today we went to Le Mont St. Michel, an abby on an island. It inspired Gondor in The Lord of the Rings, or so I'm told. Truly spectacular and beautiful, enormous, and surrounded by quicksand!

Tomorrow we're going to go to the Loire Valley to explore some chateaux! I love being here, especially when people I love so much can be here to enjoy it with me!

Sunday, March 8, 2009

The last 81 days

I'm so, so, SO pumped about my remaining 81 days in France. It's simply not enough. I thought it would be, but it's not! Unfortunately it's non-negotiable as I leave May 30 and have to begin taking summer classes at UK by June 11, which isn't enough time with my family after this big France thing... sigh. Such is life when you've been slacking off in France for nine months, I suppose. I will probably have more of a course load this summer than I ever did here in Normandie. Anyway, here is my tentative travel plan, as far as I know it, for my last 81 days:

March 14-15: Meeting HEIDI AND ZAK (my roommate and her boyfriend) in Paris.
March 17: Mont St. Michel (#2 on cities you must visit in France)
March 18-19: Loire Valley to see some Renaissance chateaux, possibly including the one that inspired the story Sleeping Beauty.
March 25: Field trip with my class to Rennes
Sometime at the end of March: Versailles and maybe a little more Paris
April 4-17: SPRING BREAK!!! I will be visiting the following countries (possibly): England (London) (if not England, than the south of France), Italy (Rome, Florence, Venice), and Spain (Barcelona? Maybe? I don't know much about Spain.)
April 30-May 3: Ireland!!!!! Where I will quite possibly purchase an Irish flute, if I actually get paid for teaching!

I reeeeeally hope that I can make it to the south of France somewhere in there if we decide to go to London instead of Provence. I want to see fields of lavendar! It's just hard and expensive to get there, even from Paris. Sigh. For those of you who have been to both the south of France and London, which one would you choose? Keep in mind that I'll be seeing some Mediterrannean culture in Italy, and I will be going to Ireland as well.

For those of you planning on traveling in Europe, or possibly just traveling period, check out He's the cheesy guy with the PBS show. I have his France book and it has been invaluable throughout my stay here. He really knows what he's talking about and can help you plan a trip to almost any major European city without feeling overwhelmed by everything there is to see there.

Friday, March 6, 2009

J'aime mes éléves!

I had my second day teaching today. The first class consisted of students who have chosen not to go to university and so they are in a different program than the rest of the high schoolers. I think high school is shorter and then they go on to learn a trade or something like that. The teacher was rather crazy and all over the place, and not very good at speaking English-- eesh! She was nice, though, and let me conduct class how I chose and kept the students behaving. Kind of. I have never been in a room with such squirrely students, and I went to public school for thirteen years. Yeah. It was that bad!

The second class was okay. All I had to do was listen to students give a presentation. Some of them did remarkably well and some didn't even try to say anything at all.

For the third class I just had a small group of five students-- the smartest of Bernadette's 4th level (13-14 year old) class. They are my darlings and if I could I would adopt each of them! Their names are Julien, Kevin, Eugenie, Melanie, and Cortney. Cortney is actually a British boy, and I envy him so very much because he moved to France when he was four and does not have an accent in either language. He tried to trick me into believing that his name is Paul because, well, Cortney is often a girl's name... We had a great class. I think Cortney was especially glad to be there because you can imagine how bored he would get in an English class when he's perfectly fluent. When the bell rang, the students said, "Aw, already?" which I take to be a very good sign. Cortney told Bernadette (his usual teacher and my boss-of-sorts) that he really liked me and my class. My heart melted into a puddle on the playground.