Goodbye France!

I have been back in the US for a month now and have had time to reflect more on my experience in France. I wanted to wrap up my blog with a few of the highlights of my time abroad.

  • Friends and family

First and foremost, it was special forming a real relationship with Cyril’s family, getting to know his friends to the point of them becoming my friends, and also adventuring out and making my own friends. Learning French enabled me to do this which brings me to my next highlight.

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Cyril and I with his mom and stepdad

The sunny south

  • French

I am now comfortable speaking French! It is no easy task learning another language; living in France and surrounding myself with French was necessary. I still remember how the language sounded before I started learning; completely alien and unintelligible! The process has been like a blurry picture slowly coming into focus. Very rewarding as one of my life goals was to become fluent in another language.

Thoughts on learning French

Embarrassing things I have said in French

Embarrassing things I have said in French Round 2

Embarrassing things I have said in French-round 3

  • Volleyball

I loved playing volleyball with ACBB, first as part of the Panda’s and then with the departmental woman’s team. I am not sure if the endeavor was a net loss or gain of calories though, with all of the aperitifs after the games and drinks after the Friday night practices:)

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  • Visitors

Visits in France from my favorite people were the best. I adored playing the tour guide and showing them around.

  • Paris

What an amazing city! I got to know it intimately by walking around and getting lost, biking with velib, and doing a book of paper chases. The museums are world-class and the parks are lovely- one of my favorites was right next to my home.

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Parc de Billancourt cannot be beat in March!
  • Food adventures

French cuisine lives up to its reputation; eating out and family meals were always a treat. My favorites were cheese and fresh bread. We had 4 bakeries within 10 minute walking distance, something I will miss dearly in the US.

Six week mark ramblings

Escargots

Misadventures in Easter egg dyeing

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Mmmm frog legs!
  • The Euro football championship

Last June and July were crazy with the Euro in full swing. If only France had beaten Portugal in the Finals!

Euro 2016

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  • The 2017 French presidential elections

It was a roller coaster election that unfolded with scandals, plot twists, and unlikely candidates gaining prominence. It was fascinating to see the process from beginning to end. The political atmosphere was tumultuous with the French wrestling with many of the same issues as Americans had a few months before. In the end there were many records broken, some good some bad, including the youngest president ever, the largest voting abstention rates ever, the first time that neither of the two major parties’ candidates made it to the final voting round, and the most legislative turnover ever. Even though it was long, drawn-out, and stressful at times, this was a highlight because I felt like I bonded with the French through the process.

  • Teaching

I enjoyed the challenge of teaching. I learned a lot about myself and more about English grammar than I ever cared to know. The students were really the best part of the gig. My elementary class students were so darn cute and my private lesson students all had interesting personalities and different learning styles.

Le commencement

Week one impressions

French kids say the darnedest things

French Kids Say the Darnedest Things Round 2

French Kids Say the Darnedest Things Round 3

French Kids Say the Darnedest Things Round 4

French kids say the darnedest things round 5

English is Weird

English is Weird Reprise

American and French Education, contrasted

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  • Comedy

It was a lot of fun going to the smallest, most tucked away comedy clubs of the capital and paying 10 euros to see talented comedians who weren’t famous yet.
Cyril went up on stage at our favorite open mic, first as a special audience guest, then as a performer doing his first ever 5 minute stand up set! (Pst if you speak French don’t forget to ask him to see the video).

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  • Traveling

We traveled extensively, often to visit family and friends in far off places.

In France we visited Normandy, Alsace, Angers, Verdun, Dreux, the French Alps, the Drôme, and Montpellier (more times than I can count). We also went to the Netherlands, London, Venice, Munich, Vienna, and Morocco (Blog post #2).


It was a lovely two years of my life! Leaving was bittersweet but tomorrow I am opening up a new chapter- graduate school at Rutgers in New Jersey!

À très bientôt la France!

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Journée du Patrimoine

Journée du patrimoine is an event organized throughout France the third weekend of September every year that celebrates heritage, a concept that the French love. Many important government buildings, private castles, and cultural institutions are opened to the public, and museums have free or reduced prices. Often of these places offer special guided tours and kids activities as well.

I just barely missed journée du patrimoine last year, arriving in France a few days afterwards. (Exactly a year ago now, wow!) A bit of a bummer because Cyril went to the Élysée Palace, the French equivalent of the White House, and ran into the French president!  They had a nice 30 second chat:)

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I love the concept of journée du patrimoine. This weekend of exploration, history, and learning is a huge cultural event! The government has a website where the information is centralized, although all the institutions come up with their own programs. It is better than each place having its own random open house during the year because I always seem to miss them when I am caught up in my life and not paying attention.

The only downside is that everyone else is also aware of the options and the lines can be very long, like at the Élysée Palace. To avoid this, some places have set up online reservations systems for visits. Cyril and I had originally wanted to tour France TV, but we would have had to grab a time slot two weeks beforehand. I had also tried to score places for a badass TWO hour escape game put on by RATP, the Parisian transit authority, but when they opened up the reservation site online, all of the tickets were taken in 2 seconds, and I was booted off the system. Oh well. It still turned out to be a great weekend.

On Saturday morning Cyril and I took a tour of the Crayères des Montquartiers, a system of caverns carved out of the limestone bedrock under the city of Issy-les-Moulineaux. In the past it has been used as a chalk quarry, beer brewery, mushroom farm, and WWII bomb shelter. Nowadays it is used to store wine and host events. The underground network is quite extensive but most of it was closed off to us so it wasn’t as cool as I imagined it would be.

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In the afternoon we biked to Fondation Louis Vitton. They have a brand new gallery space designed by Frank Gehry. It was gorgeous! I know next to nothing about architecture and famous architects but I could recognize his style almost anywhere. He designed the WAM Art Museum at the University of Minnesota (my alma mater!) but is perhaps most famous for the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain.

The galleries were closed but we were able to explore the building and go onto the roof.

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A bit hard to capture the whole thing!
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I saw the stickers and stamps and colored pencils and I couldn’t resist. Cyril joined me as I did the kid’s art activity.

I was pleasantly surprised to find a garden connected to the Foundation – I steered Cyril right into there as well. Cyril joked, ‘Wow, you are good, how did this happen? Somehow you lured me into yet another garden. Was this your plan all along?’  I am innocent, I swear!

The Jardin d’Acclimatation is over 150 years old, with groomed botanical gardens, a little farm with animals, birds either running around as they please or exhibited in the old ‘royal menagerie’ facilities, and a children’s carnival.

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The old rookery, where they used to keep and train messenger pigeons

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What an elaborate dragon!

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Sunday Cyril and I met friends to tour the Grand Rex, a famous French theater.  With 2800 seats it is the largest cinema theater in Europe and its sumptuous decorations and starry sky ceiling give the illusion of being outside. Often it hosts the French premiers of  Hollywood productions complete with the red carpet and celebrities. The Grand Rex also is a venue for concerts, comedians, movie marathons, and movie-orchestra combo performances. Cyril and I saw the Franglaises there last year and this tour made me itch to come back for another show!

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A bit hard to capture the size of the theater!

Right after, we tried an additional side tour called Les Étoiles du Rex, a surprisingly fun and interactive attraction about cinema and the Rex, complete with special effects, a green screen, and  an cheesy movie that featured us visitors. This was the only attraction that we paid for, although it was offered at a discounted price. All of the other places were free to visit.

Next destination: the Grand Palais, a huge glass exhibition hall built for the 1900 World’s Fair. But we settled on instead visiting the Petit Palais (a bit smaller) across the street after realizing that the Grand Palais really wasn’t open. Whoops! Still lovely- my favorite part was the interior courtyard garden.

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It isn’t really petit by any means

Lastly we stopped at the open house at the Heliport of Paris, where we could see different kinds of helicopters, talk to pilots, and try a steering simulation game.  At one point they landed a helicopter right next to the demo area. The wind the helicopter created right before landing was intense.

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And then Cyril and I dropped dead from exhaustion and cultural overdose:p Being a tourist is draining!