Thursday, June 20, 2013

Montpellier: Sunshine in the South of France

Voilà! Finally, I have a few minutes to spare to write this long overdue post  about the beautiful town of Montpellier, France. It's almost six weeks late, actually (a "moment to spare" in Oxford, when you are a non-EU student urgently looking for full time work and frantically finishing a thesis, is really a rarity). As you'll recall, I stayed with a host family in their beautiful home and visited the French countryside on my first research trip; the second trip was a much more rushed, but a welcome visit back to beautiful sunshine.

Just before I get to the slideshow of photos, here are a few tips if you plan to travel to Montpellier and experience the beautiful south of France:

  • Bring sunscreen! It is gorgeous and beautiful and will make you forget that England isn't quite sure what the definition of "summer" is
  • Try to catch a random show (like the Montpellier Capoeira Club) performing in the streets
  • Obviously, get a croissant. I'd say where, but really, every one I had from a proper bakery was fabulous
  • Go to the Gaumont cinema in the city centre and watch a film in French. Or, choose from several smaller cinemas on the side roads that show artsy films
  • Pose with the statues
  • Go through side streets and side streets and little avenues until you find yourself lost amongst the cobblestone roads and discover a shop, cafe, restaurant or bakery you just can't resist.
  • Stay out late at The Place de la Comédie - it's safe, small and a beautiful place to grab a midnight gelato or crepe
  • Take advantage of the wonderful African influence the city has - music, stores with beautiful jewelry, culture and history
  • Take the 40 minute tram to the beach! Yes, that's right, a REAL beach with beautiful sand and ocean and little, overpriced restaurants along the side, just minutes away from the city

    Anyway, enjoy the slideshow!

Saturday, June 08, 2013

St Jean de Bueges - Visiting the French Countryside with a Host Family

Before I post about the beautiful city and beaches of Montpellier (next post!), I'd like to devote a short post to the host family who welcomed me into their home. 

Below are a few pics of their beautiful home in Montpellier, just steps away from the city centre. It was full of home-made paintings, cute pieces of art, and had a warm, cozy atmosphere.

Noisette the Turtle!

On the first data collection trip I made to visit a school in Montpellier, I spent 6 nights with them, and on my return I spent three nights there. They were so welcoming, and I loved the opportunity to meet their family, speak French and learn more about the French culture.

The room I stayed in!
in the room!

Pomponette - who loved my bed!

A few examples of our meals (I paid for half board, so lunch was only included on weekends):

  • Breakfast - the most amazing croissants ever, or, fresh bread - with homemade jam
  • Dinner: fried egg, red peppers stuffed with rice and sundried tomatoes. Then, tomato cucumber salad with polenta. And a bit of cheese for dessert. Cherries, and a soya pudding/yogurt type dessert. Then tea. 
  • Dinner:   Zucchini and thyme bake.  Linguini. Fresh mixed greens salad. Fresh bread on the side. Sugar free cherry crumble for dessert. Then, a tisane.
On the weekend, we took a one night trip to St. Jean de Bueges, a little village 45 minutes away from the city (Bueges is the name of the river).  The host family's daughter, son and I wandered the paths and picked thyme, which we added to the vegetables for our dinner! The home cooked meals I had in France were delectable and were served as if they were courses, over the course of 1.5 to 2 hours. No half-hour rushed dinners here! They eat really late though (8pm at the earliest), so that was a bit hard to get used to.

Check out the slideshow of the south of France...complete with flowers, herbs, vineyards and cacti!.

P.S....I have to add a picture of a French tomato!  (These ones are called "coeurs de boeufs" I believe...they have regular tomatoes, as well).  They are delicious! 

Tuesday, June 04, 2013

Rouen: Historical French City & The Death of Joan of Arc

Rouen is a quaint city in Normandy, full of both beautiful greenery and historical buildings.  I absolutely loved my week of being in France (both times), and may find a way to somehow move somewhere European that speaks French, in the not-too -distant future. Since the first school I collected data at was in this town, it wasn't until my second trip that I really had a chance to take a Saturday to be a tourist.

Pics:  the city (left) and Jardin de Plantes (right)

Taking the Eurostar train from London's St. Pancreas  straight to Paris and staying in an IBIS budget hotel instead of a hostel (since I didn't want to risk leaving my computer and recording device at a hostel) were a couple small highlights. Speaking French the whole time definitely topped the list of highlights.

Rouen's clock tower---worth a visit!
Also, on my first trip, I got a chance to have dinner with Katherine, who was on my course at the Department of Integrated Education at McGill University 2010/2011 (remember this post and this post?). Time flies!  We had a wonderful dinner at La Crêperie du Père Adam  - but unfortunately, we didn't get a chance to take a picture! It was great catching up --and here is to more reunions --both with my friends from McGill, and my friends I met in Singapore...sometime soon!
I also spent a good 45 minutes touring the inside of clock tower (which is actually quite cool!) and listening to a French recording about it's origins in 1389 and the duties of the workers in the belfry.
Clock Tower Arch Art
View of the city from inside the clock tower (this one is my favourite!)
Old Mechanisms

The "Glogster" poster I made below (click to view a larger version, or click here to go directly to the poster itself) lists a few points in the life of Joan of Arc (Jeanne d'Arc)'s who died at her burning at the stake, which occured on May 30, 1431 in the Rouen town centre. Her mission, which she and others of the time thought was divinely inspired, was to regain land in France back from the English.

Source for the info about Joan of Arc (I know, I know, it's not very scholarly and a bit Wiki-ish):

Stay tuned for a slideshow of Montpellier and my stories of living with a wonderful host family (for both trips) and visiting the French countryside with them...coming up!