No blog posts in months then two in as many days! It’s almost like I’ve hit peak procrastination on the last night of uni holidays, with two marathon days of class from 8am-6pm only a few hours away…
As promised, here’s the highlights reel of my various escapades for the past two months:
The social season kicked off way back in mid-September, with a weekend away to celebrate the birthday of my ‘host mum’ Nicole. It was her 60th birthday, and the kids had arranged a surprise party. Not just any surprise party though; they had hired a gîte out in the country where 14 close friends and family spent the weekend. Despite some delayed trains and labyrinthine carparks getting things off to a rocky start, everything went perfectly – Nicole suspected absolutely nothing, and was totally floored. It was the best response we could have hoped for. As with any French gathering, it was essentially a weekend spent talking over food – we spent several hours digesting the apéro, went for a short walk around the property, then got stuck into dinner for another couple of hours, before the dancing started. The following morning, breakfast was followed by brunch, which we barely finished and tidied up before we had to be out by 3pm. Even then, we STILL had stacks left over, a lot of which was (welcomely) forced onto me. It was such a wonderful weekend, in itself, but especially for me as I really appreciated being part of a family thing like that. Everyone was so lovely, genuinely interested in talking to me, and made me feel like I totally fitted in. Merci les Tindon! Sadly I have no photos to do it justice really/I feel a bit weird putting up pics of the people I don’t know so well.
Le Gala Santard
On the 1st of October I went to an event that totally blew my mind. I was invited by Annabelle, one of my teaching colleagues from last year, and knew I was in for some all-night gala thing. What I wasn’t prepared for was just how special the whole thing was. It is really hard to explain exactly why, but apparently I did succeed for a few friends so I shall attempt to recreate that here in a slightly more civilised way – bear with me:
It was a gala held at the Ecole de Santé des Armées, a school that trains doctors who are going to go on and work for the military. This is a highly prestigious school, in large part because the students are paid to study there – though obviously this comes with a certain engagement to the military afterwards. The gala started with a fancy dinner for the actual students, then opened at 10:30pm for the general public, with 4500 guests all up. It took place at the school, which had been totally transformed into a maze of bars, photo stands and various dance rooms – the discothèque, salsa, rock and roll, vieux Paris, jazz, piano bar among others. The event ran all night till 6:30am, which passed really quickly by the time we rotated through the rooms a few times.
This event would have been exceptional enough, but it was the military aspect that I found really mind boggling. There’s really just no comparison between NZ and the history, culture and prestige of the French military. So, imagine being surrounded by several hundred young doctors, in military uniform (mainly gala dress, but there were a few variations – I even saw a bicorn hat and sword), who ALSO all knew how to dance – like, rock and roll/traditional partner type dancing (I am having a mental blank here to what it’s called), and it was just all too much to take in. I really felt like this was a whole class of person that just doesn’t exist any more! Needless to say, I had a ball (ha), and definitely plan to go again next year. Here’s the promo video to give you a general idea of what it was like:
La grande crémaversaire
The real event of the year though came the following weekend, with our flatwarming (‘crémaillère’) meeting a three-way birthday (‘anniversire’) bash for Gus (29 Sept), myself (10 Oct) and Mathilde (14 Oct). Everything went perfectly! It was great for my different mini-groups of friends to meet each other, and my flatmates, and it was especially cool to have the work gang there on our first social outing. The boardgames were cordoned off, but the liquor cabinet was out in full force, augmented by some lovely gummy vodka/rum concoctions lovingly brewed by Gus and Mathilde. There was some segregation, with most of the French peeps hanging out in the ‘fumoir’ and most of the foreigners (aka my friends) in the lounge/dancefloor, but I do think everyone had a great time. I don’t think they would have stayed till 6am if they didn’t…
My actual birthday was the following Monday, and I really had nothing on the agenda having focused all my energy on the big bash. I had a pretty chill day at work, with choir and salsa, and then met up with my friend Kate who wasn’t able to come on the weekend, for drinks and nibbles at a really cute little wine bar. I had realised the week before that I have become so used to speaking English to non-native speakers and making a special effort to speak clearly (and minimise my Kiwi-isms) that this had essentially become my default way of speaking, which I hate! Even after I had this realisation and even when talking for example to David, my American colleague, I still found myself speaking by default in this laboured way – which is a) not me, and b) not normal, and leading me to the brink of some kind of identity crisis! Finally though, after several hours catching up with Kate en anglais I at last loosened up and was babbling away incoherently once again. I’m sort of in limbo at the moment as I’ve been away from work so either speaking French, or English with other native speakers, but I’m sure the whole vicious cycle is going to start up again – watch this space…
For the past ten days I have been on midterm break from school/work, and I had nothing on the agenda except for catching up on sleep and more work. That all changed barely a week beforehand, when my friend Jen told me she was going to be in Paris and catching up with some others we had worked with in Switzerland. It was last minute, but perfect timing, so I was on board! As we all know, I love to plan, so it was not the most relaxing week not knowing where we were going to be sleeping until 4am the day of. However, as expected, it was all worth it, as it was wonderful to catch up with good friends I hadn’t seen in a few months!
I really was going to see my friends, and honestly had nothing on the agenda apart from hanging out with them. Nonetheless, I still did manage to check a few things off my long term Paris to-do list – finally making it inside Du Pain et des Idées for a pastry, visiting the catacombes, and the Parc des Buttes Charmont. Aside from that I played tour guide for Jen, who hadn’t been to Paris before, taking her and her friend Taz to the Eiffel Tower, Arc de Triomphe, through the golden mile down to the Louvre, to the Galeries Lafayette roof for a cheeky vista, and later the Jardins de Luxembourg and the Latin Quarter. Aside from a downpour on Sunday afternoon it was beautiful weather and I was just happy to be wandering around with friends.
We met up with our Parisian friends Raf and Charlène on the Saturday night; in the end we just had a few drinks at our hostel but this was perfect just to catch up on everything (and of course, play some foosball now the crew was reunited. Predictably, I was even worse). Unfortunately Maxime, the fourth original member who was coming all the way from Valence to meet up with us, was rather AWOL during the evening and only turned up later, so we didn’t get all four of us all together at once. Nonetheless, it was a great evening and so nice just to hang out like old times! After a slow start the next day we met up with Raf again who gave us a guided tour of Montmartre. I felt like I was the most interested member of the party (despite being the most informed one already), but once again I was just genuinely stoked to be there. It definitely felt like the weekend was far too short and I was just getting used to being with everyone again when we had to leave. However, I am applying the pressure for Charlène and Raf to come and visit me in Lyon, so fingers crossed this has results to report in the not too distant future…
All was not lost though, as Jen came back with me to Lyon to visit properly (having stayed a night while passing through back in September). We had planned our bus to coincide with another friend from camp, Ania, who was heading back to Switzerland from the UK. She had also passed through on the same route back in August and we had a lovely catchup between 6-8am inside the train station. This time it was looking more promising as she had five hours to spend in the city, and I was hoping to actually show her something. How naive I was…our bus left Paris half an hour late, yet arrived two hours late to Lyon, so we basically spent the entire day on the bus. Conveniently, while waiting to leave we met another Kiwi called Sarah who is studying in Lyon. We hit it off right away and it worked out perfectly as it meant we all had a bus buddy (and extra snacks). By the time we made it to Lyon though we really just had time to come back to my place for some food before Ania had to leave again. She’s not too far away though, and I remain optimistic that one day she will actually get to see something!
The rest of the week with Jen was a mix of blobbing around, recovering from endless travelling (her) and attempting to do some work (me), and getting out and about to see the sights, which involved a loooot of walking. Luckily we had a huge brunch with my workmates (with real pancakes and bacon!) to fortify us for the latter. Jen seemed to like the place, and I was happy to have my first visitor to properly play hostess to for the year. Also, she’s a Kiwi, so I talked normally for the whole week. It’s the little things in life!
Dotted throughout all this has of course been regular catchups with new and old friends returning to Lyon; more than one food festival, casual outings to magnetic druid forests and the like… just keeping on keeping on with everyday life really. With that, I am all caught up! Now I just need to extend the same TLC to my poor old travel diary…and my class prep…just minor invonveniences really. As always, no promises when the next blog will come around, but it will!
A la prochaine fois,