Katie' Pau Life En France

Ma vie En France

Biarritz February 8, 2010

Filed under: Travels in France — katiespaulife @ 8:17 pm
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My plane trip for last weekend was cancelled again! I was bummed, but decided that I couldn’t repeat the previous weekend. I had to stop wasting time in Pau and get out of the town. So, I woke up Saturday morning at 5:30 and arrived downtown at about 7:45 am. There were a surprising amount of people out and about. Some of the cafes and bakeries were already open, the sun had just risen, but was blocked by clouds and it was lightly raining. Walking along the stone streets with smell of a new rain and fresh baking pastries put me in a great mood for the new day. Mornings are so underappreciated.

The “centre ville” of Pau sits on a hill above the train station and you have to walk down a really steep hill or ride a tram down to the station. I chose the tram this time and caught it just as it was descending, crossed the street to the station and took a 2hr train to Biarritz.

My trip was very last minute and the night before I had been too lazy to plan it out. I googled Biarritz and knew of a couple tourist sites there, but I didn’t look up directions or the open hours. All of the towns I’ve been to thus far have had the train station downtown, so I figured I would just walk around until I found something interesting. I realized I was taking my chances with that plan and that was one reason I didn’t invite anyone along. My friend Kim was offended today when she found out I went somewhere without her, but honestly I sometimes prefer travelling alone. My main reason is kind of selfish; I just like to be alone with my thoughts and go where I want to go without having to make conversation or worry if my travelling companion is content. Plus, planning out a trip is exhausting and I didn’t want to be responsible for us getting lost, which is exactly what happened.

I got off the train and saw a sign reading “Musee du Chocolat –>”. There were some other signs, but I disregarded the rest and started walking in the direction of the chocolate. I followed these stupid signs into the suburbs for about 1/2 an hour. It was raining really hard and the wind blew my umbrella inside out about a dozen times (Why do always go to the coast during the storms?). Then the signs stopped as I came to a fork in the road. I got lost for another half an hour, backtracking and searching for more signs. I wanted to ask someone for help, but the only person I saw passed by me as I was cursing in English at a bus stop sign. He gave me plenty of distance as he passed and I didn’t feel like proving my insanity by chasing after him for directions. I had missed a bus by 10 min and another one didn’t come for 2 hours. At this point I gave up on the museum and walked to the beach. The storm had just passed and the beach was deserted. I spent a good half an hour enjoying the massive waves and a huge waterfront all to myself. At one point I climbed on some boulders to empty out my boots. I discovered that day that my pleather boots are not waterproof, on the contrary they retain water very well. Actually, I didn’t have anything waterproof so I’m thankful I brought my umbrella with me!

 

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On my way back I noticed a sign that gave the directions to downtown. It was a long walk and on my way I found a city map as well as the chocolate museum!! Unfortunately, I discovered it had just closed for lunch and didn’t open until 2. My train was leaving at 2:30 =(

At this point I was running out of time and needed to figure out the buses to get back. I waited at a stop and asked the driver if he went to the train station. He didn’t, but was kind enough to give me a free ride to an intersection with a stop for the proper bus. It was one o’clock now and I figured I could spare half an hour to get food. I went into a bar and had one of the best salads of my life: smoked salmon, mussels and shrimp in an oil dressing with parmesan, bell peppers, heaps of lettuce and tomatoes …mmm….I could take a train back there just for another salad.

 

After Biarritz I went to a small village called Salles Adour to spend the night at Ravid’s place. I need to go do homework now, so I will write about Salles Adour another time.

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Raclette Party and Swing Concert January 17, 2010

Filed under: Pau — katiespaulife @ 4:12 pm
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Yesterday was a day of full immersion (aside from the internet). I stayed at home for most of the day studying for school. Eventually I went to explore my neighborhood and found a shopping center nearby. With the soldes drawing to a close I was lucky to find a ski coat for 30 euros. I plan on going skiing this Spring, because it’s only 25 euros for transportation, rental equipment and a lift ticket. Only problem is I packed no clothes for mountain weather.

As I left the mall it began to rain and I was without an umbrella, but I’m glad I forgot it, because the temperature was not too cold and the rain made my walk through a park very peaceful. The world was silent aside from the pitter-pattering sound as the rain hit the creek next to the path. I discovered that the paths in the park continue out to the roads and on. I plan on getting a used bike in the next couple weeks so I can explore them more and bike around the parts of Pau I don’t reach by bus.

When I got home I had to hurry to dry my hair and fix my makeup before my host mom took me out to a Raclette party. On the way we stopped at a bakery to pick up a Courrane des Rois and a Gateau Basque. The courrane des rois I may have previously described, but I cannot remember so I’ll explain what they are once more:

A “Courrane Des Rois” is a sweetbread/cake shaped in a ring form that comes with a paper crown when you buy it. The name literally means “crown of kings” because it has historical significance in the Catholic Church of the three kings at the birth of Jesus. At dinner the crown is cut and the youngest person present decides who gets which piece of it. In one piece there is a porcelain ornament called the “feve” and whoever gets is has to wear the crown for the rest of the night. They also are supposed to keep the feve with them for the rest of the year as a good luck charm.

The Gateau Basque is just a cake created here in the basque country of France or Spain. I took a picture of one I saw in a bakery downtown:
Gateau Basque

My host mom picked it out so I could try it =)

It actually isn’t as good as it looks. Filled with almond paste and nothing else. The outside isn’t that sweet either, but I’m sure it is packed with calories!

After stopping at the bakery we picked up two of her friends to give them a ride to dinner. A couple named Pierre and Veronique. Pierre teased me for a good portion of the night and Veronique was very nice and a typical French woman: beautiful and remarkably thin for how much wine she drank.

When we arrived at the house I spoke to the host about his visit to Seattle a couple years ago. He visited the Boeing plant in Renton!! He asked Pierre if he spoke English and he answered, “yes of course”. Anyone who speaks English naturally wants to practice it when they meet an American and the two men were about to start conversing in only English when my host mom interrupted and said they must only speak French around me. Thank you Patricia!

Our Raclette Dinner looked like this:

Pierre selecting his raclette cheeses

The way it worked was we tooked baked potatoes adn grilled them while we melted out cheeses in the little blackl shovel things sticking out from below. Once the cheese partially melt we cut up the potatoes and meats and stuck them in with the cheese to heat up for a minute….so yummy. Best meal I have had here hands down.

The Raclette cheeses originally originated in Switzerland, but parts of France make them too. They are certain cheeses that I’m guessing you cannot get in the US. Mmmmm….delicious.

After dinner my host-mom dropped me off at a swing event in the town of Monaie. I was hoping for dancing, but it only a concert. I was by myself and probably the only foreigner in the room aside from the guitarist for the band. The muscians were all wonderful and I was quite tipsy from the wine at dinner so it is probably better I didn’t get to dance (Pierre kept refilling my glass, not thinking anything of it since it obviously didn’t affect him or Veronique who drank far more than I did).

At the concert I took a video of one that I will try to post it in another blog. This one is very long and my second one of the day too, sorry about that!

~ Oh yeah and forgot to write the host (named Patrick) gave me a hand rolled cigarette….which I had difficulties smoking haha. Sorry parentals, but when in France!

 

School January 12, 2010

Filed under: Pau — katiespaulife @ 6:00 pm
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So I think I wrote that I tested into a higher level than I thought I would, but here is how the system here works. The levels are as follows from easiest to hardest:

Debutant
Elementaire 1
Elementaire 2
Elementaire 3
Elementaire 3b
Elementaire 4
Intermediatiare A
Intermediataire Ab
Intermediataire B
Advance 1
Advance 2

They announced at the beginning we shouldn’t panic if we are placed in elementary french and were above that at home because elementary here doesn’t have the same meaning as in the states. I think they just say that because ppl don’t realize how elementry their French actually is.

In addition to our language classes we also have a choice of electives. One of the electives is a business course taught in French, a film class in French and others are English. I didn’t pre-register for business French at home because it said you must be at a minimum 300 level for French and I took 202 last semester. I was even more upset on my first day because they announced a French tourism class being taught with business French as a pre-req. It would’ve been so perfect for my major!

Much to my surprise I actually made Elementaire 4 and will qualify for the business French class!!! I’m so excited! It is a business class taught in French about conducting business in France =)

By the end of my stay here I should ideally be at Intemediataire B, which isn’t fluent, but hopefully I will be able to hold adequate conversations on topics aside from the weather, time, ect…

I’ve had 3 days of classes so far. Each days is a total of 4 hours of French lessons and I’m enjoying it a lot. I am definitely one of the weaker (if not the weakest) students in the class, but I understand everything the teacher says and feel I am in a good place to learn. About half my class are Americans with USAC and half are other foreign students. We have a girl from Austalia, a girl from Sweden, a boy from England, a boy from Algeria, a girl from Israel (who was in the millitary), a Japonese girl, a girl from Thailand and a girl from South Africa. Maybe more….I can’t remember off the top of my head. A lot of them have lived all over the world and I’m looking forward to talking with them outside of class.

Outside of class I feel like I hang out with the Americans far too much, but it is hard to talk to French people. Most of them are so cold. Kim and I did meet a student studying English last week who spoke with us and I’ve met a lot of other foreign students. Yesterday I spoke to a chinese student in French. She doesn’t speak English and it was a very strange feeling to converse with someone knowing that I couldn’t fall back on my native tongue if I lost my place. Her accent was very strong, but I understood most of what she said to me. I also met a girl at the bus stop last week who goes to high school here. I saw her on the bus today with a friend and started talking to them. My french is so horrible her poor friend could barely understand me. She said she spoke a little Spanish and could understand poor spanish accents fine, but was hopeless with English accents. As we were talking a few mormon missionaries got on the bus. Upon hearing us talk one asked me, “D’ou viens-tu?” I told him I was from the USA and he asked which state, so I said Washington, near Seattle. He then called his friend over who is from Bonny-Lake and goes to UW. What are the chances?! He’s been in Bayonne for over a year now and wasn’t pleased at all when he found out where I go to school. Sadly our conversation was cut off there by my bus stop, but I walked home blasting my 80’s music on my Ipod and feeling much more at home here in Pau.

*Note – I’m really lazy about spell checking so please forgive my grammar and the spelling mistakes which have been steadily growing as I mix up French and English words (for example, I almost wrote Algerie instead of Algeria)