Monday, October 27, 2008

Geneva day trip

One of the benefits of living in Chambéry, or rather pays de Savoie, has to be its proximity to the neighbouring countries. Today, I decided to take a little hop across to Switzerland!

I had checked the weather online before I left ... not that great, but the best compared to the rest of the week! So with that in mind, I jumped on the 12:09 p.m. train to Geneva. The ride itself was really lovely, especially passing along the lake (Lac du Bourget). I arrived in Geneva about 1:30 p.m.. It.was.cold.and.rainy! (just my luck lol). Anyway, that wasn't going to stop my sheer determination to see the city a bit! I had a map of Geneva (from when I was there in transit to France last month) and decided that I should just see as many sites of interest as possible.

First I made my way to the lake (Lac Léman in French, or Lake Geneva in English), where the famous Jet d'eau (Water Jet) stood out from a distance. It wasn't as amazing as I expected though ... maybe because of the gloomy weather? Then I spotted another attraction: l'Horloge Fleurie (Flower Clock).

Here's what the Geneva Tourism site has to say about it:

"A symbol of the Geneva watch industry of world renown, the famous flower clock, located at the edge of the Jardin Anglais (English Garden) since 1955, is a masterpiece of technology and floral art. Formerly only decorative with its sole dial comprising over 6,500 flowers, the new millennium provided it with decisive artistic dimensions thanks to the ingenuity of the gardeners of the Service of Green Spaces and the Environment. It is now composed of eight concentric circles, the colours of which vary with the seasons and the plants which make up the display.
Did you know that the seconds hand of Geneva's Flower Clock is the largest in the world (it is more than 2.5 meters long)!"

Well the weather wasn't cooperating, and it's not much fun being a tourist in the rain (although it's a good thing I carried my umbrella!). Then I spotted the petit train! I really enjoy those tourist trains! The ride cost 8 Swiss Francs per adult and took visitors along Lake Geneva's leftbank (e.g. views of international organizations like the United Nations and the World Trade Organization from the lake, the Flower Clock, Water Jet, some statues, buildings, flowers, etc).

After that, I took a little walk along some of Geneva's streets, even stopped by the Tourism Office. There are a lot of designer stores, however, I did find a store that screamed Switzerland: there were lots of watches, clocks, swiss army knives, etc!

After that, I ate at Swissmeal (lol, I was looking for "authentic" Swiss food, but gave up the search and just opted for fast food with Swiss in the name ... lol, rip-off yes (in terms of cost), but it tasted fine). Next stop was at H&M, then the Metro Shopping centre, where I bought which is perhaps my favourite pastry, a pain aux raisins - simple yet delicious!

It was around 4:15pm when I felt as though I had enough of Geneva/rain for one day; A quick run through the douanes françaises (Customs, in the train station ... ok fine, I had to stand up for like 1 minute lol) and then I got the 4:20pm? train back to Chambéry (which arrived a little before 6pm).

Yesterday my flatmate asked me if I didn't go out for the weekend. Technically I did ... I went for a baguette just across the road on Sunday lol. I guess I made up for my lazy weekend today! More travels ahead!!!!! In fact... Marseille tomorrow!!! I can't wait!! Maybe I've been watching too much Plus Belle la Vie (which is set in Marseille), maybe I just need some sunshine and warmth, or maybe both lol!!

Oh on a side note, clocks went back an hour Sunday morning ... not only was the extra sleep great! but now I'm only five hours ahead of Trini time, yay!

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Enfin... les vacances (de Toussaint)!!

I'm officially on vacation!!!!
Classes at the university start back in one week, and teaching at the collèges resumes in a week and a half. To celebrate, I had a very lazy day today! Besides sleeping till midday, I also spent time editing the layout of the blog (isn't it pretty now?!), and taking a little browse around Facebook lol. Needless to say, I'm trying not to be too nerdy, but that's going to be inevitable since I have three projects due for school!!!
Anyway, back to happier thoughts... les vacances, les vacances ... *huge grin*

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Grenoble Adventure

This morning (Wed 22 Oct 2008, well yesterday, France time), I went to the Préfecture and submitted my documents, yay! I guess I should mention that the staff was nice lol. Anyway, the Grenoble adventure started this afternoon!

Three British assistants (two girls and a guy from England), an American guy (some assistants from the Annecy trip) and I left Chambéry on the 12:49pm train to Grenoble. The weather wasn't nice today; it rained and there was a lot of breeze! Yes, I was freezing! We walked around a bit in Grenoble, took the tram to the shopping centre, and met up with a British language assistant who teaches in Grenoble. Since Chambéry does not have a FNAC store, I made it my duty to visit a branch in Grenoble. I considered buying a printer, but eventually didn't bother. Guess I'll wait till I receive my pay cheque (wooo hooo!! I can't wait!), or maybe I'll order it online to avoid having to tote it home on the train.

After the shopping centre, it was unfortunately still raining and cold! Nevertheless, one of the British girls had a France book with places to visit in Grenoble, so we headed for a chocolat place. However, it wasn't opened as yet when we arrived. So we went to a café next door, where we spent about an hour drinking hot chocolate and chatting. That was relaxing and it surely was welcoming being in a nice warm place. The chocolate place opened at 6pm, so we went there then. But lo and behold lol, it was no longer a chocolate place like stated in the book. The lady there told us that last year they changed the menu: cocktails, etc. no hot chocolate, sigh! Anyway, she was nice enough to suggest a place for us to visit: Le Hasard, a bar nearby which serves hot chocolate, etc. Le Hasard is a unique kinda bar; I guess you can describe it as a political bar: lots of pictures on the wall, e.g. Che Guevara. The hot chocolate there was really delicious. Another place of interest in the France book was La Fondue, a fondue restaurant in Grenoble. Well that too was closeby, but since it opened at 7pm, we stayed in Le Hasard till then.

Fondue! I had fondue aux fines herbes. Yum yum! At first I was unsure about fondue since I never had it before... but I'm so glad I did! Small bits of bread to dip into a hot pot of melted cheese and herbs... oooh, good stuff!! The fondue had to be shared between two persons. Since there were 6 of us, there were 3 different types of fondue. We also played a nice game of Truth or Dare! lol. Basically, if your bread fell into the fondue pot you had to choose either truth or dare. The very first time I dipped a chunk of bread into the fondue it fell! Luckily, since it was my first fondue experience they let me off the Truth or Dare lol. One guy was particularly unlucky lol, and had to answer a string of Truth questions. Good entertainment for us at the table! There was one question that we all had to answer though... lol, "choosing from the six of us, who would you marry, kiss, shag, touch inappropriately, or kill? And why?". Haha, interesting answers which made the evening light and fun. So our evening at La Fondue included fondue, fun conversation, red wine, water, chocolate fondue with fruits for dessert, and a small weird drink the waitress gave us each at the end (tasted fine on the first sip, but then it was like perfume/medicine/lol, not too tasty/time to just gulp it down! lol). Oh, La Fondue also had a very interesting toilet, with a ladybird design on the seat lol.

We left La Fondue at about 9:35pm. Then we said goodbye to the assistant from Grenoble, and then the rest of us took a tram to the train station in hopes of catching the last train back to Chambéry at 10pm (yes, that was cutting it close, especially since the British guy and I both hadn't bought our tickets as yet). We reached to the station about 9:47pm, ran to buy our tickets from the machines, and got through with that on time. We had to wait a while for the platform for the train to Chambéry to be announced, but soon enough it was and we made our way to voie B. Waiting patiently on platform B, in the cold lol, there was suddenly a message on the PA system: because of la présence des animaux sur la voie the train had been delayed indefinitely! Huh? Animals on the tracks? What kind of animals? What were they doing there?! Lol! The French word for "delay" is retard, and it was kinda funny that the screens in the station kept flashing "retard" next to the Chambéry train (ok joke in English lol). We eventually had to go to the hall in the train station to wait for more announcements about the train. That was the last train departing the Grenoble train station that night, so there weren't too many people at the station. Some trains that were arriving were also delayed because of the animals lol. I'm not sure what happened with people on the train, who couldn't arrive because of the animals. Apparently the train was 10km away. Well, we eventually didn't take the train, never saw it actually! The SNCF people arranged for those of us going to Chambéry to get taxis home, yay! Ok, well rather taxis to the train station in Chambéry. At about 11:25pm, the five of us Chambéry assistants got into a big taxi along with a French girl (who described the "animals/waiting in the station" situation as la méga-galère, and the "taxis" as la classe! lol) and someone else who I didn't quite see who was in the passenger seat.

We arrived at Chambéry at about 12:05am (Thurs 23 Oct 2008). Fortunately, the five of us assistants dropped out close to les Eléphants, so in less than 5 minutes I was back in my apartment!! Overall, it was a great day, in spite of the weather, and I enjoyed myself! Must get more fondue!! lol

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Un mois en France!

Today makes exactly one month since I've arrived in France!
An interesting month indeed! Far away from family and friends (not too far thanks to technology), but I'm doing just fine, thank God! What did I do to celebrate the anniversary lol? Well, what about a nice long walk around the town! It was so nice and sunny that I just couldn't resist! I'm looking forward to the upcoming months; hopefully they'll have good things in store :-)

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Wow!!! What a pleasant surprise!!!!

Today was the Retour des Alpages in Annecy. (see programme here). I went with some language assistants (British, American, Italian, and Spanish). It was a really nice day, sunny, and lots of things too see: animals, people wear traditional clothing, folk music, etc. But that wasn't the pleasant surprise lol. Here goes...

At lunch time, the Spanish guy, Italian girl and I left the other assistants to find something to eat. The three of us were walking along Rue Grenette when all of a sudden I hear (girl's voice) "ALICIA ...!!", in fact my first name and last name!!! Turned around and there is another fellow Trinidadian, and more than that, we both went to the same high school!!!!!!! I mean, whoa!!!!! In France?? In Annecy?? I live in Chambéry, she is currently on a semester abroad in Versailles, and somehow we ran into each other!! I knew she was in France (thanks Facebook) but had no idea she would be on this side, and I don't think she knew I was in France. I haven't seen her in about 2-3 years, and though we weren't in the same year at school it was just sooo nice seeing her!!

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Good teaching day, yay!

Today I had a class of 3ème (form 4, ie. 14-15yrs old) students... and it was good!!! They paid attention, answered questions, and quietly looked at a video clip on Trinidad & Tobago (Caribbean Young Explorers DVD). When the bell rang in the middle of the video, a student even said "Oh j'étais captivée". Lol, guess she liked it, yay!

Alright, well I have had good teaching experiences so far (for the most part), though I took it a bit personally when a class (3ème) I had earlier this week at the same school had some students who just weren't interested. On Tuesday night I went to the cinema with two British assistants to see Entre les murs, a French film about a difficult high school in Paris. The film won the Palme d'Or (Golden Palm) at the 2008 Cannes Film Festival. I wasn't too keen on seeing it (esp. after teaching that day), but the movie was really good!! Here's the trailer on youtube:

I felt better after the movie, but I couldn't help feeling slightly hesitant about teaching today. I'm so glad things turned out well! Hope this trend continues :-)

Guess there aren't any English speakers around...

This sign/acronym just seems so wrong...
It's for the Fédération Autonome Générale de l'Industrie Hôtelière Touristique.
Uhh what?? lol...

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Championne Olympique de Surf... euhhh Snowboard!

Isabelle Blanc ( spoke to the students at the university today, as part of the Semaine de l'Entreprise week. Very very cool and positive! That was my favourite presentation so far. Her presentation was on how to balance your life and be successful, "Comment conjuguer réussite et équilibre".

As for the title of this post, well the printed programme had surf instead of snowboard. Apparently it's a regional thing here to say surf. Just confuse the foreigners! lol

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Almost 3 weeks in France!

Yup, tomorrow will make trois semaines since I've been in France! And what a time it has been so far!

Week 1

After a nine hour flight, a day in London, short flight to Geneva, I finally arrived in Chambéry by train on the 15th September. My first week was spent by a very nice English teacher and her family in the countryside.

To summarize the week (instead of writing a novel lol), I visited one of the schools where I'll be teaching, went jogging around a track with my host teacher and another English teacher from the school, had an interview at the Université de Savoie, got the cold, drank half a bottle of Buckley's Cough & Cold, felt cold, injured my big toe and ankle, bought my first pair of boots (though with the injury I couldn't walk too well in them), bought a French sim card, and spent lots of time walking around Chambéry centre.

Week 2

On Sunday, I moved into an apartment!! I found the place through an agency, and I'm in fact sharing with a French lady who is also the owner. The apartment in located in Chambéry centre (yay!!), and I have Internet access, TV, a full or queen size bed (I'm not sure), a proper kitchen to cook in, etc.

On Monday I had to go to another interview (this time in Spanish) at the University. Interesting... since I haven't done much Spanish in the past three years. A few hours after the interview I received a lovely email... I got accepted to the university to pursue my masters in International Management!!

There was also language assistant training in Grenoble and Autrans this week from the 24th to the 26th September. I met up with the Spanish assistante who is teaching at my second school. At the stage in Grenoble, we met other language assistants in the Académie de Grenoble, walked around Grenoble with two German assistants, and took photos :-) Buses took us from Grenoble to Autrans (a little mountain town). Needless to say, Autrans was cold!! I dunno how people live there... Anyway, so assistants had to share rooms; there were 6 of us in my room: me, the Spanish assistant, two English assistants, one Scottish assistant, and one American assistant.

We went to a bar nearby on both nights spent in Autrans... the bar was nice and warm, and smoke-free! I appreciate the law against smoking in public places. Language assistant training was boring/unnecessarily long for the most part, the food was fine I guess (though as a vegetarian I had to eat a lil more bread to compensate), and I met the only other Caribbean assistant in the Académie, a guy from Jamaica.

Oh, during this week I also started to feel like my normal self, pre-France.

Week 3

I visited Annecy with my Spanish friend (aka the assistant) on Saturday afternoon. Annecy is really, really pretty, and even though we only spent about 3 hours there, we had a good time visiting the lake (including via Le Petit Train), and walking around the old town.

On Sunday I went to the braderie in Chambéry which is a street market which takes place twice a year.

I started classes at the university on Monday!! That was interesting, and felt good to be productive!!!

On Wednesday (1st October) marked the start of my teaching contract, so I went into my main school. On Thursday, I went to the main school and also to the second school for the first time. There'll be more on teaching later on.

Now, Sunday 5th October (which can be considered the beginning of a new week - 4th), I'm getting ready to visit Lac du Bourget (the largest lake in France) with some students from the university. Time for me to get ready! :-)