Thursday, September 29, 2011

Please Sir, can I have S'More?

Just for fun: Here is what NOT to do when making s'mores if you want to maintain your dignity and your waistline.
You should NOT buy peanut butter.
You should NOT buy marshmallows.
You should NOT buy chocolate covered biscuits.
And then you should most definitely NOT cook bacon in maple syrup.
And don't you DARE put it all together, or else it will be too delicious and you will eat too many.
Don't worry, I did not eat this by myself. And this is NOT happening in the near future. It was a small celebration upon the completion of first presentations in France. Yay!
Today I had 6 hours of class, not bad... they were not terribly interesting, but not as boring as some have been so far. So that's good!
Tomorrow, not much is planned other than a bit of shopping, the activating of bank cards, and a hunt for the American Burger House which is located behind the cathedral. We were told, by Americans, that it is a really good burger place run by Americans... sooo we're going to check it out.
And I'm running tomorrow, in an effort to balance out all of the ridiculous things I ate today and will be eating tomorrow... Hmmmm...

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Street Music, Sunshine, and Slushies

Since I don't have class until later this afternoon, I took advantage of the good weather after lunch and went downtown. I did have some purpose in going: I needed to get cash out of the bank and activate my French bank card. Of course, I forgot my PIN so I couldn't actually activate my account... oh well.

I'm not sure what the weather is up to at home, but here it is absolutely gorgeous and is supposed to stay this way for most of the next few days and the weekend. It is about 25 degrees and sunny, and I am loving it. It may be summer's last hoorah, but that's fine with me. I remember that last summer we had a very hot and humid season, which switched instantly to cooler weather in September and never re-emerged until mid-June. So I am really appreciating the warmth.

I absolutely love strolling around the city. One of my favourite parts of cities are the street musicians. On any given corner, you might find someone playing the violin or accordion, looking for a bit of spare change from people passing by. I don't know what it is, but I just always want to stop and listen to the musicians. There is something about music which I believe brings people together. It's like there is a moment where two people, from two completely different walks of life, are able to share in something that we humans have been creating for centuries. On Sunday, we passed by a woman playing the accordion and I was struck by how content she looked. I mean, she probably did not have very many assets, but she was absolutely loving her music. It just shows you how the simple things in life can truly bring you happiness, and when we stop and look around us, we can find contentment! Not in the busyness, but in the spaces between... like Debussy (I think it was him) said: "music is also the space between the notes."

Last night on "Being Erica", Erica mused about how cool it is when you find yourself lost in a crowd of people, but how you can still feel united with the crowd. That is what I felt today, walking down the streets of France, basking in the sunshine and drinking a Slushy (don`t usually buy them, but it was hot!). I felt like just another person in the city, but at the same time I was enjoying the sunshine just as much as everyone else. Simple things, like sunshine and music, can really make you feel good. They also remind me of who created us, and how we are made to fit together, even when we`re strangers.

So I hope that wherever you are, the weather is wonderful as well :)

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

The Grass is Greener...

... on the other side of a presentation!
After spending the better part of yesterday working on my project, I finally presented today and got it over with. Whew! It actually went not too badly, either. I felt extremely relieved.
Last night was the first time that I have ever stayed up past 11pm working on a project. I'm usually organized and efficient and good at time managing... not so much in the last couple of days. At least I now know what it is truly like to be a university student! Haha... I think I'll stick to my old ways.
Because of said presentation, I haven't really done too much recently. However, as of about 2 hours ago, a few other girls and I are going to La Rochelle this weekend! It is a coastal town about 2 hours south of Nantes, and is apparently very beautiful. One of my friends was told by her host family that it was worth seeing, so we're going to check it out! We have our train booked for Saturday morning, coming back Sunday evening. It should be a lot of fun! Pictures will definitely be coming :)
I also treated myself tonight by watching the season premier of "Being Erica" online. Being Erica is a show on CBC, completely produced by Canadians, acted by Canadians, and even takes place in Toronto. Now before I sound like too much of a nationalist (although I do kinda love Canada... a lot), I just have to say that this show is actually amazing. Literally every episode teaches you something or makes you think. It has everything: drama, compelling characters, humour, love, tension, etc etc. It is truly the best show I have ever watched on television. Granted, I'm not a huge TV buff, but I know a good story when I see/hear one. If you have never watched Erica, I believe CBC has all the shows archived. I would highly recommend checking it out!
And my night ended off quite well with the devouring of éclairs! They were tasty.
Well, I might actually get to bed early tonight (what is this?) and I will be running tomorrow morning. So take care!

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Good Breakfast = Good Day

This morning, I had peanut butter pancakes for breakfast... and they were delicious!! Granted, there was no baking powder in them so they weren't super fluffy, but they tasted soooo good. I ate a lot.
Here is me about to flip my first pancake... EVER! I never make them at home, my dad always does... so it was quite the experience. I don't think I did too bad, either!
They turned out quite well. And the Maple Syrup was delicious.
Afterwards, I spent a bit of time working on my presentation (for Tuesday... eek...) before heading downtown with some friends. We went to the Museé des Beaux Arts, because it will be closing for renovations and so was having a free admission day. I was really glad that I went too! The artwork was amazing, and much better than I expected. I definitely preferred the natural prints, but there were a few nice portraits as well. It was  just a lot of fun to walk around and check everything out. Plus, we saw a Picasso!
Afterwards, we strolled around the carnival a bit, just because it was there... and because there was tasty and delicious food to be had!
We then went into the huge cathedral and walked around in it. It always amazes me how people built these massive cathedrals centuries ago, without any of the modern tools and machines that we have today. Last Spring, my family and I watched the "Pillars of the Earth" mini-series. If you want to check it out, I highly recommend it (though watch out-- it has the rating it has for a reason). It was about a man who was an architect, and all of the politics behind building cathedrals back in the Middle Ages. Plus, the sheer fact that the roofs don't cave in is incredible, as they are made of stone. So every time I see one, I find myself amazed at what people were willing to do in the name of God. Some might think that it is silly to try and get closer to God by building huge churches or monuments... I mean, that isn't what it is about at all, but I still think that the thought behind it is nice. You can't help but look up when you're in a cathedral, even if it hurts your neck. And once the organ starts to play, it is just wonderful. So needless to say, I really enjoyed walking around the church.
the front of the cathedral
view from the back
After all the fun, some work was to be had, so I spent a few hours working on my project. A head's up: there might not be a blog tomorrow because my plans consist of being cooped up in my room writing my presentation. Which is on Tuesday. I'm trying to forget about it, but it is unfortunately very soon. So I have to get some work done.
But hopefully the rest of the week will be more exciting! Wherever you are now, I hope that you had a great Sunday and I wish you a wonderful week :) Enjoy the Fall colours!

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Mac and C.H.E.E.S.E

Ten points to YOU if you figure out where I stole this title from!
This evening, for dinner, a friend and I decided to make some tasty mac and cheese... sometimes it is nice to have some comfort food that reminds you of home, plus it was my first time cooking in the kitchen here, so kind of exciting.
I got the recipe from my good friend Bubba "Rebecca" Sage who made some camp staff a mac and cheese dish that was sooooo delicious that I just had to try and replicate it. I must say, it wasn't quite the same, but we also couldn't find regular cheddar cheese so we had to improvise. We chose Gruyere and Swiss cheese that came pre-shredded. We also didn't have any measuring equipment. Let's be real, we're in university. It makes no sense to buy anything but the absolute necessities for this year, since we'll have to leave mostly everything here when we leave in April.
It began as this...
And it eventually transitioned into this...
Note the huge blob of cheese in the middle. It was tasty.
We were pretty pleased with ourselves. To continue our cooking adventures, we will be attempting peanut butter pancakes in the morning, and hopefully spaghetti in the near future. We actually found Maple Syrup in the grocery store, and it is pretty legit. I may have had a spoonful... it was delicious. Now I just need some snow to roll it in!
Tomorrow there isn't really church, because  of a retreat weekend, so I'm going to use the morning to work on my presentation. Hopefully I get enough done that I can treat myself to a visit to one of the museums in town, which is closing for renovations so is giving free admission tomorrow. If I have something to work towards, I will kick it into high gear and get my work done.
I must admit, I usually take a few weeks to transition into school as it is, but it is especially difficult in France, since my workload is different. I do have homework, I'm just used to close to 200 pages of history reading per week plus french homework and essays. So I haven't really gotten into a groove or routine yet, but I know that it will come. Deadlines... help!

Wine Not?

Today, I went with my famille d'acceuille to visit a French winery. We also went with another family and their Canadian student, who is from my group. I have never been to a winery before, so I was pretty excited. And I was not disappointed... it was beautiful! The French countryside is absolutely gorgeous. Everything is still very green and we lucked out and had a warm and sunny day, therefore everything was just picture perfect.
The winery was very small, but really nice. We got to try some wines that hadn't been fermented yet. I definitely preferred one that was going to be a rosé when it was done (which was good, because that was the one that we tried at the end of our tour). I got to see the big vats that they keep the wine in, the machine that squishes the grapes, and learn a bit about wine tasting.
I am definitely a fan of wine, but I don't know proper wine etiquette. Well, I didn't. Now I do! I always wondered what the purpose was of the little taste of wine before the bottle was poured. Over here, you open a bottle of wine and one person puts a bit in their glass, then smells and tastes it before serving it to others. I learned that they do this in case the wine isn't any good, then they can throw it out.
Me trying out the wine.
  Afterwards, we went to Michel's mother's house. She wasn't there, but we walked around the garden... which was gorgeous! There were lots of beautiful flowers, but also vegetables and fruits! We all ate some grapes straight off of the vine, and they also gave me some fresh carrots. I also got pretty excited by a radio that they had in the cellar. It was from WWII, and they would use it to listen secretly to radio broadcasts. Of course, I took a picture of it... I mean, it was amazing!
Kind of a big deal.
We then went into the pantry and the French poured us a random beverage and asked us to guess what it was. I took one sip and was almost knocked off my feet. I learned that it was wine made from cherries, but it was very old and very strong. I couldn't finish it, unfortunately!
We then journeyed back to the other family's house for lunch. I looked at the recipe and saw that we were having some sort of seafood lasagne, which I was quite skeptical about. And of course, when I offered to help out, I got the job of cutting up the raw fish. Tasty.
But, when in France, you just go with the flow and try everything. So I tried the lasagne... and oh my gosh, it was delicious! I even had a second helping. I can't even describe how tasty it was. It was marvelous. We also had bread and wine with our meal, and grapes for dessert.
Overall, I have had a great day so far. I do believe that I need a nap though, before commencing some dinner prep (mac and cheese!).

Friday, September 23, 2011

The Good Life

Not too much has happened this week. It really has been a fairly chilled week. Some of my friends headed out yesterday for the beautiful coastal town of St. Malo, but I chose to stay since I've already seen the town. Plus, this morning I am meeting my famille d'acceuille and going to visit a winery! I'm very much looking forward to that.
Yesterday, after finally handing in my papers for the carte de sejour, I spent some time reading in the library for a presentation on Tuesday. Why I chose to present so early, I'll never know. At least I'll get it over with! Now I just need to research some more and figure out what I'm going to say. Sunday and Monday, meet presentation!
After that, I went on another excursion to the grocery store to find items needed for mac and cheese, which I will be making tonight and peanut butter pancakes, which will be devoured tomorrow. We will be documenting both endeavors, but particularly tomorrow morning, since I've never actually made pancakes before. My dad makes really good pancakes, so I've never had to! Oh yeah, and we found Maple Syrup. All brands were products of Canada, so we'll find out if they taste like real Canadian Maple Syrup!
We also found this frying pan, which is shaped like a bear's head and made me pretty happy...
After the excursion, I spent the next few hours hanging out in a park with some bread, jam, cheese, and wine. It was wonderful to relax, hang out, chat about life, and eat delicious French food (the fresh stuff is super cheap, too!).
I am finding myself starting to relax in the midst of a culture that never really seems in a hurry the way that North American culture is. I've always been incredibly busy, but over here things just seem to go with the flow. And I'm beginning to be able to go with the flow as well!
More later today about the winery and mac and cheese fiesta!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

The Pedestrian-Driver Relationship

If you know me, you know I'm cautious... like, when I started driving, I would wait FOREVER at a stop sign because I thought that cars that were 2 blocks away were too close. When crossing the street, I usually wait until there isn't even a car in sight before I walk.
And then, there's France.
The pedestrian-driver relationship is very different here. If you are walking and you happen upon a crosswalk, all you do is stick your foot out, ensure that any cars coming see you, and start walking. The cars just magically stop. Today, some guy slammed on his brakes just to let people cross. Now, if this were Canada, we'd have more than just horns blaring... we'd have some serious hit-and-run accidents going down. You don't just walk, you wait. The pedestrian only has the right of way sometimes. Here, it seems like it is a pedestrian's paradise. If you know what to do!
Well, I do one of two things. I either bolt across the street at the first sign of a break in traffic, or I wait... and hold up traffic because obviously the cars are going to stop. And they just get confused when I hesitantly sway back and forth on the side of the road, unsure of what to do. Add on to the awkward stares from the drivers the awkward stares from the other pedestrians and I stick out like a pig in a sheep pen. It's like I have a sign pointing at me saying "INTERNATIONAL."
Oh well, I guess I'll get used to it by April. The hard part will be transitioning back into a society where the pedestrian no longer has the right of way!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Carnival!

So after a day in which it seemed like nothing got accomplished (go French admin!), my friends and I decided to take in the local carnival.
Now for me, carnivals are a bit nostalgic. Ever since before I can remember, my family has been returning to my parents' hometowns for their fall fairs. Every year we go to Tiverton and Ripley, Ontario, to see family, friends, and enjoy some small-town fun. Since Trent U is far away from home, I haven't been to a fair in a while. So I was pretty excited for this one!
Ferris Wheel!
The one thing that we all wanted to do was ride on the giant Ferris Wheel. Now, heights are not my favourite and I haven't enjoyed Ferris Wheels since 1998, so I was a little apprehensive. I still wanted to ride it though, just for the experience. Luckily I had 4 other people with me to make sure I didn't pass out. Closing my eyes also helped.
I must admit, though, the view was pretty spectacular.
Afterwards, we wandered around and checked out the games and of course, the food. There was a lot of delicious sounding treats, but I chose a traditional candy apple. Mine had chocolate and nuts on it. For some reason, they call candy apples "pommes d'amour" here... not sure where the name came from. My three girlfriends all got tasty ice cream, and my other friend got a beignet with salted caramel on it. It was pretty much the most amazing thing ever... and I intend to go back for one myself soon!
Yum!
All in all, it was a great way to end the day. Let's hope that I get more accomplished tomorrow...

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

So much school!

Well, now that I have internet again, I can finally write about my last couple of days!
Yesterday, I braved the unknown and went to not one, but two integrated classes at the university! The first was "musique, langage, et société", a philosophy course which was difficult to follow but decently interesting. It was a very strange first class though... because it was the first one, I assumed that we'd get a run-down of the course and introduction. But no, right into the work! I'm not sure if I'll stick with this one, because I have a couple of other choices, but I do like it. So we'll see!
While I was waiting for the class to start, I checked out a schedule posted on a bulletin board, just to see what else was out there. I noticed a course called "musique renforcée", which sounded like a music theory course. So, because I was feeling brave, I decided to check it out in the afternoon. Much more class than I anticipated, but I enjoyed practicing my listening skills.
So. Musique. It was... interesting! I'd like to go back, I just don't know if it will count for anything. It was very different than any music class I've taken before. For one thing, rather than naming the notes "a,b,c, etc" they instead use "do, re, me, etc." So I was quite confused at first. We did some rhythm exercises and listening exercises as well. I didn't realize how long it had been since I did music theory. The last time was for my grade 8 piano exam and grade 2 theory, which I did when I was in grade 11. Somehow that was 4 years ago??? Don't know how that happened! Needless to say, I was confused for parts of the class but I think I have a grasp of what was taught. So hopefully it can count as a class, because music is wonderful and Trent doesn't have it! Plus, the prof randomly plays the piano. Bonus!
After class, I went on a little excursion to the grocery store with my American friend. Now, normally when I grocery shop I make a list and then speedily race through the store, trying to make it in as little time as I possibly can. However, my friend loves to peruse each aisle and all of the various foods that are offered, so I was unable to set a new grocery-shopping world record. Which is actually good, because I had a great time! It was really fun checking out all the different foods that are offered in France, and especially the bakery/pastry section was marvelous (om nom nom!). So I appreciated grocery shopping with someone much more patient than myself.
Since we shopped around dinner time, we decided to be super french and get all of our dinner at the store. We bought: a baguette, some sheep cheese (TASTY), some sort of dried sausage (YUM) and a tarte called "La Nantaise." We also ate some carrots, just to balance it all out. We felt very French, haha.
Dinner, with make-shift table cloth.
All in all, it was a tasty dinner and was followed by a wonderful Bible study. Whoever said Mondays were no good clearly has no idea what they are talking about!

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Discotheque... and Church!

Last night, I had my first experience going to a French Discotheque. A Discotheque is like a dance club, but different than in Canada. There is a real DJ, crazy lights and other effects machines, and ridiculous lines to get in. I really wanted to see what one was like, so a bunch of us decided to go last night, since one of the girls found free tickets online. For this particular discotheque, it is usually 30 euros just to get in (that's about a $40 cover). We were really fortunate to get the tickets!
Now, I am not one who really goes out on the town much, let alone stays up much past midnight. Last night was definitely an adventure!
First off, some of us got separated from some of the other Canadians because they didn't get off at the right tram stop. Luckily, we all had "safety buddies" who we were sticking with, and mine got off with me at the right stop. Whew!
After cutting in line (the hugest line I've seen for a dance club), we managed to get inside around 12:30. So late! It was very different than places in Canada. Like I said earlier, there is actually a real DJ... and this night, it just so happened that the most famous DJ in Europe was the host. So crazy! I was actually really impressed with his work. It was really interesting!
I naturally assumed my role of making sure that everyone was safe and with the group. Luckily I had some help this time, from another friend.
Our little group- some Canadians, an American, some Italians... so international!

A few of us finally decided to leave around 3:45am... like I said, so unlike me! Anyways, we were getting tired so we caught the late bus back to an area near our rez.
Even though I didn't get much sleep, I woke up at 9am, had some coffee and headed off to church! The sermon was really good and easy to follow, so I was quite content. I also knew some of the songs, which is really cool when you know them in English but sing them in French. I find it kind of inspiring to know that music can cross so many cultural barriers.
I am usually very prudent, and tend to not do the crazy things typical of my age group. So it was actually really fun doing something a little bizarre last night! I may have to take a nap this afternoon, but that's okay. When in France!

Saturday, September 17, 2011

"Family" in Nantes!

Today, I finally got to meet my "famille d'acceuille," who I can visit and who can invite me over for dinner or any other event they like. The family that I was placed with has a mom and dad, as well as 3 kids. The oldest one is 20 and studying in Paris, the middle girl is 17 and the youngest girl is 10. After being picked up at the tramway, I joined my family for lunch. We had a very typical french meal: fruit and white wine as an "aperatif" (like an appetizer), pork and some sort of vegetable purée, red wine, bread and cheese, and creme brulee flavoured ice cream (SO GOOD). It was a wonderful meal!
Oh yeah, and we spoke French. The whole time! I loved the practice.
We then sat in their living room and checked out some pictures of a trip of theirs to this huge dune in France that I really want to see! I also found out a very interesting tidbit of information that makes the world feel very small. My family, the Secher family, went to Canada on a vacation in 2008 and saw various parts of Quebec and Ontario. One of the places that they stopped was Kincardine, to swim in Lake Huron. Which is crazy, because my grandparents live there and I live 30 minutes away. What are the chances?
Afterwards, Christine and Michel took me on a walk through an old fishing village. It was like a maze, as the streets were super tiny and all winding through the village. Many of the houses were painted in really bright colours, so it was pretty incredible.
I also got to see their daughter, Julie, play in a high school basketball game. Now, normally in Canada, a girls' basketball game on a Saturday would not be that exciting. Well, think again! Some of the boys from the girls' school were there, and boy did they cheer! I have never heard such loud cheering at a school game before. It was pretty cool. I'm really looking forward to a soccer game now, if this is what the fans will be like! Oh yeah, and Julie's team won.
After sitting and chatting for a little bit longer, I took the tram back to my residence. All in all, it was a very good day and I thoroughly enjoyed meeting the Secher family. They were very kind and welcoming, and patient with my French! They invited me to visit a winery next Saturday morning, so I think that I will take them up on the offer. They also told me that if I ever want to stay over for a weekend, I am more than welcome. I'm looking forward to getting to know them better, and I'm also looking forward to practicing my French with them.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Whatever Floats Your Boat

Today, I became the happiest person in Nantes. Let me tell you why!
I grew up on the beautiful shores of Lake Huron, and because of this, I find that it is difficult to live somewhere that has no body of water. One of the reasons that I love Trent U and Peterborough so much is because of the Otonabee River that flows through both the campus and the city. My summer residence, Ryerson Camp, is on the shores of Lake Erie. I find that when I am living somewhere for too long without water, I feel very enclosed. The water makes me feel like I'm going somewhere, like there is something more than just where I am. I also love how powerful water can be.
So Nantes! This lovely city has a river, the Loire, and also a "fleuve", which is like a smaller river, called l'Erdre. This makes me one very happy girl, as I get to see it every day!
Today, my friends and I ventured out on the town in search of canoes or kayaks, so that we could explore the Erdre. I was pretty excited, as I love being on the water. If find it very relaxing to just enjoy nature and creation!
We followed the boats to a little island, which we found out was actually artificial and rented a few double kayaks. The sun was shining, the swans were out, the water was calm, and I was in a boat. Life really wasn't going to get much better!
Hanging out in the kayaks
Paddling l'Erdre
Yoga poses on the island, in a random Japanese garden!
After the river experience, we did NOT go to the soccer game, as we found out that it was actually an away game. Oops!
Instead, the girls and I went to see "Crazy Stupid Love" at the movie theatre. It was dubbed over, so we got to watch it in French, which was pretty fun. I understood most of it, but there were some parts that got lost in translation. One thing that we found funny was that all of us Canadians laughed at parts that no one else laughed at... must be a cultural thing!
I'm very much looking forward to tomorrow, as I will be meeting my "famille d'acceuille" for the first time. They are like a host family who, if we get along well, might invite me over for dinner or to do random activities with them. I can't wait to meet them!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Happy 50th!

A big shout out to my French university, which is celebrating its 50th Anniversary this year!
For the 50th, there was a big festival-type thing this evening at the Hippodrome. There were several artists and many vendors. They were also selling the grossest beer ever... I don't know how people were paying for it, let alone drinking it!
I didn't arrive until the last act, which was apparently good because they were the best one.
Before that, I took a little trip to Ikea. It was quite enjoyable, especially since my Ikea buddy also likes sitting on every couch to find the most comfortable one. We sat on a lot of couches. We also discovered soft ice cream at the exit for only 0, 50 euros! You paid for the cone, got a token, and then set the cone in this contraption so that it could put the ice cream in. I thought it was pretty cool.
But back to the concert! It wasn't as loud as some Canadian concerts are (thank goodness) and I actually really enjoyed the last band. I can't really describe their music, as it was kind of a mix of many different styles. There was this huge area that was under tents for the vendors and concert, and you had to go through a security station where they patted some people down and searched purses. I guess that's good? Means nothing sketchy is getting through? Many of the vendors were selling food or random goods... there was also some insurance companies for students there. I suppose it's a good place to go, but it seemed oddly out of place. It was a strange event, but I'm glad that I went!
Tomorrow, after finally giving in a buying a coffee maker, we're going to go to a football (soccer) match in the evening! I've never been to a professional soccer game before. And since it's for our city, we have to wear our city colours (green, yellow, and something else I think??)
And for all of you who are wondering where the work comes in... I actually got assigned homework today in philosophy, plus I have to sort out a 5th course. So I promise, I'm actually doing some school!

Reunited

Il était une fois...
Once upon a time, about 3 years ago, I lived in France for 3 months for an exchange program. I spoke French, went to a French high school, discovered a bit of French culture, and ate waaaaay too much French food.
One of my new favourite things to eat was cheese. There are so many more interesting kinds of cheese over here than in Canada. I found one that I absolutely adored, called St. Albray, and that was it. I was in love with cheese!
So I was quite sad when I had to leave my cheese behind, knowing full well that I wouldn't find anything quite like it back home.
Once, I went to Kenzington Market in Toronto and found this amazing cheese, but it was quite gross and I didn't like it at all. It must have lost something in transport.
Well, last night I went to the grocery store and found my favourite cheese once again. It was a wonderful reunion!
Now, I know it seems silly to post about cheese, but I'm telling you... this is no ordinary cheese! It has the most amazing taste and texture. Pretty much the greatest kind of cheese on the face of the planet, in my humble opinion.
So if you're at Kenzington and see this cheese... don't buy it! Wait until you visit France. Buy some, spread it on a baguette, and enjoy the goodness!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

La Brise Marine

Last year in French Lit, my friend Michelle and I presented on the poem by the French poet Malarmé, entitled "La Brise Marine" (Sea Breeze). Today, I got to experience a bit of a sea breeze myself!
I have been thinking all afternoon about how to describe my day. To put it plainly, it was wonderful!
I began my day with a morning run, along with a friend from the United States. We ran at the "Hippodrome", which is this giant stadium/park with a pretty huge track on the inside. The inside track is where they hold horse races, but they also have soccer fields and maybe a baseball diamond. It is a wonderful chunk of green space not too far from my lodging, so it makes me pretty happy.
At 7:30 in the morning, it is pretty chilly! There was even some leftover mist hovering over the field. It was beautiful!
After my run, breakfast, and a shower, I got ready to head out to the beach!
Some of the other girls in my program and I boarded a bus headed for Pornic, or Ste Marie Sur le Mer. Being a person who absolutely adores large expanses of water, I was pretty much in my element. When we arrived, we found that the tide was out, leaving lots of seabed uncovered. One friend was very eager to look for starfish, so we began searching the tide pools for interesting creatures.
 
The uncovered beach
After a long bout of searching, we actually found some starfish! Here is a picture of me with a starfish (my first live one ever!)...
It was pretty exciting!
Just as a quick side note: there was not a drop of rain nor cloud in the sky. Very unusual for this part of France. We kinda lucked out.
Anyways, after our finding of the starfish, we took a break to eat some lunch and catch a bit of sun. Vitamin D was had by all!
We continued to make our way down the beach, pausing for photo shoots with crashing waves and beautiful scenery. We finally came to the swimming area, which was a little inlet where it was all sand, and no rocks. The first, and only time, I have ever swam in the ocean was on a trip to PEI with my family, about 8 years ago. I was pretty pumped to swim in the ocean again.
And I was not disappointed! The waves were HUGE! I have never seen waves so big in my whole life. The Atlantic kinda beats Lake Huron on this one. While everyone else only played in the waves for a bit, I was in the water until everyone started to leave. The waves were just too fun! Some of them were even as tall as I am (not that tall, I suppose, but to me they were!), and I had to jump so that I didn't get dragged out to sea. It was pretty exciting. Here is a photo taken by my wonderful photographer friend, Michelle, of a couple of friends and I playing in the waves:
As you can see, it was tons of fun. I could have stayed in the water all day!
After eating some ice cream and laying on the beach, it was time for us to catch the bus back. Sadly, our beach day had to end but I'm sure that I will be back at some point. You can't keep me away from the water!
The perfect finishing touch to the day was a stroll through the Hipprodrome and other random places with a friend. I love walking, and being in a new place; walks always take you somewhere you haven't seen before. I am looking forward to continuing my exploration of this beautiful city!
All in all, it was a truly fantastic day. How better to spend ones day than with good friends, delicious baguettes, constant sunshine, and an ocean?

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Home, Sweet Home



Happy Tuesday!!
This morning I had my first class here in Nantes. It was history-- so of course I loved it! It was a lot of fun though. I understood mostly everything, which was encouraging. I also answered some questions, and got most wrong... oh well! I tried :)
This afternoon, we have another class from 4-7pm--literature. It should be interesting. We were all supposed to read this book, but not many have. I think someone is pretty far along, but many haven't even started. I have it on my Kobo, but it is quite difficult to slog through. It isn't too bad as far as comprehension goes, but it kind of rambles on. Hopefully we don't have to have it fully read!
Last night, I went to an English Bible study at the Baptist church. It was pretty great! It was led by an American missionary who was very welcoming and a great speaker. Apparently there is a Thursday night meal and service, in French, for young adults, so I'd like to start going to that as well.
I thought that I should take some photos of my residence room, so here we go! It is extremely tiny. But cute.
Here is my room when you first enter!
My little fridge and food area. Note the peanut butter.
Teeny tiny bathroom! We call them "airplane bathrooms"
My bed, some photos, and a decal from Ikea.

As you can see, it's quite cozy. But I really like it!
Well, I should probably go read some of that book now. Peace!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Sunday!

Here in France, pretty much everything is closed on Sundays except for the church. It's really quite nice!
 A little background before I start my post for today: at the camp I work at in the summer, we always share where we're going and what we need prayer for at the end off the summer. For me, I requested prayer to find a community of Christians that I could be with here in France, since I know that it is difficult to find. Well, difficult I suppose unless you pray for it!
This morning, I decided to try out the Protestant Baptist Church down the street. When I walked in with a couple other girls, we saw some people our age and went to introduce ourselves. Turns out, they're American! Most were here with a school program through their university in Pennsylvania. One is in my rez building and one is also here with a missions group. We were invited to to the American house for lunch, which was burgers, carrotts, and potato salad. Pretty good! The Americans put fried eggs on their burgers... it was very strange!
They were all really nice, and it turns out that there is a Bible study for Young Adults tomorrow night, so I plan on going.
Just goes to show what a little prayer can do :)

Saturday, September 10, 2011

"Laissez-Faire"

So, for those of you who know French, you may be familiar with the term "laissez-faire." Or, maybe you have heard of "laissez-faire" economics or politics. Basically, it means "let it be" or "come what may", a very easy-breezy attitude.
This is how I would describe French life, and more importantly, French administration.
Everything is slower and less hurried than in Canada. Everyone is late for everything, and people love their time off and lunch breaks!
We were supposed to get our student cards yesterday so that we could get internet and pay our rez deposit, but we arrived too late and couldn't do anything, because everything seems to close around 3-4pm. The grocery store down the street closes at 7:45pm, which is very early!
Nothing is ever really planned,and we do most things spontaneously. For those of you who know me well, you know that I like things planned out. So this is very different for me! I'm enjoying the change though. Last night, a few of us Canadians were eating in the kitchen, and over the next few hours, the room became full of international students! We had to leave because the kitchen closed, and someone led us to a random park near another residence. No plan, just "laissez faire!" We were invited to join the other "internationals" (I'm international, haha!) for a trip to the beach today. We were supposed to catch a bus at 9:30am, which we of course missed by 5 minutes so we had to wait a couple hours for the next bus... which we missed because it was too full. But the tickets were super cheap, and we can use them whenever.
We then split up, because traveling around with 20-something people is crazy! Four of us Canadian girls and our new friend, Alexis from Finland, decided to check out the local castle (yep, local castle!) called Le Chateau des Ducs. Up above is a picture of us four girls sitting in front of the castle. Alexis was kind enough to be our photographer for the day!
That's all for now! If you ever want to comment or post a question, there is an option at the bottom of the post.
Blessings!

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Finally in Nantes!

Hey, and welcome to the place where I'll be writing about my adventures in Nantes, France for the next school year!
So... we FINALLY arrived in Nantes, and specifically our residences, late last night around 9pm France time. Needless to say, we were exhausted from our travels.

We took a plane from Toronto to London, England, which besides being 2 hours late also had a ton of turbulence. Not much sleep had there! At the Toronto security, I had to go through the body scanner because I beeped, but they couldn't find anything. First fun time with security (more to follow). So after a long plane ride, we arrived in London where we had a connecting flight to Paris, and not much time to make it. Of course, we had to go through security again.
This is where is got really fun. As I went through security, my carry-on (giant backpack) set off the alarm. So they checked the screen and then pulled me to the side. The attendant kept asking me if I had a small multi-tool in my backpack, and I could not figure out what on earth he was talking about. He said that if I didn't know, he would have to search everything in my bag. But I had no idea... so off he went. Out came the purse, the camera, the pillow, the sleeping bag, the computer, some books, my Kobo, etc, etc. Finally, in the front pouch of my bag, he found a pocket knife!! Well, I was surprised. It must have been in my bag since Canoe Camp at my summer job, and I forgot it was in there. Now first off, Toronto security did NOT catch this, which in itself is weird. And once he found it, he said I could take it with me for now but would have to not take it in a carry on again. I threw it out, because I was running late, sweating, and didn't want a reminder about the time I was held up by security. It was quite interesting.
After our London flight, on which many of us felt nauseous, we had to take a train to Le Mans, transfer, and take another train out of Le Mans. Of course, we held up the train because of all our luggage and the lack of room for it. When we arrived at Le Mans, we were late because of the luggage hold-up and had to race to the next train (which we held up again). The ray of sunshine admist the craziness was that my former exchange student, Camille, and her mother were waiting for us and helped us find our train! It has been about 3 years since I have seen them, so I was really thrilled that they were there!
After arriving in Nantes, we met our professor from Trent who helped us get to Rez, which took FOREVER because we had to take the tramway and we had so much stuff.
The university is very different over here, and I don't have my head wrapped around much yet. The residence buildings are much quieter than in Canada (yay!) but father from the class buildings, which are spread out... like U of T, I think. More to come on the school once I know more about it!
I will also post pictures of my res room. It's very tiny, with the tiniest bathroom, but it is better than some residences, and I quite like it. My window looks out over a construction site, but that just means that I get to watch something change over a long period of time! Maybe I'll even see it finished.
I am so thankful to be here finally: to my friends who helped me get here, my family for trusting me and financing me and supporting me, and God, for keeping me safe and calm!
I hope everyone is doing well! :)