Bonjour à tous !
This is going to be a short and sweet post, beginning with something I’ve been waiting to write about for ages: namely, the organisational victories I’ve had since about three weeks after I arrived here in France.
The reason I haven’t written about it until now is because I wanted to wait until I had actually completed the administrative nightmare that is CAF and received my Erasmus grant money before I did. Through the midst of a thousand forms, signatures, queues and frustrated photocopying, I managed to set up a bank account, phone contract, a full timetable (including signing up for all the correct exams), a tram card and finally receive my Erasmus grant. I hesitate to say it in case I jinx it, but I think I’ve almost sorted out my CAF, which is money the French government give to all students to help with their rent (England, take note). All this took a mere four months and around five hundred hours of queuing to complete, and I have all of the forms and cards to prove it. I’m proud of my hard work. You know the feeling when you’re six years old and you’ve spent hours on the beach building a sandcastle that’s twice the size of you, complete with shell windows, turrets, a moat and a moving drawbridge? It’s that level of pride. And you know how, when you left the sandcastle unguarded for THIRTY SECONDS while you ran to the sea to get a bucket of water to fill the moat (in the stubborn belief that if you poured enough water into it, eventually the sand would stop swallowing the water and the moat would fill up), the big kids from a bit further down the beach kicked it down and ran away cackling? The feeling of disappointment I’m experiencing at the moment is similar to that, except worse because it’s me who is forced to kick down my own sandcastle. No sooner than I’ve completed everything, tomorrow I’m going into town to begin to undo all my hard work; to cancel my phone contract, cancel my insurance and close my bank account. I’ve topped up my tram card for the last time. I’ve taken all of my exams. I’m kicking down my sandcastle and feeling very bitter about having to restart the whole process in Italy in a month and a half’s time. (Eeeek only a month and a half! Rome, I’m coming for you.)
This is a tiny selection of the paperwork that represents my life in France
(In case you’re thinking of applying for CAF soon or are having problems, you can find a really useful article about it here).
My penultimate week in France has included lots of fun stuff! The Fête des Lumières last Friday was amazing. Unfortunately, though we wanted to go to Lyon for the actual Fête des Lumières, we didn’t make it due to the fact that everything was completely booked up and that we had the bulk of our exams the following week. This was probably a good thing though: having never seen the original Lyon Fête, I was thoroughly impressed with the beautiful projections on three of Montpellier’s gorgeous buildings. The light shows attracted big crowds and there was a really great atmosphere, and while I imagine the Fête in Lyon to be about twenty times the scale in terms of size, ambiance and spectators, I really enjoyed Montpellier’s first ever baby Fête des Lumières. After the lights had finished, we continued the fête at Chantal’s flat with homemade mulled wine (Ruth just marry me already) and DJ Chants.
The penultimate week also included my last exam, which was, fittingly, French. I wasn’t too worried about the exam, mainly because I had to give a presentation just before it (in French), which scared me way more because I don’t like public speaking. Given that our presentation was the day of the exam, we had decided to do it on the theme of luck. I was doing a bit of research on good luck superstitions in England, and found out that that apparently for every mince pie you eat during the twelve days of Christmas, you’ll have a month of good luck in the New Year (so eat up). In honour of this, I decided to bring in some mince pies for the mini-party we were going to have after the exam because, not being English, most of the class had never tried a mince pie, which is an absolute travesty. Unfortunately, Le Fou d’Anglais had completely sold out of them (not surprisingly) but they did have one last jar of mincemeat, so Ruth and I tried our hand at making them. They didn’t look much like actual mince pies, but they weren’t bad when you take into account the severe lack of cooking equipment and the fact that I’d never made them before. Top marks for effort, anyway.
Well, they wouldn’t win bake off
The French class!
I’m aware that most of what I write about here has to do with food, but that’s because most things are to do with food in France, and so they should be. The word ‘greedy’ translates roughly into French as gourmand, but there isn’t really a negative connotation like there is in English. You can have a café gourmand, for example, which is a big coffee, sometimes topped with cream, with one or several small pastries or sweets on the side. How could you possible associate something negative with that? In France, being able to eat well is a good thing, and I can’t wait for more of the same in Italy (England take note, again). So, on a food-related note, this week several of us went for a meal in the town centre where I finally tried frogs’ legs. I was marginally put off frogs’ legs after seeing this video of the legs dancing…
But, being the brave soul that I am, I powered on and tried them anyway. They had the consistency of chicken, but honestly, they had no taste to them at all. It was bizarre; though there wasn’t much of it, the meat itself was just completely flavourless. I wouldn’t recommend them, at least not the ones I had.
The rest of the entrées that we shared were delicious though: the scallops, raw trout, paté were all amazing. I couldn’t bring myself to try snails again though, especially not because they have the same consistency of oysters and we all remember how much I liked them.
That would be, not at all
For my main course, I had my favourite magret de canard, which means duck breast, (or magret de connard as Angelina asked for, which means idiot breast) and it was delicious as usual.
Magret de canard, my favourite dish ever
Other suggested translations of ‘connard’, for your information.
Crossed off the bucket list this week:
- Eat frogs’ legs
- Go Christmas shopping for presents round the boutiques
That’s all for now folks. Thanks for reading, and let the final week in France commence.