Happy St. Patrick’s Day! I realized that earlier today as I was coloring a poster (more on why I was doing that below), and thought – wow it’s mid March, my concept of time has really changed. En France?
We arrived in France a little less than a week ago, and (poor Jon, who’s never been here) could not have had a less-French experience. We spent about 9 hours in Marseille, France’s 2nd largest city. Apparently the transport in France’s 2nd largest city stinks, because the trains stopped at 10:30pm (our flight from Marrakesh arrived at 10pm) and the next day all transport was on strike, so in less than 12 hours we were over $50 into transportation via taxis. Goodness the euro is expensive!
A quick train ride to Lyon and an even quicker train ride dropped us in the small town of Vienne on the Rhone River. Exploring this food-haven would have to wait; we were getting picked up to go to our new jobs – “Animateur” or counselor at a camp for French kids whose parents want them to learn about America!
It was dark by the time we arrived so even getting to see the beautiful rolling countryside was out of the question.
Apparently It’s the Little Things
I’ve been in France a week and I still can’t get over the endless supply of hot water, electricity, heating, food, water you can drink from the tap and toilets that flush properly. I’ve been beginning to realize how accustomed I got to not having all those things throughout our travels in West Africa. I feel like I’ve landed in complete luxury. I also find myself seeing French women and thinking, “wow they are really scantily clad, and they should cover up!” Even though they’re wearing nothing out of the ordinary or even remotely provocative. I’m just so used to dressing conservatively to walk about in Muslim countries. Huh.
Apparently it's about wine
Ok, I lived in Strasbourg, France in 2003 for 5 months and I'm sure I knew this then, and perhaps it's the stark contrast from traveling in Muslim/mostly-alcohol-free countries for the last 2 months, but there is so much wine here!! People are drinking all the time! I seem to have completely forgotten about wine with every meal (ok not at breakfast), and even then the multiple types of wine you drink at various stages in the 3-5 course 2-hour meal. In complaining about how expensive the euro is, I will say that we found the thing in France that is cheap - wine. Jon and I just bought 3 bottles of Cote du Rhone "vin du pays" (country or table wine) for less than 13euro, and they were all great. I'm particularly proud of the 2 euro bottle that was actually quite nice. I'm almost relieved that we're not allowed to drink when the kids are in camp session. I'd just be slightly tipsy and mostly groggy all the time.
We’re working for American Village, which runs week-long English language immersion camps for French kids. Jon’s teaching English and I’m running activities with 6 other American/Native-English speakers. More soon on how it’s actually going (the kiddos arrive tomorrow), but so far I’ve done a lot of coloring – making posters for the camp buildings – and eaten a lot more butter than I’m used to.
Luckily on our day off (Saturday) Jon and I got a ride into the town of Vienne, situated right on the Rhone River and built into a rocky hillside that climbs right off the river. Vienne is a lovely small French town. We arrived during the weekly outdoor market, and although the wind was blowing a blustery cold wind, the sun was shining and the deliciousness of French eating was on full display. We enjoyed a long lovely walk through the old town center, which is complete with a Roman temple, amphitheater and other beautiful ruins. Turns out that the Archbishop to Vienne in 1080 or something became Pope Calixtus II in 1118. Needless to say the cathedral is impressive. Our day in Vienne was what you might think of as a classic day in small-town France – quiet small streets, a cozy wine bar where we had a bottle of local wine, a plentiful charcutrie plate and olives and the entertainment of some pretty tipsy old French guys, all for 14 euro. The day was complete once we picked up some delicious chocolates and enjoyed dinner with 2 fellow counsies and headed back through the rolling farmland to camp.
The most frustrating thing about being here is knowing that we’re in France but we can't spend time enjoying France! Hopefully that will change as we make good use of our days off and move camp sites and see a bit more country.
Have you ever been in a place but really not been able to experience it?