19 February 2011

Carentan/ Cherbourg (Update mini series 2/5)

I met Lydia at the Thanksgiving dinner hosted by Michelle in Ouistreham and really clicked with her. She's got a great sense of humor, an even better knowledge of WW2 and is tons of fun. She was also part of the group that came to Coutances and out to Mont Saint Michel. It had been a while since we had seen each other, and since she was always challenging that Carentan is even smaller than Coutances, I had to go check it out for myself.

Turns out she really wasn't lying. It's not a bad city to be in, but it is small like Coutances. There is a beautiful like harbor/quai which is connected to canals leading out to the ocean. There's a park area around it, and the grass, trees and sailboats bobbing in the water make for a pretty site. She showed me the collège where she works and lives and also the lycée. The courtyard area actually has palm trees in it! It's a surprising site, but Normandy winters are usually mild enough that the palms can handle it.

After a pizza lunch and a tour of the town, we took a train to Cherbourg, only about 30 minutes away, to visit other assistants up there. Cherbourg is a pretty big city, important because of it's large harbor (the titanic actually stopped there) , which means a fair amount of Brits also come over easily to visit and there's quite a large number of shops and so on.

A number of the assistants live in a high school flat, with great accommodations like.... an extra bed and couch! As my travel continues my standards for what is required for a sleeping surface have degraded to “some floor space only slightly smaller than my body... or a chair” so a bed or couch seems pretty lush! In any case, my acquaintances Josh and James, Lydia and I headed to a cafe. The rest of the day/ evening/ wee hours of the morning were spent drinking one substance or another. We went from café, to bar, to another bar where a Couch Surfing meet up was being held, to night club, to kebab place and home. We didn't get in until around 4am, and all went to sleep fairly quickly after that. The next day Lydia and I were able to take the same train to our respective homes. James was a gentleman and walked us to the train station to wait, preceded by a trip to McDo for hangover fries, burgers and sodas. It was a really fantastic weekend and I have plans to visit again, well rested and ready to go out!

06 February 2011

Parents Visit (Update Mini Series 1/5)

Update coming..

(31 March 2011) Sorry this updates comes nearly two months after my parents visited (!) Here's the down and dirty version, mostly told in pictures because it's easier.

Don't worry though, they got in lots of delicious food, pastries, breads, wines and a personalized tour of Normandy from yours truly (don't let them know I take everyone to the same places ;)

On Saturday with their late arrival into Coutances I cooked them (bought prepackaged) crepes and galettes for dinner, a gastronomic introduction into Normandy life. Don't worry, the meal was accompanied by cider as well!

Sunday we headed to the Bayeux Tapestry and since Mom and Dad had rented a car, a small driving tour of the different Normandy Beaches. I figured it was good I finally the whole stretch, not just the American Cemetery considering I'm a 7 month Normandy resident. Tensions slightly rose when I forgot that Mom and Dad don't like traveling like us young folk so they actually pay more than 5 euros for a meal and sit down to eat it. Luckily I spied an open restaurant (on a Sunday!) and we headed in for......... more galettes! That's ok. Cider and galettes always makes people happier.

Dad of course gave commentary on all the different places while Mom staggered in the wind and wondered how the hell she ended up on a cold windy beach while on vacation in France.

St. Mere Eglise

The stained glass in St. Mere Eglise that commemorates the paratroopers

Monday I taught classes! (Unusual occurrence, I know) but I met up with Mom and Dad for lunch (real restaurants and I didn't have to pay for them?! win!) Dad was qualified to give the Coutances tour after his December visit, so he showed Mom all the attractions (Cathedral, Garden....ummmm- aqueduct?)

Tuesday my cold/sickness/general grossness finally came to be useful. My throat was unaccustomed to all the talking I had been doing and rebelled by disappearing. Needless to say this makes being a conversation assistant rather difficult. So I showed up to my first class to let Patrick know that it wasn't going to work out and that I wasn't showing up to my afternoon class. Since, well, I couldn't talk.

We headed to Château de Gratot, only a few kilometers from Coutances, but since it's often rainy I hadn't worked up the courage to take my bike over there. The sun was actually out and the place was really interesting. Pretty much you would expect an old, little known château to look like.

After that we headed over to Agon-Coutainville to find out what the Atlantic looks like from this side (blue). It was nice to just walk outside and enjoy the relatively nice weather. We had lunch at some Michelin Guide listed place that Mom wanted to go to. Let's just say that it was very froofy. Off season isn't the best time to go anywhere, but I don't think this place was really on their A game anyway. Oh well, it was certainly an experience.

Wednesday we headed to Mont Saint Michel, with a picnic lunch featuring sandwiches and desserts from the fancy bakery in town. Mom looked like she was ready to hire a donkey to the top (if only! I wish they had donkeys there!) but persevered and made it up those many, many stairs. We did the audio guides which I think really add to the tour, otherwise you're pretty much walking through big empty stone rooms.

Fee des grèves? Must be how I keep missing so much work!

Thursday I had one class? I think another got canceled, so we were able to head to Rouen a bit earlier. We had an interesting time finding the hotel but once we got up to the room it was amazing! Since there were three of us we got a suite and it was perfect. There was a pull back curtain wall dividing the king bed from the other space, a table/desk area with a twin sized bed/couch in the corner. It was certainly bigger than any other French hotel room I'd been in (not that I have many to compare with). Best of all- for free!- there were over 40 on demand movies IN ENGLISH! I think in the less than 24 hours we were there I managed to fit in 3 movies.

Oh! So the actual city of Rouen- you want to know about that? Well, maybe I've just been in France too long, but it gets my typical review: the "old city" section was very nice, with its cobblestones and timbered buildings and narrow streets. The town cathedrals were beautiful as well. I actually really liked the cathedrales, they were different from the usual Gothic architecture which was nice. Dad also put up with me and Mom popping into a lot of shops.

Friday we headed to Mom and Dad's friends, the Westgates, about 30 minutes away. Sadly shortly into dinner Dad was struck by some poorly cooked salmon from lunch and retired early for the evening.

Saturday the parents headed off to the airport :(
I hung around a little longer with the Westgates and took a train from by them to Rouen, took advantage of the short layover and bought some shoes and a new scarf, a little of retail therapy. I arrived back into Coutances in the evening, happy because of the amazing week, but also extremely sad as the great visit onl highlighted the loneliness of the living in Coutances.

Sunday I put off writing lesson plans as usual and it was back to the "grind."

I was so happy though that I was fortunate enough to share a slice of my life hear, take advantage of their presence and visit some different places and try some new restaurants.

02 February 2011

Road Block

Why were a bunch of kids late to school on Monday?

There were horses stranded on the road between St. Lo and Coutances- HAHHAHAHAHHAH

I basically live in the French boonies.