Thursday, May 3, 2012

The Last Post

Greetings from Canada!
I am officially sitting down to write my last post on this blog. It will hopefully be short and sweet.
I made it to my host family's house on Sunday night and had a nice last evening with them. We had apple beignets as part of dinner which were delicious! I was also given a few gifts: 2 bottles of wine for my collection and a couple of Belgian beers for my Dad.
The next day I had to say goodbye to them, which was sad. At least I know that I will (hopefully!!) be back. Naturally I had a few issues at the airport... such as overweight baggage... ahem. I had to pay for one extra bag plus an overweight bag. Of course this was the moment that my Visa card decided not to work, so I had to run to an ATM. How embarrassing. I finally made it on the first plane, which was a very short ride. We luckily got into Paris early, because though I had 2 hours until my next flight I had to walk for what felt like forever and then wait in a long security line before arriving at my gate. I was fortunate enough to find a friend at the gate though! A girl from my old high school was doing an exchange for three months with the same program I did my first exchange with. I actually took the airplane with the entire group of Canadian students, which was pretty fun. I changed my first seat so that a husband and wife could sit together, then I was stuck beside a man who did not know how to keep his elbows to himself. Finally, I got up to go to the washroom and noticed that my friend had an empty seat beside her, so I switched one last time and had a very nice flight.
When I got home, I discovered some cheques from the government which more than paid for my excess baggage. Hooray.
Tuesday morning I woke up at 5:30am, unable to sleep more, and yesterday it was 6:30am. Today I managed to sleep in until 7:30am, which was just great. I have been unpacking, going to appointments, and enjoying doing a bit of cooking again. Tomorrow I head down to Ryerson Camp for my staff training weekend, which I am pretty excited for.
I definitely know that I am back in Canada, because random people say hi to me and the public service workers are extraordinarily pleasant.
Well, I think that will be all. I have really enjoyed writing these posts this year, and I hope that for those who stuck around, you enjoyed reading them too. If I ever take another exciting adventure, I'll be sure to write about it again.
See you around!

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Au revoir et bonjour!

Goodbye France, hello Canada!
Well, here it is. My last full day in this beautiful country. It is incredibly hard to believe that it was eight months ago that I was getting on a plane to come here... even more incredible to think about all that I have done this year!
This morning, I went to church here for the last time and it was a really good service. I talked to a man that I usually talk to, and he promised to keep in touch. He is in his mid-50s and moving to the USA at the end of May for a year, and hopefully more, he says. It was always nice to have someone who wanted to chat with you after church! He often talked with the Americans and I and was always interested in how we were finding France. The speaker today was also really good. He was 82 years-old, just a regular member of the congregation, and he just spoke about who he thinks Jesus is. The best part though was when he compared how joyful he was on liberation day after WWII was over and how we should be 100 times more joyful because of our liberation in Jesus. He spoke a bit about what it was like living during the occupation, and it was so amazing to listen to. We just don't have that kind of memory in Canada! Overall, it was a great final service.
And now, I wait! My host family is going to pick me up and take me to their house for the night, before bringing me to the airport tomorrow. I'm just not sure what time they will be back from wherever they are, so until then I will just wait and chill in my room. Pretty exciting!!
As much as I would love to stay in France, I think I am ready to go home. I mean, it definitely helps that now basically all my friends are gone. The incessant April showers that have been continuing for over a week also don't hurt! But really, I love France. I know I will be back, but I don't know when. Someday! It has been an amazing year, and I have learned so much. I am so thankful that I had this experience!
The nice thing about saying goodbye to one thing means that I get to say hello to many others. When I get back, I have a staff training weekend for my summer camp, a 15-day placement at my old public school, a bridal shower and wedding for my friend, a summer full of new adventures at camp, and then fourth year at Trent! So as sad as it is to leave France, I have so much to look forward to. I won't have time to miss it! Well, that's not true, I will miss it, but I will be so busy it won't really be too bad. Like I said earlier in a post, the people who made this year so amazing will be back in Canada with me, so that is going to make the transition easier I think. Plus, no matter where I am, what I see, or what I do, I always love coming home.
So I suppose I will write one more blog post when I am home to close off the year... but until then, have a great weekend and start to the week!

Friday, April 27, 2012


Yikes. Suddenly, it is Friday! How did that happen?
Yet again, I thought that my last week was going to drag on. But nope, it has flown by. I will try to recount what has happened!
On Tuesday, I had another great sleep-in (so unlike me... it needs to stop happening) and then I accompanied my friend to LeClerc to chop off all her hair!! So much fun. She was really nervous, but her short hair looks so awesome. Plus, she got to give her family and friends a surprise when she returned.
In the afternoon, I walked around with Siobhain and her visiting sister, and we saw the typical Nantes sights... cathedral, castle, the usual.
On Wednesday, my friend Louise from Angers came to visit me and we were lucky to have some really nice weather for the day. We had crepes for lunch and then I showed her the city. It was awesome to catch up before I left, and we made sure to say "see you soon" rather than "goodbye." We found that 4 years passed by surprisingly fast, so whether we see each other in Canada or France next time, it will be here before we know it.
I guess yesterday was Thursday! I started packing in the morning, and then went back to the public school to hang out with the kiddies again. They were even crazier this time! But still super cute, so I quite enjoyed myself. I was exhausted after only three hours with them... I honestly don't know how primary teachers do it. So much respect.
Then I PACKED my room up last night, determining that I have too many clothes and too much STUFF in general. I don't know where it all came from. This morning I had to cart all my stuff downstairs to Michelle's room, where I am staying until Sunday. My suitcases are packed and I still have stuff strewn about the room. Some of it is garbage, some of it is going to have to find a home asap... Then, I did a mad clean of my room and was pretty impressed with the outcome. Apparently it wasn't up to standard though, because I missed some dust a had to re-do some parts for the cleaning people. Embarrassing.
Now for the rest of the day!
I don't have much planned. I'm hoping to go for a run once my lunch digests, because it has been a week since my last run (!!!!!!) which is just unacceptable. Then I might just chill... watch a movie, whatever. Tomorrow I'll hang out with Siobhain for a bit, since we are the only ones left! I might take some time to write a bit more though. I bought a notebook, that I thought I would write in tons these last two weeks but I haven't written a thing. So maybe it is the time to write...
Anyways, whew. What a crazy week and crazy day.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Crazy French Kiddies

This afternoon, after a lovely sleep-in that involved lots of resetting my alarm, I went over to my host mom`s school  to spend some time in her class to see how a French elementary school works. I had a lot of fun and the kids were super cute!
After battling the nasty storm that has been brewing all day, I made it to the school. They don't have a playground with grass, just concrete, but the kids seemed to have fun regardless. I was wearing my pink raincoat, and pinned on it I have 5 pins that I collected at Vimy Ridge and Juno Beach. I had no idea how much of a distraction these pins would be... the kids would not leave me alone! They wanted a pin, they wanted to know what different pins meant, where I got them from, how they stayed on, etc. They are quite the inquisitive bunch!!
The first had gym class, then storytime, recess, and some reading and colouring. One thing I noted was that they kids did not get out of school until about 4:45... what a long day for such young children. I had a blast though.
So like I said, these kids were so curious. I think it was partly because it is there first day back after a two week vacation, but they were crazy! Asking so many questions. But it was good seeing kids wanting to know more, even if they were a little wild about it today. They also all wanted to know how to pronounce their names in English and found it hilarious to hear me say them. I got to listen to them read some passages and also helped them out with their work, like if they didn't know how to spell a word. Pretty typical for 7-year olds. The fun part, though, was that it was all in French! I definitely had to listen closely so that I could understand what they were saying, and I even had to explain a couple small pronunciation points. My favourite part was listening to them speak French, especially when they used the typical French words and phrases like "ohhhlalalalala" and "c'est pas possible!". It was a great way to spend the afternoon and I think I will go back one other time this week! Why not?
In other news, in one week I will be on a plane home to Canada!!

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Second Last Weekend!

So I left my parents on Tuesday, and literally thought I would be bored out of my mind for a few days until my friends returned. Luckily I have been keeping decently busy, running, visiting with friends, getting some administrative stuff done... and the days are just flying by!
Since I have written, I have been back to La Cigale with my friend (and roomie) Michelle for the BEST hot chocolate ever. It seriously is amazing. And I finally got a snapshot of the interior of La Cigale as well!

So beautiful!
On Saturday, I went over to my host family's for lunch and then we went on an awesome little hike. We drove to a little village not far from Nantes to check out a place where my host parents often went hiking when they were younger. You are technically not allowed in the area, but everyone goes anyways. There is an old ruined castle that was never finished. It started to be built around the time of the French Revolution, but the owner stopped the construction when his daughter drowned in the Loire River. Now, it is just a shell of a castle, but very beautiful and with a fantastic view of the valley.
Plus, it was so great to be in the country in some fresh air!
Old house in the village

The Loire

Faux chateau

Watching the storm roll in
Today I mostly just took it easy, played some music with some friends and went for a nice walk. Tomorrow, I am going to my host mom's school to visit her class, which will be really fun and something great to do. This week I am looking forward to a few visits from friends, especially my friend Louise who is coming to visit on Wednesday. I visited her in Angers back in November, so we are looking forward to hanging out again. I also will be doing some running, some shopping for gifts, and attempting to pack up my room! Oh, and saying goodbye to some of my friends who are leaving on Wednesday!
I can't believe that in one week tomorrow, I will be on a plane home. I thought these last few weeks would pass by slowly, but I can see that I was wrong. They are flying! Just like the rest of the year! And pretty soon I will be back in Canada, enjoying being Canadian again and hearing English all the time. Hopefully the weather warms up a bit!!!

Thursday, April 19, 2012


Probably long over-due, I thought I would write a little post about the trains here in France. Just because they are so awesome!
In Canada, we have Via Rail. Which is ok, I suppose, but nothing like the speedy, efficient, and vastly networked trains in France. Last year, I wrote a final history paper on the effects of the railroad in my hometown, Port Elgin, and the surrounding area. Sadly, today all that is left our of train is a little ice cream station at the main beach with a kiddy train that takes you around North Shore park very slowly. But once we were quite well connected!
In France, you can basically get anywhere you want to go by train. There are still problems, like strikes and people jumping in front of trains, but besides that the travel is always smooth. The TGV trains (trains de grande vitesse=really fast) rock me to sleep like a baby. It is beautiful. It also keeps you quite connected, and especially for a foreign student without a car it gives you some freedom. I have used the train to visited friends in other cities, to visit different sites, to go on trips with friends, etc.
One thing I love about the train stations is that they remind me a bit of the past. People leave on the train and have their loved-ones waving goodbye to them on the platform. In addition to leaving there is also the returning, when I get to see people being reunited again. There is something more... I don`t know, classic about waving goodbye/hello from a train window than from a car one. There are also always people running to catch their train, which I find amusing unless I am that person...
Sometimes I meet really friendly people on the train, and sometimes I don't talk to anyone. The French trains are often really quiet, which allows you to read/write/sleep in peace. It is quite a great way to travel.
Canada is such a huge country, and you almost need a car in order to travel anywhere. I have never taken the GO train or bus, but I've heard it has its flaws too. And you can really only use the system if you are in the GTA. Doesn't work so well for Bruce County. Now if only we had enough people using the trains to make it worthwhile... I could see it being difficult to get people to give up their cars. We also have less people... Who knows, maybe if gas prices continue to rise a better rail system could be a possibility! Would cut down on pollution too!
Whew. Anyways, sorry if that was scattered. In short, if you come to France, take the train! It is a lot of fun and a little nostalgic.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

La Rochelle with Mom and Dad

Well, as I write this, I am back in Nantes! My parents dropped me off at the train station today and were on their way back to Paris; they will fly back to Canada tomorrow. It was sad to see them go, as we had a really great trip together. I wish they could have stayed longer so that they could see more of France! But I think the trip has convinced them to come back and see what they missed!
So I will recap our time in La Rochelle and then put up some photos of our stay.
It was definitely a great way to end the vacation. La Rochelle was very laid back, we didn't do much, and though it wasn't hot it was very sunny. On Sunday we just walked around the harbour, had a beer at the Irish Pub, had dinner, and enjoyed our nice hotel. On Monday, we went on a nice long walk to another beach and took in the sights. Then we went back to the pub because we could sit outside in the sun. My Dad had another pint while my mom and I went shopping. I bought one shirt, but my mom bought a whole outfit that looks great on her. Now she will have a French outfit! Always a good souvenir. We went back to out hotel for a bit of wine from the winery, and then went out for our last dinner. We had another delicious meal. And more great conversation! As my parents pointed out, this is the most they have seen me in a long time. It was good to spend lots of time with my parents.
So clearly, we had a relaxing couple of days. But after all the sights we saw, it was nice not to have a plan! I think everything about this trip was fantastic (though Vimy could've used less rain...) and it was awesome to be able to also see my two host family's and share that experience with my parents.
Now I have about a week and a half before coming home! Weird!!! I have some things planned, but will also be enjoying unstructured time... before the craziness begins! I have a staff training weekend for camp, 15-day placement in May, a wedding, and moving to camp at the beginning of June... then onto 4th year! So I will enjoy the break while it lasts :)

Meal in La Rochelle

Harbour lights

Harbour in the sun!


view from the top of the tower


Fishy entree!
Last night meal!