2016 Changed Everything (But That’s All)

I don’t have to tell you what kind of a year the world had in 2016. Honestly, I feel a little silly writing about my year – so much more important stuff happened that it’s like, who cares what I did in 2016?

Basically, my entire life changed in 2016, but other than that, nothing major to report.

Continue reading “2016 Changed Everything (But That’s All)”

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2016, so far

2016 is a big year of change. I’m feeling excited and anxious about the big move to California, and sad to leave Lyon and see most of my expat friends scatter all over the world as we all move on to the next chapters of our lives.

Recently, Hugo and I got a little taste of California life – one of my oldest, dearest friends got married this May and we flew to California for the occasion. She had a beautiful outdoor country wedding that belongs on Pinterest – vintage family dress, DIY centerpieces and bouquets, maid-of-honor hairdresser (that was me! So much pressure!) Her husband is an awesome dude. He cooked all the food. For 150 people. I repeat, he cooked all the food for his own wedding. And made the cake. (He is a good cook!)

So we spent a lot of time out in the countryside – way out in the countryside. I kept an eye out for rattlesnakes, like the paranoid city girl I am. (Did you know they coil up like that to spring at you?! And that they can spring really far?!) We also hung out with my parents, did some shopping, and toured some nearby town like Pacific Grove and San Juan Bautista. We made a trip up to San Francisco, where we wandered around gaping at the gorgeous Victorian houses. It was a speedy trip but I tried to throw in some fun new places that Hugo hadn’t been before (you know, like Target).

Other fun vacation stuff: my mother taught him the words “curmudgeon” and “kerfuffle.” (You can see where I get my love for funny words.)

And now we’re back in France and I’m planning my travel for this summer! (Trip to Rome, Florence, and Bologna in the works, and Lisbon a bit later. And I’d like to squeeze in some shorter trips if I can swing it. Major European travel FOMO here. Suggestions welcome!)

Classes are out, exams are graded, and there’s still a bit more work to be done but it’s quasi-vacation in that I don’t have to go to work every day or plan lessons or grade exams. Which is weird, because this semester (the whole school year, really) was so busy and intense. I kept trying to enjoy my last days of teaching, but I was constantly stressed from being in the hamster wheel. But I had some lovely students this year, and I certainly learned a lot. (I hope that having been a teacher will make me a better student. When I was in undergrad I was very passive and afraid to participate or ask questions, and I would have learned so much more if I had been more active in class. And from my perspective as a teacher, class is so much more interesting when students ask questions.)

Before the wedding, I squeezed in a trip to Paris to see another close friend, aka my partner in crime. We strolled the Marais and Place des Vosges, walked the Coulée Verte, and climbed the fence of the Petite Ceinture, an abandoned railroad that circles the city (but that’s another story). I also got to see a dress rehearsal of Der Rosenkavalier at the Opera Bastille, which was so cool! I loved getting to see behind the scenes, and I remembered how much I love Strauss.

(Speaking of music, I must take the time to tell you about Arts Alliance soon – they’re an awesome organization that makes London opera, dance, music, theater, and art available all around the world. They are killing it on their YouTube channel.)

I don’t write about Paris much since everyone else already has, but I may round up some of my Paris favorites at some point since I do love exploring the city. Anything you want to know? I’ll be back in Paris before the summer’s out, so if there’s anything cool you think I should check out (or eat) while I’m there, let me know!

Going to Paris really kicked off a new season for me – I was mostly chained to work for the first four months of the year and I didn’t travel at all. There is always more work to be done, whether it’s prepping lessons or writing exams or grading them, so taking a weekend trip would be more stressful than anything. Thank goodness for the supportive group of lectrices at work!

I didn’t even leave Lyon during the week-long vacation in February – Hugo’s sister was expecting her second baby and I wanted to be here when he (as it turned out) arrived. It was so worth it to be here for that important day. Hugo and I got to tell her two-year-old that he was a big brother, since the baby came during the night. I’m really going to miss getting to see those little guys and their cousins grow up while we’re in California. It’s one of the hardest things about leaving, because unlike everything else, they will change so fast, and we’ll never get that time back. Will they even remember us? (I’m an only child, so no nieces and nephews on my side.)

I don’t believe that fear of change is a reason to avoid it. I’m not afraid of something new and unknown, but I’m a little heartbroken that I have to let go of so much in order to move forward in my life. I wish I could have it both ways, but as they say in French, you can’t have the butter and the money for the butter (which makes more sense than “you can’t have your cake and eat it too” because you don’t exactly part with the cake when you eat it, whereas you must part with your money to buy butter. Unless you are a butter thief, I suppose. Butter thief, teach me your ways!)

I’m terribly sad to be uprooted from the life I’ve built in Lyon, but I am looking forward to building new roots in a new chapter of life. I’ll let you know how it goes.

All I know is that 2016 has been hurtling along at an alarming pace, and I don’t anticipate that it will slow down any time soon. All aboard the TGV of life!

 

 

 

 

Spring, Life, and Tacos

March is the worst month. It’s the tail end of winter and everyone is dying for spring to arrive, and for me, it’s the middle of the semester when all my students take their midterms at the same time, which means I have to write all the tests and then correct about 400 exams in the span of a few weeks, on top of my normal workload. It’s a little like running on a treadmill in high heels.

I’m so relieved that it’s April – spring has definitely arrived, the semester is almost over, and I’m starting to ponder where to travel this summer. (I’m thinking Italy and Portugal, but I’m also tempted by Croatia, Spain, Budapest, Berlin… so many adventures, so little time. Where are your favorite places in Europe?) Even though traveling in France doesn’t always feel as exciting as going to a new country, I’d still love to spend some time down south, and maybe over on the west coast of the country where I’ve barely been at all, and there will definitely be a trip to Paris where I have big plans to Eat Stuff.

Speaking of Big Plans, I’m heading west in the fall – really far west. We’re moving to California!

Continue reading “Spring, Life, and Tacos”

Getting cozy in Oxford

Did I ever tell you that Hugo lived in England for most of last year? He got offered a job in Oxford, and the French economy being what it is, we both agreed that he should take it. I’m so glad that he moved back to France this year, but it did give me an excuse to make a couple visits to Oxford and London.

I visited Oxford for the first time almost exactly a year ago. I know because it was the Toussaint vacation, which was right after my birthday. It was the same temperature as it was in Lyon, but it felt colder. Chillier.

We spent the weekend galavanting in the crisp fall air, visiting really old colleges covered in ivy and crunching golden leaves underfoot.

Oxford

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The colleges are beautiful and charming and imposing all at once… but I couldn’t for the life of me tell you which one is which. Tall stone walls, enchanting courtyards, impressive towers, smarty-pants students coming and going… they all started to look the same after awhile.

Oxford

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The town isn’t too big, but it isn’t too small either. Bikes are clearly the preferred method of transportation.

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Hugo lived a bus ride away from the city center, a fifteen-minute bus ride down Cowley Road, if you know the place. The buses confused me horribly. They’re run by a few different companies, but seem to cost about the same, and you have to buy a ticket every time you get on (unless you’ve got a return ticket) and the price depends on where you’re going. It didn’t seem like you could buy a week pass or a monthly pass or anything like that. And really, it was quite expensive – all those £3 tickets add up fast. Everyone seemed to say “cheers” to the driver when they got off the bus, but it sounded weird in my American accent.

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No one gave me a particularly hard time about being American, but my accent felt clumsy next to all those Brits, and broader, but in a warm way. England feels just as foreign to me as France. I marvel at some things (cocktails in a can? Pear cider at the supermarket? All the cookies! – I mean, biscuits) and puzzle over others (what is a bap? Why are there beans and mushrooms with my breakfast? How early is too early to have a drink at the pub?) I thought we would be able to have private conversations in French, but it turns out that French is not a secret language and there are tons of French people in Oxford.

Two of my favorite English things are both terribly cozy – pubs and cream tea. I freaking love cream tea. I thought it was just tea with cream in it, but NO, it’s tea with scones with jam and clotted cream. I do not know what clotted cream is exactly, but it’s better than butter and I piled it on my scones on a near-daily basis. It’s a good thing that it’s not readily available in France or I might not live to see 30.

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During the week, Hugo had to go to work, so I divided my time between grading translation exams (yay vacation) and wandering the city. I even stopped getting lost after awhile.

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Stuff I loved in Oxford

Alternative Tuck Shop (for their chicken tikka panini – I was OBSESSED), Blackwell’s Bookshop (to cuddle with books on rainy days), Oxford Covered Market (for English breakfast and wandering), Yeti (for an amazing dinner), Vaults & Garden Cafe and Queen’s Lane (for a cozy coffee or cream tea), The Ashmolean museum (for art, archaeology, and a view), and the Modern Art museum (for the head-scratcher that is modern art and the gift shop.)

Family friends told me again and again to eat at The Trout, which they held very fond in their Oxford memories, but I forgot to go. If you try it, let me know how it is!

Oxford has more than a few cool cafes, but instead of racking up £3 for the bus plus a cafe bill every day, I worked chez Hugo and wandered in my free time. I find that I like the idea of hipster coffee shops more than I actually enjoy cramping myself in a noisy wooden cafe and suffering from heart palpatations because I’m not hardcore enough to properly appreciate “good coffee.” If you’re cooler than me (and let’s be real, it’s not hard to be) hotspots seemed to be The Missing Bean, Quarter Horse Coffee, Zappi’s Bike Cafe, The Jericho Cafe, and The Jam Factory. (Did I get it right, Oxford-dwellers?)

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Blackwell's Oxford

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I’ve thought a little about why I decided to write about Oxford, so long after visiting. (#slowblogging). It’s mostly because I love these autumn photos and I wanted an excuse to share them in season. I’m no Oxford expert, and there’s no crazy story here. Just us, wandering this historic English town, crunching the yellow leaves.

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Have you been to Oxford? Are you having a golden autumn this year?

La rentrée, 2015

It’s September, which is la rentrée around here – back to work, back to school time. I’m torn between being excited about a new season and a new school year (geek alert) and feeling bummed about the end of vacation. (Actually, it’s more like a “I didn’t get nearly enough stuff done this summer” kind of panic.)

I had a great time in Spain and the north of France but I’m happy to be home in Lyon in our apartment. I love to travel but coming home is such a nice feeling. I sometimes say that if I were single I would give up my apartment for the summer and travel (for some reason I usually envision myself taking the train all around Italy) but I don’t know if I would enjoy that for weeks on end in reality. Maybe if my accommodations were a little more luxe!

So I’m home, simultaneously trying to do my translations and class prep, figure out health insurance (anyone have advice on mutuelles?), corral my bazillions of Spain photos into a blog post, and keep house. (It’s a good thing I have a job to go back to, because I am a terrible housewife. I couldn’t get the oven lit today and I got so frustrated I kicked it. #fail)

This year I’m teaching double the hours I taught last year, but I also have a lot I want to blog about. Spain, Bourgogne, and Lyon are all on the list. I’d also like to create a few posts about FAQ topics like working in France and visiting Paris, because every time I respond to individual questions I write a novel! (I struggle with brevity. You may have noticed.)

I’m also apprehensively thinking forward to next year. I have no idea what is to come or which country I’ll be in. PACSing, green carding, and graduate school are all on the table. I wish I could keep being a lectrice a little longer, but I suppose it’s good to be forced to move forward, instead of cowering in a comfortable, familiar place. If you’ve blogged about life after teaching English, please feel free to put a link in the comments!

In conclusion, something appropriate for new beginnings…

La Vie En C Rose
“Think of yesterday without regret and tomorrow without fear.”

…and an adorable photo of Tigrou rocking out in the car.

TIgrou, La Vie En C Rose
Tigrou listening to Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros

Happy rentrée! I hope your September is off to a great start.

Illogical French

I love languages because you can always, always learn new things, whether it’s your native language or your second or third (or fourth or fifth, or sixteenth, you show-off).

I ponder words constantly. French makes me laugh. English makes me laugh. I’m frustrating to French speakers, because I always want to know why. Why is “start-up” feminine? (Yes, “start-up” in French is “la start-up.”) Why is the feminine of “rigolo” “rigolote”? Sometimes I get cut off from asking questions. “Non, chérie! Tu poses trop de questions!” You ask too many questions! No more for the rest of the day!

Here’s something I learned tonight that I’ll be pondering for awhile. Christmas Island is “l’Ile Christmas” in French. But Easter Island is “l’Ile de Pâques.” Why?! Why translate Easter (Pâques) but not Christmas (Noël)?! It’s illogical!

Continue reading “Illogical French”