Hey everyone! For my second blog I’ve been assigned the topic of Entertainment and Leisure and there isn’t a better opportunity to tell you all about my travels around France! I have been so lucky to be placed as a language assistant in the Provence-Alpes- Cote d’Azur region for my Year Abroad. There are so many beautiful places to visit right on my doorstep. The head teachers at my schools were great when planning my teaching timetable (emploi de temps) and I have three-day weekends which means that when I’m not busy lesson planning, I travel!
The town Grasse, where I’m placed, is a 40 minute bus ride from the French Riviera and a 30 minute drive from the mountains (if you have a car) so is right in the middle of both the mountains and the sea! So I get the best of both worlds really. Although the town itself is very small, the surroundings and views over the Riviera are stunning! And with bus fares only at €1.50 for one journey, you’d be mad not to travel!
Here are some of my travel experiences so far:
Enjoying the French Riviera
Some of my favourite places to visit on the French Riviera include Nice, Antibes and Cannes which all have their own unique selling points. Nice is a bustling city with so many places to eat out, things to see and great transport links, Antibes is a beautiful town to explore with winding streets and Cannes is very sophisticated with bars, beautiful beaches and fancy boutiques. Often on a Sunday, I like to walk and sit beside the sea in Cannes. Given the wonderful climate here, there is rarely a time when it is not sunny and it is very relaxing to have a bit of time to myself. And yes people were still swimming in the sea in November, it was that mild!
Experiencing French Festivals
In early December I visited Lyon for La Fête des lumières. This is when all the residents celebrate the Virgin Mary whose statue overlooks the city. Originally the festival began on the 8 September 1852 when the statue was meant to be installed in the city. However the River Saône flooded meaning the installation had to be cancelled. The date was moved back to December the 8th but a orage during the day meant that again it had to be postponed. Later that evening when the residents saw that the weather began to improve, they lit candles in their windows and the tradition of lighting the city has been carried on ever since. Today it is huge festival normally lasting 4 nights where the whole of the city is illuminated and short films are projected onto buildings. It is truly magnifique and definitely one of the highlights of my year so far!
Hopping across to Italy for the day!
Being in Europe makes it so easy to travel in between countries. Last Saturday I spontaneously took the train and hopped across the border to San Remo in Italy for the day! Although I know we can do that from England to Wales, it doesn’t quite have the same feel! The town being on the coast and right next to Nice was very similar architecturally (colourful buildings, palm trees and a big port) but it was lovely to explore a different country, hear a different language and become more culturally informed! I had to go through quite an extensive security check to get past the border including a passport check, full body scan and emptying the entire contents of my bag and pockets but it was worth it for the day trip. The security measures were obviously needed. On our return journey, police searched the train and found 5 illegal immigrants hidden away on board….quite a humbling moment.
Walking in National Parks
I was very lucky to be able to visit Le parc natural régional du Verdon with my housemate and her boyfriend who had a car. We spent a lovely afternoon walking in Les Gorges du Verdon, beside crystal clear waters, towering cliffs and stunning scenery. There were also lots of French families out walking as it is a popular weekend activity and the weather was gorgeous. I would highly recommend a visit if you are ever near!
Learning about local French culture
Some of my favourite times in France have been spent with a teacher from the school I work at. I have stayed at her house in the mountains twice and discovered the more simple way of life. Her house is heated purely by a wood stove and they grow all their own fruit and veg and make their own jam. When I went to stay we roasted châtaignes on the log fire, made crepes and drank locally made French beer. It was quite the experience! Last time I stayed with her we visited a little village which had all the old Provençal signs in the village. Provençal is the old French language which was spoken in the region of Provence. (South east of France.) It resembles both the French language today and Italian. See if you can guess what shop this sign is for below! It reads Especiarie in Provençal.
Going skiing at a local ski resort!
For my birthday recently, my family came to visit me and we went skiing for the day! The ski resort is maybe 40 minutes away by car so isn’t a long drive at all and many people in this area go for an afternoon or for the weekend. In fact, several times at school I arrived to teach my classes and I was informed that they were away skiing! So naturally by the time they are 10, French kids can ski very well! Ski du fond is also very popular. There are many cross-country routes and forests nearby which are perfect for walking. Understandably so, people enjoy the easy access they have to the snow and slopes!
Asides from travelling here are some activities that the local people do in their spare time:
Local Entertainment in the South:
- YOGA! Grasse is not a town which has lots going on and lots of young people so I’ve taken on perhaps what can be considered as an older person’s activity…:P I go with one of my teachers on Monday evenings and I try to understand all the commands in French! What I mostly pick up is inspire…expire and try not to fall asleep which can be challenging when tired!
- Trips to the beach and walks along the coast
- Playing Boules. Boules is extremely popular in the South of France and there seems to be a square reserved for it in every town so it is taken very seriously!
I hope you have enjoyed reading my blog! I’ve put some words in italics, see if you can find out their meaning:) Bonne semaine à tous!