I spent the first semester of my year abroad in a town called Chambery, in the Rhône-alpes region of France (South East). The town itself was quite quiet, but because it was located in such a mountainous region, there was a huge range of sports available to do.
I was super nervous that when I moved to France I wouldn’t have the confidence or the language skills to make new friends, and that I would spend the whole semester in my apartment binge-watching Netflix, and so I decided to sign myself up for an integration week which was exclusively for international students. During this week I quickly discovered how active the people of the Rhône-alpes department were – we took part in activities such as Via Ferrata (Viía Ferrata), high ropes courses (arborismo), horse riding (equitación) and paragliding (parapente).
The town is a 30-minute drive/train journey from the hugely popular ‘Bourget Lake’, where I spent a lot of sunny days. At the lake, you can do navegacion (sailing), remo (rowing), piragüismo (canoeing/kayaking), rafting (rafting), pesca (fishing), salto (diving), esquí acuático (water skiing), y wakeboard. Pero, si no te gusta el deporte, puedes descansar o tomar algo al lado del lago, o ir de compras. Or, you can spend all day taking stunning photos and spam every social media that you have, like I did…
Getting around : roller blades, scooters and bikes.
One thing that I found so strange but also hilarious was that in Chambéry, muchas personas utilizan patines y monopatines para moverse, ¡incluso adultos! You’d often see adults taking their children to school by scooter (and I don’t mean electric ones, but the ones we have when we’re little!), or coming back from Carrefour (basically France’s Tesco) with their shopping bags on rollerblades. También, alquilar una bicicleta por 4 meses cuesta solo €30 si eres un estudiante, por eso muchas personas utilizan la bici.
También, cuando estaba en Chambéry, tenía la oportunidad de esquiar. Fuimos a una estación de esquí (ski resort) que se llama Courchevel. When I was younger, I went on a ski trip with my school to Italy, but I was terrible! So, as you can imagine, 5 years later and with no lessons, I sucked! Puedes alquilar (rent) los esquís (skis), el casco (helmet), y las botas (boots) en la estación de esquí.
For this section, I’ll spam the blog with photos because it was just so amazing. En septiembre, yo y mis amigos fuimos a un pueblo que se llama Chamonix. Chamonix es muy famoso porque está al pie del Monte Blanco. The first Winter olympics in 1924 was held there! Puedes sube a la montaña (go up the mountain) por teleférico (cable car), pero es muy aterrador! When we arrived at the top of the mountain, it was -4 degrees Celsius (as a comparison, it was 24 degrees in my town which was just 1 hour away!). You can walk all around the station at the top and the views were absolutely incredible. Also, if you have the patience to queue for 20 minutes or so you can stand in a cubo de verra (glass box) at 3842m high. In Winter, the attraction site is closed because the temperature drops so much that it becomes too dangerous!
As I said, the region is located in the Alps and is naturally hilly. This was a pesadoooooo (pain) when you basically have to walk 30 minutes up a mountain to get to the universidad, but it did have its perks. Excursionisimo (hiking) es muy popular, y las vistas están increidíbles. Además, no es necesario ir con un grupo porque hay tantos cominos.
Probably the biggest surprise for me when I was in France was the difference in foods available. In the whole 4 months that I spent in the region, I only found 1 shop which sold individual chocolate bars! Todos los otros tiendas y supermercados venden chocolate pero en paqutes grandes, y están mucho más caro del choclate aquí en el Reino Unido. Plus, they have purple cauliflour.