Always have a Plan B.

“If ‘Plan A’ didn’t work, the alphabet has 25 more letters! Stay cool.”

-Unknown

Today the plan was to go the the Château de Chambord, and I was really looking forward to simply leaving my room today, because yesterday was spent just relaxing (lazing). I did do some work though! I am not completely useless, don’t fret. However plans never seem to work out the way you intended them to, and I always believe, however big or small, it is always for a reason. And so I recount my day… I got up bright and early at 8:00 feeling refreshed and ready to face what the day had to bring! It started off great as I woke up to this lovely view from my window…

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I love France.

After getting ready, and dropping and breaking my mug (sad times), I left for the Gare de Tours; destination: Blois-Chambord. After a forty minute train journey, myself and Hollie arrived in the charming town of Blois with not much of an idea of where we were supposed to go next. Out came trusty Google Maps and it said ‘Chambord: 3 hr 10 mins on foot (15km)’ Hmm… this did not look promising. But thinking positively, we thought we’d have a look around. Not knowing that Blois had its own chateau, we ended up there and realized we’d got something wrong. Luckily there was a tourist office, so we headed there for some much needed direction. After studying the leaflet for Château de Chambord, we discovered that we had in fact got the correct train, but it was the lack of information provided on the leaflet of where to go afterwards that had left us slightly lost. Anyway, the woman in the tourist office gave us directions on how to get from there to Chambord; take the number 2 bus from the stop outside the train station and we’d get there. So we made our way back to the train station. And I’m not even joking, there was five bus stops outside the train station. Five. And not having had specified which one it was from the lady in the tourist office, and after having asked several people which stop it was with no joy, we decided to wait and see what happened. Nothing happened. We waited patiently but it never came. It was time for Plan B.

For our Plan B we decided to check out Château de Blois and then have a wander around the town. As a result, we headed back towards the chateau. Now, this chateau was one of the more pricier of the ones I’d been to; 7.50€ isn’t exactly what I’d call a ‘reduced price’ (student rate). But it was a really charming chateau with some beautiful features.

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Front facade

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La salle des États

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Grand escalier François I

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L’aile Gaston d’Orléans (looking up)

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Grand escalier François I

After exploring the chateau we went to find some lunch, near to which we found the Maison de magie purely by coincidence. We heard strange noises, and I will say no more as this video can explain more clearly what we saw… Being very curious as to what this mysterious building held inside, we ventured in and explored and it was interesting… although I was fortunate that I feel young at heart because the abundance of excitable children was a telltale sign that this was more aimed at a younger generation.

Next, we explored the town a little. This included eating a Nutella crêpe, climbing way too many steps for my liking, getting harassed by a lady asking for a banana for her children (don’t ask) and having a nose around an old bookshop where I purchased the French versions of Bridget Jones’s Diary and The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes. I was very proud of these purchases at an impressive 4€ for the two of them.

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View over Blois from the top of the steps

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Other view over Blois from the top of the steps

Finally, after a long but very good day we made our way home. I bid my farewells to Hollie and ended up back home where I am writing this entry and feeling a bit dizzy. Not really sure why, if you have an insight into reasons behind this however please let me know. I’d appreciate it!

I’ll leave you with an update on my Nutella situation: after a couple of weeks of refusing to buy a new jar for my health and sanity, I caved and allowed myself an acceptable 440g jar. I bought this on Tuesday last week, 10 days later and it is about nine tenths gone. I am not sorry.

Bonsoir!

-Len

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Thai, not pie!

One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well. – Virginia Woolf, A Room of One’s Own

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Honeyed apple fritters for pudding!

I sure dined well last night! Along with some of the international girls, who share my love of food, we decided that last night would be Thai night. Us eating out has turned into a weekly occurrence, which I am delighted about as it gives me something to look forward to half way through the week. Already we have experienced Chinese, Indian, Sushi and Moroccan! And all of which have been amazing and have left me with a very satisfied belly. So as I said, last night was the turn of Thai, and having only eaten this cuisine once before, I was very much looking forward to it. Being only a small little restaurant down a back street, it wouldn’t seem like much to someone who has happened to wander past, however you shouldn’t judge this book by it’s cover. There was plenty to choose from so I was stuck for choice slightly, but I settled with the set menu as this was the only way to get the most from my money. The main was amazing, satay chicken always goes down well with me, and it was all so well presented. I could have eaten it forever! Overall, I couldn’t fault it, so they will definitely be seeing my eager face again! At home, I settled down with the Apprentice and a bag of these beauties!

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As explanation for the title of this post, when on the phone to my boyfriend, he thought I’d said I was going out for pie in France. I wish!

-Len

What day is it today…?

“Thank you, Daniel, that is very good to know. But if staying here means working within 10 yards of you, frankly, I’d rather have a job wiping Saddam Hussein’s arse.”

-Helen Fielding, Bridget Jones’s Diary

It’s okay, I know it’s Tuesday, but the last two days have slightly blurred into one! I think it’s a way of coping when you get to Monday because it is generally just a crap day, so you try to squish the two days together in order to make them more bearable. I have also been getting slightly confused today; I have been doing that thing when you can’t find something and it’s in your hand, or right in front of your eyes. People must think I’m generally crazy, especially with the amount of times I’ve said “pardon?!” today too!

Anyway….. Classes started again yesterday, exciting stuff I must say. Mondays begin at 12:30 with an interpreting class between French and English, followed by two hours of Tandem (I’ll get to this) and finally two hours of Italian, which means getting home at 19:30 to an incredibly busy kitchen and having to wait to cook while my belly growls for Britain. Note to self: never agree to share a kitchen with anyone. Ever again.

To explain ‘Tandem’, it is a conversation with a French student for an hour, where we speak for half and hour in French and the other half in English. It’s actually rather helpful, and it means I can speak to lots of different people, without having to do the awkward social introductions; “Hey, you don’t know me but please speak to me!”. No, I’m joking, I’m not that awkward, but Tandem is actually great to practice French on a one to one basis.

Today (Tuesdays) consist of a painfully early start at 9am (I am a terrible morning person), which is my translation class from English to French, which is exclusively for exchange students. I got a test mark back today; I got 16/20, so I’m super happy! I then have a lovely four hour break, where I can come home, chill and become a normal, functioning human being by drinking a cuppa. However today this was not as chilled as I hoped it would be, as my kitchen was locked. Yes, they lock the kitchens here with closing times. I assume to stop drunk people burning us to death at 3am. Today it was locked at midday though! So in my distress that I was not able to cook food, and there was no Nutella in my cupboard as back up, I went to reception to ask if there was a key. The man told me “La cuisine est trop sale.” Too dirty?! You want to see some of the student kitchens in Portsmouth! He made it out that it was solely my fault, I was not impressed. All was not lost though, I snuck down to the kitchen downstairs. It finally opened at 20:00, when we had to clean up the few crumbs, the fork and the bin bag that had made the place a pigsty. Sarcasm intended here.

At 14:30 I return for my French to English translation for exchange students, and finally at 17:00 I have a Spanish translation class. My teacher, Madame Fintzel, is not a nice lady.In fact she is so mean, she moved a student for talking (she’s old school). I got a test mark back for this class too. Didn’t do quite as well; 0.5/6. But it was made better because, before handing our results out Madame Fintzel made a point of announcing how terribly we’d all done. I think I like her really.

Tonight was much more fun though! I went and cooked with the girls downstairs and we then continued to have a girly night with popcorn, sweets, wine (tea for me!) and Bridget Jones. Any girl’s dream night in. Men – take note. It almost felt as though I was back at home, it was great and Bridget Jones is hilarious every time.

Tomorrow looks promising, I’m off out for food with friends in the evening! Either Thai or sushi, we’ve not decided yet. Either way it will be good to have food cooked for me and not have to be locked out of my kitchen again. I do not understand the French at all sometimes.

-Len

5 tips on how to stay feeling British in a foreign country (selon moi).

“Be England what she will. With all her faults, she is my country still.”

-Charles Churchill

Seeing as it is Saturday, and I probably will end up having a lazy day as I am still not feeling well, writing another blog post seemed the most productive thing to do!

So here it is, 5 very useful tips on how to stay feeling British while living in another country; all tried and tested in France.

1. Seek out a British food source. One of the most important things to do so that you feel at home while away, is to find somewhere that sells food items that are sold in Britain. Food is very important to me, so this was vital! I found a shop through word of mouth that sells several items such as heinz baked beans, bbq sauce, mint sauce, pataks curries and most importantly Cadbury’s drinking chocolate;much to my delight although at a slight cost! However, if this fails, make sure you mention to a family member or friend at home about how much you’re craving British junk food, and maybe your Dad will send you something like this:

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Thanks Dad!

2. Drink as much tea as you can. So before I came, one of things at the top of my list of ‘things to bring’ was teabags and a kettle. So along with my suitcase was an old kettle my parents had kept in the loft and a huge pack of 240 Tetley teabags. These have been an integral part of my stay here so far, as tea is a big part of British culture, or for my family at least. Whenever we’re round someone’s house, it’s “I’ll put the kettle on then.” And don’t forget your rich tea biscuits with that cuppa, you can’t have tea without some dunking action.

3. Get to know some fellow English speakers. This may seem silly because after all, I am supposed to be learning French here! However, it is surprising how relieving it can feel after a day full of French, to actually speak English and have people understand you, and be able to understand others completely too. It’s also nice to be able to share experiences with others who are in the same situation as you, and not have to worry about if you have said everything correctly, and did I get that conjugation of that tense right?!

4. Watch British TV programmes. I honestly don’t think I have ever watched so much TV in my entire lifetime. Seriously. Especially on days like today when my head is pounding and my nose is blocked and the only solution is to melt from the sight of puppies on Paul O’Grady: For the Love of Dogs. Obviously, watching British catch up TV abroad isn’t as simple as it may seem, as it isn’t within licensing agreements to air British programmes to foreign countries, or something complicated like that… (damn us British for being so difficult!). But there is a simple solution! Get yourself a VPN blocker, and Voila! Catch up at your fingertips! Shhh though, we don’t want the BBC finding this out…

5. Annoy family and friends at home by calling and messaging them at all hours of the day (and night)! Okay, so this one might not necessarily make you feel ‘British’ per se. But it can make you feel more connected with your life at home and the people who you miss the most. Luckily, nowadays there are many means to do this including Skype and FaceTime, both of which are free when connected to WiFi, as everyone knows. But it also might be a good idea to get yourself set up with a mobile network provider that can give you great deals on international calls and texts. I went with Lycamobile’s ‘All in one’ tariff which means I get loads of international calls and also data to use when in France, so I can WhatsApp on the move too! But this also means that my boyfriend gets calls from me at 1 o’clock in the morning when he’s finishing work because I want someone to talk to. I would apologise but I know he likes it really.

There you are then! I hope these tips set you on your way to feeling more British than you ever have before, and failing that you could always just dress like the Queen herself, because you can’t get more British than that.

-Len

Better late than never!

How did it get so late so soon? Its night before its afternoon. December is here before its June. My goodness how the time has flewn. How did it get so late so soon?
-Dr. Seuss

Okay, so truth be told I have already been living in France for a little over a month now, but it’s only recently occurred to me that a blog could be a really good idea, and a way of recording every experience so that I don’t have to rely so much on my memory later in life, because it is truly terrible. Anyway, I will use this first post as a means to do a quick overview of my first month here, in the beautiful country of the French. (I apologise in advance for how un-chronological the following may be…)

So, the few weeks leading up to my departure for France were probably the most awful weeks of my life. Well maybe not my life, but you know what I mean. The prospect of leaving home to go to a totally new and foreign place just scared the crap out of me and I put off packing for as long as possible, mainly because I hate packing but also with the thought that maybe if I didn’t pack in time I wouldn’t have to leave. But the city of Tours is a beautiful place, and so arriving to the city with my parents in tow gave me a little sense of relief; I would be living in this amazing place! Below is the first picture I took here, which I soon uploaded to Instagram.

View over the Loire river from Rue Nationale.

View over the Loire river from Rue Nationale.

I am living in University halls, which for the very cheap price aren’t bad at all. Although I think 30 students to 4 hobs and a microwave is slightly pushing the boundaries, and I am always mega happy to find it empty when I want to cook. I have my own en suite (or tiny wetroom; however you wish to look at it) and I’m at the end of the corridor which means minimal noise. I have located the best supermarket; only a 10-minute bus ride away and they have a section of international foods, which includes some English items, much to my delight.

One of the things that made me feel a whole lot better about being here was the number of other international students who are here and in exactly the same boat as me. It’s reassuring to know that everyone is missing the comforts of home, and we have often spend an hour or so just simply talking about food we miss; for me it’s onion rings and magic stars (Nutella is not an issue here!). It’s great to sit and talk to them all, there are many from America, Canada, Australia, Ireland, Scotland and England too, as it gives me the opportunity to experience cultures other than that of the French while I am here.

Internationals in Tours

At the Château d’Amboise

Already, I have experienced many things. Some of which include: visiting a couple of chateaus (one of which you can see above); ice skating (and falling over in the most un-elegant way imaginable with the bruises to show for it!); eating my weight in crepes and croque monsieurs; speaking to many French students, all of whom have been a pleasure to speak to, and buying a toaster, because living without one would be unthinkable. However, the first moment I was truly proud of was when I bought bread for the first time in a boulangerie (French for bakery) because I managed to have a conversation for the first time without having to say “Pardon?!“.

Although I could probably type for hours, I feel like I should bring this post to a close as I probably run the risk of boring you with all these words (currently 706!). So as a finishing note, I would like to say that having now lived here for a substantial period of time, I now realise that the anxiety I had before leaving were natural but unnecessary and that I should embrace new opportunities and grab as many as I can with both hands, jumping in head first! Oh, and also, all the Nutella is now gone.

-Len