New blog…

•March 20, 2011 • Leave a Comment

Since leaving France and returning to the US, much has happened. You can find my new news here:

http://www.lacuisinedereen.wordpress.com

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Sancerre

•May 16, 2010 • Leave a Comment

Before I tell you all about my week (well, almost week) in Sancerre, let me tell you about Tuesday/Wednesday. Tuesday night a bunch of teachers went to L’etoile to say bon voyage to Lesley. It wasn’t my time to say farewell, however, because she swung by my place the next morning. In her hands was a huge cardboard box full of “leftovers”. The box included tissues, papertowels, laundry detergent, lotion, yougurt, orange juice, cereal, carrots, and more! Since I’m still here for another two weeks she figured I could use them – and I will!

When Lesley left my place to head home and finish packing I also left and headed to Charlotte’s. Lesley and I took a final picture together and said our goodbyes (She cried, I didn’t – it was weird. Normally, I’m really emotional…I think though, honestly, I was just excited to vacay in Sancerre.) once getting off the bus. At Charlotte’s, we met up with Albert (English) and Julia (American). We loaded up Charlotte’s roommate’s car (that which we were using to get to Sancerre) and hit the road. The road trip wasn’t too bad, but, we did miss our exit (causing us to drive a 1/2 hour in the wrong direction) and we did also get lost. So instead of it being 3.5 hours, it was a 4.5 hour journey. Oh well – road trips are fun! Here’s Albert trying to get us “unlost”.

Charlotte’s parent’s place, when we arrived, was so cute. There’s two bedrooms (a double and two twins), and a living room/kitchen combo. The first evening we ordered pizza (really good ones) because we were beat by the time we got there. We also opened up Charlotte’s parent’s cave (that which holds all their wine) and enjoyed our debut glass of Sancerre. It was a white and it was delicious. We watched a movie together and then went to bed.

Charlotte and I had matching beds (and a playpen! haha)

The next morning we slept in. Charlotte and I went to the patisserie one street over and bought baguettes and croissants/pain au chocolats for breakfast. After we ate we proceeded to go on a 4.5 hour walk all through the neighboring vineyards, many viaducts, and a couple close towns. Most of these “towns” are actually villages. Charlotte informed us that the rule in rural France is, if there’s a boucherie (butcher) in the village, it’s a town. Sancerre has a boucherie (despite literally being on the top of a hill) and the butcher’s name is “Fifi”. I’m not making this up. We visited him after the baker that morning to buy some chicken legs for dinner. (He was like right out of a movie – very friendly, overweight, moustache-wearing, apron-wearing, Frenchman.)

Voila - the butcher shop!

After our early afternoon of walking, and finding La Loire (river running through central France), we stopped for a picnic. Then we proceeded to walk all the way back up the hill, past Sancerre’s chateau (it was lovely), in and out of more vines, and finally home sweet home. Once back in Sancerre, we bought some Chevre (really really amazing local goat cheese). We also stopped by Charlotte’s neighbor, Madame Davide’s house. This elderly lady was very nice and talked to us for over an hour. She was impressed with all of our French, especially Charlotte’s, whom she hasn’t seen in a couple years. She told us to make sure we stopped by her daughter and son-in-law’s vineyard while we were in town. (Vincent Pinard) We assured her we would the following day.

For dinner that night, we all cooked (well, mostly Julia and Charlotte did – Albert read, and I edited my book.) Ratatouille. We also had roasted potatoes and the chicken legs we had bought that morning. For dessert we had the cheese we bought earlier that day and fruit. The chevre, all three kinds (doux, demi-sec, and sec = soft, semi-dry, and dry) were excellent! I’ve definitely stretched my cheese tastebuds since living in France.

Albert and Julia at lunch with La Loire behind them.

That's Sancerre up on the hill.

It was so beautiful walking through all these vines.

Such amazing views!

I want to return and buy this little country house one day.

Helping (a little bit) with dinner.

After dinner we played the game “Articulate”. Because we felt it would be easier to describe things to those of our own nationality (version of English) the teams were me and Julia versus Albert and Charlotte. Albert (who is still attending Oxford) and Charlotte (who went to Cambridge for undergrad) kicked our butts. I blame it on their British version of “Ivy” league education. Julia and I lost round after round. We finally decided to switch up the teams but seeing as Albert and Julia are boyfriend/girlfriend, and not wanting to cause a quarrel between the two of them (this game is very quarrelsome) Albert and I joined forces and played against Julia and Charlotte. Out of at least 5 rounds with my new partner, we only won one. But the one victory we did have, we were proud of!

We were the happy losers...I love Albert's face! haha

The next morning we relaxed like the day before, enjoying French-pressed Gevalia coffee with breakfast. We left the house, I don’t remember at what time, to head to Bourges. I drove (Charlotte wanted a break) the 30 minutes to the neighboring city where we explored the cathedral, shops, and ate a delicious lunch. On our way home in the late afternoon, we got a little lost, conveniently calling it a picturesque detour. We eventually got on the road to Sancerre, and stopped off at Vincent Pinard’s place for a degustation (tasting) and shopping.

Cute Bourges.

More of Bourges.

Me and Charlotte at lunch in Bourges.

Upon entering, we met Madame Davide’s daughter, who shooed us to her son (who was our age) who was also giving a tasting. He gave us, and another group of young 20-somethings, a very extensive tasting. I honestly think we tried 15 wines. Seriously. They were delicious and we all ended up buying bottles at the end. The grandson, Clรฉment, was very helpful. He spoke English, and though we told him not to speak English, he determinedly tried to sneak in a word whenever he could. By the end of the two hours we were using the “tu” form while speaking because he considered us friends. How sweet. I definitely recommend this vineyard, family, wine, etc. If they do online shopping/shipping – buy some of their wine online! (Unfortunately I cannot find a website for them. If you want their telephone/fax number, though, let me know. I have it.)

Ok, moving on. That night, after the wine tasting, we made homemade lasagne for dinner. Charlotte’s roommates, Angelique and Joannie (both French and boyfriend/girlfriend) arrived. We all ate dinner together, followed by cheese (that which we bought more of) and then watched a French film: Amelie. We didn’t dare play “Articulate”, despite the nationalities still being even.

We made it with racalette on top - shh...don't tell our secret!

The next morning I packed my bags because I had to take the train home later that afternoon. We ate breakfast and then loaded my bag into the car before heading off to another domaine (vineyard) in Pougny. This place, Domaine Langlois, specialized in Cassis, as well as wine. The woman who gave the degustation was also very informative. (I think people just take pity on the foreigners and go especially slow and explain things that most people probably already know.) She gave us a lot to taste as well: a couple whites, a couple reds, and a Mir and a Cassis. The Cassis, which you can’t really find in the States, I bought a bottle of to bring home. Like with the Pinard wine, if you’re interested in buying some, please do. I definitely recommend this wine (white and red) and of course, their Cassis. Click on link I’ve linked for their website.

Looking at this picture honestly makes my mouth water for the creme de Cassis.

After our tasting we drove to the train station in Cosne-sur-Loire (closest town with a train station to Sancerre). I headed home because I had to be back in Lyon to sing in chuch Sunday morning. Not sure what the others had planned for the rest of the weekend, but I know they’re having fun. At 1pm, I boarded a train to Nevers, enjoyed a croque-monsieur at the train station’s cafe before boading my second train to Moulins, and finally taking a third train home to Lyon.

Au revoir mes amis!

Merci Charlotte (et Monsieur et Madame Langley) pour une merveilleuse demi-semaine chez vous a Sancerre. Je me suis bien amusee! (Thanks Charlotte (and Mr & Mrs. Langley) for a wonderful half-week in Sancerre. I had a great time!)

Plans for my last two weeks…

•May 11, 2010 • Leave a Comment

Ok, so my time in France is dwindling. I cannot believe I’m down to 16 days. AHH! Where did this year go? My plans as of right now, for the last two weeks, are to host music practice this evening (the YAM group is leading church on Sunday! I’m singing!), meet some girls for drinks this evening at a posh (all my British friends are affecting my vocabulary) little cafe, L’etoile, (http://www.cityvox.co.uk/bar_lyon/l-etoile_200094237/profile-place) saying goodbye to Lesley in the morning (she heads back to the States Thursday). Head to Sancerre in the afternoon (little wine town 2 hours south of Paris) with Charlotte, Julia, and Albert (other English teachers here in Lyon). Charlotte’s parent’s own a summer home there. (http://www.chezlangleysancerre.co.uk/ – I’m putting up the link in case any of you reading ever want a cute place to rent in France.) We’ll spend 4 days visiting vineyards, playing board games, watching movies, going on hikes/walks, hopefully editing my book a little more, etc. Saturday I head back to Lyon (earlier than the other guys) so I’ll be here Sunday for church.

Sunday I’ll be “leading” praise and worship (don’t ask how I got talked into this. haha!), along with the other youngins. Monday through Wednesday I have to pack and clean because Miss Sarah Harrison, one of my four best friends (best friend from high school) is coming to VISIT!!! I am so excited! I’ve planned a little of what we’ll be doing while she’s here – but not too much. We’re going to have so much fun! I cannot wait! ๐Ÿ™‚

I cannot wait for her to get here!

YAM piquenique au parc

•May 11, 2010 • Leave a Comment

The YAM (Young adult ministry) group from church decided to have a picnic Saturday for an end of the year shindig. The Sunday before we all had lunch at Pastor Chris’ house, but we felt we wanted to do something else, but with only the youngins. Here are some pictures from our luncheon/hike with Chris and his wife Susie, and then some of our picnic the weekend after.

After lunch...we were so full! Thanks Chris and Susie!

And the hike begins...

Some of us on the bridge...

Susie (pastor's wife) trying to block out others in the background. haha

Picture next to the waterfall. ๐Ÿ™‚

Ok, now onto the picnic in the park: Highlights include:
– Anne chasing away the ducks/birds (taking out the Alpha male!)
– singing praise and worship songs and not caring at all who could hear us!
– reinacting songs/scenes from “The sound of music” (becoming the new Von Trapp family).
– having a huge surplus of great picnic food!
– running into the little french boyscouts with their berets and knee socks.
– watching french guys play “american football” unsuccessfully. hehe.

Part of our group....

Me, Elizabeth (best violinist ever!), and Rhiannon.

We turned into the new Von Trapp family and sang in the parc...really!

Le cauchemar..

•May 11, 2010 • Leave a Comment

So after our last day of teaching, some of the other American/Candian/English teachers got together to celebrate we were finished. A night which started out calm, and fun, turned into a cauchemar (nightmare).

It all starts with some people heading over to Katie and Sarah’s apartment. We all had a glass of wine, shared “last week of teaching” stories and played our favorite “stick a celebrity’s name on your forehead” game.

Katie and Stephen - play the celeb game!

(The tulips in this picture were from my students. They gave me so many I brought some over to Katie and Sarah!)

We leave their apartment around 11 and decide we want to go dancing. We try to get into a bunch of places in the 6th arrondisement (classy area = Upper East side of NY equivalent/Back Bay of Boston equivalent). We get declined at almost every place. Some bouncers reasonings were “Stephen is wear sneakers.”, “Vous etes trop nombreux” (You are too many.), etc. Finally we split our group in two, and try seperately to get it. We succeed!

Because we’ve been outside walking around for an hour, K, S, and I head straight to the bathrooms. Stephen and Lesley head to the bar. They each order and drink and then come find us in the bathrooms. Well, here’s where the night takes a turn for the worse. Lesley, holding a bottle of beer, thinks the dimly lit doorway she’s walking through leads to a hallway leading to the bathrooms, but really it’s a stairwell. She tumbles head-first down a flight of stairs [with said glass bottle in hand].

Luckily we were all done in the bathroom, just drying our hands, when we hear a random girl crying. Katie realizes it’s Lesley and freaks when she sees all the blood. A man in line for the bathroom sits Les on a really nicely embroidered WHITE chaise (in which Lesley bleeds all over) and tries to calm her down. He doesn’t succeed. She is by this point in a lot of pain, due to shattered glass all in her arm, and an aching hip which she hit while tumbling down the stairs. I turn into “super mom” and get right into the mess. (Normally, I don’t like blood. But my First Aid training came in hand this night.) The man is now using me and Sarah to translate for Lesley – she’s hysterical and refusing to speak French. He finally calls the pompiers (firefighters/EMTs) and they show up 10 minutes later. Fearful that there’s glass inside her arm, they take her to the hospital. I got to ride in the ambulance with Lesley!

At the hospital, I fill out all Lesley’s paperwork, and because we have the French “teacher” insurance (good coverage) everything that night was free: ambulance ride, ER, points sutures (stitches), pain killers, etc. Long live France and their healthcare! May the US one day emulate it! (Sorry, just saying.) At the end of the night (approx 3am) Lesley comes home with me so I can keep an eye on her. Moral of the evening: Don’t walk down stairs with glass bottles. The End.

We befriended the hospital's night staff.

Last day of school…

•May 11, 2010 • Leave a Comment

So it’s been two weeks since my last blog and a lot has happened. I’m still working on my “Spring Break #2” blog, but it’s taking me a while. Sorry. In these past two weeks, I’ve finished teaching, begun to edit my novel from last summer (some of you know about this, some of you are probably thinking, “Erin wrote a novel?”.), and visiting museums/other things in Lyon that I’ve yet to visit this year. My last week of school was a little tough. I had a lot of assignment to finish up, grade, and turn into appropriate people. (School is still going on. It doesn’t end until July 1st?, but my contract is up – so no more cool American teacher – all the students have full time classes with the other English teachers. The kids are a little bummed.) My very last with each of my classes was precious, especially with the little ones – 6emes. Almost all of them had a “mot de depart” (farewell letter) and some sort of little gift. I don’t remember when I stopped giving gifts to teachers (end of elementary school I think), but getting all their little gifts (and I got some good stuff!) makes me want to reconsider teaching middle school long term! haha just kidding!

But aside from the flowers, makeup, jewerly, etc. that I received, their letters were by far what meant the most. Some of the letters were absolutely horrible (written in Franglais) but I’m giving them effort points for trying to say everything they wanted to in English. It was cute to see things like “Good return” (for “bon voyage”), “you will miss us” (instead of “we will miss you”), and more. The older classes also wrote me “mots de depart”. Theirs were all in English and surprisingly very good. (I’m sure some used some online translators (that which I don’t encourage).) Oh well. Here’s a quote from one girl:

“The most important and enjoyable thing about you that I will remember is the way we worked together. I mean you were my teacher but I have always feeling [felt] your kindness and generosity…Best of luck where ever you go. I hope all your wishes come true and I really hope you passed [spent] a good time with us. Hope to see you again in life. Kisses.” (I left in her mistakes so you didn’t think this was too good to be true.)

Here’s another favorite:

“I liked when you use[d] to make jokes, and the way you teach. It was great…I want to say that you are very special and I will miss you. Hope to see you a next time. Take care of yourself. Thanks for showing us your yearbook it was super great! Keep being pretty. If I was by my self in the room I would cry. If I had more time I would write more. Thank you. Have a great life. God bless you. I love you. I wish you all the best.”

Ok, so these two extracts were two of the best. These are also some of my 9th graders. Granted when I was in 9th grade, my French wasn’t this good. So, needless to say, I’m very proud of these two and the level they’ve obtained in English this year! Yay!

From Easter ’till now…

•April 26, 2010 • 1 Comment

From Easter until now has been filled with two weeks of vacation. I had a friend, Gabe, come visit from the States, and he and I, with two other teachers here in France embarked on a week long holiday in Germany and the Czech Republic. Before our vacation however, I made Gabe be my date to a friend’s wedding. (I know the couple from church here in case you’re wondering how on earth I got invited to someone’s wedding only after living 8 months in France.)

Me and Gabe before leaving for the wedding.

Me and Cecile - la tres belle mariee!

Our originally-planned 7 day break ended up totaling 10 days due to the volcano erupting in Iceland. Luckily we had met a nice American living in Prague who let us stay the extra two night at her apartment so we didn’t have to pay more to stay in our hostel. I’ll write an actual “Vacation blog” soon, but not right now. Besides Germany and the CR, the rest of my vacation was spent exploring the French countryside with Charlotte and Lesley (and Canadian Katie). Guillaume left me his car so we profitted from having car access. Since I’m really the only one that can drive stick, I did all the driving but having gone to school in SC and being forced to commute back to MA multiple times a year over the past 4 years, a 2-3 hour (each way) day trip in France was nothing. We visited Avignon and Orange in the south, and Dijon and Beaune in the north (none of these towns are really north and south of France, just north and south of Lyon). Here are some pictures from our “petits voyages”.

This is the “Pont d’Avignon” (The Avignon Bridge). There is a song named after this bridge. It’s old. Youtube it to hear it. ๐Ÿ™‚

L'hotel de ville.

This is Avignon’s town hall (mayor’s office). We sat at a cafe and each had a sirop the afternoon we were here. It was so calming and peaceful. We kind of felt like locals. It’s such a cute, quaint, town.

The gorgeous yellow fields in Beaune.

Here, while driving through Beaune (one of France’s most prominent wine regions), we’d occasionally see these beautiful yellow fields. It was rare though because the vineyards and rows upon rows of vines took up most of the ground.

In Dijon, we had a picnic for lunch.

In Dijon, because we went on a Friday, Charlotte, Lesley and I bought some goodies at their weekly market. We then enjoyed everything we bought, as well as the sunshine, inside Dijon’s Parc Darcy. We finished up the afternoon walking around, buying some mustard, drinking a sirop outside hotel de ville and a miribelle Kir (Dijon’s speciality) at Les Trois Coups.

Check out his tshirt!

While at the cafe outside hotel de ville, I spotted this teenager. I couldn’t believe my eyes when I read his tshirt. Yes, he is indeed wearing a “TL Hanna” tshirt. (For those of you reading not from SC, TL Hanna is one of the two high schools in Anderson – where I went to college.) Small world?

Theatre Romain d'Orange

Here is Orange’s Roman theater. It’s the most well-preserved Roman theater in France. Lyon has two, but they’re not as well-maintained as this one. It was a pretty sight to see.