Weekend Getaway Number 2

The past month has gone by in a whirlwind and my blog has fallen down to the bottom of my priorities but alas I’m here to rectify this!

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The weekend after our first getaway to Bastia we ventured to the continent with our sights set on Nice. After a very early start (5:30am!), Ella and I headed to the airport and had some breakfast before the flight.

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Ella and I being tourists!

Since we landed very early – the flight from Ajaccio only takes 45 minutes – and the weather was amazing, we decided to do a hop on/hop off bus tour to ensure we saw as much of Nice as possible.

 

 

20160206_103419That night Victoria arrived just in time to head to Monaco the next morning. Generally, we had mixed feelings about Monaco, sure it’s great if you have $$$$$$$$ to spend but your average tourist doesn’t. That being said it was a little surreal to see so many expensive boats. One thing that really made me laugh was that instead of home real estate advertised it was all for luxury yachts – to which I bought 5 (yeah, right!)

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Boats, boats, boats!

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The weather was pretty dull and rainy that day so we checked out the palace then headed to the aquarium which was situated right next to the palace.

I think it’s fair to say the aquarium was my favourite part of our trip to Monaco!

On Sunday, our flight didn’t leave until 9pm so we had a full day to kill. Unfortunately, the weather was even more miserable than the day before in Monaco. So we spent the day museum hopping – which is great if you’re a student as most museums are free in France for students, providing you have your student I.D!

I had a great time in Nice despite the weather not being the best. If you only have a short time to spend there, the hop on/hop off bus is well worth the 20 euro as you see a lot of sights you wouldn’t know existed if it weren’t for the bus. Monaco is worth a visit as it is only a 25 minute train journey away. The palace grounds are a must see as it is like it’s own little town and don’t forget to go and watch the changing of the guard which takes place at 11am everyday. If all else fails there’s a pretty awesome aquarium which gives student discount!

Weekend Getaway Number 1.

Last weekend, Ella, Victoria and I ventured up North to meet some other assistants and visit one of the main cities here in Corsica. It’s fair to say we packed a lot of stuff into our weekend!

Firstly, I had to take the bus from Sartene-Ajaccio (2 hours). Then we took the train from Ajaccio – Bastia (4 hours). After arriving late in Bastia, we decided to go for food and a few drinks with the Bastian assistants who were all very lovely!

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(A picture I saw that night. It reads; Oscar Pistorius under house arrest. “Boss! I think that the electronic tag was a s**t idea”.)

The next day we strolled around the city to see what it had to offer. Bastia is very different from Ajaccio, for a start, you can only ever see the sunrise, not sunset due to its geographical position. However, on a clear day you can see Italy.
Bastia feels more like a city on the continent (mainland France) than Ajaccio does as it has a bit more of a modern feel to it. For example, the majority of restaurants etc. remain open in the winter unlike Ajaccio where a simple stroll along Rue Fesch on a Saturday night is akin to walking through a graveyard.

Bastia is divided into two parts, the new town and the old town. In the old town lies the citadel which is great for strolling around and visiting the museum. The port is also near to the citadel and along there you will find a lot of restaurants/bars.

One thing that is a must, is to take the train to Bastia. Although it is long in comparison to driving to Bastia – 4 hours by train, 2 hours by car from Ajaccio – you will be guaranteed an amazing view. As ever, people on the train are as friendly as ever and you will also meet some very interesting characters!

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After being awestruck by Bastia (and secretly wishing we had all been placed there), we took the train back to Ajaccio. Once we had arrived in Ajaccio, our desires for being placed in Bastia soon disappeared. We realised that there is a great difference between the two cities as one is more metropolitan and the other is more desert like. When we stepped of the train, the weather was unusually really hot (around 20 degrees) and we soon remembered that actually we really do love Ajaccio and it does feel like home.

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Ella and I made the most of the weather and visited the famous, îles sanguinares (bloody islands), to fully understand why it is called this you should watch the sunset there. Despite it only being a short 1 euro bus ride from Ajaccio, it feels so far away as you can hardly see the city from the islands and it is my new favourite place to go whilst visiting Ajaccio.

20160124_163434.jpgLes îles, just before sunset. 

20160124_172019 (2)It’s easy to see why they are called les îles sanguinaires. 

Next weekend will be Weekend Getaway Number 2 as we adventure to Nice and Monaco.

Time is ticking by.

It’s been over two whole months since my last post and lets just say that was down to technical difficulties*.

*Technical Difficulties – When one drops a laptop or electronic device on a tiled surface causing said device to cease functioning.

 

I have had a very busy and amazing 2 months. I’ve gained a housemate, cats, friends, experiences and memories.
Now that we are into the 2nd part of the year abroad, everyone is much more relaxed which means that there are more adventures to be had!
I feel so lucky to have made friends here who are similar and just as spontaneous and up for adventure as I am. Now that we are half-way through the year abroad process I want to get out there and see as much as I possibly can. Therefore, my friends and I have booked trips to Nice and soon Marseille!

Teaching wise everything is great, all the people here – staff and students – are super relaxed, helpful and enthusiastic. I’m beginning to be recognised for my progress in my French and I’m becoming more confident with each little bit of progress I make. It was lovely to be so warmly received by everyone after the Christmas holidays.

In fact, the Christmas holidays were amazing. It’s difficult to explain almost because on the one hand, Corsica/general year abroad shenanigans feel so far away when you are sat at home with your family and friends enjoying yourself. However, it is apparent that you easily fit back into your same routine when you go back home for holidays which makes you realise just how precious your time abroad is. Even though life in your chosen town also doesn’t change, you do. In a sense that, whilst enjoying said time with your friends and family you already start losing the progress you had worked so hard to make. Therefore, it is vital to always maintain your language skills.

Now, that the end of my year abroad doesn’t actually seem that far away. It is vital for me to learn and experience as much as I can and that is exactly what I plan on doing!

 

 

 

“Lunch is a lengthy and serious affair”

I’m now 6 weeks into my time abroad and it’s fair to say I don’t want it to end! Everyone is lovely, I have and am continuing to make lovely friends and I’m learning so much – what more could you ask for?!

I thought I would give you all a brief description on what I’ve noticed so far in my 6 weeks of being here;

  1. Bread is taken very seriously and is a separate food group.
    It is not uncommon to see someone trek down into the town (it’s a pretty steep trek back) just for a baguette! I thought it was just a stereotype of the French but no – I haven’t gone a single day without seeing someone carrying a baguette or two – or as I once saw – six! Now I don’t know if there’s some secret bread society or something but six seemed a little excessive for a family of two. Apparently a loaf of bread which we are used to in the UK, is not classed as normal bread either – I once went food shopping and put a loaf in my trolley and was then asked if I wanted proper bread too, I mean how much bread is one person expected to eat in France?!
  2. Coffee is also a no-laughing matter.
    As a devoted tea drinker, I can honestly say that their coffee is amazing. No other words, you just have to try it.
  3. Lunch is a lengthy affair.
    At school, kids get an hour and a half for “le déjeuner” and I have made many a trip to a shop or the bank to realise that, in fact, they are closed for a 2 hour lunch break. That’s right closed. They don’t rotate staff for your convenience, lunch is a civil right.
  4. Wasps are friends not enemies.
    Now I don’t know if it’s because the people here are accustomed to wasps due to the almost constant warm weather but I was once having coffee with some colleagues and I refused to sit down because there was a wasp (I have a very strong fear of them, okay!) whilst the others treated it as it was their favourite pet whilst letting it crawl all over their hand!
  5. Corsicans are language gurus.
    They’re already bilingual throughout childhood. They learn French and Corsican as their primary languages. Then almost everyone learns Italian, then some go on to learn Spanish and then in last place comes English! That’s just insane, I’m très jealous! It puts it into perspective just how lazy the U.K is when it comes to learning languages.
  6. Sign posts and information points do not exist.
    Okay so that’s not entirely true but it definitely feels that way! During the Toussaint holidays I cannot tell you how many times we got lost due to lack of sign posts. I mean dangerously lost – we thought we were doing a nice scenic 2 hour walk in a forest. It turned out that due to lack of sign posts and information points we were actually doing a section of the famous GR20 hiking trail. If it weren’t for me speaking to a lovely Corsican lady about the route we would have actually been stranded up a cliff, overnight, freezing to death. Thus, a map/travel guide/hiking guide is a must in Corsica.
  7. A notebook is a must!
    This is a necessity for anyone travelling abroad. Always take your notebook with you wherever you go because I can assure you that you will have forgotten that word you wanted to look-up by the time you get home.

    Col de bavella (also known as the place we almost had to make a make-shift camp).
    Col de bavella (also known as the place we almost had to make a make-shift camp).

Almost 3 weeks in and I’ve not starved.

Firstly, I’d just like to let you all know that I am alive and I’ve managed to get the hotplate working! (Surprisingly, I’m not missing an oven as much as I thought I would.)

I’m approaching the end of my third week here in Corsica and as we prepare for a 2 week holiday after classes finish tomorrow, it is sufficient to say I’m really looking forward to it. It’s not that I need a break already it’s just that I’m looking forward to exploring Corsica a bit more, my boyfriend and I are meeting for a few days in Paris to be very touristy then he will come back to Sartene with me for the remainder of the two weeks. We have hired a car and are both excited to discover the island a bit more!

Whilst I still don’t have a timetable for my school, I have attended most classes (I’m working more than the contracted 12 hours voluntarily so that I can spend more time at home during the Christmas period) and I’m really enjoying it. What has surprised me the most is that for the time being I’m enjoying my classes with the younger students more as they’re so enthusiastic to learn and want to know everything! This is a complete surprise to me as I thought I’d dread the idea of younger children as they’re very unpredictable! We shall wait and see if I still have this opinion by the end of my time here.

As a language assistant you will soon start to doubt your competency not just in the foreign language you are studying but your native language also. I find myself writing or thinking in very static English phrases such as, “in my opinion”, “firstly”, “no I can’t, yes I can” etc etc. It is fair to say that being a language assistant has already been very beneficial for me as the great Marie-Jeanne helps me with my French everyday. For example, if the kids are learning an English grammar point she makes me recite the same point or conjugation in French! Another sneaky trick of hers is to get me to have a large conversation with her in English and then she will say “now say it again but in French”. Everyone at the school is very accommodating – I’m even able to attend classes as a student, which means I can attend Spanish lessons so I won’t be abandoning it completely this year.

Not only am I looking forward to settling into a routine with my school further after the holidays but I am also looking forward to visiting the other language assistants in Ajaccio too! Surprisingly there’s only one English person and two Scots! Everyone else is either American or Italian which is really good because it means that our common language is French. All of the assistants are really nice, it’s just a shame that I’m the only one that has been placed outside of Ajaccio but this just means we all have an excuse to travel and see other parts of the South!

À bientôt et bonnes vancances!
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(Sunset in Sartene)

“Where’s the Oven?”

This has got to be one of the first things any year abroad student must think when they arrive in their accommodation.

Before I go any further I’ll show you what I’m dealing with…

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Just for the record, I didn’t create that mess!

Anyway, I thought I’d best give any future year abroad students who, like me, were totally unprepared for this! I’m still in shock and don’t have a clue what to cook as whatever I eat at home usually requires an oven. Tonight, I settled for pasta – something I try not to eat too much of but alas, it has not gone to plan. I’ve been waiting on it boiling for literally an hour now so I’m going to be eating salad until I can get someone to look at it.

However, for when I do get this monstrosity working recipes that only require a hob or a microwave will be greatly appreciated!

Everything Happens for a Reason

I’ve made it to Corsica for my year abroad in one piece – a slightly fragile piece but in one piece all the same!

It feels like it has taken ages to get here and I don’t just mean the 3 days worth of travelling, I mean all the planning, organising and talking about it with friends and family. It came as a shock to me the night before my flight of just how crazy the year abroad actually is, so around 7pm the night before my flight, sat in my airport hotel, I completely freaked out. I mean I was moving over a thousand miles away, up a mountain, in a small town, all by myself. Personally, I think the last part was the hardest to comprehend as I’ve never been by myself – I moved straight in with my boyfriend after moving out of my mum’s. However, as many people had stated I would never get this opportunity again…

Once I had arrived in Ajaccio I felt even more overwhelmed, for a start I had totally underestimated how hot it was going to be (the thunderstorm advertised on the weather forecast was slightly wrong) and then it felt as though I had been thrown in at the deep end, so to say, as I couldn’t rely on others to help me speak French (which I’ll admit I often do – sorry lecturers!). However, I’m very surprised at my ability to speak French as I’ve managed to have conversations with complete strangers and they’ve actually understood me – Scottish French accent and all!

Anyways, I felt a lot more at ease once I arrived in Sartene yesterday morning, I was met by the headmistresses assistant who is lovely and eccentric despite talking very quickly. I briefly met a few colleagues and was shown my apartment for the next 7 months – lets just say it was definitely not what I had pictured but for only 90 euros a month it’s too good an opportunity to let go. It’s a bit like student accommodation, there’s 3 lockable bedrooms (to which I have one), a studio with a kitchen/TV area complete with sofa bed for guests which I have sole use of and then there’s a communal bathroom. Now the idea of a communal bathroom scared me a little but I was quickly told that the other two bedrooms are usually only used if the school is expecting visitors although it just so happened to be that on my first night in my apartment an education inspector was staying in one of the rooms.

An hour later I was to meet more colleagues as I was invited to lunch in the school canteen with them during which time I met one of the English teachers – Marie-Jean a lovely woman who made me feel at home despite after ten minutes of meeting her she asked me to come to two of her classes with her. Despite this being slightly daunting I loved it, the children were around 12 years old in both classes I had and they were all very eager to learn English and I think they’re going to love my Scottish accent – they especially found it amusing the way I say “brother”. I’m determined to give them Scottish accents by the end of my year abroad!

After my lessons were finished (school starts at 8am and finishes at 5:30pm here!) the headmistresses husband, Dominic, came to introduce himself and then asked me if I’d like to go food shopping as there’s no supermarket in the town. He is so sweet and very helpful and is probably partly why I have managed to relax a bit more. He’s even going to help me open a bank account – something I was not looking forward to discussing in French. Whilst I’ll still do most of the talking it’s reassuring to know that someone can help you if you don’t understand. After having 4 hectic days travelling and trying to settle in I can honestly say that there is probably nowhere else I’d rather spend my year abroad because the town is that small it feels like a community which is what I’m used to back home. At first when I found out I was placed in such a small town on top of a mountain I was so upset (I’d pictured myself spending my days off at the beach). However, I now firmly believe that everything happens for a reason and I’m looking forward to settling in, calming down and enjoying my year abroad!12038268_10153548971171830_5116873060197555843_n(Ajaccio early sunset)

“Wake me up when September ends”.

With only 12 days until I leave, I thought I’d make a start with the easiest thing (or so I thought) on my to-do list…packing!

Now I don’t know if this photo does it justice but I’d say the photo only contains 60% of the stuff that I needed to pack, so it’s a good job I’ve got a large suitcase. Anyone that’s travelled for an extensive period of time will understand how difficult it really is to pack – you have to pack for every season in under 20kg! When packing I aimed to only pack things that I know I’ll definitely need, although I bet there’s stuff in there I’ll never use and I’ll end up forgetting something really important.

For anyone looking for a bit of advice – clothes are not as important as you think. I’ve always packed excessive amounts of clothes in the past but packing for such a long stay has made me realise that clothes can easily be bought when you’re there. Instead, pack the essential things, notepads, pens, a grammar book (limit yourself on the amount of books), medication – plan to be ill it’s better to be prepared than to realise you’re stuck up a mountain without access to any painkillers etc. A good tip I have found is to pack an extension cord – that way you only need one European adaptor and still have plenty of sockets!

Nonetheless, wherever I travel I try to tell myself that as long as I’ve got my purse, tickets, passport and a phone then everything else is superficial. Make sure to create copies of important documents (tickets, passport, birth certificate etc.) – even leave a copy of everything with family members in case of an emergency!

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