Thursday, April 12, 2012


I’ve been in Spain since Saturday and I LOVE it!  I arrived in Madrid after a long day of traveling (I had to get up early to take the train to Paris) and found my way to the tapas reception for the Vaughan Town “Anglos.”  The Anglos are all the English-Speaking volunteers and we represent England, Scotland, Ireland, America, and Switzerland.  We got to know each other and spent some time at a bar afterward enjoying more tapas (Spanish appetizers that usually accompany a drink at a bar).  I had visited Madrid in high school, but I don’t remember much of it, and now I want to spend more time there! 

Sunday morning we got up early to head to our location, El Rancho in Torrecaballeros, a small town near Segovia.  We then spent the day with our usual activities, one-on-ones, eating lots of amazing food, and siesta time!  One-on-ones are when we have an hour-long conversation with a Spaniard (in English only!).  I was nervous at first that it might be difficult, but it has been wonderful.  The Spaniards come from many backgrounds:  business, medicine, sports, as well as Spaniards participating in the Master program though Vaughan.  We always eat our meals with two Spaniards, so they are always speaking English.  It has been fantastic, and has exceeded my expectations!  I have one more day here, and one more night in Madrid, so more updates to come!

Friday, April 6, 2012


I'm officially on vacation, and will be heading to Spain in the morning (my train leaves at 5:39AM).  The last few weeks were pretty busy, I went to the beach and swam in the English Channel last week when it was warm, but unfortunately the weather turned cooler again this week.

In other news, I was featured in an article in the Susquehanna Alumni magazine, SU Currents! Click here to read the article!

Check back for Spain updates, and Paris updates the week after!

Monday, March 26, 2012

Finally Spring!

The weather in France is beautiful!  It's been warm since Friday (we haven't had a heatwave like the US has) and the days are longer and longer, especially since we had Daylight Savings Time start yesterday.  Unfortunately is has been extremely foggy many of the mornings, which makes it hard to get up and go to work!

Last week I got the chance to go to the coast again.  Karen and I helped with the trip for the Russian students that are visiting the high school.  The day started with a tour of a local cookie factory (which included a box of free cookies!).  I ended up translating the tour, so I learned a lot about the cookie making process.  Then we went to Lannion for the weekly market, I bought a ring made by a famous Breton designer for 10€, when the ring normally sells for over 30€!  I also bought some great local soaps and delicious strawberries (grown in France).  We then headed to the granite coast where we spent a few hours before heading back to Guingamp.  It was a tiring day because we had to keep track of the students, and we learned a lot about Russian culture, but definitely worth it!

We then spent the weekend in Rennes with some friends.  The weather was beautiful, and it was a lot of fun.  Unfortunately I left my camera behind, so there are no photos to share.

There are now only two weeks until our next vacation (Spain and Paris) and only three weeks of work left in my contract.  I'll try to be good about updating during that time!!

Monday, March 12, 2012

St. Cast

This weekend I visited a friend in Dinan.  A few minutes after I arrived at her apartment, her neighbor knocked on the door asking if we wanted to go to the coast.  Of course we said yes!

Monday, March 5, 2012

A Chicken?

Today I was working with the CM2 students on home-related vocabulary.  When describing their homes I taught them to say "There is..." then list the rooms.  This ones one girls list:  "There big bedroom, one small bedroom, one living room, one dining room (pronounced dinning) and one chicken."  Chicken?  A Kitchen!

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Winter Vacation, Pt. 4

The last two days of vacation were spent in Paris, the first time I have spent the night there since I’ve been in France!  Since we had seen most of the important sites already (Dad visited me in Paris when I studied abroad), we could really focus on the “important” things: visiting a few museums and visiting pastry shops.

There are many perks of being under 25 in France, up to 60% off train tickets, lower fees at banks, free library cards, and FREE access to most museums and monuments in France!  We visited Centre Pompidou (not always my favorite, but there is a great view at the top of the museum), the Louvre (which is conveniently open late on Wednesdays), Musée d’Orsay, and the Orangerie, which houses Monet’s water lilies.  Normally it would have cost about €40, but with my long stay visa, and proof that I’m under 25, I didn’t pay anything for these museum visits!  The only problem is that to get in free, you have to wait in line, and my dad, who had the museum pass, got to skip every line.

We spent a lot of time walking around the city, talking about what were must-sees for when my mom and cousin come in a few weeks, and sampled delicious food!  We had the best éclaires in Paris, in miniature form, macarons from LaDurée, and Angelina’s famous hot chocolate.  It was nice to be in Paris again, especially because we stayed around the corner from where I lived in 2009!  It was hard to say goodbye, but it was an amazing trip and it reminded me that I need to take advantage of my next two months in France. 

 This week was back to work as normal, and today I found out that one of the elementary teacher’s is out for the next few weeks, so I ended up teaching the entire class alone today after the substitute had to go to an emergency meeting.  This month will be fun because I’m helping to prepare the oldest students at the elementary school for an exam that all students their age take in order to enter middle school.  I will also help administer the exam at the schools I work at. 

Finally, it is starting to really look like spring here!  Trees are flowering, and there are daffodils everywhere.  It is also warmer, and there have been a few really beautiful days.  It’s been foggy most mornings, but most of the time it burns off.  Also the days are much longer, when we started work again in January it was still dark at 9AM, now it is light before 8!  That’s all for now, I’ll try to be better about updating in the coming weeks! 

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Winter Vacation, Pt. 3

I’m finally trying to catch up on Berlin, even though I’m already halfway through the first week back at work (and fighting another cold). 
            We spent four days in Berlin (Saturday-Tuesday) and flew back to France on Wednesday.  Our first day in Berlin was spent walking around and seeing some of the city.  Dad had been in 2009 when I was studying abroad so he knew what we should see!  Sunday, we purchased a museum pass and spent the day visiting “Museum Island.”  There I was able to see Nefertiti and the “Berlin Golden Hat” as well as lots of other ancient artifacts.  One thing that is nice about museums in Berlin is that many entry frees include an audio guide.  Normally I’m not a fan of audio guides, but in this case it was interesting/informative.             
            Monday was similar to a Monday in France, so many museums were closed, instead, we spent the day doing some shopping, seeing the palace, and taking pictures because it was a beautiful day!  The highlights of Monday were the amazing chocolate from Fassbender and Rausch and buying myself a new pair of boots (on sale!).  For dinner we had a traditional German meal from a restaurant recommended by our hotel.
            Tuesday was the opposite of Monday, we woke up to snow, and it continued to snow most of the morning.  We had signed up to visit the Reichstag (the German Parliament) Tuesday morning, and after going through security and riding the elevators to the top of the dome, we were able to walk around the top.  Parliament wasn’t in session, but they do have a great “guided tour” along a walkway that circles the dome.  The dome is directly over the parliamentary chamber, and the top is open, so technically there is a hole in the parliament ceiling to let fresh air and light in.  Unfortunately because of the snow much of our view was blocked, but I really enjoyed the visit.  That night we went to a great restaurant for dinner, the waiter picked out special meals for us and was really helpful/nice, especially after I spoke French with him! 
            I was sad to leave Berlin the next day, but relieved to be going back to a country where I spoke the official language.  It really bothered me that I couldn’t communicate in German (even though communication was not a problem at all).  I think I have become so used to living in another country where I do speak the language, even if it isn’t my first, and where people are impressed/pleased that I speak it, that I felt bad for not being able to speak German.  Maybe I’ll have to study a third language when I get back to the US?

Next up: Paris!

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Winter Vacation, Pt. 2

Berlin (taken with a new camera that I like way better than my old one)!

Friday, February 17, 2012

Winter Vacation, Pt. 1

After being in France for over four months, I FINALLY have had a chance to see a family member!  My Dad arrived in Guingamp on Thursday, February 10, and my vacation started around noon on Friday.  We spent Thursday evening and Friday afternoon exploring Guingamp, then picked up our rental car and headed to our adorable rental cottage.  The cottage is located in the countryside and is made of stone.  My room is a loft with a spiral staircase and the window faces the sunrise.  I wish we could stay longer, and spend more time here, but we had lots to see!  This entry will be about our week in Brittany, but I’m going to keep it very short, because we saw a lot of different things!

Day 1:  Binic, St. Quay Pontrieux, Paimpol, an attempt at Plougrescant, Ploumenac’h, Trébeurden
This part of the coast is closest to where I live, and it’s beautiful!  There are many beaches, and some of the sites that I wrote about in October.  We saw the pink granite coast, the beach I went to my second day in France, and some other beaches I hadn’t seen yet!  It was a chilly day, but very sunny.  On the way back to our cottage we went shopping at the grocery store, which allowed Dad to see the differences between a French and American grocery store, plus we picked up some steak and duck for our upcoming dinners!

Day 2:  Carnac and Quiberon
            Most things in France are closed on Sunday, so we decided to take a trip to the southern coast of Brittany.  We had a beautiful drive through the countryside and arrived in Carnac around lunchtime.  Carnac is a seaside resort town, but it is also known for its Alignments.  We ate an excellent lunch at a crêperie, saw the Atlantic Ocean, and then headed in search of the Alignments.  The Alignments are rows and rows of megaliths (standing stones) in fields.  There are three or four main sets in Carnac and the surrounding towns, plus singular ones on their own in the countryside.  It was something I had never seen before and I would definitely recommend going there! 
            Next we got in the car and headed towards Quiberon, which is a “presqu’île”, or almost island.  It juts down into the Atlantic and reminded us a lot of the Outer Banks.  We drove back to the mainland via the “Savage Coast” and it was beautiful!  During our entire trip we spent a lot of time getting in and out of the car to walk on paths along the coast, and the views were impressive each time!

Day 3:  Fréhel and St. Malo
            This time we decided to drive along the coast in the other direction in Côtes d’Armor.  This included a stop at Fréhel and Cap Fréhel.  This part of the coast is called the Emerald Coast and it is also very beautiful!  Cap Fréhel is a cape that sticks out into the Channel with two lighthouses on the end, and a fort to one side.  After spending some time at Fréhel, we headed towards St. Malo (via the coast of course!).  Even though it was a Monday, we had a difficult time finding a place that was open for lunch, and ended up getting a terrible baguette to share in one of the towns (I didn’t know it was possible to have a bad baguette, but it is). 
            We finally arrived in St. Malo, and there I was able to show Dad all the things that I saw while I was there, plus we were able to have the amazing Kouing Aman they sell at one of the stands there.  It was cold and cloudy, but the sea was calm.  After picking out some chocolates at a shop I read about, we decided to head for home.  That night I made duck with orange shallot sauce for dinner, and it was delicious.

Day 4:  Presqu’île de Crozon and Pointe du Raz
            These are two of the three parts that stick out at the end of Brittany.  We saw many amazing views of the Atlantic Ocean and the bays surrounding the peninsulas.  There are great hiking trails all around the points, but we only walked a little way on a few of them, it was very cold, and very windy!  We also saw some more Alignments near Crozon, only these ones are right next to where the land drops off into the ocean.  Next we drove along the coast to the Pointe du Raz, which is the point the furthest West on the French mainland!  I really enjoyed walking out onto the point, some people were much braver than we were though and were near where the water was hitting the rocks!

Day 5:  Plougrescant and Sillon de Talebert
            Plougrescant is the site of the Gouffre, which is one of the places I wrote about in October.  We couldn’t find it on Saturday, so I was determined to get it right this time, and we did!  It was somewhat stormy, so the waves were crashing against all the rocks.  Next we drove to the Sillon de Talbert, which is a 3km long arm of sand that reaches out into the Channel.  They think that two rivers heading inland on either side of the “presqu’île”, which pushes the sand up to form the Sillon.  When we went it was low tide, so it didn’t have the same effect as official pictures, and we found that the sand is pretty difficult to walk on, even with good shoes.  Hopefully I’ll be able to take another trip there at high tide.

Day 6: ???
            We decided to have a quiet day and enjoyed the cottage in the morning, I finally read a little bit, and then we took a drive through the countryside.  We didn’t really have a plan, and were a little lost.  Not too exciting, but we were able to find a dolmen and a few megaliths near Guingamp. 

Day 7:  Paris, with a side trip to Cancale and Mt. St. Michel
            Today we drove to Paris, and stopped at Mt. St. Michel on the way.  I had read about the coastal road leading from St. Malo to Mt. St. Michel, so we opted to take the time doing the extra drive instead of actually visiting Mt. St. Michel.  The drive included a few walks and a stop at Pointe du Grouin.  If it had been a clear day, we would have been able to see the Mont from the point.  We got lost a few times along the trip, but saw a lot of interesting sites in Brittany and Normandy.  Also, we learned that if you want to travel to Paris and not pay tolls, it’s slow going sometimes, and I appreciate being able to take public transportation to the airport much more now, it wasn’t too much fun driving around the edge of Paris on a Friday afternoon!  Now I am sitting in my hotel, getting ready for the next leg of our trip: Berlin (which means more updates are coming)!!

Thursday, February 2, 2012

I'm still here!

January has already come and gone and I barely wrote in my blog!  I think I’ve just been settling in to life here and don’t really feel like I have very many exciting things to write about.  Hopefully that will change soon since I have a vacation coming up.  My dad is coming to visit me for two weeks, and he arrives one week from today!  We will be spending a week in Brittany visiting the coast/everything that you need a car to see, and then we are heading to Berlin for four days!  I’m really looking forward to having a break; the one elementary school that I work at on Monday’s has been very frustrating the last five weeks.  I feel as though nothing is getting accomplished there and I don’t have the teaching experience/training to know how to fix it. 

Now, I think the best way to play catch up for January is to list the main things I’ve done.

1.    My boss observed me at the Monday school, and it didn’t go very well.  The good news is that she recognized all the problems weren’t because of me, and gave me some tips to get things to go more smoothly.
2.    I visited Paris again!  I did another day trip in Paris like the one in November.  It was a lot of fun, and I got some cool stuff from Deyrolle, an interesting store near Saint-Germain-de-Près.  They are known for all of their taxidermy animals and their maps of French products.  I also visited the Opera and the Post Office Museum, and enjoyed both!
3.     One big thing in January in France is the Galette des Rois, or King Cake.  We had a King Cake in our apartment and I won the fève, the porcelain statuette that is baked into the cake.  This meant that I was “queen” and got to keep the crown that comes with the cake and the fève.  Our boulangerie’s fèves are firemen, but I’ve also seen Scooby Doo, TinTin, and the Laughing Cow. 
4.     My voice will now be used in elementary English lessons in the Côtes d’Armor.  Two fellow Primary Assistants and I went to Saint-Brieuc last Wednesday to record our voices reading stories and skits for the teachers to use in the future.  This will help them a lot because unfortunately there will be no more Primary Assistants next year.
5.     I  received my first gift from a student.  It was a piece of candy, but it was super cute when he gave it to me!
6.     I’ve been a little bored lately so I’ve started knitting again… and finally finished a project!  It’s a grey cowl/scarf and I really like it.  I’ve also been reading a lot, applying for jobs, and doing Sudoku and word searches to keep myself busy.
7.     I have plans for my first week of April break!  I’ve been accepted into a volunteer program through a company called Vaughan Town where I will be helping Spanish business people with their English conversational skills.  I just found out that I was accepted on Monday night, and have been doing lots of travel planning since then!
8.     After being paid last Friday, I finally got up the courage to get a hair cut in France.  I went yesterday, and I survived!

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Prague Pt. 2 and getting back to the real world...

I realized in my last blog I didn’t define “we”!  I traveled and stayed with a fellow Susquehanna alum and English teaching assistant, Shayna and was also able to meet up with a fellow Académie de Rennes assistant, Erica!  It was great to have company and see some familiar faces when we were so far away from home for Christmas.

Monday was our second to last day in Prague, and we decided to take a day trip out of town to Kutna Hora, a UNESCO World Heritage site.  The main attraction there is the Ossuary, a church that is decorated with over 40,000 human bones.  The town is also known for its wine, and silver mines.  The first coins for the Austro-Hungarian Empire were coined in Kutna Hora because of the abundance of silver.  On the day that we visited Kutna Hora was like a ghost town, but it was definitely worth a visit to see the Ossuary. 
A bone-crest in the Ossuary (it was at least 5 feet tall!).
Tuesday we visited a few things that we had been meaning to see, including watching the Astronomical clock one more time.  This was the one day where we made our tourist mistake and ended up paying more for a slice of ham at the Christmas market than we paid for our delicious Christmas dinner!  To remedy this mistake we headed back to the Globe for dinner where I had peach juice (it was more like a smoothie than juice) and a burrito.  It was probably the only chance I’ll have to eat some tex-mex while in Europe and it was worth it!  We also took a piece of carrot cake to go (with real cream cheese frosting!).  The Globe is definitely worth a visit if you’re in Prague.

We started our long voyage home on Wednesday morning, and I finally arrived in Guingamp on Thursday night (it was a LONG day and a half!).  I was then able to spend New Year’s with one of the teachers that I work with at the middle school and her family, along with their friends.  It was fantastic!  We ate wonderful food and drank great wine and champagne.  This morning I learned that it is a tradition in France for the youngest people in the family to call the older family members and wish them a Happy New Year.  Although I like the idea of that tradition, I won’t be taking part in it this year, so this blog will have to suffice!  Work starts again on Tuesday so it's back to teaching until my Dad's visit in February.

Happy New Year and here’s hoping that 2012 is as amazing as (or better than) 2011!