Sunday, September 26, 2010

plusieurs photos

To market to market!

Jardin du Mail

The market

It's real...

Alexandre, the guy who's couch Jimmy is staying on

Jardin du Mail

Former house of one of the Angers' mayors, built in the 1500s

The roundabout in front of the university

My favourite house in Angers - the picture doesn't do it justice, but it's like a real life version of the witch's house in Hansel and Gretl!

I mean just look at the windows!

Alors, on danse!

Finally time to update my blog!

This week passed much like last, very very busy and full of work. But so many high points!

Last weekend I went to Paris to hang out with Mum before she left, and to see Anne-Marie and Jean-Pierre. It was so great. I took the same train into the city as Dave and Jenna, two recent X grads who are at CIDEF too. Spent most of the trip sleeping, and when I arrived Mum was at the station to greet me. So wonderful! She gave Dave and Jenna some advice on what to do in Paris, as she is now rather an expert. Then we took the train back to A-M and J-P's. When we arrived in Chatou (the suburb of Paris), it started to rain, big lovely fat drops. Mum and I took refuge under a tree and then booked it home. It was so nice to see A-M and J-P in their home. It was so comfortable there. There's nothing like great neighbours eh? Well, they don't technically live across the street any more, but they're still neighbours. They made me feel so welcome. I was absolutely exhausted, so after dinner I went to bed. Mum and I stayed up for a while to chat about life though, which was nice.

It was the weekend du patrimoine in France, which is when all the museums and sights across the country are either free or less expensive, so the entire monde was in Paris that weekend. We didn't feel the need to stand in the way-too-long lineups, so we didn't plan any touristy things for Saturday. Instead we got up, went to the local market (so fun - so much fresh fruit!), then came back home where I learned how to bake a chocolate cake from scratch. Mm mm goood. Thank you to Anne-Marie for the recipe and lessons! After lunch, Mum and I headed back into the city to wander around. We got off the subway at Les Halles, which is a massive underground mall. We couldn't move, there were too many people! After getting a little lost in the maze of stores, we made our way out and into Le Marais, the old Jewish neighbourhood of Paris. At around 5, it felt like the right time for a little je ne sais quoi, or as Winnie the Pooh would say, time for a little smackerel of something. We found a patisserie where you could sit down, and we each ordered a little piece of heaven - an opera and a millefeuille, two completely delicious cakes that you should eat if ever given the chance. Then we got back on the subway and returned chez nous. We had a lovely dinner, and A-M and J-P helped me with my homework.

Sunday, we went to see two sights. The first was the castle once owned by author Alexandre Dumas, who wrote The Count of Monte Cristo and The Three Musketeers. It was beautiful, and in the garden was Dumas' little writting house. I'll post pictures later. The second was the holiday home of Josephine Bonaparte, Napoleon's wife. It was fairly simple, as manor houses go, but pretty nonetheless. And there were real orange trees growing out front! After that we came back to the house for an hour or so, and then Jean-Pierre drove me to the train station. It was like having a tour of Paris' most famous sights in a half hour! We drove through the giant 8-lane roundabout that encircles the Arc de Triomphe, down the Champs Elysées, past various government buildings, Notre Dame, and in the distance, the Eiffel Tower. Then Jean-Pierre and Mum said goodbye to me at Montparnasse station and I went back to Angers. It was so nice to have a home-y weekend like that.

This week was quite similar to the final month of school - all the professors realise just how much stuff they've yet to teach you, panic, and so dump a truckload of work on you all at once to make up for it. But it this case, the time was reduced to a few days. But no matter, it's all done now except for our exam on Monday.

For my langue class, I had to conduct a survey. I unwisely decided to pick a topic that I found interesting, rather than one that would be easy. I chose 'the effect of the European financial crisis on the city/people of Angers'. Throughout the week I interviewed various people. On Wednesday I went to the Jardin du Mail, the most beautiful park right in the heart of the city. There are benches everywhere, so after significant time spent plucking up my courage, I approached a few people. It was worth it just to be there though. It was a warm, sunny day, and being there with my bike was perfect.

By Friday, my survey was completed and handed in. We got Friday afternoon off, which was a godsend. I'd stayed up until the wee hours of the morning to finish writing my survey, and I was one big lump of grump. Matt and I decided to be proactive and get some errands done. Matt had been told that for our visas, we need to send a bunch of papers to Nantes (which I had done before, but it got sent back to me with instructions along the lines of "get thee to the prefecture"). For the privilege of sending these papers, we must buy 55euro stamps... That would be $76 at the current exchange rate. So we went to the post office, thinking that would be the logical place to buy stamps. But, bien sur, we were mistaken. The woman at the post office redirected us to the local cigarette store. Why didn't we think of that? The first tabac we reached didn't have any of the kind of stamp we needed, but that woman redirected us down the road. By now thoroughly frustrated, we headed to the other store, and were finally successful. Then we went to the train station to buy tickets to/from Paris for next week, and then back to school to talk to the Secretary. Matt gave in his new stamp and I got instructions for how to assemble my papers. That being completed, I went home and had a much-needed map.

Friday night was another soiree at one of the international bars, Falstaff. We hung out there for a while, and then transferred to K'Lypso. They're fun bars, but I would really love to branch out to some local haunts. I feel like we're segregating ourselves by going there. But we had a great time dance dance dancing the night away!

This morning Laura, Jimmy (former Culture Editor of the Xaverian Weekly paper and recent X grad who is visiting for the week), and the guy who's couch Jimmy is staying on, Alexandre, went to the markets. The big one is next to the Jardin du Mail. There were sooo many appetising-looking foods! It made me so excited to start cooking for myself, to start trying new combinations. It was so great to experience the interactions between the regulars and the vendors, and all the people milling about. After that we went to the small market near the train station. I tried a fresh oyster from its shell! Quite slippery... I'll probably continue to avoid them in future.

Following that I had a highly productive day! I got my watch battery/strap replaced, bought a cell phone (finally), cleaned my room, and saw a movie with Laura and Jimmy. We saw Des Hommes et Des Dieux. I thought it was deeply moving (aka, cried throughout the entire movie). It's about a tiny monastery in northern Africa that falls prey to terrorists. It sounds awful and depressing, and it was very sad, but the fellowship amongst the monks was incredible. Several times throughout the movie the monks were shown chanting. I find that sort of religious a cappella music to be so ethereal. There's nothing like hearing a choir in a huge cathedral. Anyway, if your French is decent and you don't mind sad/slow movies, go see it (I think it's showing at the Toronto film fest).

Sorry for the novel. I'll leave it here for now, and wish you all a bonne nuit!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Je n'en peux plusssss*

*I can't take it anymore!

Oh Mon Dieu. The schoolwork here is getting out of hand! Whoever told me that we don't get homework here lied big time. Let the procrastination begin.

This week I haven't felt so much like I'm drowning in class due my lack of understanding in French. My oral comprehension is definitely getting better, and I can speak with a bit more fluidity. Now the problem is trying to keep myself conscious after two weeks of flat-out work and stress. Nightly homework, added to intermittent projects and presentations, makes for late nights and tired students the next day. A guy in my class fell asleep today while our langue prof was talking.

"Ah, Ethan prend un petit sommeil maintentant."

Hearing his name, he raised a hand but continued to nod off. He hasn't been the only person to struggle to stay awake in class.

Ok, it's not allll because of homework. But we have to squish a social life in too, non? The monitrices have been organising more soirées for us. Last night was 'Chic-Choc', where you had to dress in something chic, but with one shocking detail. I wore my neon yellow safety gilet (the vest you are required to wear when biking at night) and pouffed my hair a bit. My roommate Jamie created an entire cumulonimbus cloud with her hair - taller and puffier than one would think hair could be. Melissa put her hair in pigtails - very Baby Spice. It was my monitrice's (Julia) birthday, so I couldn't not go! But just for an hour. 

On our way back home, Melissa and I were speaking in English. We passed this group of people outside a bar, and one guy turns to me and yells 'Don't speak English here you f******  b****!" So I replied with a few choice mots en Francais. Having a comeback made the situation marginally better, but I still wasn't particularly impressed. I'm sure there are people like that in every country, so this isn't a complaint about the French, just this one idiot in particular. As my roommate Melissa says, "He can go kick rocks."

I did have a couple successes this week. I finally got my bank card from the French bank La Poste. There are a lot of things for which one needs a personal identity statement that comes with all French bank accounts, called a RIB, so it made sense to get an account here. For example, getting a cell phone, or even your carte de sejour, which is something else required by the bloody visa people to allow me to remain in the country. 
Also, this week we had to provide a description and dialogue for a cartoon strip, and my prof liked my version enough to read it to the class. It was nice to feel a little more like I fit in that class. My classmates are great, by the way. We're always laughing. 

I'm really sorry for all this whinging. Let me tell you about other great things that happened this week:

1) I got lost on the way to the post office, but it was a beautiful day, and I came across the most darling house. It had old wooden shutters, elegant lace curtains, and flowering vines growing over the front door. I also discovered a little flowery parkette.
2) I am continuing to meet lovely people from all around the world. 
3) I bought my train tickets for Paris this week
4) My conversation class is toujours amusant!
5) Laura, Sergio, Monica (classmates) and I laughed solidly throughout 2 hours of langue class, over nothing in particular
6) We had a reception at the Greniers St-Jean, which is this wonderful old hall across the river. I'm not sure what it's original purpose was, but the walls are made of light stone, and the ceiling is all exposed beams. It's lit up by these tiny hanging light fixtures all throughout the hall. It struck me as the perfect place to listen to a harp/soprano concert or something. We were served a delicious dessert wine and cookies, and were greeted by the mayor of Angers. 

Ok, now I've got to get back to work. I promise, next time I'll be cheerful! 

Monday, September 13, 2010

Le week-end!

Ah le week-end, that most excellent French word. For those of you who aren't fluent, it means 'the weekend'.

I blague, I blague.

All kidding aside, this was the weekend of Les Accroches-Coeurs, the major festival that Angers hosts once a year. For three days, the city centre is filled with all sorts of bizarre but wonderful performances. In the days leading up to it, Angers is abuzz with chatter about Accroches-Coeurs. "You must go see some of the shows! You can't be in Angers without going!" So on Saturday night, we went. The Michiganders and I got a drive into the city from Monsieur and Madame A's close friend Soren. Once we found a parking spot, we walked through the hordes of revelers who were swarming the streets and crossed the bridge to reach the Cale de la Savette, the grassy park on the bank of the Maine.

There must have been over a thousand people there. We arrived half an hour before the show started, and couldn't get seats anywhere near it. The performers filing along the river to the stage was a performance in itself, as they arrived in a cloud of smoke, sparks, and fire. The show was a combination of light and percussion, so we at least heard the drums. It ended with a spectacular display of fireworks.

We walked back across the bridge, followed the crowds to the Rue du Roi Rene, and saw people lining the streets as if waiting for a parade. Sure enough, a giant yellow truck parked itself in the middle of the street, and a strangely dressed man flung open the back doors to reveal the paraders. The street became a sea of these people with frightening painted faces, mismatched costumes, and various percussion instruments that they played entirely out of sync with everyone around them. They led the crowd down the street, where they were joined by enormous mechanical animals. It was the weirdest, darkest parade I've ever seen, but it was quite the spectacle. Well worth seeing.

The rest of my weekend was taken up by doing homework... not too exciting. But next weekend I go to Paris, woohooo!

Me, the Michigan girls, and Phil from the US

The Cathedral lit up for the festival
The bridge also lit up for the festival

The truck opening with the parade


Giant mechanical bird 'flying' above the parade

Thursday, September 9, 2010


*In class yesterday, we learned how to understand French people when they smoosh their words together. Examples: Shey-pah = Je ne sais pas, folk-tulle-sash: il faut que tu le sache... I'm thinking that's kind of like saying "dunno" for "I don't know"... maybe?

Well well well, the past few days have been interesting. Impressions of the first week of classes:
1) I should not have been placed in the highest level. I feel like I'm treading water in a class of good swimmers.
2) My language prof thinks he's really really funny. He does not think that Laura and I are really really funny.
3) My civilisation prof is great. She's like... a kindergarten teacher for adults... if that makes sense. Really clear, really enthusiastic, and full of real life examples of what she's talking about.
4) My monitrice, the UCO student who teaches our convo class/lab is lovely.
5) French makes even less sense when you're short on sleep (Mum, you're so wise).
6) 9-5 is reasonable for a job, not so awesome for school.
7) We have far too much homework.

Sorry for complaining. I know I'm super lucky to be here, and it's such a great chance to improve my French, so I'll cut it out. Another result of little sleep, so, completely my own fault.

To make up for it, here's a list of things I love:
1) My vélo - God bless it's little metal heart. It takes me to school/city centre in about 7 minutes (without traffic), it gives me exercise, and gives me seemingly more rights on the road than your average driver or pedestrian.
2) Friendly locals - everyone seems to be very happy to be chatty with foreign students.
3) The local style - the current big trend is a mix of golf club and yacht club. Everyone wears sweaters tied over their shoulders, sailor stripes, navy jackets, skinny jeans (boys and girls), pastel-coloured button downs, and brown leather flats. Nary a cotton hoody or Nike t-shirt in sight. Not that they need it, but I approve. 
4) The other CIDEF students! So eager and friendly
5) The local architecture - There are so many beautiful little details to be spotted; a stately wooden front door, an elegant iron gate, an intricate carving above a window...

I feel like my French is improving a little bit. I can carry on a conversation a little more smoothly now. My vocabulary is still pretty basic, but it's increasing. I find I can understand most of what people say to me if they're articulate. I'm afraid my friends and I are often too brain dead to speak French amongst ourselves after school, but we do try sometimes. And chatting with Madame and Monsieur A at dinner helps too.

Last night was 'Soirée C', which was a bar party hosted by the monitrices at the local student haunt K'lypso. Everyone was supposed to dress up as something beginning with C. Laura, Matt, Maria, and I went as Canadiens. I whipped out my knitted Canadian toque that I'd brought for the international night we're having later this month, and my Girl Guides sweater with the maple leaves on it. I think we were rather a hit, but it's possible that the pleasure people were showing was due to them mocking us... hard to tell. It was also Laura's bday yesterday, so we celebrated in style. 

Oh ya, and also! Laura and I went out for lunch, and on our way out of the building we heard the most amazing jazz piano coming from one of the lecture halls. We looked inside to see this real life Schroeder playing away, so utterly engrossed in his music. It was beautiful to listen to and amazing to watch. Laura wondered what he would do if someone were to tell him he could never play piano again. We figured he probably wouldn't survive. He finally broke his concentration when we giggled, and Laura struck up a little conversation, concluding it by inviting him to lunch with us. And he agreed! So off we went to La Gourmandise with our little French copain. I think he may have been a bit wary, but we had a great chat and a great meal. Laura tried to get him to join us at the bar later, but he wouldn't come. Dommage

Ok my friends and relations, I hope you enjoy the rest of your Thursday. Love you!

Monday, September 6, 2010

Les photos!

The main administrative building on campus
Laura et Anne-Marie in the city centre
Mama, Anne-Marie et moi
View of the city from across the Maine River
Anne-Marie, Mum, Laura, et Eliane
Laura on our little jaunt through the city

More to come later, just a little taste!

Sunday, September 5, 2010

La vie en rose

Had a leisurely sleep in on Saturday. Left the house on my vélo to go meet Laura by the school. We walked towards the old part of the city, stopped by the tourist bureau to ask for the whereabouts of H&M, and made that our next stop. I purchased my first piece of clothing of the trip (don't worry Mum, it was just one thing! And it's so cute). Then we carried on to a little lunch restaurant called La Gourmandise. Laura had a delicious croque madame and I had a variety of different salads. When we sat down, we asked the people at the table next to us if they'd take a picture (in French), and they replied that they spoke English. They turned out to be a lovely couple from Stratford-upon-Avon in England who were taking their camper van around France for 4 weeks. So we had a nice chat and then they continued on their way. 

Oh funny story, one of the guys we met on Friday night, Olivier, had told us that instead of saying <<santé>> for cheers, you should say <<au chatte!>>. So naturally Laura and I wanted to use the local terminology, so we toasted au chatte before our meal and later when we stopped to get a glass of juice. I found out later that night that one must never say chatte in polite company. It means female cat... you can figure the rest out. You got us there Olivier! 

We carried on around the city, wandering down this street or that to see what we would stumble upon. We eventually made our way across the Maine River and lay down on the grassy riverbank in the shade of some unfamiliar, but beautiful trees. It was the perfect way to spend an afternoon! We read a little bit of homework, but mostly lazed around. There are beautiful rose bushes all along the river, and it really did feel like la vise en rose. By 5:15 we left and I got back on my bike and pedaled home. By bike, my route to school is only 5 minutes - so great. The only hard part is on my way back I have to navigate a roundabout. Not a roadway I'm used to! 

Shortly after going home, Madame and Monsieur A took me and my roommates to the opening of a local bar. The owner is a friend of Monsieur A. We were a little too shy to mingle much, but the three of us practised our French amongst ourselves nonetheless. Then we returned home for a tasty dinner.

We went out (again... zut alors), with no particular bar in mind. I biked to Laura's where she was with her roommate Yeji (from South Korea, she's great), Maria, and Maria's roommate. Her roommate split off after a little bit, and the rest of us met up with Matt (just an update for those of you who don't know, Laura, Maria, and Matt are my fellow StFXers). We couldn't find any bar that looked particularly hopping where we were, so we just picked a random one. It turned out to be a bit expensive, but it served our purpose. A few more CIDEF students walked by and told us they were going to Falstaff, so after a while we went that way too. It wasn't as exciting as it was on Thursday, but we enjoyed ourselves. Sunday's task - finish my homework... Ugh.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Les cours commencent

Friday morning we had to be at school by 8 (c'est méchant!) to find out our test results. Laura and I got into the 8th level. It's the highest one, so it will be a challenge, but a good challenge. I think it also means that we'll be able to take our pick of classes come the start of the school year in October. And our classes start a little later than most. Fantastique! We started with a general French class with our level. There are about 16 of us; several American, one Costa Rican, two Japanese (so lovely!), and one Chinese. It was cool to have such a multicultural class. Our prof's name is Christophe, and he seems really friendly. The class was a little intimidating at first because we had to answer various questions on the spot about ourselves. The majority of our class speaks very well. I tend to get rather flustered. Here's how I'd explain my relationship with French at the moment (get ready for my wicked analogy):

If the French language were one of those 1000 piece Ravensburger puzzles of a painting that is mostly sky and trees (aka impossible), I would be the kid trying to put the puzzle together. I've got the corner pieces, I've got all the edge pieces, and I've guessed at the placement of a few groups here and there in the middle. The rest is a jumble of little oddly-shaped pieces of cardboard that just don't seem to work together. I've got the box lid in front of me; I know what it's supposed to look like. 

In other words, I've got all the basics. I know a lot of the grammar, a fair amount of vocab, but I struggle when it comes to making it all flow together. I can understand most of what people say, it's just the responding that's tricky. Everyone tells me it will happen in no time - j'espère that they're right!

After lunch, I met up with Mum and Anne-Marie again. They grabbed a quick bite at a panini place and then rushed me back to school in time for my second class at 1:45. This was my comprehension orale class, run by one of the students at UCO. We had to find out about the person next to us and then present them to the class. Following that was our civilisation class - not ancient civ, but it's going to be a combination of geography, culture, government, economics, and the school system. Our teacher for that seems like a total gem. So far all our profs have been speaking quite slowly, which is a relief.

Met up with Mum again after school, and she gave me directions to the prefecture of police's office, which the consulat in Toronto told me I had to go to in order to get a residency permit. Of course, when I got there, they told me that I had to go to the annex of the prefecture in some other part of the city. "Is it open tomorrow?" << Non! C'est Samedi. C'est le week-end. >> Oh. Silly me. So after that I trotted off to La Poste, which doubles as a bank and post office. With a little bit of confusion but relatively little stress, I was able to open a French bank account! 

Mum and Anne-Marie dropped me off at my house again. We had a nice dinner, and then the girls and I went out again. But this time with bikes! My wonderful mother and the wonderful Anne-Marie had lined up for 3 HOURS to get me a bike, from 8:15 til 11:15 am. So so nice. Alors, off we went with our bikes. Melissa's bike chain broke right away, so I went on ahead of them to Laura's house. The instructions I'd written out from Google Maps were not the most detailed. To be honest it was a terrifying trip. I got rather lost, had to ask for directions, and finally arrived at Laura's very late and disheveled. And wearing a bright yellow safety vest, which is apparently the law here. So... not too happy. But the people she lives with were wonderful and so welcoming. The son of her housemother s'appele Francois. He's 23 and a student in Lyon. He took Laura and me out to this teeny little bar called Bazar to hang out with all his friends. I have never met cooler people in my life. So well dressed, so fun, so easy going, and so so nice to us! They made us feel so at home. I couldn't have spent my night out in a better way. Eventually Laura and I started feeling the jet lag, so Francois walked us back. And then he biked me home to save me from getting lost again, which I'm so grateful for! When I got back, I made a discovery...

... I'd left my keys inside. And Jamie and Melissa weren't home yet. Merde. What's a girl to do in such circumstances? First thought, put on my gilet, the neon yellow safety vest that Madame A had given to me, Jamie, and Melissa to wear while biking at night. Still cold. Hm... what else can I use. I spotted a hand towel and wrapped that around my shoulders. Still not satisfactory. And then, I noticed the dog. Bingo! So I sat myself down in a lawn chair, cuddled the dog (Sam) for warmth, and waited for their return. We could hardly move for laughing when they did, but by 3 am, we were all in bed. The adventure continues!

Friday, September 3, 2010

Les premiers jours de l'ecole

Oh Mon Dieu! What a day. We started bright and early - 8 am departure in order to get to school in good time. Monsieur A (the man who's house I'm living in - I'll just refer to him and his wife as Monsieur et Madame A) gave Jamie, Melissa, and me a lift, thank goodness. We got to school by 8:15, and gathered together all the people we knew. There are 5 girls from Central Michigan University, and 6 of us from X (two who've just graduated), and we met various other people along the way. We were ushered into a large amphitheater, where we met the directeur of the programme, the hilarious Monsieur Malin, and the coordinator of the programme, Yves. They told us a bit about how things were supposed to happen, and then we were given out placement tests. One part listening comprehension (zut alors!) and one part written. No one was quite sure how he/she did afterward, but we were given a whole day to be pessimistic about our results. After an hour of friendly conversation with various people, we were taken to the cafeteria. And you'll never guess...

... You know what company provides the food?

You got it.

Sodexo. In France. I mean, really? The meal was ok. Various shredded raw veggies (seems to be a French thing to not eat your vegetables in one piece), chopped cooked veggies, and meatballs... But it was followed with cheese and lemon tarts, so I guess it was ok.

Met up with Mum after lunch. She's here until Saturday morning with Anne-Marie and Eliane, our resident saints. If either of you are reading this blog, please know how grateful I am pour tout!! Vous êtes mes anges gardiennes! Alors, we went back to Eliane's for a little rest in the garden. She put out some mattresses for us to lie on, and we spent the afternoon taking a much needed rest in the shade. After a while, they took me back to my house in time for dinner.

After dinner, Jamie, Melissa, and I decided to go out for a night on the town. We went to Falstaff, a sort of multi-national student bar not far from the school. We had a few adventures. On the walk over, we were accosted by a couple of oddly-dressed girls who asked us if we'd seen any strange people around. We said no. They asked us what school we were at, and when we said CIDEF, one girl dunked her hand into a bag of flour, grabbed a handful, and chucked it at us before we had any idea what was going on. They seemed to think they'd done us a favour. We stood there in complete shock, unable to comprehend what the eff had just happened to us. Furious, we walked to our friend Becky's to dust ourselves off. Turns out they were some sort of orientation crew from a nerdy local uni. They amuse themselves by preying on poor unsuspecting passersby. Not our lucky night (although apparently, it could have been worse; they might have thrown eggs). Nevertheless, the bar was fun. We met up with Laura and Matt, and a couple French friends that the Michiganders had made the other night. The only major difference between that bar and any Canadian student bar was that all the patrons sat or stood at tables outside on the narrow street. We various French people, watched some weird old guy breakdance, and enjoyed the warm night. It was, en fait, a night well spent. 

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Je suis ici!

In Angers, finalement. It's beautiful, as I'd hoped, overwhelming, as I'd feared, and shaping up to be quite the adventure.

Mum and I arrived in France early Monday morning, more jet-lagged than we could handle, but happy. Anne-Marie, our wonderful, fabulous French friend greeted us with big hugs and many bisous at the airport. We put my obese luggage into her car and drove off to Chatou, a beautiful suburb just west of Paris. The French do suburbia a little differently than we do. We spent the day, not admiring the sights of Paris as one would think, but rather shopping for school and house supplies. Just your average pre-university shopping excursion, bien sur. Then we went back to her house, passed out, and woke up in time for a lovely French dinner with Anne-Marie and her equally wonderful husband Jean-Pierre.

On Tuesday morning, after a breakfast of bread, cheese, and hot chocolate (pas mal du tout) we left for Angers. The drive is about 3 hours long, but the views of the countryside more than made up for the length. Sherwood Forest-type trees surrounded the highway and tall cypruses lined the fields. Every once in a while we passed by ancient little towns settled snuggly together, each with a steeple or bell tower overlooking the houses. It's such a fairy-tale; it's impossible to think that people live their regular, daily lives in these hamlets.

By lunchtime we reached Angers and the warm welcome of Eliane, a close friend of Anne-Marie. She lives in a 200 year old converted farm house, with the original exposed beams and whitewashed walls. We had yet another mouthwatering meal, followed by more cheese. Cheese seems to be served after every meal here. I'm going to have to find a method of exercise that will keep up with my eating habits, because noo way am I embracing moderation in this country. After lunch we did a bit more organising and some exploring of the city. We tried to figure out what sort of phone and credit card I would need here, a surprisingly complicated process. Everything here requires papers that prove who you are, where you live, and that you're a student. Even to get a bike!

Most importantly, we met my famille francaise. They are a lovely family of 6 (two sets of twins!) who live about a 30 minute walk from the school. But if I can get a bike, it shouldn't be a problem. My room is lovely and colourful, and the two other students who live here are great. Melissa and Jamie are both from Michigan, and it's a huge relief to have people I can speak English to! It gives my brain a rest.

We spent the night at Eliane's (apparently I dreamt in French, Mum said I was speaking it in my sleep), and then got up first thing to get a bike. We met up with Laura (one of my friends from X), and waited in line for a while only to find out that the girl just ahead of us would get the last bike available that day. Merde. So off we went to organise the phone and bank stuff a bit more, followed by another lovely lunch and rest at Eliane's. By late afternoon, it was time to say goodbye to everyone and go spend time with my famille. We had a delicious dinner of these crepe-like things filled with cheese, ham, and tomatoes. I think it will be a little tricky trying to fit in with an unfamiliar family and their daily routine, but everyone is very kind, so it shouldn't be too much of a hassle.

And now, I'm absolument fatiguee. I must must must get some sleep. This post is completely unedited, so please excuse anything I've said that's ridiculous. And please comment! I want to hear from everyone. Keep me in the loop ok?

Love, Annie