safe and sound

{This is a post I wrote directly after I returned from Paris. I have a good excuse for not posting for so long this time!}

Hello world.
Here I am, returned safe and sound from three chilly, wonderful days in Paris. Paris, you may have heard, is a big place, so I’m going to post all my photos event by event.

On the first day, after we arrived in Paris, we took a bus tour of the city seeing things like the Paris opera hall (a big thing with me), Notre Dame and the Champs Élysées. Afterwards we went to the hostel where we stayed for three nights, and left again not long afterwards to spend the evening in some small seedy corner of the city whose name I have forgotten. Rest assured it was lovely. We had dinner there (plus escargots) and spent some time exploring the backstreets.

The second day we spent a pitifully short time at the Louvre, then took the metro to the Eiffel Tower. Unfortunately we couldn’t climb it because of the ice and snow, but we were there all the same, proven by the Eiffel Tower-shaped pasta I bought. We had lunch near the Centre Pompidou, a modern art museum, and explored the streets a little. I also bought postcards, of course.
That night we had some free time at the Champs Élysées where I did some shopping and had dinner at a great Italian restaurant with some great people. Mmm, lasagna.

On the third morning we went to Montmartre where we visited the Sacre Cœur and bought lots of souvenirs. We had lunch near the Moulin Rouge, where I bought a beautiful pair of boots and an awesome T-shirt, then took the metro back to the Centre Pompidou and spent a couple of hours there. I couldn’t get into the gallery because I didn’t have ID on me, so I spent a while looking at their fantastic gallery shop (hello, French contemporary art home deco) then went up to the cafe and had coffee with a couple of frankly fantastic people I met there.
Afterwards we went to Saint Michel and saw Notre Dame (for ten minutes, and only the outside – who goes to Notre Dame and doesn’t go inside?!), then I spent the evening with those two fantastic people walking around the shopping district being crazy. We three had dinner at this amazing American 50’s diner we found (bagels, burgers and milkshakes) and I bought an ‘I heart Paris’ T-shirt (well, duh).
After helping get the many drunk exchange students back to the hostel (about 70% of them; another blog post to come) and getting patted down for alcohol we finally got some sleep.

Next morning we got up at six and took the bus to the airport. One of the fantastic people I met and I took trains back to our host families for the next five months, while the others got on the plane back to Australia.
I had lunch and wrapped all the presents I bought in Paris (attention, family!).

{Well, that’s about it. The reason I haven’t posted for a month is that I left my Australian adapter in the hostel room. So I’ve been without my computer at all for over four weeks – which has not been easy, I tell you. Anyway, I haven’t been able to transfer my photos from my *brand spankin’ new camera*, but they should be up in the next couple of days when my new adapter arrives.}

More to come,
elly xx.


weekend bliss


Seeing as it’s been nearly a month since my last post, there’s a lot to write about. I still have to upload the pictures I took in Paris, and school probably deserves a post to itself, so I’ll do them later. But first I want to write about the past couple of weekends, because they have been perfect. Every one. Totally amazing. Let me just get a piece of the perfect fresh-baked French bread we had with lunch and I can begin.

I’ll start with the weekend before before the last (that’s two weeks ago), because it’s the first. I spent Saturday being a bum, lazing around the house and generally enjoying my freedom from the craziness of French high school. Sunday, however, was fun. Really fun. It started out pretty normally; sleep in, tasty breakfast and reading for most of the morning (Wuthering Heights: I felt it was time I started on the classics). We had a really long lunch; my host mothers’ parents came over and we had a birthday thing for them, which ended up being over two hours long after we had finished dessert. No complaints here – French food on special occasions? Yep. It’s pretty good. After lunch my host brother and sister (Charles and Victoria) and I went to Charles’s friend’s house. Since my arrival in France I’ve seen some pretty nice houses. This one made them look … lacking. In what, I don’t know, but their house was the most amazing I have ever set foot in. It looks like an old farmhouse from the outside – rough, aged, grey stone exterior. High, dense hedges. Ivy covering the walls. The front gate is huge; old wood with simple iron fittings, set into the high stone wall. Inside the gate there’s a sort of covered courtyard, then an open bit of grass with a really nice pool in the middle. On the other side of the pool there’s an open bit of lawn with a veggie patch and a huge chicken yard, and opposite, a seasonal creek with an awesomely creepy patch of gloomy pine trees on the edge of the property. On the other side of their property they have a huge raspberry vine, a big hazelnut tree and various other fruit trees.The family also owns four cats, some donkeys and a goat. You get the picture. They have a nice house.
So we went to their house after lunch for a few hours to have a swim, but the weather was cool so I got out after a while. After I got dressed I went raspberry picking with Charles’s friend’s mum, Martine, and we picked a huge bowlful of the freshest, sweetest, juiciest, tastiest raspberries I have ever eaten – though the bowl wasn’t as full by the time it got back into the house. After that I picked my first hazelnuts with Martine’s daughter, Salome, and Victoria. There were tons on the ground, many of them chewed through, and they explained that there was a squirrel who regularly came and decimated their crop. They didn’t seem to find it as cute as I did. Next we collected fresh eggs from the chicken hutch and by that time it was starting to get cold, so we went back inside, where we used hammers to crack open the nuts on the kitchen table. Afterwards Martine and I made clafoutis (with the fresh raspberries and eggs, of course) from a French recipe book: my first foreign cooking class! I learnt a lot – some interesting verbs (tamiser – to sift, beurrer – to butter), some nouns (âne/anesse – donkey, écureuil – squirrel), and made three new friends – all of whom happen to be cats. One of them jumped on my lap while we waited for the tart to cook and purred so loudly I wondered that he didn’t choke. We were also joined every few minutes or so by a very inquisitive rooster who wanted to know what was so interesting inside the house, and why he wasn’t allowed in. We eventually had to shut the door in his beak, but he was mollified when Martine gave him some cheese. Who would’ve thought a chicken could be so fond of dairy products?
We took half the tart with us when we went home and had it for dessert. It was pretty good… if I do say so myself. But I suppose that’s French cooking for you.

Last weekend was also about a nine out of ten on the amazingness scale. Saturday was a good day – I talked on the phone to my dad, who was at my brother’s house for his and my sister-in-law’s fifth wedding anniversary, which was nice, then Skyped with my mum later that afternoon. The rest of the day was spent reading my latest novel (To Kill a Mockingbird – I finished it yesterday) and being lazy, two of my favourite pastimes. Sunday lunch was again spent with my host mother’s parents (eating good food) and afterwards Charles and I rode bikes into Bruz and met up with one of his friends. They told me we were going to see the pony club (I’m a self-proclaimed horse fanatic), and maybe ride around Bruz a bit afterwards, but we ended up spending quite a while riding around the club grounds: there were heaps of bike trails with these cool little clearings and odd paddocks hidden away. I thought we were only going for an hour or so, but we ended up spending about two and a half riding around the area. I got my first real look at the countryside, and it was amazing. We spent a while exploring the pony club, then we rode out and followed the river to this huge open field with a gravel track running through it, and from there we got back onto the road and followed it home. Unfortunately I didn’t get any pictures, but riding bikes through the open yellow fields, passing white stuccoed farmhouses and the odd cow or two – it felt very French.

It’s funny: at the end of every week I think to myself, ‘life cannot possibly get better than this,’ and every week I prove myself wrong. I wonder what the next nine months will bring!

elly xx

the adventure begins…

Have you ever been to another country?

I have.

Ever tried to learn another language?

I’ve done that too.

Ever done something so crazy, so extreme, so fantastically different, that the whole time your head is telling you, “This is insane. I’m insane. What was I thinking?” your heart is saying, “This is the most brilliant thing I’ve ever done. Bring on the adventure!”

Well, I’m proud to say that as of six days ago, I can tick that box as well. Last Thursday I left my country, comfort zone and my head back in Adelaide, Australia and flew two days and an ocean away to France for a many-month long cultural exchange program that will leave me worldly, bilingual and even more clinically insanerer than I have been for the past fifteen-and-a-half years.

I’m guessing the majority of people won’t have committed to spend almost a year of their lives in a different family, school and culture 16,454.3kms from everything familiar (not that I’m complaining, because I’d never have signed up if I wasn’t totally sure I could handle it), so those people please note: it is not for the fainthearted. It can mean hard work, embarrassment, people talking to you like you’re four years old (literally), teachers who don’t speak your language putting you on the spot in class, constant headaches, feeling tired all the time, and feeling like you’re totally useless in the world; but the positives outweigh the negatives a million times over. I know that after only four days here, and it’s only gonna get better.

I’ve been lucky enough to be placed with a good family: they’re kind, generous and willing to help me learn. They’re fixing up a French farmhouse amongst plenty of horse pastures. There’s a cornfield, a river and a tiny bit of forest just down the road. And they have those fantastic taps which come on when you wave your hands underneath them (I had a lot of fun with those). I go to a good school with my host brother and sister, my teachers are, for the most part, very helpful and don’t expect too much, and my classmates are friendly (and very, very funny when they try to speak English).

The food here is amazing: I had my first croissant a couple of days ago with homemade redcurrant & raspberry jam and coffee for breakfast and I think I died a little bit. Cheese is a separate course here, eaten after dinner, and that in itself has been an adventure – a thoroughly enjoyable one. French cheese… yum.

All in all, I’m pretty sure I’m the luckiest damn person on the planet.

These next months will be difficult, exhausting, and quite possibly the best of my life.

So I say to all you people in the world doing the same things you’ve done for however long you’ve done them…

Bring on the adventure!

elly xx