The End!

Hello!

I’ve been back in Britain for just over a week now and it’s only just beginning to sink in that I won’t be going back to Nantes. The last few weeks were completely packed as we tried to fit in everything we had wanted to do and to see our favourite places for the last time.

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We picked the coldest day to go to the beach!

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Our last Giggs cocktails

We finished off our exams and celebrated with some days in the sun and lots of eating out. We spent our last weekend at Run&Mix, a night time 5k run with a DJ set after. It was so much fun and we ran the whole thing too which was an achievement for us. We covered ourselves in glowsticks and neon paint and embraced the rain- we’re used to it after all! It was so French as well with people finishing off their cigarettes at the start line and using their armband for cigarette packets instead of phones! It’s things like this that would only happen in France and it makes us feel quite fond of our adopted country and their funny habits.

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Ready for Run&Mix

Now on to the cliché part of the last year abroad blog: What I learnt on my year abroad

  • France is a pretty bizarre country- EVERYONE smokes, they love a protest so much that they’re willing to put the whole country on hold and they have a very relaxed attitude to life with long lunch breaks and rarely being in their office/replying to emails
  • Despite France being a pretty bizarre country it was a great place to live for a year and definitely gives you some life experiences
  • Relax- there’s no point in stressing about getting paperwork signed or doing anything administrative because the French definitely aren’t. This definitely taught be to be more laid back about life
  • It takes a lot longer than a year to become fluent. I am definitely not fluent and although I can read, write and listen pretty well my speaking still needs a lot of work but it has improved so much
  • Don’t stress about making a load of French friends and speaking French constantly. I didn’t make nearly as many French friends as I wanted to and I didn’t speak French all the time which did worry me a lot in the first semester but as Jess once said in a much less polite way, once you give up caring about all that you start to have a lot more fun
  • I became a lot more independent on my year abroad and also a lot more confident- I used to hate speaking to people on the phone/talking to strangers but having done it all in a different language I definitely feel more confident doing it in English!
  • Lastly, and probably most importantly, I made the best friends I could have asked for who helped me make the most of the year and we had so much fun together while supporting each other through all the difficult times a year abroad can throw at you (so cheesy but so true)

I’ll miss France a lot and I’ll definitely miss all the opportunities we had to travel around such a great country and drink lots of cheap wine (buying a £5 bottle of Sainsbury’s rosé last weekend nearly made me cry) and generally have an awesome time but on the other hand I’m so happy to be back in Britain and I can’t wait to be back in Exeter.

Au revoir Nantes.

Harriet X

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The beginning of the end

Hello everyone!

As I’m writing this I have less than three weeks until I leave France for good! It’s terrifying that this year has gone so quickly but I’m also really excited to be back home again! I’ll be doing a sum-up of the year closer to the time when I leave so this blog is just what I’ve done the past few weeks (which is not that much!).

Before I start I thought I’d share the ordeal that was getting home for Easter! Thanks to air traffic control strikes our flight was cancelled and so we had to book super expensive flights for the next day. That day we were unaware that there would be a protest outside the airport which prevented any traffic from getting in which meant that we couldn’t get the bus or even a taxi. This left us with only one option- trekking up the motorway to the airport. This was 40 minutes in the hottest day of the year so far with our huge suitcases, right up the hard shoulder of the motorway trying not to get killed by cars which were pulling over so that passengers could get out and join the pilgrimage to the airport! This was an adventure to say the least and not one that I want to do again!

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Police vans in Nantes during a day of protests

Nantes seems to have a bit of a thing for protests and they’ve had one a week since about February which has resulted in all the banks in town having boarded up windows and having to walk miles to find an ATM. The uni also had to change rooms for some exams because the amphitheatres got so badly vandalised! It’s definitely very different to anything at home!

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Nantes is famous!

Bordeaux

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Enjoying the sun

I went to Bordeaux! Jess, Abi, Beth and I went soon after we got back from the Easter holidays and we had the best time! Bordeaux is a really beautiful city and we had such nice weather on the first day. It started off with a 5 hour train which has shown us that you can be forever ‘entertained’ by the questions ‘where will everyone be in 10 years’ and ‘what’s your spirit animal’ (looking at you Jess). When we arrived we got lost on the way to the Ibis budget (very budget) and then wandered around the city and sat soaking up the sun by the Miroir d’eau.

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The Miroir d’eau

We then had THE nicest meal ever. We had a white Bordeaux and a red Bordeaux (because when in Bordeaux) and had a set three course meal for 20Euros which was amazing value. We had lovely melted Saint-Nectaire cheese before duck breast and then white chocolate cheesecake. It was so good and if you’re ever in Bordeaux, go to La Mélodie.

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The Cheese!!

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The amazing fountain

The next day was rainy and cold so we climbed the 233 steps of the bell tower before taking the tourist choo choo train around the city centre with a driver who made it into a bit of a rollarcoaster  ride! We left after a great Italian lunch with another 5 hour train sustained by surprisingly good Macdonalds macarons and more of Jess’s ‘which 3 crisps would you ban’ questions.

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The bell tower we climbed

Nantes

In Nantes summer has finally arrived and we’ve taken advantage of it by sitting outside pretty much everyday which resulted in Jess being laughed at in the pharmacy when asking for after-sun. The woman asked immediately if she was anglaise, our reputation clearly precedes us! We also had our Russian history oral exam last Wednesday which was interesting to say the least… my response to what were the 15 states of USSR was ‘ummm Ukraine?’ (great knowledge Harriet).

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Soaking up the sun in a jardin

We’ve also been running a lot as we’ve signed up to do a 5k run at the end of May, something which I never thought I’d do! But it’s actually really great and we have a really nice running route that follows the river Erdre and ends in the Japanese gardens.

My exams start on Wednesday (at 8.30 am yay) and are over by the 23rd. I go home on the 27th which is now so close! My next (and probably final) blog post will be a bit of a summary of the year and some bits of advice for people going to Nantes, and France in general, in the future.

A bientôt!

Harriet X

 

Back at it again with the adventures

Hello everyone!

The last three or so weeks since my last blog post have been pretty packed and I’ve been making the most of being in such a good location in France and only having three days a week in uni. A few weeks ago I was in Paris (again) to support Jess in a concert and also to do some more sightseeing. Last weekend I had the most amazing time in the south of France, staying in Nice and travelling to Cannes and Monaco. And lastly, George came to see me this weekend and I have just got back from dropping him at the airport. The weather has been so nice here over the weekend and we definitely took advantage of it!

Paris

Jess got invited to play the flute at a networking event for Visit Wales in Paris and so Abi, Josh and I headed along to support her as well as using it as an excuse to visit one of our favourite cities again. Although slightly stumped at the fact it was a networking event promoting Welsh education and we were completely out of place, we had a lovely time and Jess played wonderfully! We were able to meet some people working for the British embassy in Paris (always useful) and to see Richard Parks, the Welsh ex-rugby player speak about his trek across the Antarctic which was really amazing. This was all fueled by free (Welsh) gin and tonics and was made even better by the amazing view we had of the Eiffel Tower from the British Council building which was right by Les Invalides.

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Squad at the Eiffel Tower

We stayed in a lovely Airbnb apartment in Le Marais and we couldn’t have asked for a better location. With a direct metro route to the Louvre and so close to the Notre Dame, we were able to pack in a lot of sights.

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At the Notre Dame again

We also took a trip up to the Sacre-Coeur which I haven’t done since I went inter-railing after my A Levels. As lovely as the Sacre-Coeur is, the surrounding area was not so nice and we did feel a bit threatened by the men selling bracelets who stood in a line of the steps so you had to walk right through them while they tried to put bracelets on your wrist. I’m still amazed that Sophie and I actually stayed in Montmartre when we were inter-railing, we were very naive although I have to say we never actually felt that unsafe when we were there.

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The Sacre-Coeur

Our apartment happened to be a street away from Ollie’s, a good friend of Abi’s and who many Exeter people will know! He took us to the Sorbonne where he studies and also to the Pantheon, two places I had never been before and which were really great, as well as showing us some cheaper studenty areas to buy food in!

Paris was, once again, amazing and is even better every time I visit it!

Nice

Last weekend Abi, Beth, Jess and I took a trip to the south of France for some much needed sun after 3 months of rubbish weather in Nantes.

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Sunglasses out in Nice

We decided to stay in Nice as we could easily travel to Cannes and Monaco from there. Nice was really amazing and quickly entered my top-cities list! It was such a nice place to stay and felt much more welcoming than many places further north in France! Our Airbnb was in the old town, 5 minutes from the beach and the main square and shopping streets, it was perfect.

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The beach!

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The fountain right by our apartment

We got so over-excited about the weather (about 16C) and immediately the sunglasses were out and the jackets were off! Our first full day there we walked up the Colline de chateau which looks over the city and has an amazing view of the sea.

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On top of the world in Nice

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The beach looking beaut

We did a bit more wondering and chilling on the beach before getting the train to Cannes.

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Starting the day on the beach

Cannes, I have to say, was slightly disappointing. It definitely did feel like an out of season seaside town with a lot of posh shops and rich tourists. I imagine it would be much more impressive in high season but we all decided that we much preferred Nice.

The next day we decided to spend the whole day in Monaco. We took a super cheap bus there which went right along the coast which was so beautiful and we all spotted our future holiday homes! When we arrived in Monaco we went straight up to the palace, just in time to see the changing of the guard.

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The palace! Apparently I didn’t get the sunglasses memo

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The palace without us ruining it!

This was a really great experience and the old town of Monaco is just beautiful. We walked through the Jardin Exotique and took in the views.

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In the Jardin Exotique! Again sticking out without the sunglasses..

We then went over to Monte Carlo and took in the famous Casino.

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The Monte Carlo Casino

It is a really impressive building and the cars outside really showed us we were in another world- Bentleys, Maseratis and a bright yellow Ferrari were among the most notable! You had to pay to go inside the famous casino so we decided against it and went into the free Cafe de Paris casino next door instead. Jess managed to lose us 5 Euros in 5 minutes so we decided against playing anymore! We walked back through the tunnel that connects Monte Carlo and the old town and it felt like a James Bond film with all the sports cars racing past.

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On the Grand Prix route

The south of France was really, really amazing and I would absolutely love to go back and spend more time there.

George came to visit!

George came on Thursday and he just left today (Sunday) and we had such a nice time making the most of the spring weather that has finally arrived in Nantes. We decided to stay in an Airbnb as my room is so small and we found one near the Tour de Bretagne which is really central. Although the apartment was great, the toilet didn’t work (a fairly basic need..) and the owner didn’t reply to any of my messages so hopefully I’ll be able to get a refund of some sort! But other than that it was in a great location and also meant we had a proper kitchen which is a novelty for me!

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Picnicing on the ile de Versailles

As we’ve both done all the touristy things before we decided to just have a very chill weekend and had a picnic on the ile de Versailles and then one in the Jardin des Plantes the next day and that was about the most eventful thing we did!

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Jardin des Plantes

We popped into Giggs to see the others on St Patrick’s day and also had cocktails in Le Nid but other than that it was a pretty quiet weekend, but was so nice to spend some time together!

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If you want a lol, this is me and George with our faces swapped

Our Easter holidays don’t start until the weekend after Easter so we will be celebrating ourselves with a roast dinner and Easter eggs! I don’t have much planned for the next two weeks but hopefully the weather will stay sunny!

A bientôt!

Harriet X

La vie nantaise (et rennais et espagnol)

Hi everyone!

Term is well under way now in Nantes and I have just arrived back from half term which I spent in Exeter and at home. Miraculously all my classes are happening and everything seems to be going smoothly, I even applied for CAF (it only took me 5 months..)! I have been making the most of this term and we’ve done a bit more exploring around Nantes, mostly in terms of making the Lieu Unique our new favourite place for 2 Euro Muscadet and to do work in.. we’ve even been speaking French to each other!

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Casual evening at the Lieu Unique

We’ve also celebrated Jess’s birthday and found amazing mojitos in Havana cafe.

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Jess with her cake

 

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Cocktails in Havana

As well as becoming more familiar with Nantes I have also taken the opportunity do some more travelling- to Rennes and also to visit my Exeter housemate Linda in Oviedo.

Rennes

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Rain doesn’t bother us

Abi, Beth and I took the train to Rennes on a Saturday a few weekends ago and spent the day there and we completely fell in love with it!

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Twinned with Exeter

It’s a really beautiful city, even in torrential rain and we had a great time seeing all the lovely 15 century houses and sights such as the Parliament building and the cathedral.

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The amazing houses in Rennes

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Rennes cathedral

We were also very cultured and went to two museums, the Musée de Beaux-Arts and the Musée de Bretagne both of which were really interesting. We also found this really nice burger restaurant for lunch which had sweet potato fries- the first place I’ve found them in France!

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We found them!

Oviedo

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Me and Linda on her balcony

The weekend after Rennes, I flew to Oviedo in the north of Spain to visit Linda. The journey turned out to be longer than the trip itself as I had to travel to Paris CDG and then take a bus from Oviedo airport into the city but it was definitely worth it!

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Sheltering in Oviedo

When I arrived at about 9pm Linda took me out for dinner at a lovely pizza place and it was a bit of culture shock realizing that people were only just arriving for the evening!

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FroYo in Oviedo

The next day we went up to the mountains around Oviedo where there are a couple of churches and a statue of Jesus which are famous pilgrimage sites- it was really beautiful!

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One of the very old pilgrimage churches

We then wandered around the city and saw the cathedral and a few more churches. I had to leave at lunch time the next day but I had a really nice time and it was so great to catch up with Linda again.

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Oviedo cathedral

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Another church in Oviedo

 

Half Term

Half term arrived the weekend after Oviedo and I went home, first to Exeter to visit George and then back up to Scotland. Despite my plane being delayed due to a semi-hurricane in Nantes and missing my train from Southampton to Exeter, I arrived and we went straight to Wagamamas. I’d missed Britain a lot! The next day we went to Plymouth as we’d never been before which was lovely despite another delayed train and then we had dinner at Las Iguanas which was amazing.

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Does Exeter do better crepes than Nantes?

I had a really nice time in Exeter and it made me look forward to September even more! On Wednesday I went back home which was really great and I stayed there until Monday (yesterday). It was so nice to be home and I now feel (slightly) more refreshed and ready for the rest of this term.

On Thursday Abi, Josh, Jess and I are heading to Paris (only the third time since September..) for the weekend- mostly to watch Jess play the flute in a concert as part of a Wales-France friends thing, but also to enjoy the city again and to take advantage of having no lectures on a Thursday or Friday.

A bientôt!

X

 

2016!

Hello everyone!

This is my first blog post of the New Year and I’ve already been back in Nantes for 2 weeks! I had a really lovely Christmas at home and it was so nice to see friends and family. I arrived back in Nantes on the 3rd and had three exams over the Monday and Tuesday which were alright although the two translations threw up some weird words (‘old sea dog’ in French anyone?) but hopefully I’ve at least passed! We spent the rest of the week getting back into the gym, we’ve decided to be really dedicated this term to work off all the Christmas (and semester 1) indulgences. I also had a speaking exam last Monday which was fine and so apart from that we’ve had quite a lot of fun!

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On the navibus!

 

We’ve discovered the bowling alley and spent too much time in Pita Pit (apparently the only place in Nantes that sells halloumi) as well as going back to our old favourite, Giggs Irish pub. Friday was Carrie’s last full day and also Josh’s first day so we went full on tourist in Nantes. We took the navibus to Trentemoult, a little fishing village which was lovely although we somehow ended up in the dodgiest part of Nantes because apparently when it says castle on the map it doesn’t always mean an actual castle! We then went back into the centre and went up the ramparts on the real castle and saw the sunset which was lovely! Then we headed to the Lieu Unique which is an old biscuit factory converted into a bar for a glass of Muscadet before going to a lovely creperie for galettes and crepes. It was a really nice day and I hope a nice send off/welcome for Carrie and Josh!

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The Chateau with the squad

La Rochelle

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Les filles

Jess, Abi and I decided to be a bit more adventurous this week and we took a trip to La Rochelle which is about 2 hours south of Nantes. It’s a really beautiful old town with a port and three famous towers. We arrived at the Ibis budget hotel (you could definitely tell it was budget!) before heading into town to see the sights. It’s such a pretty town and very typically French. I would love to go back in the summer to see it at its height.

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The beautiful La Rochelle

We had cocktails at the Enfants du Rock cafe before dinner in a lovely little Italian where I got goats cheese and then salmon which was amazing. The next day we went up one of the towers where Jess was an excellent tour guide reading from all the descriptions and then had lunch at a lovely little creperie where we enjoyed some great galettes. We then went to the aquarium which was awesome and we had a great time seeing the fish, sharks and turtles. Then it was time to head home but we had a really great time seeing some more of France.

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Being all indie in La Rochelle

Disneyland

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Magic

This is slightly out of place but deserves to be included because it was so great! Right at the end of last term Abi, Imogen, Rachael and I went to Disneyland Paris.

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Quatre Minnies

I’ve never been before and it was amazing! I’m really glad we went so close to Christmas because they had their amazing tree up and the Christmas parade! It was- to be totally cliched- magical! We went into the pink castle and went on lots of rides and generally just soaked up being allowed to be children again for the day!

Classes start again tomorrow and I think I mostly have my timetable and modules sorted. I’m really looking forward to this term and I think it’s going to be really fun. As most people know, I didn’t feel like I was having an amazing time last term and wasn’t really looking forward to coming back but now that I’m here I’m feeling so much more positive! Hopefully it will keep getting better and I’ll keep you all updated!

A bientôt!

X

Adventures

Hi everyone!

So it’s been pretty much a month since my last post which is fairly awful but it’s because I’ve been so busy! Since coming back after half term I’ve been to Paris, to Angers, a tour of two castles in the region and I’ve been having a great time in Nantes.

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The beginnings of a group of candles in solidarity with the victims of the Paris attacks

I feel like I couldn’t write this post without mentioning the Paris attacks which were so horrendous. Thankfully I was in Angers that weekend but the weekend before I had been in Paris and was so close to the area of the attacks which made it hit home so much more. I learnt about the attacks when I started getting messages from the girls who had been in Paris with me and who were so shocked. I then spent the next two hours watching BBC news on a live stream with George who was visiting that weekend. It was a really horrible event but the solidarity shown afterwards by the French has been just amazing. In Angers, the French flags were at half mast and candles and messages were being placed on the steps in the main square. When I got back to Nantes, banners had been placed in our faculty building and messages of solidarity were written on the walls. The university also held a minute of silence which was attended by so many students. While the events were so awful, France has stayed strong and I’m so proud of my adopted country.

I spent the weekend of 7 November in Paris with Julia, Hannah and Kitty- friends from school- to celebrate Kitty’s 21st. We all go to different unis and we hadn’t seen each other in a while so it was so great to be together again. We had an Airbnb in the third arrondissement which mean we could walk to the Notre Dame and it had some lovely bars and restaurants around it. Despite the unfortunate lack of wifi in the apartment (the box wouldn’t work and this being the weekend in France there was nothing we could do about it) the apartment was really sweet and in such a great place.

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The start of our adventure! L-R Julia, Hannah, Me, Kitty

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Taking a stroll on the love lock bridge

The Saturday we arrived we didn’t do much exploring as everyone was so tired from travelling all day and we just cooked for ourselves in the apartment and had a much needed catch up. We spent the Sunday being full on tourists and walked to the Notre Dame before stumbling upon the Louvre (not quite sure how we didn’t notice it) and ending up getting lost inside the Louvre- but that’s all part of the fun!

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Notre Dame

 

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Outside the Louvre

We also went to the Eiffel Tower which Julia and Kitty went up to the top of and had champagne while Hannah and I stayed on the grass and tried to put off the wine sellers from coming back to us EVERY 5 minutes. They really don’t like taking no for an answer!

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Les filles

We then headed back to ours and went out for dinner and cocktails at a local restaurant which was really lovely. We spent Monday going up the Arc de Triomphe which I’d never done before and was really beautiful despite the wind! We also wandered along the Champs Elysées, popping into La Durée and Sephora (Britain you really need to get one).

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Taking in Paris at the top of the Arc

 

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At the Arc de Triomphe!

Next was crepes on the Pont d’Alexandre III which was so beautiful and was honestly like being on a film set.

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Pont d’Alexandre III- the most beautiful bridge ever

 

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Enjoying our crepes

We went home to get ready for the evening which would turn out to be pretty amazing. We had champagne by the Eiffel Tower and saw its lights before having the most amazing dinner in a restaurant just down the road from the Tower which also had a live jazz band.

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Champagne celebrations

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Having an amazing time

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Haz and Han

Tuesday was Kitty’s actual birthday and while we had intended on a champagne brunch none of us were quite feeling up to it and we all had to be at stations/airports so we had breakfast in a cafe by the apartment. We were all so sad to be leaving and it really was such an amazing weekend- hence the really long hour by hour account which I apologise for!!

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Our last morning in Paris 😦

The weekend after Paris, George came to visit and we decided to go to Angers seeing as he’d already spent two weekends in Nantes. Angers is only 40 minutes away by train and is a really lovely historical city. All its buildings were so typically French and the streets had little independent shops lining them and it was a really idyllic French town!

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View of Angers from the Castle

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One of Angers’ many amazing buildings

We went to Angers castle which was lovely and had a huuuuge tapestry which told the story of the book of Revelations. We also went to the Musée des Beaux-Arts and did other general touristy things. The attacks in Paris happened that weekend but we tried not to let it put a downer on us and we were able to show our respects by lighting candles in the square.

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At Angers Castle

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Angers Castle

The Saturday after that, I went on an Erasmus trip which took us to Château de Chambord and Château de Chenonceau before a wine tasting trip at the Bouvet Ladubay winery.

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The fairy tale that is Chambord

Both castles were really beautiful although Chenceneau was slightly more fun because they had all the rooms done up and the also had amazing grounds with a donkey farm and a maze!

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Chenonceau

The wine tasting was also really fun and it was all sparkling wines. We tried a standard white sparkling one, a oak barrel matured white, a sparkling rosé and a sparkling red which I had never tried before but was actually really nice!

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The classic Bouvet sparkling wine

 

So those are all the exciting trips that I’ve had in the past three weeks! In Nantes work has actually started getting serious now with a few essays to write but we have taken time to do some fun things such as going to the cat cafe which was awesome and also to the Nantes Christmas market which is really lovely!

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Afternoon tea at La Cigale

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The cat cafe!

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Having a mug of vin chaud at the Christmas market

Sorry that this post has been so long, I had so much to write about!

Next Saturday I’m going to Disneyland Paris for the first time ever! So that’ll be all in the next blog post.

A bientôt!

X

 

First half of term over

Hello everyone!

So it’s been a little while since the last blog post because to be honest not that much out of the ordinary has happened! Classes have settled down now and we are given translations from each class to do every week and I have been told to write a book ‘commentary’ (about 6 pages) for History so I do have a bit of work to do!

Just when I thought it was going so well and I had had my learning agreements signed and sent off, we were informed that our class- Culture et civilisation francaise- was cancelled. The teacher had been absent since the start of term but we had been assured that either she would come back or they would find a replacement for her. Nope. It got cancelled. It’s not a huge deal for me because I have enough credits without it, but for some people they’re now lacking in credits which is really annoying and of course it means more paperwork as the learning agreements need to be changed again! I’m pretty sure the people in the print shop know who I am by now!

Aside from that I’ve had a pretty good couple of weeks and this week is the Vacnces de Tousaint (basically half term) so I’m heading home on Tuesday until the weekend which I am soo excited about- I can’t wait to be surrounded by English speakers again!

Here are some highlights of the past two weeks:

Thanksgiving

Butternut squash soup

Butternut squash soup

Our friend Rose is Canadian and she suggested we hold a Thanksgiving dinner as Canadian Thanksgiving was a couple of weeks into October. How could we say no to an excuse for a big roast dinner! We had amazing spiced butternut squash soup followed by chicken (couldn’t find turkey) with mashed sweet potato baked with a sugar, butter and walnut topping (amazing) and I introduced everyone to bread sauce which I think they all thought was good! It made us miss roast dinners so much that we’ve decided we’ll celebrate American Thanksgiving and have an early Christmas dinner!

Best meal ever

Best meal ever

George Came to Stay!

At the cathedral

At the cathedral

So it’s been nearly a month since George last came to visit (I’m going home next week so we made this visit a bit early) and it was really nice to see him again. We’d exhausted all the touristy stuff the last time so this was a more chill weekend which was taken over be two very tense rugby matches and showing George the wonder that is Gigg’s Irish pub. We won’t mention the end of that Australia-Scotland game. We also visited the Jardin de Plantes which is just off the centre of town and is a beautiful park that I’d never been to before. They have lots of sculptures made out of plants and duckponds and things and it was really nice to just sit and chill. What I really noticed that weekend was how much strangers in France will come up and talk to you- so much more than in the UK! I think I noticed it more this weekend because I had to be the one that responded. We had a couple of people coming up asking for money which is very common, one trying to sell us drugs ( not so common) and one lady on the tram who told George off for having his feet on the seat and added that he would get a 600 Euro fine- I think she might have exaggerated a little there! I’m still not great at understanding people if I’m not expecting them to talk to me but just saying ‘Non’ works most of the time. It is more intimidating than in the UK though, it’s so unusual to be talked to there!

'Totem poles' at the Jardin des Plantes

‘Totem poles’ at the Jardin des Plantes

Cheese and Wine Night

Being in France and all we thought it would only be appropriate to have a cheese and wine night. This was awesome- so much cheese, especially baked Camembert (in the microwave..) and a giant Babybel, as well as baguettes and some cured meats. As well as the wine of course. Who cares if we’ve got an 8am the next day. It’s a cliché because it’s true- cheese, bread and wine are the best things about France.

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My Room Flooded!

This isn’t a highlight but it was the biggest event of this week!

There had been a little puddle of water coming out between my bathroom and fridge for a couple of days and I’d tried to ignore it but when water started seeping up through the cracks in the Lino stuff of my floor I knew I needed to go tell reception. I took pictures- so much easier than trying to explain it all- and by chance the repairman was standing with the receptionist and he said that it was the shower that was blocked and he would need to come the next day to take out the whole shower. I panicked and agreed to be out of my room for 9am. First lie-in of the week gone. I came home to find half my floor taken up but the flooding has stopped so that’s positive! Hopefully everything will be okay now. The receptionist already knows my room number without me telling her- I think she gets annoyed that I always pay for a 3.50 Euro wash with a 10 Euro note- so I hope I won’t need to go to her with in my problems in my awful French anytime soon!

Half my floor gone

Half my floor gone

I did take advantage of the early start to go to the train station to get my tickets for Paris. I am going in November with three friends (Julia, Kitty and Hannah) from school to celebrate Kitty’s 21st- I’m so excited although I will be the interpreter so I will need my French to be on top form! I also tried out the uni library for the very first time which although is a lot less modern than Exeter’s it is really big and has loads of study space and I felt very productive!

Excited for Paris!

Excited for Paris!

Home soon!!!

Culture Culture

Culture Culture

I’ve got a very quiet weekend before I go home as most people have gone already so I went shopping today and came back with three books in French- Harry Potter (only the first one, but I’m going to try to get through the whole series in French), ‘Oona et Salinger’ by Frederic Beigbeder and ‘De Grey, histoire romantique’ by Henry James because it was only 2 Euros. I also got ‘Les Intouchables’ because it is an amazing film! I’m feeling very French today!

Jasper (the black blob) waiting for me to come home

Jasper (the black blob) waiting for me to come home

I am very excited to be home and although Nantes has been great it will be nice to have my cats (yup), home cooked food and English around me for a few days next week.

A bientôt!

X

Weekend in Paris!

Hello everyone!

Last weekend I went to Paris!

Paris is only a two hour train from Nantes, and with Abi’s birthday being this week a few of us decided to take a trip to the City of Lights.

The Paris crew!- Rose, Rachael, Jazz, Mared, Abi and me

The Paris crew!- Rose, Rachael, Jazz, Mared, Abi and me

Of course, this being France, it was not a completely smooth trip although to be fair this was more due to our incompetence than the country itself! We had reserved seats on the 7.30am train on Saturday morning so that we would be able to get a good full two days in Paris. This seemed a good idea at the time but we had to meet at the tram stop at 6.30 which was too early! We all met at the stop and then realised that Mared was missing- she had only just woken up when we were supposed to be meeting! Time was pretty tight as trams are less regular on a Sunday and so we went on our way and hoped that Mared would run and manage to catch the train on time! Jazz and I were sitting in our carriage when we got a text from the other girls (who were sitting in first class- living the high life) saying that Mared had made it on board! This meant that Jazz and I were sitting in the wrong carriage.. cue walking through the train, which by the way had about 20 carriages, in order to find Mared. We eventually did and we were finally able to relax. Way too much excitement before 8 in the morning!

Le Tour Eiffel

Le Tour Eiffel

When we get to Paris, we checked into our air bnb apartment (during the metro ride half the girls forgot to get off at the right stop so had to turn around and come back again) and we then made our way to the local boulangerie to get some lunch. It was here that we encountered Parisian rudeness and made us realise how nice Nantes actually is! Jazz had asked for an éclair café but they gave her an actual café. When she tried to explain that it was them who had got it wrong, they were really condescending- clearly there’s no such thing as the ‘customer is always right’ here!

Eiffel Tower selfie

Eiffel Tower selfie

Anyway, we took our lunch to the Eiffel tower and took some Instagrams (as you do) while enjoying the beautiful weather. We then went to the Louvre and on our way we stopped at the Tuileries to watch some Fashion Week crowds and to try and see some famous people. We didn’t see any but we did see the crowd suddenly run after this poor person who must have been a celebrity but I never saw who they were! We also felt super unfashionable compared to all the street-style-blogger people hanging out there so we left them to it.

The Louvre

The Louvre

At the Louvre we had a hilarious moment with some statues where we snapchatted them with captions that we found really funny but probably no one else did. We also made the obligatory trip to the Mona Lisa and were pretty underwhelmed before heading back to our are in the 15arr. where we found this lovely Italian restaurant for dinner. The pizzas were really good but there was a little mishap when Mared’s dessert had shards of plastic attached to it. Definitely a box-fresh pudding.

Statue taking a selfie (at the d'Orsay but you get the idea)

Statue taking a selfie (at the d’Orsay but you get the idea)

We had intended to go out that night but no one was feeling that great due to such an early start and we discovered the last metro home was only at 1.15 which is even earlier than Nantes on a Saturday! So we decided on a night in instead.

On Sunday we headed over to the Notre Dame and took some pictures from the outside as we couldn’t face the queue. By total coincidence, I bumped into two of my French and History Exeter friends who are working in Paris. How amazing that in the whole of Paris we would both be outside the Notre Dame at the same time on the same day!

Notre Dame

Notre Dame

We then went to the Musée d’Orsay which I’ve been to twice before and is I think my favourite museum (yes I am that cool that I have a favourite museum). They had a special exhibition going on about how prostitution was represented in art in the 19-20C which was really interesting and had a lot of Manets and Degas as well as a curtained room for ‘over-18s only’ which we discovered housed early 20th C porn… we exited that room pretty quickly!

At the d'Orsay!

At the d’Orsay!

Having spent a good few hours at the d’Orsay we went to a crepe cafe before going back to the train station. We had dinner at a restaurant near the train station which was lovely except for Abi’s burger which although ‘well done’ was in fact dripping with blood- the French don’t change their ways for anyone!

We arrived back in Nantes at midnight and managed to get the last tram home.

I think we all decided that although Paris is a beautiful city, none of us would like to live there and we all finally began to appreciate how nice Nantes is as a place to live!

This has nothing to do with the post but wanted to include it because it was so great! Made by Imogen, Abi and me :)

This has nothing to do with the post but wanted to include it because it was so great! Made by Imogen, Abi and me 🙂

A bientôt!

X

Beginning to Settle In

Hi everyone!

In my last post I had just started lectures and the majority of my classes went wrong, either with teachers not turning up or modules turning out to be way harder than expected! I’ve had two weeks since then and lessons have pretty much fallen into place and I feel like I’m more or less getting into the swing of things now.

I am doing three translation classes (one of which the teacher showed up for the first time this week) and these are definitely fairly challenging, harder than most of the translations we had to do at Exeter. In one of the classes, the teacher is really keen on making us Anglophones describe what English words mean in French- last lesson’s task was ‘basking’… I struggled with that one, especially the context it was in! It’s hard enough to think of synonyms in English let alone French! But it is definitely nice to be included in the class.

The main disaster of the week has been Culture et civilisation française. Last week we found a notice board with a list of teacher absences. So many were off for the first two weeks of term that I wouldn’t be surprised if they were taking advantage of cheap holidays! Anyway, the notice said that our teacher would be back this current week. But when we turned up at the deathly hour of 8am no one was there. There was due to be an equivalent class that afternoon which we went to pretty unwillingly. And guess what: no teacher. We managed to make friends with this French girl who was also wondering what had happened and we eventually found this tiny slip of paper on a random notice board informing us that the teacher (who had already been a replacement for another) was still absent and they were looking for a replacement as soon as possible. So we just have to turn up again next week and hope for the best! Welcome to French life!

On a lighter note, we are making progress in meeting French students and actually speaking French to them! A lovely French girl came up to us before one class and told us about an evening conversation group that she helps to run in which French students learning English and English-speaking students get together to basically just chat. We are split into small groups with roughly equal numbers of French and English in each one and we spend 45 mins speaking French and the next 45 mins in English. This is honestly one of the highlights of the week as everyone is so nice and we are finally able to properly speak French! Although it is a little shameful that all the French students are a million times better than us! But hey hopefully we’ll slowly improve!

Tour guide!

Tour guide!

Last weekend I became the tour guide when George came to visit! I hadn’t seen him since the middle of August so this was a really nice weekend together. The first evening we went out to this amazing restaurant that I had first discovered with my mum. It’s called ‘Le b’ and I would definitely recommend it. It’s basically a burger restaurant but they do really interesting burgers, for example mine was made with black bread and they also do a really great vegetarian one. And they’re not too expensive either, about €14 for a burger which is not bad for a nice meal out in France!

At Le B

At Le B

My awesome 'B.douin' burger

My awesome ‘B.douin’ burger

I love cheesecake.

I love cheesecake.

The next day we did all the touristy stuff, like the elephant and the castle and basically just wandering about the city with me trying to seem like I knew where I was going all the time-  I don’t think I seemed too clueless!

Another elephant photo

Another elephant photo

On the Saturday I went with George and the girls to go and see Nantes FC play Paris Saint-Germain! Generally speaking I am not the biggest football fan and I have never seen a match live. However we all thought, when in Nantes… and it really did turn out to be loads of fun! We all got a bit too into it with some of the girls buying official t shirts and I bought a bright yellow scarf and we cheered on Nantes loudly with the free plastic flags that we were given.

FC Nantes vs PSG!

FC Nantes vs PSG!

The FC Nantes official fangirls

The FC Nantes official fangirls

I had put a bet on PSG to win 3-1 as we all knew Nantes wasn’t going to win despite us wanting them to, and this definitely increased the tension of the game. Nantes scored a really good goal (even I know it was an impressive goal!) in the first half and George had a lot of fun pointing out all these ‘famous’ football players in the PSG team- I didn’t have a clue! The opposite side of the stadium to us was full of yellow shirts, these were clearly super keen season ticket holders and they even had coordinated dance moves and these really awesome flag formations. In the second half PSG went on to score 3 goals and I was so sure that I had won £30 but in the very last (literally) minute they scored another one. So annoying! But still, a really fun day out and it may have slightly changed my opinion on football!

The Nantes supporters' flag formation

The Nantes supporters’ flag formation

On a quick note, it was of course the Wales-England rugby match that same Saturday. I of course support Scotland all the way but when Scotland isn’t playing, Wales is my team. No true Scot could support England (sorry!) and George is Welsh so that made the match really tense and exciting. The second half of that game was so good and made a great end to George’s visit.

This week has been fairly quiet with just a Welcome party last night at the Pôle étudiant (basically like the Students’ Union) which was good, despite the bizarre moment of walking in to see everyone jumping around to the uni brass band. But they didn’t play for too long it became a pretty standard kind of night. We moved onto Gigg’s (the Irish pub that we’ve been to too many times), where the music was basically Cheesy Tuesday’s, and everyone who was already there was pretty far gone. We saw the most amazing young couple re-enact their wedding dance to the Dirty Dancing song- this sounds so cheesy but honestly they were so awesome- great entertainment for the night!

Tomorrow morning (at the bright and early time of 6.30), I am off to Paris for the weekend with 5 of the girls to celebrate Abi’s 21st birthday. We have a huuge list of things to do, and I’ll tell you all about it in next week’s blog post!

A bientôt!

X

Classes have Started! Kind of…

Hi everyone!

Exeter take on Nantes!

Exeter take on Nantes!

So it’s been just over a week since my last blog post and in the time uni life has properly started. Supposedly, anyway.

The Japanese garden on the ile de Versailles

The Japanese garden on the ile de Versailles

Last Friday I had a meeting with my personal tutor and the poor guy spent nearly an hour changing the majority of modules. We had had a fairly limited choice when we applied and weren’t sure what most of the modules involved. So I picked a couple which induced him to say “do you have a particular interest in business?” I had no idea what the modules I had taken were going to be about! So instead he recommended some translation modules and one called “Racines Culturelles” that was going to involve Homer and Dante. I wasn’t particularly keen but he’d taken so much time to find it in the Lettres department for me that I felt I at least had to try it! More on that module later.

This meeting also involved him showing me where the timetables were. Basically we have to find the timetables for each subject which are scattered around notice boards on campus and write down all the times the classes are at so that we can make up our own timetable. We managed to get half the subjects down but some of the departments hadn’t put the timetable up yet… this being Friday and classes starting the following Monday. I managed to find them online however after a little bit of searching and felt quite pleased with myself that I had my timetable all figured out. It wouldn’t stay that way however!

My first class was on the Monday and I was pretty nervous to see how much I would understand. I would have to wait to find out however as the teacher didn’t show up. Brilliant start to the first proper week at uni! I did however manage to go to a history lecture later in the day where the teacher did turn up. This is my History of Diplomatic Relations module which I was particularly interested in and although the period is earlier than I had hoped (we’re mostly studying 17-18 centuries) it was still interesting. Despite the fact that often he would say things like “so the fundamental point is…” or “the key issue is…” and then I wouldn’t be able to understand the next bit! Very annoying. I was helped by the fact that the boy in front of me was using a laptop so I was able to copy some of his notes.

Tuesday was slightly more successful with an 8am (horrible) translation class. This was year 2 level and so we should have been able to handle it. It was fine but the texts they get are so much harder than those we get in the UK! No wonder foreign people are much better at English that we are at their languages! I then had a year 3 translation class which was actually better as the class was smaller and more interactive. The teacher also realised that Abi and I were the only native English speakers and so she sat us each with a French girl so we could help each other with the translations which was very useful. She also asked us to describe what English words meant which was a bit of a struggle as trying to think of synonyms in English is hard enough let alone in my limited vocabulary of French! I then went on to the “Racines Culturelles” class. This was fairly terrible. It was an hour and a half of a monotonous, scary lecturer speaking at us incredibly fast and asking questions like “what happened in 475?”; at least the French students looked completely blank as well! It was mostly the fact that she wanted us to read the whole of the Iliad, in French, by next week. No thank you. Safe to say I am dropping that module!

Wednesday was another failure with my Culture et Civilisation Française teacher failing to show up. I was with some students from Cardiff at this point who had had a really awful day. They had been asked to leave one class as the teacher did not want any Erasmus students in case more French students turned up- after the first week. They also discovered that one of the classes was taught in English so that was a no and then for another class the teacher didn’t show up. So we ended up going to a pub in town at 4 in the afternoon. Happy hour cocktails were needed!

Thursday I had no scheduled classes but on Friday I had Littérature et Cinéma which I had high hopes for, especially as I was now struggling for credits. The teacher however had decided to mix things up this year and we discovered that we were going to be studying two Japanese books and two Japanese films. So much for my hopes of discovering French culture through obscure indie films! I have never studied anything about Japan before and so it was a bit of a struggle trying to understand the history (of roughly the 18th Century) and whether the words he said were Japanese names or French words I hadn’t heard before! Also it was three hours long of him just talking to us which was pretty draining. I think I might stick at it though and do some background research so that I have more of an idea of what’s going on!

So that was my fairly unsuccessful week of classes! I’m trying out a couple more different ones this week so hopefully by the end of the week I will have my life sorted!

But on to the more fun stuff!

Pornichet's adorable train station

Pornichet’s adorable train station

Last Thursday was meant to be the last really nice day and so we decided to go to Pornichet, a little town with a lovely beach which was about an hour’s train away. We had a really lovely day relaxing on the beach and soaking up the sun before classes started.

Having a ball at the beach

Having a ball at the beach

The beach!!

The beach!!

We also finally managed to have a successful night out last Saturday and we went to the famous Hangar à Banane which is basically a row of clubs, all with free entry, on the island.

The Hangar a Banane at night

The Hangar a Banane at night

We had begun the night by meeting up with the Erasmus organisation at a park on the island where we all drank our €2 bottles of wine and where we met some non-native English speakers for a change!

Becoming French

Becoming French

The clubs were really fun and it was good to be able to walk among them. We also managed to get a taxi home rather than walking all the way!

Infamous 'Bleu Bleu' shots...

Infamous ‘Bleu Bleu’ shots…

Other than our mid-week trip to the pub this last week has been pretty quiet although we did have a lovely evening at Abi’s with some of the girls where we took advantage of her oven to make brownies which was much appreciated! We also attempted to go out last night. We held pres in Fresche Blanc as there are a few of us here and it became much bigger than we expected with some random Italian guys we’d never met before joining us! We also found out that we’re not actually allowed to drink alcohol in the kitchen so we did get thrown out but that’s all part of the fun! At least we have now managed to work out where most of the decent bars are in Nantes, and how to avoid walking home!

So that’s all for this week which was both stressful and frustrating but also pretty fun. I’ll let you know how classes go this week and whether there is any improvement! We are also planning to go and see Nantes FC play Paris Saint Germain which will be my first ever football game- it seems appropriate to see one during the year in which everything is out of the ordinary!

George (my boyfriend from Exeter) is also coming to visit at the weekend so I’m going to plan some tourist things for us to do and I’ll pretend like I know where I’m going!

A bientôt!

Harriet X