Thought I would write a quick summary of my first week in France to let you all know how ‘O’ week went.
First of all, I am so surprised by the weather. It is ridiculously hot for which I was totally unprepared for thinking Europe was heading into winter. It is averaging 25 degrees + most days and the humidity is unbelievable. Fair to say I am loving it after seeing 10 days of summer in the past year thanks to Japan!
The week has been busy with ‘Welcome to France’ seminars in the morning which is split into language ability. No need to explain that I am obviously in the bottom group and can’t actually understand what the teacher is saying. My poor Swedish friend Johan has had to translate for me throughout the lesson but by now most people know my French isn’t up to scratch. Oops. After these seminars the International Association for Sciences Po (the political uni) have organised trips to Vineyards, a hike to see the view across to Mt Tholonet and a visit to Cassis. At night most of the group meets up in Parc Jourdan right by our housing for drinks and socialising – you can drink in public – then head into town for a pub crawl or Erasmus (exchange student) welcoming parties at bars. Haven’t had much sleep this week as it has been full on which doesn’t help my sometimes blonde moments when asking questions and speaking. On that topic, I am amazed at how many people can’t understand my accent! Everyone laughs when I speak as I think in New Zealand we say our vowels e and i in a different way. Being the only New Zealander, friends think it is pretty hardcase when I am talking.
Yesterday, as mentioned before, we went to Cassis which is on the coast of France in the Marseille Provence. It was absolutely beautiful, a little seaside town with lots of yachts in the harbour. We hiked over the les calanques (cliffs) to get to a beach where we swam in the bluest water I have ever seen. It was a great day apart from the fact that I got extremely sunburnt and felt very crisp – sorry Helen, must remember the sunscreen next time! At least now I will look less touristy being fair skinned and more European when I go brown.
Tomorrow lectures start but here we have the opportunity to try out the different courses we might like to take for three weeks before deciding which ones we would like to sign up to. For me this means more time travelling around France and less time at uni because let’s be honest it doesn’t really sound like we have to be there does it!? Tonight I am off to watch a game of hurling at an Irish pub in town (they are everywhere!) with some Irish friends. Hurling is their national sport and the game being screened is two big rivals facing each other. Will be good fun to see the Irish getting wound up by all the action.
Thought I would finish with my favourite or most interesting 5 things about France that I have found so far:
1. PDA | Public Displays of Affection
It is everywhere and so normal here for couples just to make out on the street and lie all over each other in the park. New Zealand is fairly conservative when it comes to things like this so it has been pretty amusing to see all the time, everyday, right in front of you. Absolutely outrageous.
Aix en Provence is called the city of 1000 fountains as they are everywhere. There is the huge one I have put a photo up of as well as small ones dotted about the place. Sometimes you see the dogs jumping in for a bit of splash around.
Speaking of dogs, guess what the most common dog I have seen is… French bulldogs! It is such a cliche but they are everywhere and so very sweet. Aside from that they have the most ridiculously small chihuahua type dogs I have ever seen. The dogs are allowed in the shops, restaurants and pretty much everywhere.
4. Bonjour | Bonsoir
I love how instead of hello and good evening it has become more normal for bonjour and bonsoir to roll off my tongue when greeting people.
5. The French
Before heading to France many people warned me about how rude the French can be. I have been pleasantly surprised as everyone in Aix is friendly and approachable. They also have great patience as I stutter out some form of French language in a shop or on the street. I think Paris may be different, a weekend trip up there is being planned so that is to be continued…
Au revoir X