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Archive for January, 2010

I just received great news about the CAF: I finally received it! lol. Yay for housing rebates ūüôā But, surprise, surprise. Along with the good news they sent me a separate letter asking for MORE PAPERWORK. Ha. It never ends…

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As if living in France wasn’t enough of a change, winter is a constant (but nice) reminder of just how far away from home I really am. Louisianians bleed purple and gold in the fall (or black and gold now, depending on your sports loyalty), but people in the Alps can do one better. They don’t just bleed colors – they bleed skiing, AND it’s in their DNA (or as Annecy’s 2018 Winter Olympic Games bid says, this activity¬†might as well be considered part of the Haute-Savoie resident’s genetic makeup).

Not one who enjoys being left in the dust (or in this case, powder), and understanding that I may never get such an opportunity again, I too have jumped on the skiing bandwagon – at least for the season. I have been twice so far, and each time gave me a full-body work out that I certainly felt the next day. This past Sunday’s 3-hour excursion still has my calves sore…three days later!

Skiing can be an expensive sport, but there are ways to trim the costs down, and on an English assistant’s salary, I have certainly been on the lookout for these ways. First of all, I needed the proper clothing -a ski jacket, pants, gloves, hat – and managed to find each of these things at relatively decent to cheap prices.

  • ski jacket – 50 euros from a “bourse de ski” (like a left-over new ski clothing sale)
  • ski pants – 26 euros from the Foire de Ste. Andre (giant city-wide out-door market held once a year that apparently dates back to medieval times).
  • decent ski gloves – 5 euros at Carrefour (an amazing find considering all the ones I found elsewhere cost at least 25 euros);
  • a warm, fuzzy hat – 5 euros at a Shirpa store in Switwerland

Next step was ski gear. To rent boots, skis and poles for a day at the Semnoz (the closest ski area to Annecy Рabout 30 minutes up the mountain Рand probably one of the cheapest in the region) costs 19 euros. But I managed to find my own second-hand ski boots from TrocSports for 25 euros and a free bag to carry them in (found in my apartment). This cuts my rental fee down to 11,50 euros each time.

After hitting the slopes and testing out my skills, I also decided to buy a helmet (30 euros – better safe than sorry), and ski goggles (15 euros – well worth it to keep the glare and stray snow from getting in my eyes). I could also find skis for 40-60 euros, but I won’t be bringing them home and it’s more of a hassle to try fitting them into friends’ cars (remember, European cars are tiny compared to American ones), so I’m not going to worry about buying any.

There is still one more thing I have left to find: ski insurance. It is possible to buy day insurance for 2,70 euros a pop, but I’d like to find reasonably-priced coverage for the entire season. Feel free to leave suggestions if you know of anything!

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Snow…Again???

Noooo! It’s snowing again… ūüė¶

Just when the thick layer of white fluff and ice had significantly melted, I was sitting comfortably on my bed checking Facebook when another assistant informed the Annecy cyberworld of this fateful event. Honestly, it seems like most of us assistants are “over” the snow in the city. We’ve had our fun and have taken loads of beautiful pictures, but after a couple weeks of trudging through the leftover slush and slipping on ice, we’ve had enough. Why can’t the snow stay in the surrounding mountains? That way we can still go skiing (when we chose to), but traffic won’t get held up in the city center and everyone will be happy!

I don’t mind the cold, but I’m definitely a warm-climate girl at heart ūüôā

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Change of Seasons

I love how living in Annecy has allowed me to get so much more natural exercise than I normally would at home. Since I have no car, I am constantly walking around town, riding my bike (when weather permits – i.e. not at the moment because there’s still a lot of ice), occasionally taking the bus (and then still ending up walking part of the way because public transportation rarely takes me exactly where I want to end up – more in the general vicinity), and lastly, hitching rides with fellow friends/assistants, coworkers, etc. Sometimes when it’s really cold or rainy weather I would love to have a car again, but for the most part, I love using greener forms of transportation. It also means that I am outside more often than normal and I have really enjoyed watching the change of seasons.

Seasons in Annecy are much more defined compared to Louisiana. Back home our weather pattern consists of an extended fall which occasionally looks like winter and then quickly turns into spring, to be followed by a loooong, hot summer. And even though I would much rather be hot than cold, I have adapted well to the chilly temperatures we have been facing for the past few weeks in the Alps – I have learned that the trick is to dress properly! lol.¬† But the snow has finally begun to melt (in the city at least – the surrounding mountains will most-likely be white through April), and the sun is shining. According to MSN, yesterday was supposedly the “most depressing day of 2010” due to its position between Christmas and Easter, yet I’m not depressed at all. In my mind, it already feels like spring is on its way!

I will admit that my cheerfulness is not only because of the nice, sunny weather. I am also excited that it is now less than one month until my boyfriend comes to visit! I love traveling, but it’s even better when you can experience new sights and countries with those closest to you – especially if you haven’t seen them in 4 months! We’ve finalized plans and will be heading to Madrid (our first time in Spain) and Toulouse (with day trips to Albi, Carcassonne, and Lourdes). It should be a relatively relaxing, yet fun-filled 12 days and will give us a lot of time to catch up.

Below are pictures from my weekend trip to Besancon (visiting other assistants). The little voyage was a lot of fun and it was great to see our friends again!

P.S. I made the “red-bean” gumbo below. Thanks to Connie’s mom for sending her seasoning and roux mix!

The pretty stones that are found in most buildings throughout the city center

View of Besancon from the Citadel

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Before leaving the U.S. my parents jokingly told me that I couldn’t come home without learning how to cook. Well, now that snow covers the ground and I spend more time indoors, I am happy to say that France, Meryl Streep, and Julia Child have inspired me to do just that. So far my progress has been in baby steps – the highlights include a well-received sweet potato and marshmallow casserole for Thanksgiving and helping my friend whip up a rather fine quiche for Christmas dinner. But finally, yesterday, I tried my hand at a French favorite, cr√™pes! I’m happy to say that slowly but surely I’m learning (and liking what I make). So here’s to the beginning of a long, fulfilling journey through the ups and downs of cooking.¬† Bon app√©tit!

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Oh blog, how I have neglected you! Well, I shouldn’t consider it neglect since all I have been doing is collecting more exciting and somewhat humorous stories to tell. But now that the snow flurries outside have enticed me indoors, I have a bit of time to spare.¬†The hard part now is condensing the past two weeks into bite-sized posts so that it does not resemble “The Never-ending Story…” Well, here goes nothing!

Stop #1: Marseille

I might as well start off at the beginning of the whirlwind adventure, about a week before Christmas, when the snow began to fall in Annecy and Elise and I awoke to a beautiful winter wonderland on her first full day in the French Alps. We finished packing and validated our Eurail passes, ready for  train travel to the oldest city in France: Marseille. Most people visit this beachy, port city in the spring/summer, but living in Europe gives you the opportunity to travel with smaller crowds (if any), and cheaper prices, and to see a different side of the French coastline.

Notre Dame de la Gare - the church on the hill

Unfortunately for us, our first glimpse was a wary one. We were blasted by practically tropical storm force winds. Our hostel was very close to the train station,  but the directions were a bit confusing and we were whipped about by Mother Nature as we tried to read the tiny street signs sporadically placed on buildings. The wind must have enjoyed playing games with us because it even blew the directions right out of my hand and into the middle of the street. I ran after the tiny paper Рthankfully no cars were coming Рwhile Elise laughed from the sidewalk.

Once we found our hostel, we decided to explore the Old Port a bit before dark and then returned to make a cheap dinner in the hostel kitchen. Lowe and behold, who should we meet there but two other American teaching assistants stationed in Bordeaux and visiting Marseille for a few days! We hit it off immediately and decided to sync our schedules the next day to explore the city together.

After adding a Brazilian to our group thanks to breakfast the next morning, we set off¬†with grand plans to visit the imfamous Chateau d’If. But once again, Mother Nature thought otherwise. The waves were so harsh that it was impossible to take the 20 minute boat-ride to the island. We considered going to the other, less famous isle nearby, but the ticket lady cautioned that if the waves got any worse, the ferry would be placed on “minimal service” and we might have been stuck out there all day. Not wanting to risk it, we opted for wandering around the town instead, and it was well worth it!

Day two in Marseille was rainy and dreary. Chateau d’If was out yet again, so this time we decided to catch a bus to the nearby village of Cassis. I had heard many lovely things about this little fishing town and was excited to see it in person. Too bad the decent weather lasted only about 30 minutes after we arrived… Stranded in the rain and not wanting to spend much money on expensive restaurants, we meandered around for a bit and tried to stay out of the cold and damp. We did manage to enjoy a nice hot chocolate at a brasserie (after getting kicked out of a restaurant for only wanting drinks – lesson learned), got to know the small tourist information center really well – there was a Christmas exhibit upstairs – and finally ended up finding a reasonably-priced restaurant where we enjoyed seafood and killed time until the next bus came to town in the afternoon.

Stop #2: Aix en Provence

Aix is actually a sister city of Baton Rouge, LA, so I was particularly interested in visiting it. Even though it rained quite a bit during our stay here, I definitely see the charm of its earthy colors, cobblestoned streets, and loads of cafes. I’d love to go back in the spring/early summer to see it in full fashion, and maybe even meet some of our international connections there!

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