Les nouveaux casselois

As of Wednesday morning, a hazebrouckois and an américaine who had been lillois for about a year and a half became the newest casselois. And let me tell you, the change was a big one.

We went from a 500 square foot apartment (plus large terrace and basement) in the popular Wazemmes neighborhood of Lille to an 800 square foot house (plus terrace and backyard, sans basement) in the village of Cassel, population 2,300. We had one bedroom, now we have two. We also went from being woken up on Sunday mornings by the loud bass coming from the bar across the street – they often stayed illegally open all night and continued the party at 8am on Sunday morning – to being woken up by the sounds of birds coming from the uninhabited land behind our house. In Lille, customers of the bars across the street used to gather in front of our 1st floor apartment window, allowing us to listen to their deep conversations. In Cassel, the only people who will walk in front of our house are perhaps our neighbors. We went from having to walk 5 minutes to our rental garage in Lille to being able to park directly in front of our house.

The entry to our house in Cassel. There are two houses on either side of ours that share the parking area with us.
The entry to our house in Cassel. There are two houses on either side of ours that share the parking area with us.
The sliding glass doors in our living room open up to a nice patio area. Wooden stairs lead down to the backyard, which is just big enough!
The sliding glass doors in our living room open up to a nice patio area. Wooden stairs lead down to the backyard, which is just big enough!

We went from being able to hop on a bike to go to work (and getting there within 15 minutes) to having to drive 3 minutes to the train station to take a 40-minute train into Lille (and having to walk / take the metro a few stops) to get to work. We used to walk to the grocery store; now there’s a 13km drive to get to the nearest “big” supermarket. This has been the biggest change for me. I don’t mind the train or the short drive to get to the station; it’s a straight shot there with no stop signs or lights. However, learning to drive a manual car has not been easy.

Now that I have no choice but to drive myself around, I’ve already had my fair share of embarrassing moments. M is in Portugal this weekend on a work trip, so I’ve had to drive myself around a few times: home from the train station on Friday after work (made it all the way home and then stalled while trying to park in front of the house), to Hazebrouck and back to pick up Bunny Boo from M’s parents’ house (didn’t stall the whole way there and then stalled on the way back after waiting on a very slight incline for a train to pass), and to get groceries yesterday morning in Hazebrouck. This was by far the worst experience ever.

The way there was okay – I only stalled once in a very small roundabout – but the way back was miserable. I took a different way home and, while trying to enter a large roundabout on a very, very slight incline, I stalled. Several times. To the point where the cars behind me were pulling up around me on the curb to pass. I had my hazards on, and was trying desperately to get moving. The lady in the car behind me came up to see what was wrong. After seeing me in my state of panic, she told me not to worry, to take my time, and that she would wait behind me. (I stalled again at a stop sign later, once again encouraging those behind me to pass me.) I believe I’ll be taking a break from driving today… Sunday is the day of rest, right?

We can still go out for a drink in Cassel, but most of the restaurants on the main square are closed during the week and open Friday – Sunday. Just like in Lille, we can still walk home from the main square and not have to drive everywhere.

We were apartment owners in Lille. M bought the place back in November 2013. We tried to sell it, but after two months with no offers, we reviewed our budget to see if we could manage keeping the place and renting it out while we rented our house in Cassel. Thankfully, it worked. We have a young couple that will rent out our apartment in Lille while we go from owners to renters ourselves in Cassel.

I’ve already vacuumed twice and mopped once, so I think it’s safe to say that we are settled in.

Living room and dining area
Living room and dining area
Kitchen
The kitchen, where we can now both be in there at the same time
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back from outer space

It has been nearly three years since I’ve published a post here. I have reasons, I promise! I went home for a year, I came back in 2013 and studied like a crazy person at Lille 3 to take the national concours to become an English teacher in France (spoiler alert – I passed!). In 2014, I started the second year of my Masters degree while teaching part time at a high school in Lille. As of last Friday, I have officially finished my first year of teaching and can say that I am a professeur titularisée, which basically means I have the right to a job for life teaching middle school or high school English in France. Not too shabby!

The past two years, I have been living in the Wazemmes neighborhood of Lille, France in a cozy apartment with my boyfriend – or should I say pacsé? – and our fluffy rabbit. In only nine days, we’ll be starting a new adventure in Cassel, France. This small town of 2,300 people will be a welcomed change compared to our very lively neighborhood known for things like its giant market and the annual accordion and soup festivals. We’ll have a real backyard, two bedrooms, and a normal sized kitchen. We’ll also have to take the train to get to work, but it’s worth the compromise!

As I’ll have the whole summer off – yes, teachers can still brag about this – I’ll be writing about some of the more interesting things that have happened in the past two years, which include but are not limited to:

  • our fabulous neighbors in Wazemmes (just search “cheval blanc wazemmes” in Google images to get a preview)
  • anecdotes from my first year of teaching French high school students
  • transitioning from life in Lille to life in Cassel

Thanks for reading!