One of the coolest opportunities I had while I was an assistant in France was to go along on the class trip to York, England. For free! I went with 52 French high school students and 4 teachers, spoke more French than English, and discovered the unique charm (and the strong accents) of Yorkshire.
We took a coach from Douai all the way to York, with a trip through the “chunnel” on the way. It was so creepy! Nothing like I expected: the humongous coach pulled into what felt like a storage trailer along with an SUV, the door was shut, and we couldn’t see anything except the orange glow coming from the fluorescent lights inside our little storage unit. Thirty minutes later, there was light, and we were in England!
After finishing my teaching contract three weeks ago, I am now on permanent vacation – but let’s look back at March…
For my spring vacation, I decided to do something a little different: I participated in a week-long program called Angloville. It’s a fantastic language immersion program for native Polish people to improve their English. I spent 10 days in Poland overall, giving me 2 weekends in Krakow (before & after the program) and 6 days in the mountain city of Zab (during the program).
I was traveling by myself, so it took lots of tries for me to do each step to get me closer to my hostel. Two times at the ticket machine. Three times walking past the train stop – it was seriously not marked well… that’s my excuse. Two times asking for directions to the hostel (which was literally right down the street from the station). But I made it!
Friday was the start of my two week vacation, and it couldn’t have come sooner! I just spend a beautiful weekend on the French coast at Cap Gris Nez and will be heading to Krakow, Poland on Thursday.
Just over three weeks ago, I was lucky to have a sort of mini-vacation when my parents came to see me over on this side of the pond. I hadn’t seen them since September! Even though I had to work a few days while they were here, we made the most of our time by spending some time in Paris and some time in good ol’ Nord-Pas-de-Calais.
My boy and his family ever so graciously invited Grant, Matt, and me to celebrate Christmas Eve with them at home. It was my first Christmas to not spend with my family, but I was so thankful to have my little bubs there with me for our first Christmas in France.
We all sat down for the meal around 7:30pm, “we” being Grant, Matt, me, Michel, his parents, his brother and sister, his godmother, and two of his cousins. First up was a platter of little bread slices smothered with fish mousse, fish eggs, or pate. All three of us tried all three of them, and I was proud. I can’t say that I was a fan of the fish eggs but now I can say that I have eaten them! Next up, we all toasted our glasses full of a beverage called “kir”: creme de cassis mixed with champagne (or non-alcoholic champagne).
Since our Germany trip had fallen through due to the strike, I decided to take the boys over to Amiens for a little day trip.
Usually I buy my train tickets with my French card and the self-serve ticket machines. I have my ticket within 30 seconds and I am good to go. With the boys, I had to use my American card to pay for their stuff, which meant waiting in line, buying three tickets instead of one, and well… spending a lot more time on tickets than I am used to. Needless to say, we were running for the train to go to Lille the day before, and today, it was no different. I bought the tickets at the window, and the man told me he couldn’t sell me the return tickets or else I would miss the train. So, the boys and I sprinted down the stairs, down the underground passage, and up the stairs to our train. We hopped on and I realized within five minutes that we were going the wrong direction – toward Lille instead of toward Amiens. Really?! I have lived in France for a total of nearly nine months, and I still can’t get this train thing down sometimes. I asked some elderly folks sitting next to us to confirm that we were on the wrong train, and I decided to get off at the next stop where we would wait twenty minutes until a train came back through the other way… aka… the right way!
After spending the night at my apartment in Douai, I woke the boys up as early as possible (around 10:30AM… it was difficult!) so that we could profit from a full day in Lille. I thought that after their time in Paris they would really love this city, and I was right! Lille is so different from Paris: the architecture, the people, the atmosphere. So, we got on the train in Douai, Grant bumped his head while
attempting to fit his giantly tall body into the little French people seats and everyone giggled in an “Oh, cute American boy” kind of way, and we hopped off 20 minutes later in Lille.
We saw the Lille Opera building, which is conveniently located next to the Lille Chamber of Commerce building. They are both gorgeous and two of my favorite buildings in the city. Next I took the boys to an old little market that is between the Opera and the Main Square. They amused themselves for nearly half an hour, looking at the action figures, comics, and strange French books spread out along one wall. Unfortunately, most of the comics were actually in English rather than French so they weren’t any different from the ones that you would normally find in the states. I finally coaxed them away and we continued on.
Don’t worry, it’s still Haley in France here, but for my winter vacation time I was joined by my dear brother Grant and his friend Matt. I figured, why would I go home for Christmas when my brother and his friend could come to Europe for their first time ever to celebrate it here? (Well, I would go home to see my family, enjoy a fabulous Christmas meal, and catch up with friends… but that was supposed to be a rhetorical question.) So, I took the opportunity to show two American high school boys why France is awesome and why they should travel later in life. I think it was a success!
They took a direct flight from Dallas and arrived in Paris on a Tuesday morning. I know how difficult jet lag can be, so that’s why we went directly to the hotel to drop off our things and I let them take a nap and headed to the Eiffel Tower. The only time I have ever even been near the tower was around 2am on a Saturday night and it wasn’t even lit up, so I was just as thrilled as they were when we climbed up the stairs from the metro and were bombarded by the direct view of the tower. “Now we feel like we’re in France,” the boys said. The line was extremely long so we didn’t climb up, but we did take lots of silly pictures (which I can now cross off my list). It really is gigantic.