La belle vie en Bretagne

As I described in my last post, work has been pretty rough lately. Thank goodness for the French school system and two weeks of holidays in February.

Holidays came right when I needed them to this time around. The first week all I did was crochet, clean, cook, and cuddle the bunny and puppy. It was rather therapeutic.

The second week, M took holidays as well and we headed out to Bretagne, or Brittany as us Anglophones call it. Neither of us had ever been, and we had two great reasons to go: our two amazing neighbors from back in Wazemmes (let’s call them Ma and Mu) recently moved to Brittany and we missed them like crazy, and the Brittany Winter School Irish music festival was happening in a town called Le Bono, also in Brittany. So off we went!

M was extra happy to take this 7.5 hour road trip with me, because this time I could finally help him drive!

Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday, we spent some quality time with Ma and Mu. Now that they’ve been living in Lochmariacher for a little over 6 months (and vacationing there for even longer!), they knew exactly where to take us to show off their new region.

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Ma and Mu’s backyard
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Mu and M heading out to fish for clams
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The town of Lochmariacher seen from the docks

The first day, we walked around their town via the beach. Lochmariacher is on the inside of the gulf, so the climate is usually calm. In the afternoon, Mu took M and I clam fishing at his favorite spot. M and I have both been vegetarian for a few years now, but for our own reasons, we decided to eat the clams that we responsibly fished and oh-so-lovingly prepared on our own!

Day 2 was another sunny day so we made good use of it by spending it at the beach! In the morning we visited the town of Trinité sur Mer, with its enormous dockyard and adorable hilly streets. We even got a personal tour of the atelier of an artisan and former Navy man who restores sea-related treasures. After a yummy lunch at a crêperie in the cute little town of Carnac, we wandered around the beach and played on the rocks at the beach on the peninsula called Quiberon. On the way back, we stopped at one of the naturally preserved – yet free to visit! – sites of menhirs, which are basically large rocks that have been placed into formations thousands of years ago. We don’t know why, but it is rather impressive.

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The docks at la Trinité sur Mer
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Menhirs
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M playing on the rocks at the beach

On Wednesday, the Brittany Winter School started. It’s the tenth year of this Irish music festival, and it was a blast. Famous musicians from all over Ireland come to play with musicians from all over France – and other countries! – to play in sessions, show off their instruments, give masterclasses, and more. Since M was rehearsing with his group for the open stage session later that day, I headed off to Vannes in the afternoon with Ma and Mu to visit the city. That night, we enjoyed the first of many sessions in a local bar.

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Session #1 of many at Le Vieux Pont Bar

The festival merits a post on its own, so check back later this week to hear all about it!

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Up on the hilltop

Once again, it’s been months since I’ve last posted here. I’m still Haley, I’m still in France, but my goodness, it’s been busy around here. I need to remind myself that I enjoy keeping this blog up and will enjoy looking back on it one day! I even started another blog, Pepper & Cream, to post recipes using all of the amazing local ingredients we get around here at the markets. (I’ve done just as bad of a job keeping up with that one as well!)

So, thanks for sticking around. Here’s what’s new!

Our move to Cassel last June has changed our lives for the better. We have a dog now! His name is Benji and we picked him out from the local shelter. He’s about 2 years old and has become best friends with our bunny, Violette.

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We’ve had several of our “out-of-town” – ha! – friends stay over for a weekend to get the whole Cassel experience: walking around the ramparts, eating at a local estaminet, enjoying our guest bedroom.

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M works from home 2 days a week and I take the train into work every weekday. It allows time for me to grade some papers or take a well-deserved nap.

Most importantly, our little family is rather happy here. And I think we’ll stay in this area for a while!

One developing situation is whether or not I’m destined to be a high school teacher here. I started working full time at a new school this year. It’s a very good high school centrally located in Lille, full of mostly boys as it’s a school focused on scientific studies. I’ve had some problems with classroom management – although this really is not due to the fact that I have mostly boys in class – and it has made me question whether or not I would be happier teaching at a university level rather than in high school.

France is big on recruiting native speakers to teach engineering students and business students. M has some connections in those areas, and a little birdy told me that some schools are already recruiting English teachers for the next school year.

It would be a big decision to make. My teaching certificate, unlike the American versions, is only valid while I teach. I can only take one year off of teaching before it becomes invalid and my spot is given to someone else. (French teaching certificates are given out on a competitive, number-of-spots-based system.) So, if I did leave the secondary school world, I would not be able to teach there again later unless I retook and passed the certification exam.

I won’t say too much about it here (who knows how many of my students have already found this blog), but happy thoughts, prayers, or whatever it is that you do are welcome.

 

the TAPIF process.

When I applied for TAPIF in the fall of 2010, I had some knowledge of the program but no real idea of everything I was getting into! The application for next year, 2013-2014, has just been made available online and can be viewed here and more information about the program can be seen here.

For all of you new, interested applicants, here’s what the timeline of my application process looked like…

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pause

Next weekend is the start of one crazy week!

After nearly 3 months in France, I decided that the best option for me at the moment is to go home, work as much as possible, save as much as possible, and come back to France sometime after March. The job hunt here was frustrating but I feel like I did my best. I’m definitely considering doing my masters in Lille next year (studying modern languages), and with a student visa, I’d have the right to work 20 hours/week anywhere I’d like (or anywhere I can get hired). The main problem this time around with interviews was never the conversation, but the fact that I didn’t have valid working papers. As a student, I’d have already jumped through that hoop, so hopefully it would be much easier to support myself.

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quirks

Even after living in France for a combined total of nearly 15 months, there are still little quirks that I discover about this country along the way.

A fantastic picture book by Vahram Muratyan depicting differences between two of the world’s best known cities. Examples: Amélie vs Carrie, baguette vs bagel, cancan vs Gaga.

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a year in review

Exactly one year ago, I started my first day of work as an English teaching assistant in Douai, France. If things would’ve worked out as I was hoping for, I would be doing the same thing today! Unfortunately, that’s not the case – but when I look back at this year and everything that has happened, I am like whoa.

I spent 8 months in France, teaching 12 hours a week to French high school students. I definitely had my ups (like my great class of senior students who always greeted me with a smile) and downs (like that one time that I ended up yelling in French at my sophomores who didn’t want to listen to a word I was saying), but I definitely learned a lot. If I ever have the opportunity to do the assistantship again, I would take it.

I lived in a small city but made great friends from all over, including my roommates from Spain, Italy, and Germany and my other assistant friends living nearby.

Cydny, Sarah, me, Viviana, Inés, and Lidia

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the wonders of a quiche.

Foie gras, Camembert, and champagne… who needs it when there are so many things you can do with a quiche? This has become my go-to meal because it’s super easy to make, we usually have the ingredients on hand, and well, it’s just delicious.

Pre-packaged dough for the crust (or you can make it by hand if you want to be fancy), a few eggs, and a splash of milk are all you need to make your way towards a fantastic quiche. I’ve found that it doesn’t even really matter exactly how many eggs or how much milk you put in, but for a normal-sized quiche, I’d go with 3-4 eggs and between a 1/2 cup – 1 cup of milk. You can even use cream if you want! (See, the options are endless!) Throw in all of the other stuff you want, stir it all together, pour it into the crust, and voilà! 30 minutes later, it’s ready.

The first quiche I ever made: a quiche paysanne.

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