Mom & Dad, Part 2

Two weeks later, I’d say it’s time to finish up this post on my mom and dad’s visit to northern France in March!

After three days in Paris, we took a train – or three – to Cassel, France, population 3,300. We had a weekend to enjoy together before I had to go back to work on Monday.

On Saturday, we enjoyed lunch with M’s family in Cassel at the best estaminet around: Kerelshof! Welsh, carbonnade, tarte au pavé de Cassel for everyone! It was fun to have both sides of the family reunite. We had all eaten together the last time my parents came, in 2012.

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Once again, it was a lunch full of laughter, translations, franglais, and lots of good food.

I also showed my dad around the ramparts of Cassel. Cassel still has many of the old walls that were once used as defense against invasions. Now, they’re used for quality walks with Benji.

Walking through one of the passageways
Walking through one of the passageways

 

I wanted to give my dad an idea of the city layout before going back to work so that he could navigate his way around on long walks later that week. In just an hour, we had seen all of Cassel: the park, the ramparts, the church… that’s it!

On Sunday, Michel and I wanted to treat my parents to a nice brunch in Lille, the biggest city close to us. We both work there – and lived there for nearly two years – so we have lots of places that we like to go to. For Sunday brunch, there’s nowhere better than Tamper Espresso Bar. We’d both been there several times, but never for brunch, so this was just the right occasion!

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Fresh bread and jam, French toast, fruit salad, a main dish, a dessert, and a hot and cold beverage for everyone! It was so, so good. We enjoyed a small walk around the city center of Lille before heading back to Cassel.

Monday was my first day back to work after two weeks of holiday. My parents used that day to rest a bit after all of our adventures. They deserved it!

The animals flocked to Mom. When she was on the couch, bunny was too!
The animals flocked to Mom. When she was on the couch, bunny was too!

 

On Tuesday, we all drove to Lille together in the morning. (Oh my gosh, I am so glad that I take the train to work normally. Traffic is horrible!) Mom and Dad hung out at a coffee place and walked around Lille for a bit until I could meet them for lunch around noon.

Mom and me at lunch, at Be Yourself Café in Lille
Mom and me at lunch, at Be Yourself Café in Lille

 

We strolled around the city center for a bit until I had to go back to work. Then I left them for the rest of the afternoon, where they apparently enjoyed reading at another coffee house until they walked to my school to meet me to drive back to Cassel. I let the reception desk know that they would be stopping by, and that they spoke no French, as to not freak out my colleagues. All went well!

That night, we went back to Kerelshof to enjoy an Irish session that takes place once a month there. M and I both play in the session – he plays, I try to play – so my parents came along to listen to some Irish music while sipping on an Irish Coffee. Apparently Kerelshof makes the best Irish Coffees they’ve ever had!

Luckily I only worked half days on Wednesday and Thursday. M took his Wednesday afternoon off to go with us to the planetarium in Saint Omer. Both my dad and M are obsessed with anything related to space, so everyone enjoyed the show… even if the entire presentation was in French! I think Mom napped a bit. But we all had fun.

For the last day, my dad made use of the morning to take a long walk/run from Cassel to another nearby village. He went to the tourism office to ask for a map of the walking trails in the area, but they didn’t seem to be much help. He ended up taking a picture of the map they had inside the office and made his way towards the Mont des Recollets. He took lots of pictures, but here’s my favorite one:

And another one from another walk my parents took together to Cassel’s park:

So much fun!

To end our week together in Cassel, we visited the local museum, which I had never been to before. It’s full of history about the village and surrounding region. This beautiful museum is worth a visit; I’m glad we had time for it.

I’m so glad my parents got to come and see where I’ve made a life for myself: boyfriend, dog, rabbit, and all! To be able to welcome them into our home and have them stay with us was an added bonus. Even though I had to work for a few days, they were able to enjoy Cassel and its walking trails, small shops, and more while I wasn’t there.

Dropping them off at the train station on Friday morning was definitely tough. And going to work immediately after was tough, too! But a week and a half together was so perfect. I can’t wait for them to come back again!

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

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!

city job hunting, market treasure hunting

The time of year has come to France, when thousands of foreigners enter the country to begin their year abroad as a language teaching assistant. Americans, Canadians, Brits, Germans, Spanish, Italians, and many more have been placed in elementary, middle, and high schools all around the country to serve as a cultural and linguistic link to their respective country and language, and I so wish I were participating in this program again!

But, I was unfortunately not renewed for the job and am therefore continuing to hang out in France, trying to find some form of employment!

Enjoying English! for French 6th graders.

I am now giving private English lessons to 4 clients, who are all very different. It’s nice because I am making a bit of money on the side and getting to practice adjusting my teaching methods for different students at different levels with different needs. I am working with a 10-year-old whose family is moving to the States next year, a girl my age who is preparing for an English airline exam, a boy my age who is getting ready to travel abroad, and a businessman whose company just went international who will need to be able to express himself in English. Each lesson is personalized, so that means I’m preparing a lot on the side, but getting a lot of experience teaching in varied situations.

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Brussels in a Day

The travel blues hit me hard Wednesday night. Therefore I bought tickets for the next day to and from Brussels, Belgium.

It’s a 34 minute, €28 TGV train ride from Lille, I had only spent half a day there before, I love how I never know if I should speak English or French, and I had a craving for waffles… so, why not?

After arriving at 9:45am, I grabbed a city map from the train station (seriously… I was slightly unprepared for this little day trip) and followed another guy who was holding a map out to the subway station in front of the train station. From there, I took the subway line 3 (or 4) towards Gare du Nord/Noordstation and got off at Bourse/Beurs, dropping me off just next to the main square. Once you step inside the square, you suddenly find yourself enveloped between huge, magnificent buildings, and you probably won’t know where to look – I spent a good 15 minutes just walking around and taking it all in!

The Broodhuis

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la braderie de lille!

It’s here!

Once a year, Lille hosts the biggest braderie, or street market, in Europe. Two to three million visitors venture to the north of France for one weekend to see tons of items from thousands of vendors. Vendors range from normal people to professional sellers to actual stores, and the items range from second-hand baby dolls to thousand dollar antiques. The moules-frites are famous, and a half marathon takes place in the crazy atmosphere as well. I missed it by three weeks last year, but this year, I got to experience it all.

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week 3!

It’s been three weeks since I came back to the north of France!

In the past week, I’ve looked for work in Lille, visited Paris for two days, participated in a traditional cousinade, and started giving private English lessons.

The job search scene has been full of ups and downs, but I am trying to feel optimistic. I finally called the Parisians to see if I had been renewed for the year, and their answer was no. In fact, they informed me that they weren’t renewing anyone for the year because of the 20% decrease in assistant positions. This is totally false, because I know some British assistants who were renewed, but whatever! They also told me that I could call the Académie de Lille to ask them directly starting on September 3rd. This way I can check with the school district itself to see if there were any assistants that pulled out last minute and I may be able to take their place.

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