I am sitting in the airport at my gate waiting to board as I write this. After re-packing my suitcase and getting to expert level in suitcase Tetris I finally made my way to the airport, passed through all the security measures and I am waiting to board. It still only feels like yesterday that I was thinking of applying to head to Canada this summer to work in a summer camp but now that it is actually here the excitement levels are on a high. I have one flight to JFK New York and then a connecting flight to Montreal where I am staying for 3 nights before heading to camp. I can’t wait to get to Montreal to explore for a day or two and sort out everything out with the help of NYQUEST , the organisation who have helped my make this idea a reality. Then Saturday will come and I will be off to camp to spend about 10 weeks in the middle of a forest which will be interesting. I am going to be the head of dance at Camp Ouareau which will be amazing, I will be spending my summer doing something I really love. I can’t wait to get to camp to meet all of the other staff who I will be working with and get this summer underway. Then after camp I can’t wait to travel Canada a little more , a place I have always wanted to visit.
I will try to keep you guys updated with my adventures and stories but that might be a little hard in the middle of a forest so we will see but I can’t wait. So all there is to say now is Goodbye Ireland and Hello Canada.
So as I write this I’m sitting on the boat waiting to leave France. I finished my year as a language assistant a week ago before spending a couple of days away with my parents but now it is time to say ‘Au Revoir‘ to France for the time being. This year has been amazing and better than I thought it would be and I was a little sad to leave my schools. From the chorus of ‘no’s’ and ‘please stay’ to all of the lovely pictures and gifts that I got from my three schools it certainly made it a little hard to leave. Along with that I had to leave the girls in the apartment not knowing when we would see each other in person again, the problem with us all living in different countries. Travelling to a different country not knowing who you are going to be staying with can be hard, you never know if you will get along or how the year will go. I was very fortunate that we all got along so well and became like a little family, moaning about school problems together and going on day trips to avoid boredom setting in. I couldn’t have asked for a better group of girls to pass the year with.
Before setting off to be an assistant I didn’t really know what I would be doing and the idea that I had was not very accurate so lets talk about a few things you might want to know before becoming a language assistant. Of course as I was in France the paperwork and ‘l’adminstration’ was complicated, I think they must have a form to fill out for every little thing that goes on in society so be prepared. From the schools to health insurance to the infamous CAF you will probably spend half of your time filling out forms that you have already filled out a thousand times before. Also be prepared to have about 100 photocopies of every document you have because you never know when they might asked for ‘your mother’s mother’s birth cert‘ or something ridiculous. Once everything is filled out be prepared then to wait an eternity for a response, they aren’t going to rush, sure they take 2 hours for lunch so that stamp on that form can wait until tomorrow.
Another thing to note is to not be fooled by the name of the job ‘assistant de langue’, of course literally translated this means language assistant and when you hear this you think yes I’ll be in the classroom assisting the teacher with English. Well that is what I thought as well but let’s be honest that’s not what I was doing. I was basically the teacher for 30-45 minutes which when you arrive the first day is very daunting, thinking you will only be helping a little bit but are actually teaching the whole class when you have nothing prepared is certainlyone way to start the experience. Let’s just say that after that I was lesson planning every week to make sure that never happened again. The old favourites of Simon Says and Bingo are great when you have no idea what to do. I would say be prepared to be in front of a class of 25-30 eager kids staring at you waiting to say something. Preparation is key and I wish someone had told me that before I came over, would have made my first week a little easier.
Even though I had many days when I would come home to the apartment and have a moaning session with one of the girls about the french school system in the end it all worked out. When you see the progression in even one child from the day you come in to the day you leave. Maybe they have a little bit more confidence when they speak or can proudly say ‘My name is‘ then it all makes it worth it. As I told myself there is only so much that I can do in the short time that I am there but I can give them the basics and make my classes as fun as possible. Those were the things that made the experience, everyday walking into the school to a chorus of ‘Hello Emma‘ and ‘Are you doing English with us today?’ to meeting my kids on the street and hearing the whispers ‘C’est le prof d’anglais’ as explication to their parents who were looking at me strangling thinking who are you saying hello to my child.
I would certainly recommend being a language assistant to anyone who is doing a foreign language. It is a great way to travel and see a new country, you only work 12 hours a week so you have plenty of time to explore. You will get to meet some amazing people in the other assistants who you will party with having only said hello to them once about 2 months ago at orientation. You will get to have some amazing classes basically acting like a child again, that is if you do primary and of course there were people who did not have the best of experiences with their classes but for me it was all positive. It true that there may be days when you really just want to shake the kids when after 4 months of doing the same to questions every class and they still don’t know, or when your teachers are just getting on your nerves or nothing is going right but hang in there. In the end you will look back and think that they were the things that made the experience and made you a stronger person for sticking it out.
Alors c’est au revoir pour le moment la France mais je reviendrai , c’est sur.
So as the school holidays have arrived I have lots of free time on my hands. All of the girls have either gone home or are off travelling , leaving me alone for most of the holidays before I head off to Austria next week. I decided to book a little trip to break the week up and so booked a night away in Avignon. This was the first time that I had actually travelled on my own so I was excited to see how it would go. I got up nice and early on Wednesday morning and headed for the train station to catch my train.It was cheaper to travel in 1st class in the TGV so I thought why not, my first time in 1st class and I have to say it was very nice. Everything was going to plan until some truck decided to get stuck on the bridge meaning we couldn’t pass and so making the train delayed by 20 minutes. Normally I wouldn’t mind this I mean these things happen but when you only have a 15 minute connecting time between your two trains this makes it a little difficult, needless to say I missed the next train. This meant I had to book on to the next one which wasn’t for an hour and a half although the bright-side was that the lady booked me in 1st class again on the TGV which was great. I grabbed a muffin and a drink in Marseille as I waited to continue my journey. Finally 2 trains later and 2 hours later than planned I arrived in Avignon.
Walking into the city walls from the station I got a very good feel about the city. I was a little early for checking into my hotel so I stopped in to a restaurant called Tostwhich I had seen when I looked up places to eat. You can get toasted sandwiches ( you would never have guessed from the name right) and also salads and then they do amazing juices. I had a toasted sandwich with mozzarella , tomato sauce and pesto and then a gorgeous juice. Sitting in the sun having my lunch was a great way to start my trip. Then I headed to my hotel to check in. I was staying in Hotel Central , a 3 star hotel right on the main street. It was lovely as you walk through a little courtyard to get to the hotel and then my room was on the top floor. It was small but perfect and had everything I need for my short trip. I changed and freshened up and then headed out to explore Avignon.
Palais des Papes
Point Saint Bénézet/ Point d’Avignon
I headed to the Palais des Papes, and the Rocher des Doms to explore. The Rocher des Doms is a lovely park which as you walk up gives you a lovely view all over Avignon and also of the Point d’Avignon as well. I then headed into the Palais des Papes which I had to pay for but at €9 it wasn’t too bad and it was impressive walking around all the different rooms and learning why so many popes called Avignon home in the past. After this I headed to explore and wander the streets and I also headed into some museums. Many of the museums were free for the week so I took full advantage and gazed at many pieces of art. After exploring some more I headed back to the hotel to relax for a bit and get freshened up to head out for dinner. I head to Place de l’Horloge as there were a few restaurants and lots of people and being alone I thought it would be nice and have a little atmosphere. Eating alone is a little weird and it takes hardly any time but it was all good, I had pizza (what’s new) and then there was nothing on the dessert menu that caught my eye so I just headed back to the hotel. I saw a bakery open on my way back so stopped in to grab a cake to eat curled up in bed watching television.
When dining alone make sure you look the bomb!! Rocking double denim and in love ❤
Thursday morning I was up early to have breakfast, which was your typical french buffet style with fresh bread , fruit and croissants. After this I checked out and head to explore for a little bit more before I had to head and get my train home. I headed to the Petit Palais museum which again was free for the day which was great. Then I just wandered around the streets stopping into a restaurant called Vivtto which was recommended to me by a friend for a mousse au chocolat and a juice as I wasn’t very hungry. Then it was time to hop on the train back and this time it was direct which was great. When we arrived I had 10 minutes until the next bus which was grand although then someone was parked where the bus comes out and the bus hit them so there was a big hulabaloo and all the information had to be exchanged so we ended up getting off the bus and waiting to get the next one which was in a half an hour. It was a little annoying as all I wanted to do was get home. I eventually got there and spent the evening relaxing.
Thank you Avignon
Although my trip was short and sweet it was lovely. For my first real solo adventure it was perfect and it definitely showed me that travelling alone can be fun and not scary at all. It certainly won’t be the last time I book a solo trip. I also vlogged my trip which you can watch here.
So as you saw in my last post I headed to Les Gorges du Verdon last week and while we were day tripping we stopped off in two little villages to break up the drive. The first one we stopped was a small little village on the way called Comp-sur-Artuby . It is a very small village surrounded by mountains with little streets. It is very small and on the gloomy Saturday morning it was like a little ghost village. We headed out to explore the village and stretch the legs after being in the car for about an hour. There were some really cute houses and great views. We climbed up to a church that gave us a view over the whole village and the mountains around us. We also made two new friends with a dog and a cat who led the way up to the church and acted kind of like tour guides which was cute. After our short stop it was back on the road.
Our friendly tour guides.
Our next stop was on our way back when we made a little de-tour to Tourtour which is another little village. There was a little bit more activity in Tourtour as it was after lunch and it was a little bit bigger. We wandered around once again taking in the town which had some lovely little streets lined with stone houses giving me house envy at every second. Up at the church we were able to see out over the whole valley which was amazing. The weather was a little chilly and we had been exploring all day so we stopped into a bar for a hot chocolate to heat us up. We again made friends with another dog who really wanted some hot chocolate. It was nice wandering around the little quite village taking it all in before we headed back to the car to drive back to Draguignan.
So ever since we have arrived here everyone has been telling us to head to see the Gorges du Verdon. We looked them up and thought yes this would be amazing for a day trip but there was only one problem….we had no way of getting there. There is no train station or a bus to get there so without a car it made it very difficult but we found a way. Two of the girls went with a few of their teachers one weekend for a hike and they confirmed that they truly are amazing which just made us want to go even more… always want what you can’t have:). Well luck was on my side in the shape of Klara’s (the Austrian assistant) mam who was driving to come pick Klara up as her contract was over a month earlier than ours. They had planned to head to the Gorges Du Verdon on the Saturday before leaving and very kindly offered to take me and one of the other assistants along too. What better way to spend our last day together than to go on a little road trip.
We got up bright and early and set of, it would take us about 2 hours or so to get there but that would also involve lots of stopping off for photos. We headed to the boulangerie to stock up on croissants for breakfast and some sandwiches for lunch on the road and then we were good to go. We headed up and up out of the valley where Draguignan is situated and continued to twist and turn which I have to say was not the best for my stomach but the views were amazing so that made up for it. With rolling hills on either side it was strange to think we only lived about 15 minutes from this but had never seen it, the disadvantages of having no car. We made a stop in a little village along the way which I will give a separate post to so look out for that, then it was back on the road.
I don’t think I had quite prepared for how spectacular the view would be but I was not prepared for what I saw. Pulling into the side of the road for I think photo stop 1 of about 6 or 7 , all we could see was a sheer drop with a faint colour of blue at the end. Risking it to get the photo but trying not to fall off the edge of the cliff we thought we would head on to the next spot to maybe get a better shot. Then we saw a little pathway and decided to follow it which led us to a viewing platform which definitely gave us a better view. It was spectacular. The grey rock faces juxtaposed which the aqua blue of the river was just amazing. It was a little scary looking down because it was quite a drop and I didn’t want my phone falling to it’s death but just wow! It really makes you think just how amazing nature really is.
After a few more stops we arrived at the lake and it was time to get the sandwiches out for our picnic. I liked to think of it as a very Irish picnic because the weather was not on our side so we ate them in the car but it was nice looking out over the lake and we still got some pictures. After this we decided to head back , of course taking another de-tour to another little village which I will give a separate post to (you’ll get my little joke then).
It was so nice spending the day exploring and before we had to say goodbye to Klara which is always horrible but we have a reunion in Austria in less than 2 weeks so it’s all good. Also from listening to her, her mam and her mam’s friend all speaking German in the car I now what to learn German 🙂 This year has made me want to learn every language under the sun from french to Italian to German to Spanish. I’ll find the time some day.
If you get a chance to head to the Gorges du Verdon I would definitely recommend it, maybe on a day when the sun is shining but that is not always possible. I would love to head back and hike some of it because I’m sure that would be amazing.
So on my second trip to Monaco we headed up to the Jardin Exotique to have a look around. It was gorgeous wandering around looking at all the different plants and many a cacti. I took my big camera along and really enjoyed taking lots of photos. There is also a cave in the gardens which you can go into. It’s 300 steps down which was a little hard on the way back up but it was great to be in the cave, it really was amazing. If you are thinking of heading to Monaco the Jardin Exotique is definitely a place you must check out.
Here’s are a few of the photos I took, I had to narrow it down from the nearly 200 but I think these ones are the best.