My trip to Besancon to see Hannah Alexander (featuring Elly Ducan and Zoe Lovitt)
I know it’s quite a while ago now, but at six fifty on the twelfth of April, I began my journey to Besancon, a city in the North-East of France (close to the Swiss border). The reason being, that I was visiting my friend Hannah Alexander for the week, and it was going to be amazing. Even with the 12 hours of travel by train it took to get there.
When we researched trains to see each other (because you can imagine, after spending nearly 2 and a half months in a foreign country without speaking to or meeting with Australians, how much we needed to get together), we actually were looking in the other direction – Besancon to Mende. But the amazingly flexible French Rotary* told Hannah she couldn’t come so far. So it was up to me to traverse France during a ‘grève**’, meaning nearly all my booked and payed for trains were cancelled, and also meaning I had to take about 3 buses and 2 trains to get there.
I will always remember the stress of the day – starting from the moment I didn’t have direct buses (because I’m hopeless haha).
I remember my bus got to St Etienne about an hour early (I’ve no idea why), and so I looked at my ticket and saw ‘departure time: 12.18’, when in fact the ticket said ‘arrival time: 12.18’. I looked up at the clock, which was exactly 12.17, and then ran through half the station with my valise***, jumping onto the ‘Lyon Part-Dieu’ train, only to realize I needed the ‘Lyon Perrache’ train, then jumping off, baggage and all, just in time to see it take off. Only to catch the same train an hour later.
All trains to Perrache were cancelled, so I caught a train to Lyon Part-Dieu, and then decided to stealthily take the TGV from Part-Dieu to Perrache. I must have looked suspicious though, because a man stopped me and asked ‘Excuse me, miss, are you trying to get on this train?’ and I said ‘I think so, but I don’t have a ticket and I can’t speak French’ and so he said in English ‘Wherrrre woulde you laike to goh?’ Funniest moment ever haha!
Anyway, after telling him my whole story and how far I was going, he let my into the train. And en plus, he let me into the 1ere classe. It was full of business men in suits and women in high heels, and then there was my in my jeans with my giant suitcase next to me on the train seat – how embarrassing!
Anyway, enough about the train trip even though it was slight/absolute madness.
I go to Hannah’s that night at about seven, and ate with her family (we were obliged to speak French at the table haha, mother’s rules) and afterwards she showed me her entire house and we spoke in English for hours, and went to see ‘Alice au Pays des Merveilles****’ in English, and ‘trois di’ haha!
Tuesday, Hannah showed me around Besancon. It really is a beautiful city – and with spring on the way, the flowers and trees and gardens all around the city made it even more stunning than ever.
We walked through the old town centre, the architecture was really delicate and exquisite (and it actually earns the right to be described by those words, which must mean something lol).
That day, we ate sandwiches that we’d made that morning by the river, until a swarm of flies scared us away, and we ate by the amazing fountain in the town square, on chairs that in my opinion looked like tongues, but in Hannah’s, looked like flowers haha – is there something psychological in that? Hannah bought her floral Doc Martens, which are génial.
We slept in the room downstairs of her host family, and watched ‘The Virgin Suicides’ and ‘Arthur’***** (bit of a contrast entre les deux).
On Wednesday, Elly came over and we went to ‘Shat-off-the-Ring’******, where there was an enormous art warehouse (the stuff of dreams), and an enormous ‘Casino’******* with an enormous biscuit isle (the stuff of Elly’s dreams haha). We bought ice cream and biscuits and everything we wanted for that night, because another Australian, Zoe, was staying as well.
We got home, and Zoe arrived to have dinner with the family. It was such a funny dinner, four Australians prohibited from speaking English at the dinner table, while trying to figure out how to eat Artichokes (if you’ve ever eaten one, you’ll understand). It was really funny to hear each other throw in the occasional English word like ‘and’ or ‘like’ or I even heard the French word ‘famille (pronounced famiye)’ swapped for the English word ‘family (pronounced family)’.
It was an amazing night, all down stairs laughing and speaking in English, watching movies and eating Ben & Jerry’s cookies and cream ice cream – which actually DIDN’T come with spoons as advertised, but with pieces of wood. Thanks Ben & Jerry, thanks.
Thursday was my last real day in Besancon, because I had to catch the train Friday in Dijon, so the four Australians ‘hit the town’ so to speak. We went all through Besancon, Hannah leading us to her famous ‘crepe restaurant’ which was extremely expensive, but extremely amazing also .
We ordered four crepes (two savoury and two sweet) and split them into quarters – it doesn’t sound like much but I know I was pretty much bursting afterwards.
Hannah showed us a magnificent chocolate shop, where there were flowers and birthday cards and even mugs made of chocolate – Dad would have loved it to bits.
When Elly left, (a sad moment for all of us, I’m sure) we took the bus to get ingredients to make ANZAC biscuits, and then to see if Hannah could book a haircut (yes, we are basically her mother).
The hairdresser was actually quite a horrible woman – we CAN actually be understood in French, we speak it every day with our family and school friends and teachers and counselors (I admit we have accents, but honestly). But we spoke in French, and she just kept saying ‘What, What’, and then to show off her English (which she didn’t even hint to having beforehand), she imitated EXACTLY what Hannah said to me in English in a high pitched whining voice ‘Liiiiike in Besancon or liiike in Australia’. Yep, didn’t get our haircut there.
Zoe left, on the train (luckily not followed by a veritable stalker like Elly was – no joke), and me and Hannah made ANZAC biscuits and listened to, amongst other things, John Butler Trio’s ‘Hanson song’********. Cooking, dancing and singing are the best activities to combine
Anyway, the next day I came back to Mende, taking over 13 hours this time, arriving after 10 and going straight to bed. It was such an anticlimax
I do actually have another blog entry to write about Ile de Re, so I will do that ASAP. Thanks for reading, and love you mum, happy mother’s day, or ‘party of the mums’ as we say in France!
- cough cough, cough. Sorry, can’t breathe
- * TRAIN STRIKE
- ** suitcase
- ***Alice in Wonderland – if you want my opinion, I though the characters were all great, but I didn’t like the storyline they’d chosen – I’ve read both ‘Alice in Wonderland’ and ‘Alice Through the Looking Glass’, and the storyline was based on one of the less important poems in the books. I don’t know, I was expecting a lot more.
- ****Unluckily in French, but at least we learnt the song
- ***** Actually written ‘Chateaufarine’ which translates to ‘Flourcastle’, in case you just HAD to know haha, and close enough in Australian accented French to ‘Shat-off-the-Ring’
- ****** I guess like the equivalent of ‘Safeway’
- ******* Wrong Way Road