A Travellerspoint blog

By this Author: Meg Glass

BESANÇON, LA PLUS BELLE

My trip to Besancon to see Hannah Alexander (featuring Elly Ducan and Zoe Lovitt)

sunny

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

Posted by Meg Glass 11:17 Archived in France Tagged seniors Comments (0)

FÊTE DE LA VILLE ET LA CHASSE AU TRÉSOR

Carnival in Mende and our TREASURE HUNT!

snow

I haven't written in here for a while now, but I thought that the village festival was a good reason to get off my bottom and write something. Also I promised my Gramps that I would write when I got my results in my History test (which I got last week - 15/20, go me! Trust me that is a really generous mark for a French teacher)

Last weekend, Remi and Clemence (my older host brother and his wife) came down to Mende for the weekend. On the Saturday Teddy went to play Handball in Nimes (<<cool) and I went for a stroll* and did some knitting**. The days don't start here until about 12 anyway, because everyone gets up late and then wanders around waiting for lunch haha!

So on the Sunday, Remi pulls out this peice of paper with all these blank squares on it with questions - turns out it was like this organised treasure hunt in the region, and there's a treasure at the end (I'm not sure what the orginal was, but if you find the treasure, you have to replace it with a new treasure***).
The first place we visited was a memorial just outside a little village, and we had to find the name of a resistance group that it thanked. I swear we counted the letters of 'GROUPE BIR-HACHEIM' 50 thousand times, but it just wouldn't fit into the 15-letter allowance of the sheet of paper. There was another smaller, newer memorial closer to the road, and we went over and look at that one as a last resort - written on it was 'MAQUIS BIR-HAKEIM' and we got so excited that it was 15 letters. If you haven't already realised 'BIR-HAKEIM' and 'BIR-HACHEIM' are not the same word haha turns out the old memorial was spelt wrong.

After that, we went to a creepy little village in the middle of this massive plain - it was so strange, we drove for about 45 minutes through these massive gorges****, and then we came out onto a flat plain with no trees or hills or anything. Then there was the village - there were about three main houses, but the all had bit joining and stone walls and all that jazz. The clue said 'On the door of an old building made of stone'...yeah nice help clue. So we had to search through this whole town for a door with something engraved on it.
It was so creepy, just as we got out of the car, we heard this really loud screaming coming from one of the houses - and we were all extremely relieved when normal girl my age came running out laughing, phew.
We finally found the door, and it smelt really awful, I don't think it had been opened for about 10 thousand years. 'Write the two first letters of the word found on the door' - ok, some 100 year old rebel had come through years and years ago and engraved two letters at the front of the word, which was in runes so we didn't know which one to pick. Nice one.

We kept going until we found the next town, and Mr. Clue***** said we had to find the animal engraved on all the flower pots in the town - answer, sheep. Also, I found a letter box with 'Mathieu' engraved on it, so that one's for you French Teacher.

The next town was truly amazing, I think. It was right in the middle of Les Gorges Du Tarn, these massive gorges that were almost exactly the same as mountains, sauf the fact they were made of rock. And down the bottom of the gorges, there was a river running all the way through.
So, like I said, there is this tiny, middle-aged****** town with a huge stone bridge going across the river of Les Gorges Du Tarn. I have pictures that I'll seriously try to load here, but they really don't do it justice. It was amazing.
So there is a full town here, right? Not like the other one - a good number of houses and everything. Anyway clue says 'Find the house with the red shutters'. Yep, great. We're searching through all these back streets and everything, only to find it was directly across the road from where we parked our car - yeah!! Go us!

Our next clue was to find a Gorges du Tarn sign, ticked that one off the list. Next to find a statue of a lady holding a flag in another town, go us, did that one easy as too.
Next clue - 'What date is written on the side of a building in *******'. In the car, we we're being briefed by Remi about how it was going to be hard and we'll have to look carefully at all the buildings. HAHA - not true - parked our car and out Teddy's window there was the date right in front of his eyes hahaha!

'What does the rock say - 20 letters'. The rock says - the woman stopped here(19), that the woman - no too long...ummm - that a woman stopped here? - Puneze! (don't know how to spell this word, but you really get the picture). I forget what we wrote but whatever.

We found a heart on a door and wrote that down, then we arrived at our final destination (drum roll). It had been freezing all day because we we're up in the mountains********, but because it's Spring now*********, it's been getting warmer and all the snow had melted and everything about a month ago or something. You know where this is going.
So when we arrived, it started snowing out of nowhere it was so amazing. It seriously just felt like magic for it to start snowing when it had been at least 10 degrees the day before (please laugh at my joke haha). We had to find one last name of a Square or something like that, and then we could use all our previous answers to make the final treasure-finding clue - this sounds far fetched with all the letters from every single other one trying to make one clue, but it actually worked fairly well, apart from a few oddly placed 'm's and one letter that we had as an apostrophe.

Clue - something about 'find the important road' '250 metres from there'. So it's snowing and we're looking around for this 'important road', luckily we got helped by a little old lady in the street, who we DIDN'T mention the treasure to luckily - When we were about 5 metres away from her Remi whispered really loudly 'Don't mention the treasure, don't mention it!' haha! Later on when we were searching through bushes 250 metres in every direction from the 'important road', we divined that she was actually also searching for the treasure and gave us a red-herring!

So to disappoint you all (but know you are not as disappointed as MYSELF), we didn't find the treasure. It was soo sad! We were foraging through these prickle bushes and it was snowing and none of us had gloves, while I was desperate to go to the toilet, oh my god it was so awful! We'd done every single other thing perfectly and it had been the best day every, with the magic snow and what not :) - but then it had to be ruined by that damn old lady and her fake clue (ps, it wasn't a fake clue, but I'd like to think that's the reason we didn't find the treasure)

Ok, so I didn't realise the recount of my treasure hunt would be so long, but I promised you a bit about the town carnival/festival/fete so here goes.
I met my friends out the from of the vernede, and we walked into the 'centre of town' (tell me if you get this joke). There were yellow and blue banners hanging up from between the buildings everywhere, it was really cool! All these little kids were dressed up as suns and knights, but I saw one less traditional Superman costume.
I just realised I didn't explain the sun's or the blue and yellow - you would have got that the town colours are blue and yellow, but also the flag of the town is a yellow sun on a blue background, so that explains it, go me!

There were heaps of musicians and stalls everywhere through the town, and there wasn't one backstreet that didn't have little dressed up princesses and indians or people playing pipes or something. Actually I tell a lie, there was one backstreet with a few teenagers smoking - turns out i knew them haha! I love the way the French kiss each other everytime they meet!

Anyway, if you've seen my photos too, you will have seen me and Teddy's remake of 'Ice Road Truckers' - there is a video but I can't figure out how to make it work. It's basically the truck lighting on fire and then us smashing some ice with it and saying 'Angry ice road truckers, dangerous!'. Yeah I thought it was cool too.
So there'll be another one of these soon if I do something cool, if not no :) thanks for actually reading!

  • 'stroll' seemed like a good word here - I wanted to add 'in the countryside' but I restrained myself :)
  • * because I'm that cool
  • ** I put in a kangaroo and a koala with the Australian flag :)
  • *** Les Gorges Du Tarn, which I will mention later
  • **** read by your's truly ;)
  • ***** I'm not sure if that's the right adjective - meaning from the middle-ages, not in it's mid 30s to 40s.
  • ****** insert name of town here
  • ******* sorry that drum roll didn't end in anything
  • ******** by Australian standards. 1st of the month equals Spring, no questions, and no 22nds or anything stupid like that either France!

Posted by Meg Glass 06:54 Archived in France Tagged gay_travel Comments (2)

LES VACANCES, FAIRE DU SKI ET MARDI-GRAS

The holidays so far for me

sunny

Today is my mother-dearest's birthday so as a gift to her, I'm going to update my blog. It's been hectic but great so far in the holidays, I swear I haven't had one second to rest haha! Because in France, they only have six weeks of school and then holidays, I arrived three-and-a-bit weeks ago, and I've already finished the term (pretty awesome).

So for the second day of the holidays, my host family took me skiing at Mont Lozere. It was really a beautiful day for it, the sun was shining*, and the snow was extremely fresh - I mean, seriously, it squeaked while you were skiing about.
I was unmissable in my bright red full-body-suit snow clothes**, and it was embarrassing to be one of the tallest, and also one of the least skilled at the same time (the unmissableness didn't help when I fell over haha). Because it's pretty close to Mende (Mont Lozere), I saw heaps of people from school, and at one stage I swear heard some guy yell out 'Megane??'. I was wondering how everyone recognised me with sunglasses and a hat and everthing...the Australia Sunnies might have given it away a bit...

I know that you'll be glad to hear that, yes, I have many falling-over-and-making-a-fool-of-myself-at-the-snow stories haha! I thought the ski-lift was a seat right, so I sat down. Turns out it's not for sitting down on, and I went skidding down the hill, luckily it wasn't too far from the beggining. Then after, I didn't have the seat-thing quite behind me when the lift took off, and so there I was, clinging for dear life the whole way up this steep mountainside - kind of like waterskiing. To make it worse, my gloves had gotten snowy when I fell over the first time, and it was so cold, that my hands got acctually stuck to the pole***.
Then, we decided 'You know what, let's go up the fastest and steepest and longest ski-lift'. Yeah, bad idea. Because heaps of people had already taken the lift, there was heaps of different tracks carved into the snow, and I chose the idiot's who obviously had massively long legs - and so they were really far apart and I fell over right in the middle of the ski-lift track. So I'm trying to move over, but I've got my skis on and everything - it was horrible haha!

Today, also, we went to the snow again. And today, also, I have a renewed fear of ski-lifts. I fell over on one, but lucky I caught in my hand the part where your bum is mean to go. And so the lift was dragging me along the ground for like a third of the hill, and when I arrived at the top, a little boy turned around and said "C'est pas grave! Moi, je tombais toujours!"****. And it was soo embarrassing.

Also, on Tuesday, it was Mardi-Gras*****. We went to Mamie's place, and ate the best chips I've ever tasted. And no matter how many times she said, "They're not beautiful, They're well burnt', they were still amazingly tasty. And after, we had this crepe-maker in the middle of the table and we ate so many it was absolutely...a fat tuesday******.

That's it for now, and have a good holiday (even though you're all still working and learning so much at school haha sucks to be in Australia now!).

  • The weather was sweet, yeah
  • * Yes, exactly the same as at dad's 50th (but red, not blue)
  • ** Don't stress, I detached myself by the top of the hill
  • *** "Don't worry! Me, I always fall over!"
  • **** I know what you're thinking but no. A rought translation of 'Mardi-Gras' is 'Fat-Tuesday' (mdr!)
  • *****^^^
  • ****** We're lucky as!

Posted by Meg Glass 18:26 Archived in France Tagged family_travel Comments (0)

LA NEIGE ET LE HANDBALL

this weekend

rain

On Saturday, my host dad took another boy called 'Etienne' and I to the snow (my host brother was playing handball'*)!! I have a feeling it wasn't a ski resort or anything, but it was absolutely amazing - the snow was so deep - to prove my point, my host dad got massively bogged in it on this really desolate road up in the mountains - luckily someone drove past. It's really weird that we were up there with numb hands from throwing snowballs and soaked from receiving these while everyone was back in Australia (hopefully in the rain) but still above minus-whatever-it-was degrees!

We went on a 'tour' (which I believe means 'to walk in a circle') around in the snow, and it was exactly like illustrations from a book about Christmas...written by Santa**! I swear the trees looked so amazing, and up in the moutains there were heaps of wind turbines*** and it was bizzare to have so much whiteness all in the one place!

The next day, I saw my first true game of Handball - which according to my friend Julie is 'The best sport of the world'. The first game I saw was boys playing, so as you can imagine it was extremely physical with bodies flying all over the court (I'm not exaggerating). I swear I saw these boys die about 20 times, but they just got up ad kept playing - I was like 'What are you doing, you crazy fools?'.

Ok, Ill try now to explain Handball for all you twats that don't know what it is****. For me, it was like a mix between Netball and Soccer...and if that doesn't make sense I don't know how else to explai it. They throw the ball like netball, but when they catch it, they can run a bit, but after they have to bounce it, so I guess it's a bit like footy as well (haha!). They have a 'goal circle' like in Netball aswell, but the people who want to score can't go in there, just the keeper (who plays like in soccer - because there are soccer goals, not like netball or footy there haha). Anyway, so that's Handball for you.

After, I watched a girls game, which was good because I saw girls from my classes playing and they were really, really good! It was different to the boys game, they had heaps of formations and hand signals and stuff, it was cool.

Anyway that way my weekend for you, it was a good one. Oh, and also I saw an add that was, I swear, exactly the same as the O'Brien add, but with a different company and in French! I was freaked out.

See you all soon!

  • which i'll explain later if you can wait
  • * or someone comparably magical
  • ** good job France
  • *** AKA me upon arrival in France

Posted by Meg Glass 18:54 Archived in France Tagged living_abroad Comments (1)

MON ARRIVÉE

arriving in Mende and my first day of school

snow

Here's a bit more of what's been going on for you.

I think I finished the last post with the train to Clermond-Ferrand? Well, Jess got off earlier than us, at Vichy, and it was so weird to see her host parents greeting her, thinking 'That's going to be us in about 20 minutes'. How weird is this (directed at exchange students from 9820) - Jess was talking about her host brother saying 'Yeah, he's on exchange now close to Melbourne, actually it's near Sale...' and I was like 'WHAATT!! What's his last name?', and guess who it was? Francis Kante!! Small world, huh?

Anyway, at the train station, Kim's and my host parents were waiting on the platform, it was really strange!! I couldn't speak one word of French, but I think I understood the words 'veux' and 'manger', from my host parents.

So as you know (hopefully, haha) it's been about one week since I got here, and on the Tuesday, I went to school - and oh my god - it was so weird haha! My first class was English (thank god), so at least it was a bit similar to what I'm used to. Everyone wanted to ask me all these questions about Australia - I had no idea that it was this unknown, I swear! "Donc...Mégane, you 'ave ever before seen Kangaroo?*" haha, bizzare**! First day was crazy - I understood absolutely nothing, and everyone kept asking me things in French haha I swear my favourite word in French is 'Oui' and otherwise, a blank stare.

My house and town in France are really old, really cute and really different to Australia. In Australia, the houses are usually one floor, with newly-rendered exteriers and massive windows. The houses in France are tall rather than wide on the ground, and their exteriers are really beautiful - I like it!

Anyway, that's it for now I think - see you all soon hopefully!

  • their accents in English are extremely cute!
  • * that's one thing I love about France - the excesive use of the word bizzare haha! (and déjà vu***)
  • ** English definition - Psycology. The illusion of having previouly experienced something actually being encountered for the first time.

French definition - litterally seen (something) already.

Posted by Meg Glass 10:39 Archived in France Tagged living_abroad Comments (0)

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