Sunday, January 31, 2010

French Sickie

Hello, everybody!

I've been here in Fréjus for ONE MONTH! I've been in France for a bit longer, but still. I've made it through one month, and I'm beginning to think that the time here will be passing too quickly. This scares me-- I feel like there's so much more to learn, to see, and to experience. I've got to learn, though my vocabulary, pronounciation, and general knowledge is improving as I spend more time surrounded by French culture and words. This isn't a long-overdue update, but I'm working on those! (After I finish the Week One post, I probably won't be worrying about going back and filling in all the mundane details of my life.)

At any rate, right now I'm sick (I have a cold), so I haven't done anything interesting this weekend. I didn't have the time/energy/willpower to run at all this past week at the beautiful Ville Aurelienne. One of my friends has said that he might run with me some Saturday though, so that's awesome because I don't have a running buddy here. This next Saturday marks the beginning of Winter Holidays here, which last for a couple weeks (I think). I don't have any plans, but hopefully I can find something other than reading and/or watching movies to entertain myself.

(I've been reading Harry Potter books; my friend Charlotte H. gave me the second, fifth, and sixth Harry Potter books in French, for which I will love her forever because HARRYPOTTEREEP! I read the first chapter of the second book yesterday.... and then watched the first two movies.)

Being sick in a foreign country is particularly unpleasant, as all the things you do when you're sick may not work so well or be quite the same, since you're elsewhere. The medicine isn't the same, and I've been sucking on Ricola/Coldeeze that Dad left me (again) because I've been hacking all over the place. I may head over to the Pharmacie down the street (if Nathalie and Olivier don't think I'll collapse or suddenly catch pneumonia along the way...) and hunt for some meds that Mom looked up that are the French equivalents of familiar things (like Motrin, except not really).

(I've been taking this stuff called Doliprane, which is similar to Tylenol-- you dissolve it in water and drink it; not yummy. It's supposed to get rid of my fever, not that I know my exact temperature because 1) Celsius???? and 2) I refuse to use their thermometer... but I generally know when I have a fever.)

My friends here are quite awesome; they use MSN, rather than AIM, so I spend a lot of time on there now, even though I haven't used that email address in years. My expressions don't translate well into French, but they seem to understand some of them ("happydance, anyone? no? Okay, errr... danse de bonheur? oui? YAY!!!!!").

I love to go downtown-- I always walk the same way, because I don't know which way is faster and the path I take is the one that Laure showed me when I went to see Avatar in French with her and her friend Anais. I ran at Base Nature a couple weeks ago, and decided that it'll work in when I'm in desperate need of running, but it's like the beginning of the Wendy's course (flat, field; when it's not marsh-like, it's probably dusty). But Fréjus is qute a nice place, if a bit sleepy. I'm looking forward to summer, because there seems to be NOTHING to do here in the winter!

I just wanted to let you all know that I'm doing well; I'm speaking in French to my friends at school more, and actually participating in some classes (such as some of my 9-hours-of-French-classes, where I'll read out loud a bit of a poem or story excerpt). I'll be attempting to make Toll House Cookies at some point (I have to save some for my English teacher, actually, haha), and things are more-or-less settling down at Chez Chasson now (11 year old boy = never true calm), and MY FRENCH IS IMPROVING (or so I've been told by quite a few people, though I believe that Corentin may say otherwise based on the amount of correcting he does... xD).

Hope all you North Carolinians are enjoying your SNOW (!!!), and that everybody is well & happy :)

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Day Ten: Fire Dancers

Jan. 1, 2010


I still owe you, my dedicated readers (=P), the rest of the posts leading up to this week.

I’ll start where I left off from the last post; refresh your memory if you need to.

This evening (except it was still 2009 at that point), Dad and I headed over to the Roqui’s for dinner. We have been corresponding with the Roquis since sometime last January. I was supposed to live with them originally, but that didn’t work out as planned. At any rate, they have been tremendously helpful with getting me here to France, particularly with paperwork for both my enrollment in the lycée and to get me the visa to come here.

Dinner was moules (mussels) frites, and appetizers! Jean-Pierre, my friend Angela’s father, said it’s a tradition, though I don’t know if he meant a FRENCH tradition or a family tradition. The frites are eaten dipped in mustard (which in this case was mayonnaise and mustard? Uhh. It came like that in the jar.), which I tried and enjoyed. (I swear it’s better than it sounds…)

Dessert was buche de noël in ice cream form, which I have to say is a completely acceptable way to eat a Yule Log. I had three slices :D

George and Therese(I probably spelled their names wrong) were there, too (my dad’s friend Pierre’s parents; Angela’s mother, Elise, is Pierre’s sister. Got all that? It’s not really that important other than to explain how we know them.); it was nice to see them again. They remember us (or at least my dad) from when we met them during their stay in North Carolina a few years ago. (Though that may have been quite a while ago, like my sixth grade year.)

Dinner was an interesting affair—I think Angela, Alaina (her younger sister), and I were all being awkward and not talking, but our parents were talking. There was a constant mix of English and French, which is always interesting.

After we finished eating, we started watching the French review-of-the-year show (that’s what I think it was), which seemed to consists of things that a group of people sitting around the table thought were funny, if not particularly important. This shows seem quite popular, though, because I swear the Chassons were watching the same type of show the night before.

Finally, after a few pictures with George and Therese, Dad and I headed down to Saint Raphaël-plage to see the annual fireworks spectacle (show). We went expecting something like Fourth of July fireworks… loud, colorful explosions, and not much else.

It was a bit wet and chilly, if my memory serves me correctly, which made waiting a bit uncomfortable, but when the show began and we had a pretty good view, I definitely wasn’t complaining.

I’ll let you see what you can from the pictures, because it was just really awesome and different.


This was the beginning; dude crouched on a rail looking out over the dark water.

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Anyway, those aren’t very clear pictures. I’m trying to decide the best way to put more pictures up at least so that you can see pictures I DON’T include on the blog. Not sure how to go about this in a safe way. Let me know what you think (about the idea and any ideas!).

Dad and I decided that was definitely a satisfactory way to bring in the New Year, though technically it ended before the New Year began. Everybody was yelling “BONNE ANNÉE! DEUX MILLE DIX!” (“HAPPY NEW YEAR! 2010!”)… there wasn’t a BIG GRAND FINALE (unlike American fireworks where there must ALWAYS be a Grand Finale). It was cool though. That was much more interesting than watching the ball drop on television. xD

The next morning we slept in until noon, skipped breakfast, and began our quest for Pizza, which ended up taking quite a bit of time as nothing was open. Hence, after we didn’t actually have pizza (we had very large salads. yum.), we immediately had to go to the Bruzzone’s for tea at 2:00 (14h).

I haven’t mentioned the Bruzzones on here before, except in brief passing as the OTHER Nathalie (Rick-with-the-blog’s friends in Fréjus). Nathalie B. works for “Vous Accueil”, which is an organization that welcomes newcomers to the town and provides information. [If I understood that correctly.] She is the one that received Rick’s email and did a lot to help find me another solution of someplace to live before I came here. She doesn’t actually know Nathalie Chasson, but it is partially thanks to Nathalie Bruzzone that we found me a place to stay here.

They invited us for tea so that we could actually meet them: Nathalie, her husband Laurent, and their daughters Fanny (14) and Laure (17; she’s 13 days older than me), and Aurlien, Laure’s boyfriend and Jerome, Laurent’s friend, joined us. Tea actually meant tea for my dad, but I just had fruit juice. With tea, we ate Galette des Rois, which is what you might know as King Cake. It isn’t the same though; king cake to me meant what we eat every year in French class, but this is quite different. (The ones we have in NC are the “Louisiana Style” King Cakes, which are cinnamon rolls with frosting and sugar.)


(click through to source of picture, since I didn’t actually have a picture; there's a recipe, too, except it's in metric measurements.)

At a later date, I'll post a recipe for Galette des Rois in American measurements; I've asked Nathalie (Chasson) for it, and I'll translate & convert it for you :)

Apparently there’s two types of King Cake, one for Northern France, and another in Southern France. The kind pictured above is typical in Northern France, and it’s particularly delicious served warm. As is typical for king cakes, there is a small baby Jesus inside; when you find it, you get to wear a fake King crown (and be “King” for a day! WHOO!).

The nice thing about my dad’s networking while trying to find me a place to stay is that I now have met more French people that are incredibly kind and welcoming, and want me to have a really great experience here.

(Dinner was that elusive Pizza from this really great Pizza place that was decorated with Pirate-y-ness in Saint Raphaël. I consider that a great success in Pizza-Questing.)


Monday, January 11, 2010

Day Nine: “This is strange…”

Dec. 31, 2009

Bonsoir! (because it’s currently 6:15pm here.)

We’re going back quite a while now, because we’re finally reaching the END OF DECEMBER.

So, the first thing we did on (errr… *has to check what day of the week that was*…) THURSDAY! was go to Carrefour to shop for school supplies.

Since we hadn’t actually gone to a grocery store (I use this term loosely, since Carrefour is really a supermarché) in France before to actually BUY things, we were all “well, this is strange…”

“This is strange…”

  1. Pillows- So, you know how pillows are usually rectangular? I’m talking about the pillow that you sleep on every night; I’m willing to bet that it’s rectangular, right? Well, not here! Europeans have SQUARE pillows. They’re a bit bigger than our pillows, I guess, but they’re square, which just seems incredibly strange. I mean, in a world of small spaces (cars, apartments, etc.), there are these huge square pillows. (Insert “this is strange…”)
  2. Shopping Carts- The first thing you do when you enter a store to go grocery shopping is take a cart.You leave it to the workers to haul the shopping carts from the pens into the store, and you expect that there will always be shopping carts or baskets right inside the door for your convenience. In France, this is not the case (as we discovered after we got inside and realized we would like a cart). The carts are in pens outside the door, but they’re all chained together. The locks holding the carts together have slots on them to put money in; once you pay, you can take the cart. (We found out later that it’s a token-type thing and not actual money, though I suppose you have to pay for the token? Not sure how that works.) When you return the cart, you lock it back into the other carts and you get your money/token/thingy back.
  3. Fruit- In American grocery stores, fruit is nicely labeled how much for a pound (or a bag, or whatever… since I only ever buy fattie club foods, I’m not exactly certain xD). At the cash register, the cashier weighs your fruit, and you pay for it. Here, you  weigh your own fruit… actually, there’s this guy who has a little stand in the fruit section. He just stands there, really… until somebody comes up with their bag of fruit, which they place on the scales (there’s four). He prints off a sticker that says how much your bag of fruit costs, and sticks it on the bag; after, you are free to continue your shopping. [I wonder what it says in his job description… must be good with stickers; VERY STRENUOUS work environment? xD  I think I would’ve enjoyed that job, once upon a time.]
  4. Grocery Bags- Personally, I think this is good, and we should have expected it; especially with our philosophy on plastic bags. In France, they don’t HAVE plastic (or paper) grocery bags at supermarkets. You can’t just go to the checkout and shove all your purchases in a conveniently-located bag to take it home in. You have to bring your own bag (which is some variety of cloth), and you load it yourself, and you’d better be quick about it, too! (We learned this the hard way, when I had to shove everything into my purse and Dad had to carry a stack of things that were too big for my purse out to the car.)

While we were at Carrefour (not the supermarket, but the centre commercial that is attached), we decided we needed lunch (before we actually bought anything); seeing a sign outside a small “sandwicherie” (everything seems to be  [word]-erie here, but that’s just a gross generalization) advertising “THE AMERICAN”, we decided to try it.

“The American” was supposed to be a sandwich with cheese and some sort of “American” sauce… being Barbeque sauce. We thought it would be, y’know… barbeque, like pulled pork or chicken or something.

When it arrived it looked something like this:

IMG_0466 (There were more “frites” on there, though.)

So “The American” sandwich, as perceived by the French:

Onions (underneath the cheese), “Hamburger Cheese” because they refuse to call it American cheese (I discovered this later), hamburger patties (cut in half so that they fit on the baguette), a little bit of lettuce, fries, ketchup, and barbeque sauce… all on a baguette. Although we are Americans, we ate the fries first. Maybe the French people could eat the American like it (apparently) should be, frites and all. Because seriously, I’m fairly certain I’ve never laughed that much at a sandwich before.

ANYWAY, after our shopping adventure, we headed over to Fréjus-Centre to explore more, since the last time we explored downtown, we only saw the Cathedral.

This time we saw the Roman Arena and wandered around downtown; even though stores near the beach are closed, centreville was still fascinating.

Unfortunately, the arena is being restored or renovated or something of the sort so we couldn’t actually go inside. :(

[Uhh, there would be pictures here but I can’t seem to find them on my computer. Help me out here, Dad!]

(Conclusion: more trips to Fréjus will be necessary in the future. Or to France. As if I didn’t think that would be necessary before.)

I love how modern businesses operate under ancient roofs (fine, the roofs probably aren’t ancient, but the buildings are! ESPECIALLY in comparison to the US!). You can walk down these tiny cobblestone streets that probably haven’t changed much since they were laid, but you can see cars and people in modern clothing walking around as though they don’t know they’re walking on FREAKING history! :O

*nerd moment*

Seriously, though. Walking on history.

(Uhh, I forgot to mention; there seems to be “gangs of girls” here. There are these girls here that walk around in what look like gangs; all scowling, wearing look-alike outfits in all black, and just generally looking intimidating. I think Dad was frightened by them; then again, I was a bit scared intimidated, too!)

Andddd that concludes Day Nine, because I think I’ll shove dinner that night with the Roquis into Day Ten, even though it technically wasn’t. Sorry for the picture-less post! I’ll add pictures once I find ‘em! :)

Hope you’re having a great Monday!


Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Day Eight: Not Nice

30 Dec. 2009

I really need to figure out a more interesting way to start these posts. So, for right now…

Salut!  (“Hi”)

After yesterday’s touring of places close to my new home, Dad and I decided that we needed to go explore further away. So we woke up early and lazed around until we decided that we’d try breakfast at the hotel. That was strange; this hotel is kind of small, and they only serve breakfast to a set number of people, so they don’t really  have extras for anybody. It’s not free, either; and beyond that, it’s just a French breakfast. P1090651

 Our hotel in Fréjus

At home, we’ll have cereal, pancakes, waffles, eggs, or basically anything (cookie cake… Chick-Fil-A), for breakfast; here, breakfast is bread. I don’t mean toast-bread, either; a chunk of baguette, a croissant, and a cup of café or fruit juice. This is served with butter and jam of some sort (prune, apricot, cherry, strawberry…), so by my standards, it wasn’t particularly filling. Oink. [I think that the bread thing is standard, but I maintain the right to correct myself later on :)]

After we brushed all the bread crumbs off ourselves, we set off to Nice via la bord de la mer, because the thought of a French highway is very frightening, and we’d rather take the long route… seemed less confusing.

Nice is about 75 km (about 46 miles) from Fréjus when travelling along the coast, as we did. The trip is only supposed to take an hour and some, but for us, it took two hours… and some because we kept stopping to take pictures. We can’t really help ourselves; there were so many beautiful sights.

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  Even though it was a cloudy day, there were still areas of the coast where the water was this beautiful shade of azure (this being the Côte d’Azur, after all).

We got lost along the way, and ended up in a town called Antibes, where we had AMAAAAAZING egg rolls. Nearly perfect, by Dad’s standards! So we bought more to eat later (and share with the Chassons).


We saw Cannes and Nice, but I have to admit, neither of us was that interested in either place. They are both very commercial, but we took pictures for the heck of it anyway. xD


Nice is a nice town, but we feel as though we missed the point of it (for the first thirty-or-maybe-more minutes we were there). Everybody says (not just Madame Marks) that “Nice is nice”, but I’m a bit confused. Nice (the city) is not that nice. The coast is prettier, honestly, and (maybe this is because we never found the office de tourisme?) it didn’t seem to have anything to do except go shopping. It had a lovely Christmas village filled with plastic fake-snow covered trees… with a huge sunny Ferris Wheel! xD (We found this quite humorous, but you may think we’re crazy.)P1090740 P1090743 P1090747 P1090748 P1090750

So, Dad and I were not that amused by Nice. This may or may not have to do with the fact that we don’t like (nor are we good at) shopping. We would both rather be exploring some interesting bit of coast or the mountains than wander around overly-crowded streets looking at shops. Especially shops where we can’t afford anything because the exchange rate is killer.

However, we were very amused when we somehow wandered (in the car) to the edge of town and saw one of the signs saying that you are no longer in so-or-such town/village/city. We read it as “Not (Name of Town/Village/City)”, so it was “Not Nice”. Not nice. hehe. We were going to take a picture of the sign but we forgot soooo… here’s a picture of a Not-City sign for Antibes.


The exclamation point sign! Still not sure exactly what this means, but it comes in the yellow-orange/red variety and normal black/white/red variety. It makes me smile, though. I kinda want one.

 P1090719 NOT Antibes.

Finally, we made our way back to Fréjus. We should have paid more attention though (we can just say it isn’t well-marked. Always blame the signs! ALWAYS!), so we wandered in circles in some random edge-of-some-town for a very long time, eventually making our way to another road… that was not the road we came in on.

We followed this nearly completely randomly-chosen road up into the Alps, without realizing what we were doing. Soon, the roads were twisting and winding, up and down mountains. It was dark by then; the trees surrounding the roads made the potentially-very-scary slopes near the edge of the road even more ominous, especially since guardrails were very rare.

We continued down this road until we figured out where we were (actually, that “we” was “me”, because I tend to figure such things out! xD) and discovered that we were just taking the scenic-route-which-wasn’t-so-scenic-but-was-much-more-confusing. Did you get that? I kinda lost my train of though somewhere in the middle of that not-a-word. (I must stop hyphenating. BAD.)

Finally, we called Nathalie to tell her that we would be a bit late for dinner because we needed to stop at the hotel to pick up my laptop so we could test if the internet would work at their house.

Dinner was pizza—Margherita  (spelling? Uhh. I don’t know.) pizza is not the same here! It involves olives (YUM!) and not tomatoes (ew.)! Oh, and the delicious eggrolls from lunch.

[The internet took foreverrrrr to set up. But it works now and we don’t have to restart it every time, so that’s good.]

So, that was a nice day, and Dad and I are such tourists!


Saturday, January 2, 2010

Day Seven: “Boring like the Musée”

29 Dec. 2009


[Still currently Day Eleven, but once again… :D you should be an expert at pretending it’s the actual day now. Does it help when I include the day I was *actually* supposed to post this?]

This morning, Dad and I woke up at 8:something, and began a quest for a boulangerie/patisserie for breakfast. We wandered through Port Fréjus, looking at all the sailboats and (few) yachts.

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Nathalie and Olivier came to pick Dad and I up at the hotel at 10:30 so we could go pick up our rental car. Like every other car in France, it’s a stick shift… which Dad hasn’t driven in a while, so combined with the insanity of French driving, I didn’t ride with him immediately.

Olivier rode with Dad to remind him how to drive (not sure how that went, as Olivier doesn’t speak much English) and show him the way to Carrefour, which is like Wal-mart but Carrefour has a centre commercial attached (kinda like a mini-mall with a huge Wal-mart stuck on). They were just showing us around so we would know where to find all my school supplies.

After we finished up at Carrefour, we drove to the Chasson’s apartment to eat lunch and pick up Quentin. They had me try a lichi (not sure about the spelling), which I did NOT like (I’m fairly certain it’s some sort of citrus? It’s this tiny little bumpy pink fruit, the center is white), so of course Dad and Olivier thought it would be funny to take a picture of me tasting a lichi.


We all piled into the Chasson’s car and drove up to Fréjus-Centre  (downtown Fréjus), where we popped into the Office de Tourisme to pick up maps before walking up to the main square. The main square is based around a Cathedral, which is right next to what is now the mayor’s office.

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The nativity scene at the cathedral; those are santons that are about 2 feet tall.

 P1090652 We were walking through the Christmas village; the peach building is the mayor’s office.P1090653


  Once we’d looked around the main square of Fréjus, we drove to my school, Lycée Albert Camus, and then down to Saint Raphaël-Plage, where we parked in an underground lot and made our way up to the Christmas village there in front of the Casino. Saint Raphaël is a resort-town; there was an ice-skating rink, shopping, the casino, and even a small antiques market, which Quentin insisted was boring, though I don’t think he thought it was so boring when we were teaching each other the words for things in our native languages. [He said the market was “boring like the Musée d’Orsay, to be precise.] xD



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And then we had dinner (late, like 9 or 10) and discussed boring things like school, while watching French television, which is sometimes quite funny. :)

(Honestly, that’s what we did in the abbreviated form; I’m getting tired right now so I’m going to bed. Sorry for lack of elaboration!)