Saturday, April 27, 2013

French Course - Day 5 - Nice France

This was the last of my blog entries about my french course that i took, last year. I really wish i had kept up writing as now i find it so interesting to look back on. You store a collection of memories on a blog like no other. Between now and when i stopped blogging i have so many memories that i wished i had written about at the time, the details of which are now fading into the blur which is my past.

7th of August 2012

Cimetière Colline du Château

Well last night before going to bed I remembered I had not done my homework, actually I could not even remember what we were set, and so I did all the questions. I was not going to get caught out for a second day.

Today went a little better; I am starting to get to grips with verbs, enough for me to be able to get the right conjugation in front of the class. After a good night sleep, my brain is starting to function again. Yippee. About half the class are so far ahead of me, the other half are about at my level. It’s the last day for about half the class, so next week we will be down to 5, and luckily most of the really good people are off, so the lessons should be much more focused at my level. 

In the afternoon i went back to the park for more studying, but today i remembered to bring my camera. I have managed nearly a week in Nice, and only have only taken a handful of pictures, hence some of the poor quality photos. So back up to the châteaux for some more great views of Nice. I visited the Cimetière Colline du Château, which was amazing, there was no photography allowed in the cemetery, so i went next door and took photos in the cimetiere israelite (where i could not see an anti-photo sign). The cemetery is full of amazing statues and tombs, that you just don't find in the UK. The cemetery's are so beautiful and well kept and yet i saw know body else, which makes me wonder why? Its defiantly worth a visit if you want to get away from the hustle of the rest of the French Riviera.

Cimetière Colline du Château

It’s so hot today, I have just nearly about melted at the park. My walk back to the tram has taken me about two hours; I just kept stopping for ice-cream and cold drinks. So it getting late now and it seems like I have done nothing with my day. Apart form studying I am just seem to chat and chill with people in my dorm.


Thursday, April 25, 2013

French Course - Day 4 - Nice France

As exhausting as to day has been, and it has been exhausting. I've done french classes then helped a friend move, someone who has never heard of packing lightly (anybody else out there carrying around a bag of coat hangers?). I remember this day being worse, i really suffered in the heat and it took me all day to get over it.

6th August 2012

Wow, I started today by me at 33 admitting that I had come to school without my homework. I felt slightly stupid as I did spend considerable amount of time studying French yesterday, just not what I was supposed to.

Class was again very overwhelming, and I really struggled with all the verbal exercise’s I was given. My brain just wouldn’t process French fast enough. Actually today my brain had completely switched off trying to understand anything. I was looking at the teacher, but I could not understand a thing! I just watched as her lips moves; i usually understand at least a few words. I blame all the study in the park yesterday.

The air conditioning has broken in our class room and we all sat there absolutely sweltering. By the time class was finished it was all I could do to stagger back to the hostel. Now I am spending the rest of the day absorbed by the Olympics, sipping diet coke. C’MON Team GB!!””!!


Wednesday, April 24, 2013

French Course - Day 3 - Nice France

Today i had a french test, did i pass? Hope so, as i am planning on spending the next month in Lyon studying more french, and don't fancy a repeat. But here is day 3 of my french course last year, when i wasn't worrying about passes or fails. 

5th August 2012

Ok I slept bit better tonight, it was still very noisy and the light kept on going on and off, but some of the noisier girls had left. hooray.

The class this morning went pretty much the same way as yesterday, except that I felt even more overwhelmed by French and some of the student seem to be following so much better than me. I left with a huge mental list of things that I needed to get to grips with before the next day:

  • The verbs faire, amier, devoir, etc…..
  • What are verbs?
  • Loads of stuff to look up in our grammar book. Others seemed to have memorised it contents, I have barely opened it.

So I headed up to the chateaux park on the hill to find a shady spot to study in. Parks are my favorite place to study. When I was studying for my final exams at uni, I went to Barcelona for a week so I could study in Park Gould. I just don’t find locking myself away in a dark room, when it raining outside very inspiring. 

I got back to the hostel and made a bit of a stupid decision to go running (du jogging). I dumped all my stuff at the hostel and just took a small bottle of water and my travel pass. I decided to go down by the sea and I thought it would be cooler and it was. I managed a good 20-30 mins of running in before I got back on to the tram. The tram then had “difficulties technical”, and I was stuck on it for over an hour, already sweating and dehydrated from my run, the heat on the tram was unbearable. By the time I got back it was all I could do to eat and cool down watching the Olympics. Hooray we are actually starting to win some medals now.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

French Course Day 2 - Nice France

In August i started my first travel blog, it did not last long, i gave up after two weeks. But i did keep pretty good account of the french course and it is still pretty relevant, so i have decided to re-post the first 5 days of the course. 

4th August 2012

It turns out that backpackers and students don’t mix so well. I am now regretting my decision to stay in a hostel as the girls in my dorm did not go to bed, until 2am and thought our room was just an extension of the bar. I really thought about going to the kitchen in the morning and borrowing some sauce pans to bang, when I woke up at 7am just to get my own back. But I made do with deliberately walking into one of their beds on my way to the toilet, lame.

Ok a bit nervous about going straight into another class, I really hope that this is the right decision for me. There is a mixture of abilities in my new class, some people are about the same level as me and there are one or two who are like French dictionaries. My new class has a very lively teacher, Pricilla. She is so animated it is ridiculous, but this is good because she never breaks into English but I suspect she know how to speak it, each word that I don’t know gets an animated explanation in French. The class is much more intense than the one I was in yesterday. The words DIRE and VEUX are mentioned a lot and I am expected to know what they mean, I don’t. So I spend the whole lesson pretending so I can look it up at home. I manage to get out of the class without the hole in my knowledge being noticed. It turns out that dire is a verb meaning to say and veux from the verb vouloir, meaning, to have and to want.

After class I am exhausted, my head has hit French overload and I head back to the hostel, to catch up on some of the sleep I missed the night before. I then went swimming at Nice beach, and spend the rest of the evening revising what we did in class.

Monday, April 22, 2013

French Course - Day 1 - Nice, France

In August i started my first travel blog, it did not last long, i gave up after two weeks. But i did keep pretty good account of the french course and it is still pretty relevant, so i have decided to re-post the first 5 days of the course. 

3rd August 2012

So i am in France learning French.

The following is extracts from my diary about my french course, that i am doing for the next two weeks at Alpha B school in Nice, France.

Arrived on time, yay I found it quite easily. It’s only a short walk from the tram stop.

I was placed into a group of about 9 students. But only about half had arrived by the beginning of the class. The teacher started the class by going over some basics, introductions, dates and numbers. We were then tested on our basic oral and written French and placed into two groups those who knew something, and those who knew nothing.

I was placed in the group of students who knew nothing. I admittedly felt very bad about that as I had done 5 years at school, one years of evening classes and have been teaching myself on and off for years.

The class then started properly, and it was very clear to me that I was going to know all the content already. Others who had never done French before were struggling with the very basics; trying to remember how to say Je m’appelle xxxx. And I really wanted to be pushed. So I told the teacher at the end of the day that I though the class might be too easy for me and I was put into the upper group. Time will tell if this was a wise decision.

Lunch time I went to a local restaurant and tried to order in French. All the French I knew came out in gobbledygook English. The waiter promptly told me where to sit and handed me the English menu. So a fail for day 1 then.

In the afternoon the school organised a tour of Nice, which I joined. The tour was in French. So I tagged along hoping that listening might improve my listening skills. The tour guild Aurelia, was great. She speaks such clear French even I managed to understand some of it, and was happy to answer my stupid questions about shade and sunlight. I got to speak to other students on the tour. Most of them have been learning French for much longer than me and were doing more advanced classes, so kept asking me really complex questions in French, which I answered with a staggered silence.

After the tour my head was overloaded with French, so I headed back to my hostel for a nap, pizza and to talk some English with the other backpackers. The English came out in broken English and people have been asking me all night where I am from? Expecting answers like Finland or or Argentina or something. This is an unexpected side effect of French lesson I hope it passes soon.

Learning French in France

You know it is always said that if you want to learn a language you have to actually go to the country to learn. So this is what i am doing now. I am learning French in France and loving it.

I had taken french at school for 5 years, and had learn't how to say 'Bonjour', by the time i left school (in a very strong British accent). I also did a night school class for several months a few years ago, but only ever really learn't some words and phrases. Yet i have been meeting people on the road for many years, who all know how speak English and they have often learnt in only a couple of months. 

Through studying their 'English language' text books i discovered two things: theses books are all in English and most have very few pictures. This is in stark contrast to the books i had at school. Speaking to people about what their English courses were like, they were all in English. I had also been looking into Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) and liked the way that these courses were taught, but ultimately decided that teaching would not be for me.

So i decided that i wanted to give this a try for myself. Find myself an intensive foreign language course which is taught totally in that language, preferably in that country. I chose french, as it was the language i was most familiar with. In August 2012 i tested that water by singing up to a two week french course in Nice, France with alpha-B. Could these guys teach me to speak french!!??

The course was amazing, i learn't loads. It was taught in a totally different way to how i had been taught in England. This is not to say i did not have problems thought, the British educational system has left me with out some basic knowledge, such as 'what a verb is'. This is something i am still trying to correct today sitting in yet more French classes, this time in Lyon, with Alliance Francaise de Lyon. Learning about adverbs, infinitives, nouns etc at home instead of doing my french homework.

In conclusion, learning french in a french school is by far the best way to learn a language, so i have decided to stay in Lyon a second month. As i feel that i am actually learning something, but feel it would all go to waste if i just gave up now. Also i now have a friend staying in Lyon, so it will be nice to spend sometime with her.

Back in August i started my first travel blog. It did not last long, i gave up after two weeks. But i did keep pretty good account of the french course and it is still pretty relevant, so i have decided to re-post the experience of the first 5 days of the course. 

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Croix-Rousse - Lyon City Tour

Silk, Tour, Lyon

Last week i went to Croix Rousse, Lyon as i heard it was a great place to explore, as it had a really rich history based around the silk industry. I found some beautiful views of the city, but failed to really appreciate the area and find the so called traboules (secret passage ways) that make this area so special. So this week i decided to take a tour. I signed up for the Lyon City Card, and spent Saturday making the most of my 21 euro investment.

Lyon tourist office provides many tours, and most are free with the Lyon City Card otherwise this tour would have cost 12 euros. The tour started in Place de la Croix-Rousse out side the metro station. On a Saturday morning Place de la Croux-Rousse is a great place to visit, there was a market, and lots of cafes spilling on to the square. The square is dominated in the middle by the Statue of Jacquard, who invented an easier loom system which enabled the silk workers to produce more at lower cost.

Lyon, Silk

Our tour guild, took us down the main street, explaining how the building around here were purpose built for the silk workers.  The ceilings were build extra high (4m), to house the looms with extra large windows facing the south, to give light to work by. In the 19th Century silk workers worked at home rather than worked in factories. Each apartment (room) would have housed a whole family, 7-15 people, making this one of the most densely populated districts of Europe.

Lyon, Silk, Tour

We took a shorts cut through a narrow passages. 

Lyon, Silk, Tour

Admired the town planning, that required two levels of housing, so the silk workers had maximum light.

We then descended the hill heading towards Lyon. 

Lyon, Silk, Tour

While descending the hill, we passed through, the traboules which make this area so special. The entrances are very nondescript, and this is why i had so much trouble, first time around. 

Lyon, Silk, Tour

Lyon, Tours, Silk

Through these nondescript doors, we got to walk the path of many silk-workers delivering their goods to the traders in central Lyon. There are open staircases and passage ways and even very forward thinking  (at the time) communal toilets, that were build, into the apartments.

Lyon, Silk, Tour,

Lyon, Tour, Silk

Lyon, Tour, Silk

Lyon, Silk, Tours, Toilets

We then descended into Lyon, to learn a bit more about silk industry history, and to a visit to silk printing workshop. Of course i was in heaven. Anything fabric and colour related and they have got my attention. We visited L'Atelier de Soierie, a silk printing company just off the Place des Terreaux. There they use two main techniques to colour the fabric: hand screen printing and hand painting. They are the last silk workshop left in Lyon. My camera died at this point, so these are all mobile pics.

Lyon, tours,

Lyon, Tours

Lyon, Tours

Lyon, Tours

Lyon, Tours

Lyon, Tours

Lyon, Tours

Tours, Lyon

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Today i Found Spring (in Lyon)

Spring, Bloom, trees

Spring has finally come to Europe, well Lyon at least. Today i woke up to a warm pleasant day and spent the day walking in Lyon. I even came across this square (Place des Celestins) where the trees were in bloom. 

Spring, i could not be happier.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Traveling and Crochet - My Little Etsy Shop.

hats, gloves, mittens, accessories, handmadeI have been a little slow on the blogging front. I have been in Nice and now in Lyon and have rarely left my room to go sightseeing and have anything to blog about. So here is my explanation of sorts.  I have been studying hard at my French and working on starting up a little woolly hat making business on Etsy called KnottedRose.

Starting an Etsy shop selling crochet accessories was an idea i had back in 2011, but dismissed the idea, as i would have to put too many hours into it and get very little out. But i have come back to this idea now, because my circumstances and experiences have changed. This is almost the perfect little side line for me, now i am traveling/working intermittently. In the long term i don't think that crocheting hats and gloves is some thing that i could live off forever, but its a stepping stone to my larger goals for the future. I will get experience running my own little business, and hopefully make a bit of money to keep me traveling longer.

Crazy ideas come from crazy people and i know that this one is up there. Somebody in a hostel did try to persuade me that this is the wrong time, because i am traveling and my head is all over the place. I personal could not think that he is more wrong. This is the perfect time for me to do this, because starting a business like this, or any other requires time and effort. When would i ever get 6 weeks down time in a normal life, to do the ground work that i need do. I have never tried to start any type of business before, so everything is new to me. And i personally can't think of a better challenge than starting a woolly hats business in the European spring/summer, when traveling and looking for little side jobs. But in away this suits me.

Anyway, i still want to keep this blog as it keeps me focused on enjoying my travels, even when i am distracted by other things. And the thought i might be missing out on Lyon is just horrible, so i pledge to do some Lyon research when the weather is bad and go visit when he rain stops.




Friday, April 5, 2013

Getting Settled in Lyon, France

So i am in Lyon to study French. How exciting. When i chose to study french in Lyon, i was very unsure about my choice. I did not know much about this town, 1 month is a long time to be stuck in a boring city. I decided to come here purely because language courses and accommodation seemed to be cheaper here then elsewhere in France.  So glad i chose this place now as its such a beautiful city to live in. 

Fourviere basilica, cathedral

I've have chosen to study with Alliance Francaise Lyon, i did not know what to expect, because despite really good reviews of the school. The process of applying for the course and accommodation has not run smoothly, mostly thanks to my bank rejecting payments to the school. At one stage i was very worried that i was going to arrive and the school not exist. Well i am here now and my school and accommodation does exist, so one huge sigh of relief.

I arrived over the Easter weekend, so getting setting up in student accommodation has been a struggle. Unlike hostels and staff accommodation.  Here i have had to provide my own towels, knife, plate, cup etc... Also all the supermarkets were shut so finding food or any of the items listed above proved a struggle. Thank god for McDs. 

Getting WiFi has also been a nightmare  It has meant that i have had to visit the university accommodation office, which was shut for the first two days, then apply for a WiFi code, then wait two days while it was processed.  4 days without proper internet access, i have not known what to do with myself.

The accommodation is in Halls of Residences, on a large student campus. I honestly never thought i would revisit my student days and live in halls again. Nothing has changed, these halls are remarkably like the ones i lived in whilst studying for my degree over 10 years ago. They are very basic, but i get my own room and i am not knocking accommodation in a beautiful city like Lyon for 200 euro a month, a hostel would be more than twice, that. Oh i got my own room, hehe. 

Lyon was a little dead over the Easter weekend. I went for a walk and everything was shut except a few stores along the main shopping street of Rue de Republique. But i did find a Street Day festival on in one of the main squares, which kept me entertained in graffiti art and French Rap music for an hour or so. Though in truth this is not really my thing.

This city has some amazing places to visit though, I took the funicular train up to the top of Fourviere, where i found a massive cathedral the Fourviere Basilica, which is defiantly on of the most impressive churches i have been into for some time. You can download audio-guided tours for your phone, so i shall do that and revisit it at some point.

There is so much i want to do in Lyon while i am here, both travel, language and personal wise. Maybe my first assessment of a month, was just not long enough.

Fourviere Balsilica

Monday, April 1, 2013

Saint-Paul de Vance

On my 'to do' list whilst visiting Nice, is to visit some of the surrounding villages and towns. The South of France is so well known for its hill top villages. I have already visited Grasse and Eze, which are such beautiful spots, i was keen to visit more. Saint -Paul de Vance has been recommended to me so many times, so on a day when the weather looked good, i took off on the bus.

Hill top village,

Saint-Paul de Vance is one of the most famous hill top villages in the South of France. The village like most  of the hill top villages, is the product of centuries of political turmoil in the region, being occupied and fought over since the 13th century. Its steep side gave it a strategic position, which was easy to defend.  Now its the home to artists and tourists looking for a part of traditional french life.

Hill top Village

hill top village

Its easy to see why this would become so popular with artists. Its hill top position looking over the French Riviera. Its slopes are still adorned with vine yards and flowers flowing through in the cracks of the stone walls. If i was a painter i would come here too. I spent my time wondering the streets and looking in a the many art galleries.

hill top village

hill top village

To get there from Nice (the eco friendly way), you can take the 400 bus . The bus like all public transport around Nice only costs 1 euro each way even as far as Saint-Paul's. You can get on to the bus at Avenue de Verdun, or stops along the Promenade des  Anglais, Though if you get on any later than the Avenue de Verdun, you will probably be standing for the entire 50 minute journey.

hill top village

hill top village

You can pick up a free map of Saint-Pauls de Vance at the tourist information  which is located just inside the main entrance. Then stroll among the narrow cobbled streets, exploring it many art galleries, shops, restaurant and little nooks and crannies, for hours. Unlike the hill top village of Eze, it is not as steep and is easy to get to from the bus stop, with out breaking out in a sweat. Though there are still plenty of steps and inclines to make it interesting. Saint-Paul is car free, but there is still access by car for local shops and residents. These cars and vans kept getting in the way of my photos  and i had to keep climbing up on to walls to let them past, which was the only downside.

hill top village, shopping

hill top village

Also be warned like most of France a lot if the museums, shops and churches shut between 12 and 2 pm-ish. In high season this is less likely to be a problem, but in March, i had to wait 2 hours to go into the church and to go into some of the galleries. I have been in France long enough for this not to be a problem, i just use this time to have lunch and relax in front of the amazing views, Saint-Pauls has to offer.

hill top village, shopping

hill top village, art

Saint-Pauls is the start of a couple of walking trails, ask at the tourist information for details. Two of these trails start opposite the bus stop. So i followed the sign post for Vance. Maybe this was not a wise idea, seeing as i did not have a map or directions. The path was easy to follow for the first couple of km's, but then the signs got confusing, and some were missing vital arrows to point you in the right direction. Needless to say i took the long route to Vance, though it was very beautiful, passing through gardens, forests and glens. 

hill top village