Saturday, August 9, 2014

Home Again, Gone Again: One Year Later

This time last year I was prepping madly for the DELF, so much so that the last few weeks in France are a bit of a blur. The DELF happened, and was an adventure in and of itself. Travelling with Nathan was phenomenal, and we ate some of the best food and drank some of the most delicious wine of our lives in tiny French towns. Lastly, flying home. It should be noted that the flight home was notably better than flying to France because there were no screaming children. I'm certain I could actually write separate entries on each of those events, but it seems kind of silly to go back and re-hash them individually now. What does not feel silly is compressing the last year into one blog post, given the massive amount of change that happens in this decade called 'your twenties'.  Firstly, there was the DELF. Have we discussed - at any point - my very mild super power for attracting strange circumstances? The final stage of the test is an oral examination, where you sit down with a professor that hasn't taught you before, and have a 15 minute conversation on a randomly selected topic. A key part of this exam is that you do not know your examiner.

Ha. Hahaha. Hahahahahahaha! That's funny.

Notre Dame at sunset, before we flew home.
When I met my examiner I thought she looked vaguely familiar, but there are enough language schools in Montpellier I thought that for sure I knew her as an instructor from one of the other schools. When we sat down to begin the exam and she read my name off the roster though, she recognized me right away. Apparently I leave a bit of an impression? She had been my French prof in undergrad, for one French course (which I'm certain I did terribly in) at least three years before.  Yes, that's right. On the other side of the world at literally one of hundreds of DELF test centres, with tens of different DELF examiners and hundreds of other students, I was paired with my prof, and she actually recognized me. She promptly took me to her husband (another DELF examiner) and traded me for the student he'd been examining, and we carried on our merry ways. That whole day was bizarre, but meeting an old prof against those odds took the cake. 

The obnoxious moving van the rental company tried to convince me we NEEDED, even though I had booked us a little two door car. It was very satisfying to discover that I could be coherently angry in French. 
Second, travelling with Nathan. For someone who spoke no French he was surprisingly game to do all of the ridiculous things I signed us up for. We had dinner with my very dynamic host family (in French), learned how to windsurf (in French), went to an amazing wine tasting (in French), stayed at a castle (where everyone spoke French, or German), rented a car and had a fight with the rental company when they tried to give us a moving van (in French) and drove a car through Marseille in the middle of the summer while nearly every major road was under construction ( French). The whole thing was an outrageous adventure, and has left me with several place recommendations for anyone wanting to visit the south and west of France. 

Hiking on the trails surrounding Moustiers when we first arrived.

Paragliding off the tops of the cliffs above Moustiers. We were all ready to go, but the wind picked up the next day and it wasn't safe. Next time, Moustiers paragliders, just you wait!
You should 100% visit Moustiers, which is the most amazing, best-kept secret of tiny villages in France to go visit. It's a bit of a drive to get there, but so worth it. You can go paragliding off the top of the cliff the village is carved into, eat incredible food, learn to windsurf (or another variety of water sports) on the lake below, or hike around the area. I'd go back in a heart beat. 

We went windsurfing instead of paragliding, because the when it's too windy to paraglide, why NOT go learn how to windsurf?

Eating lavender sorbet after lunch. For the record, I wasn't super sold on lavender sorbet, but Nathan was. He's a bit of a lavender nut. It kind of makes your lips numb. Not to mention it's a little bizarre to taste something you normally smell. Lavender grows all throughout the valley though. Chances are if you have a product scented with French lavender, it comes from around there.
You should also 100% visit the Chateau Belle Epoque. It's a beautiful stone chateau south of Bordeaux, near a town called Dax, where the hosts have a grand table each night and feed you amazing, home-cooked food and pair the dinner with wine. If you're feeling less social, you can book a guesthouse instead of a room, but the room is easily what I'd recommend. It's a great location, not far from the beach and a good spot to recharge for a few days with zero stress.

Chateau Bell Epoque 

The 'back yard' of the Chateau is a bamboo forest. A giant bamboo forest. It hides a pond, a long dock, and blocks out what little noise comes from the back roads outside of Dax.
You should ALSO 100% go for a wine tasting at Le Winery (aka le WY). It's the largest wine cellar in France, and specializes in the local wines and vintages from right across the country. This is a big deal, because normally to taste all the little local wines you have to go to that region and find a little winery, then seek recommendations from the seller or actually go out on a tour of the vineyards. For some of us students, the prices involved in that are pretty steep, so I recommend le WY instead. Wine tastings can be done in French or English, and they're happy to do something called 'oenologie', which is a tasting focused on figuring out what type of wine you enjoy best, and then guiding you towards those wines. There's plenty of information about it on the website, and if you're in the area I'd absolutely recommend you drop by. 
A spot to relax and take a nap on the grounds of le WY, outside Bordeaux. I cannot even tell you how many photos I took at this winery.
Third, the flight home. Well… that was actually wonderfully uneventful and quiet. I caught a gross cold on the way back because planes are tubes of germs, and was thrilled to sleep in my own bed for the first time in months. What was much more interesting was what happened when I got home.  
A lizard, hiding between the wooden boards of the walkway at le WY.
As discussed in one of my earlier posts, while I was in France I received my acceptance to law school. Surprise! Once I landed at home, I had 48 hours to unpack, do laundry, re-pack my life and drive 8 hours to law school for the first week of orientation. That was... stressful. Also a lot of work. Also all of a sudden I was in a red neck town in BC and didn't know anyone. It was a whole new adventure that I was not sure I was at all prepared for. Since then, I have learned a great deal more latin, continued to eat French food on a French meal schedule, moved cities, parted ways with Nathan and adopted a cat. Law school is more work than anything I have ever attempted before, but it's also hugely rewarding, and I've met wonderful new people. I've also taken out enough debt to finance a small country's floundering economy, so the odds are low that I'll get to travel anywhere far from home in the near future. 

Twitch, the above mentioned adopted cat. He is kind of a dog in that he begs for human food and has tried on more than one occasion to climb into the dishwasher looking for leftovers. 
That being said I hear Asia is very reasonable, and it's definitely next on my list. 

Thanks for reading! It’s been fun writing, and I’ll be sure to update again the next time travelling is an option : )

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