I have been horrifically bad at keeping you up to date these past few weeks and am very sorry to those few who actually want to read my blog. I have to say, I’ve had some pretty good excuses, the first of which being that there was really nothing to report after the first initial weeks of bureaucratic and academic pandemonium, and I figured that me banging on about the incomprehensibility of the French education system would become pretty tiresome if I whinged about it every week. Then I went off on my travels around half term, known as Toussaint, the French equivalent of All Saints Day. I visited Paris for three days followed by an excursion to Brest, a city on the coast of Brittany, which I wouldn’t have even know about if it weren’t for the fact that it happens to be my boyfriend’s hometown. Thinking rather naively that I would have plenty of time to craft a lovingly written and fascinating blog for you all to read when I returned to Montpellier, all the work started to pour in. Yes, work! Having been a firm believer in the myth that Erasmus students are not obliged to come within fifty feet of an academic textbook, I was sorely disappointed when I was set tasks which would strike fear into the hearts to even the most dedicated of students, including writing a seven page essay and preparing twenty minute presentations to be given to entire classes of French students. Doing all of this as well as researching and writing scripts for a radio show meant that I was left with relatively little time to regale you all with tales of my so-called adventures. Ignoring the fact that I will soon have to start learning things for my December exams (not revising, learning for the very first time), things are calming down a little and now I can bring you up to date about life in the land of cheap wine and crap lecturers.
Toussaint was a really lovely opportunity to get out of Montpellier for a while and discover a little more of France. My train from Montpellier to Paris left at 6.20am (that’s why it was so cheap), but it hardly mattered that I’d had about 4 hours sleep since I was so excited about the prospect whole day of exploring the streets of the glorious capital ahead of me. I was definitely not disappointed – I went to the very top of the Eiffel Tower for the first time in my life, and shockingly it was the first time for my boyfriend too, despite the fact that he’s a Frenchy born and bred. Later in the evening, we went to meet up with some Parisian friends that I haven’t seen in a good while – I was greeted with a bone crushing hug and appropriately maniacal enthusiasm by my friend Guillaume who I knew from his Erasmus days in Edinburgh and one of his close friends, Thibault, who has paid a few visits to Edinburgh already. We rounded off the night by swigging bottles of wine from a corner shop, sitting on the edge of the Seine just next to Notre Dame, yelling in a very adolescent manner at the bateaux mouches passing by. Despite the fact that this was a rather unorthodox way to spend my first night in Paris, it really made me wish I had come here to study instead, where I could be with close friends and my boyfriend, amidst all this wonderful beauty and culture, in the hope that maybe the university would be better than Paul Valéry. But I’m not at all ready to give up on Montpellier just yet. To me it would feel like quitting if I moved somewhere else, and I’m just beginning to get the hang of life down here in the South. The next day we visited the Musée d’Orsay, with its vast art collections which it would take you at least two or three entire days to examine properly, inside a magnificent building which was once a railway station. I was also sure to pay a visit to the famous bookshop, Shakespeare & Co. which is located next to Notre Dame. Dinner with my boyfriend, his brother and his brother’s girlfriend in a cosy little joint called Chez Prune rounded off the evening nicely, despite the fact that it was hard for me to follow the fast paced Parisian accented conversation in a noisy bar.
The next day saw us travelling 5 hours in the car to my boyfriend’s native city of Brest in Brittany. There isn’t a great deal to do in town, but I really enjoyed visiting the countryside and beaches. The landscapes reminded me very much of Wales which really reminded me of home. The coast is also very beautiful and we visited the port and Le Point St Mathieu with its picturesque lighthouse and numerous churches. Sadly the time passed all too quickly, and the time came for me to leave with more of a desire to travel around France than ever. My next trip is going to be Lyon for La Fête des Lumières on the weekend of the 10th December, right in the middle of exam period but hey ho, it appears to be completely worth it judging by this amazing video depicting all of the festivities in store http://www.fetedeslumieres.lyon.fr/.
Since I came back, life in Montpellier has consisted of a mix of far too much work and classes and a fair bit of going out in town. I also went to a concert at Rockstore to see The Subways which was so much fun, and my friend Jenny and I met the lead singer after the concert since it’s such a small venue. He was really lovely and we talked about the longing to be back on British soil, since they’d been on tour for 3 months. I feel as though I should be doing a little more exploring but it’s very difficult when you realise you have eight exams to sit before you can go home for Christmas and you haven’t learnt a single thing thanks to the shambolic teaching methods at the university. I suppose I’ll be spending a lot of time in various cafés with my head buried in books for the next three weeks or so, and then its home for Christmas! I can’t help feeling overexcited for it, but then I don’t want to wish away the time too quickly here. I still have the experience of the Christmas season in the south of France to look forward to, including Les Hivernales, like Les Estivales but with mulled wine, deliciously warming winter food and an abundance of stalls selling cute Christmas gifts. I’m excited to do some Christmas shopping here where I’ll hopefully find some unique presents which you wouldn’t find in the UK. More news will come when I have something to report but that might not be until the end of the semester, or even the beginning of the next one. Until then I’ll leave you with some pictures of my travels. À la prochaine!