Tuesday, 27 August 2013

That Darned Language Barrier...

So, it turns out I still have many things to learn when it comes to the foreign languages. This week's lessons:

No. 1 - Speaking English sometimes doesn't help. In French, 'footing'  = jogging. Yes, the quite standard English concept of jogging has been dragged through the language barrier and somehow came out as the French noun 'footing'. This is almost up to the standard of the Germans and their 'Wellness Weekend' (Spa Trip), or 'Talkmaster' (TV show host). The creativity of non-native English speakers never ceases to amaze.

Cocktails in Chaponnay - without onions, this time (see 5).
No. 2 - Sounding like a native is difficult. I still can't get my mouth round the difference in pronunciation between 'rue' (road), and 'roue' (wheel). There's not much in it. You give it a try!

Wednesday, 21 August 2013

Little Highlights

I was about to start this post by saying that nothing much had happened this week, then I looked back over my diary for the past seven days and discovered that there had been some things going on, after all. Life still continues on much the same vein - (very) quiet weekdays, more to do at the weekends - but these little highlights definitely made things a little bit sunnier.

Firstly (in order of importance, anyway), my sister got accepted into Uni! And to her first choice, nonetheless - Manchester, the London of the North (or so they say). This made me very happy, and I'm very much looking forward to visiting her next year. Congrats, Amy! You deserved it.

Secondly, I managed to go and visit my flatmate from last summer, when I was working at Cap Esterel. As far as unexpected international meet-ups go, this one was quite random - not least for her, seeing me suddenly pop up in her home town and demand a tour! It was good, though. It also gave me a great chance to see some different parts of the city, having more or less only been witness to the train station (five times!!) and the airport, on my way to other locations further afield. Vieux Lyon is beautiful.

On that note, so is Fourvière - the location of this rather stunning photo (if I do say so myself). We went there on Friday, as Isabelle - the mother of the family - had a day off, and decided to aid me in my quest to see more than just the transport hubs of Lyon. We walked up a massive hill to the old church, through the 'Parc des Hauteurs' (Park of the Heights, how apt), and then drove down to the Roman Amphitheatre to test out the acoustics - not as good as they were when it was constructed, I fear.

So, yes. A rather pleasant little collection of sunbeams, I feel. Add to that the fact that I just booked flights to go to a wedding in Madrid in September (woopee!), and things are looking fairly radiant. Fabuleux.

Moving Forwards (Playlist)

View from the front passenger seat on my way to work at Betel, Madrid
This playlist is a collection of songs that I have recently come across, have long loved or simply encapsulate a moment for me. For a link to this playlist on Spotify, see: Moving Forwards

Tom Odell - Grow Old With Me
Ellie Goulding – JOY
Noah And The Whale – There Will Come A Time
Steven Curtis Chapman – All Things New
Alan Pownall – Life Worth Living
Gary Go – Wonderful - Radio Edit
Gaby Moreno – Ave Que Emigra
Oi Va Voi – Wonder
Noah And The Whale – Now Is Exactly The Time
Amaral – No Sabe Donde Va
Simon & Garfunkel – El Condor Pasa/ If I Could
Jack Penate – Everything Is New
Mumm-Ra – She's Got You High
Maroon 5 – She Will Be Loved
Lee Fields & The Expressions – Love Comes And Goes
Mia Diekow – Herz KT Tunstall – Someday Soon
Bombay Bicycle Club – Ivy & Gold
Electric Light Orchestra – Across The Border
Taylor Swift – Everything Has Changed (feat. Ed Sheeran)
Sting – Brand New Day
The Calling – Wherever You Will Go
Jamie Cullum – Gran Torino
Carla Morrison – Me Encanta
Bob Dylan – Things Have Changed
Mumford & Sons – I Will Wait
Steven Curtis Chapman – God Follower
C2C – Down the Road
Muse – Invincible
KT Tunstall – Suddenly I See
The Feeling – Set My World On Fire
Steven Curtis Chapman – Only Getting Started
Ellie Goulding – Anything Could Happen
U2 – Beautiful Day
The Beach Boys – Wouldn't It Be Nice
Muse – Starlight David
Bowie – Let's Dance

Tuesday, 13 August 2013

Touch Down to Earth

So, finally, a week without crazy international mishaps, cultural cross-border day-trips and random Italian suitors proposing marriage... And what happened? I got bored. Of course I did!

After several weeks of being in transit-mode, I've finally touched down, in this small French village to the south of Lyon, population: 3,000, twenty-somethings: 0 (figures approximated). My job: to spend the day keeping two au pair children adequately amused and spend a couple of hours trying to teach them English as well. Not rocket science. It's no wonder that spending 24/7 in one house and no visible way out started to take its toll by the 3rd day.

However, after a chat with a good friend and discussions of the possibility to go and visit someone in Lyon, things started looking up. In fact, after I decided to have a more sunny disposition towards how things were (and adjusted my sleep pattern), things were indeed a lot better. We've managed to get in a daily walk to the boulangerie in town: a small task, but no mean feat, and a time out of the house that does us all good. We also took several trips out in the car this weekend, with me driving, which ended in a solo journey into Lyon and back on Sunday evening! I'm not going to lie, I was a little terrified of going by myself, with the prospect of getting lost and truly having no idea how to get home again. But I had a trusty little SatNav (although in French, bien sûr), and the family phone for use in case of emergencies, and, thankfully, it didn't come to that. I even managed to get in a bit of parallel parking (heck of a lot easier in a Peugeot 206 than a van, I can tell you!), and made it with plenty of time to make it to the church service I had been aiming for, despite a minor deviation en route (turns out SatNavs sometimes aren't as easy to follow as I thought).

So, on the whole, not a terribly exciting week, but one that I can appreciate all the same. With fourth year quickly approaching it's actually rather good to have a bit of preparation time - I've been getting out the Spanish Grammar books, oh the excitement! And with more and more people returning to British shores ('end of year abroad' statuses galore), things are starting to calm down a bit. Perhaps it is time to touch down to earth. Well, until the next trip...

Monday, 5 August 2013

(Really Far) Out of the Comfort Zone / An InterRailing Adventure

Our route (inc. very artfully-drawn aeroplanes for flights home)

This week has been incredible. I've spent the last 9 days interrailing through Europe with one of my language assistant friends from Germany, and we've had some amazing experiences - some mishaps as well, as to be expected - and met some very interesting people (in both senses of the word). It's been an adventure!

I'm currently on the train on the way to Budapest from Prague, having also made it through Vienna and Florence from our starting point in Lyon, France. We also had an impromptu overnight stop in Dijon, which was rather amusing, if nothing else, as we ended up not being able to take the train we wanted to get on overnight to Florence, and so spent the night at a (very bad) karaoke bar with an Australian traveller who was on her way from Barcelona and hadn't slept for for several days... Like I said, rather amusing!

Other incidents include almost missing our train in Florence due to laid-back Italian bus drivers and a lack of tickets on board the vehicle (we had to get off when the ticket inspectors came because we hadn't been able to buy any tickets); and a night-time excursion through Vienna due to missing the last metro by minutes (see a theme here?), and having to take the night bus back to our hostel - much more complicated than you would think (although the bus driver was very helpful this time).

A gorgeous strawberry & elderflower and grapefruit ice-cream I enjoyed in Budapest
Revising this at a later date, I feel I have to add our hostel stay in Budapest, which was easily the weirdest hostel experience I've ever had (and I've been to quite a few hostels this year). Having to wait for our beds to be constructed wasn't the best start, but then we discovered that our only exit was through the bathroom, which was always flooded, often occupied, and also had no locks.... Awkward situation probability = high.

Other experiences, however, were more positive, although some equally strange - being proposed to by a random Italian guy definitely lived up to the national stereotype, although sharing a train carriage with random Austrian and Czech strangers actually turned out to be not as scary as it sounds. We've also journeyed through some incredible scenery, for example the train ride through Austria, full of glimpses of mountain villages and sky-blue lakes - absolutely beautiful.

Thankfully, despite all previous incidences, we've made it safe and sound thus far, and haven't had to sleep in the woods as one of our fellow travellers resorted to doing when she couldn't find her hostel (please, no!!). It's been a great week-and-a-bit, and given me again an appreciation for those things we often take for granted (a bed to sleep in, for example AHEM Dijon). If anything, this trip has shown me that travelling is a great exercise in risk and trust. Out of the comfort zone!