Lauren Gane

    Lauren Gane is in France with the British Council. She is linked with Borestone Primary in Stirling.
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    Tout va bien! All is well!

    So I’m just about to hit the 9th week of my French adventure. It’s not quite the 12th; I’ve heard that that is the magic week number where things start to fall into place, your French improves and you start to feel right at home (I’ll keep you posted if I suddenly wake up fluent!). But all is certainly well here.

    After my European adventures during the holidays I was lucky enough to have a few visitors from home. The first was from my boyfriend, Ian, all the way from Glasgow for the weekend. With little in the way of French, but with a smile and some handy charades skills he made it to little Les Herbiers: the end of the bus line but well worth the journey. The precious few days were spent exploring the centre of the village and catching up. It was surprisingly refreshing to be able to chatter away unreserved, with all the slang and colloquialism that I am used to.

    Having a coffee was the first to be checked off the to-do list. Most of our excursions, come to think of it, revolved around food or drink. But as they say: when in…Rome! And it would be a shame to pass up on some of the great things France has to offer. We certainly profited from the vast choice of food and drink in the supermarket here. Food shopping definitely takes a lot longer here as the supermarkets are somewhat bigger than what I am used to, stocking absolutely everything it seems. I’m yet to find any Cadbury’s or Robinsons though!

    During the weekend, Ian was acquainted with the local café, Barbatruc, he’d heard much about. As always, we were greeted with a warm welcome and kisses as is the French way; still somewhat of a conundrum for me. We also visited my favourite restaurant here: a little Moroccan restaurant called Aux Saveurs de Fes. Sunday morning was spent as all French Sunday mornings should, with a wander to the nearest bakery to buy one of the many cakes, finding a bench and enjoying them in the park.

    The next visit was from my family: Dad, Mum and very much missed twin sister. Due to the infrequent public transport here, we certainly profited from Dad’s hire car to get around and see a bit further afield. He only drove on the wrong side of the road twice. Not bad really. This let us visit the windmills that are a landmark here, called “Le Mont des Alouettes”, which featured on the postcards I sent. In the 16th century 7 windmills were built on a little hill in Les Herbiers. There is only 3 left now but one is still running. The site was even the finish of the final stage in the 2011 tour de France and there is also a little restaurant there. I’d had heard so much about it so it was great to be able to visit the number one thing to do in Les Herbiers.(I find it quite endearing that in the top 4 things to do, number 3 is to visit the tourist office.)

    The adventures continued onto Cholet, the neighbouring town just north of Les Herbiers, for a spot of lunch. Cholet is slightly bigger than Les Herbiers, so we were able to explore the shops, the churches and even the Cholet textile museum to see the handkerchiefs that make Cholet famous. They were first made in the town in 1740 and are white with blue, red of violet squares. We were able to walk around the museum and read about how they are made, visit the garden where the plants were grown that were used to dye the handkerchiefs and also to see the handkerchiefs being made.

    The visits were sprinkled with coffee, wine and croissants as is only right. It was great to spend some time with my boyfriend and family and give them an insight to my life here but it was certainly sad to see them go, almost equally as when I finished the last of the Cadbury’s they brought.

    Here in France, on the 3rd Thursday in November there is an event called the Beaujolais Nouveau Day, after the region in the South of France. This is the date when wine-making ends and the wine can be sold. The wine is a result of a quick fermentation process and originally was a cheap and cheerful drink to be enjoyed by locals to celebrate the end of the harvest season. It is a great excuse to meet with friends and share a drink and brings much merriment. The local bar here held its annual welcome of this wine and so the bar was packed with people, an accordion player, and even hay on the ground. The bartenders entered into the spirit of things with aprons and straw hats. At first, everyone was trying the new wine, but as the night progressed people turned to better wine and beer as it seems this wine, in their opinion, was too much like vinegar.

    Last weekend was the opening weekend of the Nantes Christmas market, so Alastair, also studying French with me at Glasgow University and a language assistant in Nantes, and I decided to check it out, undeterred by French protests and public transport cuts. The market in the Place Royale and Place du Commerce, smelling of cinnamon and mulled wine, definitely created a Christmas spirit and is the largest Christmas market in western France. The many stalls seems to sell everything: bracelets, mulled wine, hot chocolate, cookies, cheese, meets, pretzels, crepes, toys, ornaments, slippers, candles, crockery, Santa hats, winter wear, extravagant chocolates and teas: more than enough for any Christmas shopper. After some mulled wine, Alastair and I headed for some lunch in the form of galettes and crepes: very French and very delicious. Galette is a typically French dish and is like a large, thin pancake, which is topped with anything you fancy; normally cheese, egg or ham.

    Visiting in the market definitely has got me in the mood for Christmas and I am really looking forward to doing Christmas related activities with the pupils here and being able to play some fun games. I have also started volunteering at the cinema here in Les Herbiers, the Grand Ecran. Almost all of the people who work there are volunteers and hopefully it will be a great way to make some new friends and improve my French a bit. I haven’t done my first shift yet but I will let you know how it goes!

    A bientot!

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    Tout va bien! All is well! Tout va bien! All is well! Tout va bien! All is well!


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