Well, after an emotional roller-coaster of the past two days, it’s official. My contract as a language assistant in France is over and I will never again walk into one of those seven classes to teach. Even writing this the next day, I feel a little misty-eyed.
I’ve felt SO loved over these past few days. In every class, I got cards and drawings from kids to remember them by. One class gave me flowers and bought me a journal – each of the students had written/drawn something to me on one page of the journal and they decorated the front themselves. One little girl in another class gave me a rose and said, “I bought this for you. It was 3 euros! But you’re worth it.” Another class passed around a note during my lesson, at the end of the lesson, they gave it to me. On the top it said “None of us want you to leave. Please stay.” And they had all signed it.
And, in my lower-income school, a place that should have been harder to teach, but turned out to be my favorite school due to the passion of all the teachers there and the compassion/desire to learn I felt from the kids, they went all out! My younger class gave me a class photo from Mardi Gras – they had all written a note to me on the back and decorated and laminated it for me. All of them gave me drawings and cards too, and many of them gave me little keepsakes “as souvenirs.” “Here Rebekka, take this pen. I want you to have it.” “Take my highlighter.” “Please, take my pencil.” They thrust various school items at me and wouldn’t here it when I tried to give them back. “But that’s yours,” I’d reply. “No, I want YOU to have it.”
My older class had an entire sack of goodies for me – they all contributed something to it, and I received everything from homemade cards and drawings to earrings and even a bottle of perfume.
But what really blew me away is the gift I received from the teachers. They gave me a card that they had all signed and they all pitched in to give me a necklace, earrings, AND — a BEAUTIFUL hardcover, illustrated book with all of La Fontaine’s poetry and stories in it!!! An amazingly generous gift that I will use for years to come.
These seven months spent teaching have been an incredible experience for me. I’m so glad I came here with this program. I’ve learned SO much, about France and the French language, about teaching, and about myself. I’ve discovered in myself a passion for teaching that I didn’t know I had. Its hard work, but SO rewarding – rewarding enough that I’m committed to the career-change when I get home, someway, somehow. And, if the opinions of my students and teachers I’ve worked under mean anything, I’m good at it.
I’m not sure what the immediate future holds for me, job-wise, when I get home. I’m not sure if I can find a district to hire me so that I can work as a teacher and go through the alternative certification process this year. I’m trying though. And, if I need to go back to school, I will. I think I’ve found my niche, all that’s left is to work my way into it.
Last Saturday, I was back in Paris. The goal? Explore a new museum! Namely, the Marmottan Monet Museum. It’s in an area of Paris I had never been before, and this is something I love about Paris – even when you think you know it well, there are always new and gorgeous quarters waiting to be stumbled on.
After we emerged from the metro, we were greeted by a lush, blooming park! Even if you don’t have any desire to check out the Monet Museum, this park would be a lovely place to spend the afternoon! Tons of walking paths, and some play areas for children. There was also a larger than life statue of Jean de la Fontaine (famous French poet who reinterpreted fables as poetry… Shown here with The Fox and the Crow).
Just across from the museum, there was this nifty merry-go-round. Man-powered, and each child gets a stick (lance). As they go around, they try to catch little metal rings in their “lance.” Super cute~
But anyway, back to the museum. Unfortunately, no photos were allowed inside. It’s not a huge museum, but there were several well known works by Monet and other impressionist era artists. The musuem (I think) was once a house, and its grand without being intimidating.
A definite highlight for us (because we are SO cultured) was the gift shop! There were all kinds of fun things to play with, and Becca and I both left with Chalkboard mugs (Yes, that’s right. Chalkboard mugs. You can even write on the handle!!)
So many people have told me since I arrived in France, “Go to LaDurée. You will not be disappointed.” La Durée is principally known for its macarons, but they also house a cozy little tearoom/restaurant where you can order breakfast, lunch or dessert.
We arrived on Saturday afternoon for some dessert (and hot chocolate, which I had been told was the best in France). After a brief wait in line, we were escorted inside and upstairs.
The first thing that struck me about LaDurée was the scent, a mix of sugar and heaven. It took forever to decide on a dessert – the menu is pages long and EVERYTHING sounded delicious. Luckily, they served us our drinks first.
I’m not sure if I would hand LaDurée the prize for France’s best hot chocolate, though it was delicious! It wasn’t like any hot chocolate I’ve ever tasted… it was, quite literally, as though someone had heated a bar of the highest-quality chocolate to liquid – it was SO thick and rich!!
For dessert, I decided on “Saint-Honoré Rose-Framboise.” A puff pastry with rasberry filling, rose-icing, and ROSE flavored whipped cream!! It was dangerously delicious and very filling. And yes, that is an actual rose petal perched atop the pastry.
If you are ever in Paris, do yourself a favor and treat yourself to dessert at LaDurée once. Yes, its expensive, but you will NOT be disappointed.
Even if I had a spare 800 euros, I’m not sure that I would spare it at a hotel, even one as nice as l’Hotel de Crillon, on the Place de la Concorde in Paris.
However, it IS listed in my book “1000 Places to See Before You Die” so I was determined to at least see the lobby during my sojourn in France.
It is a grand hotel, 5 stars, and as soon as you step through the revolving doors you can smell money. We took a quick tour of the massive lobby, peeked at the bar menu (5 cl rum = over 200 euros!!!), looked out at the courtyard, and even checked out the boutique before heading out (bathrobe with hotel insignia = 95 euros).
All in all, a gorgeous hotel, but one that will forever be “hors de prix.” Even if I win the lottery someday, there are things I’d rather spend my millions on than a luxury hotel in the center of Paris.
# 37 – Buy Julia Child’s Mastering The Art of French Cooking from Shakespeare and Company in Paris. Accomplished!
Though a small part of me is wondering how I am ever going to get a new book back home with me, a much larger part of me is SUPER excited about this purchase. I’ve already started perusing it and there are some GREAT sounding recipes – from Brioche, to homemade saucissons (!!) to homemade cream of mushroom soup, lobster bisque, poulet poché au vin blanc, pumpkin stew served IN a pumpkin, homemade sorbet… the list goes on and on!!!
I was reading it last night on the train, and the descriptions were simply mouth-watering – by the time I made it back to Compiègne I was starving!
The best part about the book, is it is the type of cookbook you can actually sit down and read. Julia goes into the history of different dishes and interesting facts and tidbits about the food before delving into the recipe itself. I have the feeling I will learn a lot from this book, and am looking forward to experimenting with tons of new French dishes after I’m home.
And not only am I still alive, it was actually pretty good!!!
For lunch today, I went to restaurant in Compiègne called La Brasserie Parissienne, with a group of teachers I work with. This trip was in fact purposely planned to introduce me to Boeuf Tartare! According to my friends Sabine and Olivier, Boeuf Tartare is a French dish I simply HAD TO try while I’m here, and the best place to try it in Compiègne (à leur avis) is La Brasserie Parisienne.
When our orders were brought out, I admit I was a little reluctant… I’ve been told since I began eating solid food that raw meat is BAD for me, could I really eat raw ground beef, and with a raw egg thrown in the mix at that???
But, a good portion of the French population loves this dish, and not only are they NOT dying, the French are living longer AND healthier lives than most Americans. With this thought in mind, I took a bite… and didn’t die.
It wasn’t even disgusting. In fact, my first bite was pretty unremarkable, other than that it was cold, which was a bit bizarre. It really wasn’t bad at all. And it seems like, the more the day has worn on, the more I liked it. When I left the restaurant, I thought, “well, that was alright, but now that I’ve marked it off my bucket list, I think I’m done.”
But it’s now 10:15 PM, and my thoughts have evolved to, “You know, I think the next time I visit France I might like to try it again.”
Its almost as if, just in eating a little raw meat, some slumbering primal power in myself has been awakened, and I’ve tapped into an almost animalistic instinct that I didn’t even know was there.
Finally, after almost 7 months of living in Compiègne, I ordered take-out from Turtle Pizza! Not much to say about this… I’ve wanted to go since the first time I passed the restaurant, but they keep weird hours and so often, making dinner is the most economical option and thus the one I choose over eating out anywhere.
But, I will say that, at least in Compiègne, Turtle pizza is very reasonably priced (17 euros for medium-sized pizzas – any choice!), the employees are nice and the pizza is tasty! They even let us get one pizza “sans fromage” (for my friend who cannot eat cheese) without giving us a hard time or even any weird looks.
I got the “fruits de mer” pizza, which was white-sauce based, with tiny shrimp, salmon, and another random rubbery-textured (but delicious) sea creature. The leftovers became lunch today and were still tasty!
Continuing in my efforts to “profiter” of my time left, I hopped on a train last weekend and met Lauren in Caen to rent a car and take a tour of the Normandy coast. Our original plan was to head up to Cherbourg, but after some reflection and discussion, we decided that Étretat might be a more worthy end goal. After seeing Étretat, I’m fully convinced we made the right decision.
As I said, we rented a car in Caen and headed up the coast – our first stop was Trouville, ancient home of French author, Marguerite Duras. We walked the beach, saw a bit of the town, and then moved on.
Originally, our plan was to eat lunch in Honfleur, but the main road was closed and after attempting (and failing) to follow the detour twice, we stopped at this cheesy (but delicious!) chain restaurant called “The Buffalo Grill.”
I could write an entire blog about The Buffalo Grill. Its a French chain restaurant imitating the big American chain restaurants (think TGIFridays or Ruby Tuesdays), and they do a GREAT job! From the moment I walked in to the restaurant, I felt like I was back in America, only a strange America where everyone speaks French.
They’re cowboy-themed and serve your basic burger & fries type of fare. I ordered the Frenchy burger, and it may have been the best burger I’ve ever eaten. And instead of offering ketchup with the fries, you can choose from 15 different types of sauces, including BBQ, Roquefort, etc… DELICIOUS!!!
It was also the quickest meal I’ve ever eaten in France – they really nailed the timing of an American restaurant too, we ate within an hour, which is nearly impossible in a real French restaurant.
After our lunch detour, we decided it would be best to head straight to Étretat. It was cloudy Saturday morning, but cleared up by the time we got to Étretat. Friends, if you’re ever in Northern France, take the time to stop here. It was breathtaking! The cliffs are amazing, I could have spent all day just taking in the views, listening to the waves and the gulls’ cries, basking in the sun and breathing in the salty coastal air.
Once you are on the cliffs, there are all kinds of paths you can walk around and down again. And, without any of the annoying (but perhaps handy?) guardrails you would find on the edge of American cliffs.
We stayed in Étretat all afternoon, and I would definitely go back. It’s amazing how much beauty there is to see in this world.
Oh, and one last thing – We rented a diesel for our travels, and it was surprisingly fuel-efficient. Why don’t we use diesel more in the USA? We drove 230 KM and used only about 1/8 of a tank – definitely worth the 10 euro upsell (especially since fuel doesn’t come cheap here – that 1/8 tank cost 23 euros!)