Friday, 23 May 2014

Making waves! (a.k.a. Zoe came to stay)

So, it's the end of another week in lovely BAB (abbreviation for the connected towns of Biarritz-Anglet-Bayonne - remember that! There might be a quiz...), and another week closer to my impending departure, about which my head is stuck firmly in the metaphorical sand. But we're not here to talk about that (or the equally-impending and equally head-in-sand-inducing year abroad essay deadline! Eep!). Today's topic is a lot more exciting! ZOE CAME TO VISIT!
That's right, this crazy lady!
Now, some may go as far as to call my excitement at this prospect a little over-exuberant, but bearing in mind my intense love for this girl (bordering on grounds for concern), combined with my relative lack of easily-accessible friends at the moment (something I totally took for granted as a student/language assistant), I'd say my excitement was pretty justified. Besides, if you look back to when Holly came to Germany, you'll see this over-enthusiasm is pretty typical for me. Some people might even call it endearing...

Anyway, last Thursday was the big day, and after a full day of counting down the hours, it was finally time for Patricia to drive me to the station to pick Zoe up. After much excitement-induced hopping around, taking blurry photos of the train, and happy-sighing (it's a thing), she finally stepped onto the platform and into my rib-shattering embrace. I think people around us probably assumed we'd been apart for 30 years, judging from the shrillness of our extensive squealing and cries of "No, I missed YOU so much!"

As we all made our way to the car, it soon became abundantly clear that my role as an interpreter would be all but essential. I'm told Patricia understands some English, but her level of speaking is pretty much limited to "hello" and "beach" and "breakfast". And Zoe's level of French, despite her best intentions, is a pretty similar level. (What? You had dissertation and essay deadlines so you couldn't learn the whole French language before coming??? EXCUSES EXCUSES ZOE!) This made conversations between the three of us on the way home (and all evening!) pretty hilarious. Ever tried explaining palaeontology in French or translating your friend's story about witnessing adult circumcision in Uganda? It's interesting. Though it turns out palaeontology can be explained by repeating the word 'dinosaur' with varying pronunciation till you get the right one.. (And the circumcision story was very much aided by hand gestures!) 

The next day was gloriously sunny, and we set off bright and not-so-early to explore beautiful Biarritz.
Zoe's reaction to the sun
My reaction...
Following a visit to the market (in which we bought bacon sandwiches from a lady who came from a village 20 minutes from Zoe's - small world!) and having acquired an appropriately French second-lunch of baguettes, goat's cheese and brie, we headed to the grande plage to soak up some sun (or cower from it in my case)! For the rest of the day, we mostly just wandered around (like true tourists) and managed to cover a good amount of Biarritz, a lot of which even I (embarrassingly) had never seen before, squeezing in enough beach/wine/picturesque-photo stops to satisfy our every desire.

Picturesque photo... 
Picturesque photo
The following day, we spent the morning exploring Bayonne, rather more successfully than my (accidental) first attempt. Though I must admit, as we meandered through the winding cobbled streets, my first impression remained the same: chocolate shops galore!!! One of the ones we went to had a whole wall of chocolate spreads in various flavours, and when we (of course) bought ALL THE FLAVOURS, the shop assistant gave us four free chocolate bars! Don't mind if we do...
Chocolate and banana spread = YES PLEASE!!!
We ambled in the sunshine to the impressive cathedral, and walked along the river to a huge market selling all sorts of fresh produce, among other things (I bought a Harry Potter book in French...). Zoe, to put it mildly, was loving it ("I love it Rachel, I want to live here forever!") And I have to say, it is really beautiful place.

...and market!
SEE! So pretty!

Anyway, after taking in as much prettiness as we could handle, and (of course) buying more cheese and baguettes at the market, we headed back to spend the rest of the day on the beach, swimming in the sea and stuffing our faces. It's a hard life!

The next couple of days were pretty jam-packed with many many fun times, including sunbathing (and shadebathing), dinner in the Biarritz lighthouse (non, mais franchement!), a pretty mean hangover following said dinner in the lighthouse (much wine + not much food + no water = I'm an idiot), dinner with Kelly and Lance (they are the best!), and having my wisdom tooth pulled out (the less said about that the better).
Pre-wine photo atop the lighthouse
We also spent much of the latter half of Zoe's stay wholeheartedly making the most of the beautiful weather, and my house's proximity to the ocean, by jumping waves in the Atlantic. If you've never tried this, I highly recommend it! Who needs a surfboard or a wetsuit when you can flail around in the shallows with neither and still have an awesome time!? We turned the whole thing into a game, attempting to guess the size of the approaching waves and ranking them on a scale of 1 ("did you feel something?") to 10 ("WE'RE ALL GONNA DIE!"). Our accuracy levels were pretty varied, leading to many exclamations of "oh wow that looks like a 7... oh, actually it's more like a 4... wait, 6..." *giant wave splashes in face*

Sadly, it was all over far too soon, and it seemed like I'd hardly had time to blink before it was time to say our goodbyes. It all went way too fast, but at least I have some brilliant memories!

Here are just a couple more highlights...
The wall was warm, OK!?
Sacré bleu!
Just one important thing to add. It concerns puns, and we all know how seriously I take those! When Zoe had left, I told her I was sad she was so PHARE away (it means lighthouse in French.. it's funny, I swear!), and she responded with "I CAMEMBERT the separation". Zoe Lynes = pun trophy winner. Congratulations.

Tuesday, 13 May 2014

Coasting through life in France

Sea what I did there? Oooooooo

Breaking news: I'm still alive! And I've not fallen off the face of the earth or been forcibly denied internet access this whole time. Nope, turns out I'm just a lazy blogger. Secret's out.

But I think the real reason I've not been updating is because I've pretty much settled in here to the point where everything just feels pretty normal and un-blog-worthy. That's not to say that nothing has happened, just that everything's kind of settled into routine (mostly!), which I guess is a good thing. But nonetheless it's probably about time for a Rachel's-life-update, so here you are.

Where to start?... Oh yeah, I moved house! Long story short, kid got too much and I escaped. Lesson learned: kids don't make good housemates. (Maybe one day but not now!) So I've moved to Anglet (pronounced Onglette), which is adjacent to Biarritz, and am now living so close to the beach that I can get from lying in bed to standing in the sea in approximately 67 seconds (official tests to be conducted soon). Plus my new landlady cooks for me and does laundry! So let's just ignore the fact that it costs more than double the price for a much smaller space and concentrate on all the incredibly awesome stuff about it...  Like the fact that it's CHILD FREE!! What more could I want?!?! That's right, nothing.

So this isn't actually a great photo, but that's the beach, and that house with the triangle roof right next to it... that's right, you guessed it! :D
AND it's right next to a field of pretty wildflowers! <3
My lovely landlady/pretty-much-host-mum, Patricia, is so far turning out to be quite a character. As well as the fact that she never seems to stop cooking and cleaning unless she's asleep, and the fact that she keeps telling everyone that I'm an interpreter from London (close enough), she is also an incredible gossip. She loves to give her own Patricia commentary on what's happening on TV, next door, or in her employers' lives (she is employed by people to do housework), and I'm starting to notice certain phrases cropping up again and again. For instance, one of her favourites, when she's talking about something she thinks is unreasonable, is "mais, attends!" (literally: "but wait!", though I'd translate it as more of an "I mean, seriously?"). More favourites are "je te jure" (literally: "I swear to you") and "non, mais franchement!" ("no but really/in all honesty!"). I'm definitely going to know how to tell a sensationalist story in French by the time I leave! On the whole this place has been awesome for my French - I'm speaking it a lot in the evenings, plus watching French TV and listening to Patricia arguing with her daughter and scolding the dog. Shame none of that will come up in next year's oral exams...

Work is pottering along the same as ever, and has involved some pretty cool stuff, including doing the lettering for a couple of graphic novels and the scripts for some cartoon episodes (among a whole lot of other things). Plus a whole book on post-war French reconstruction architecture and design. Woop! And my boss continues to be lovely, and I continue to occasionally say things in French to the people who share our office. Good times all round.

I've been going to a lovely church in Biarritz too, as well as occasionally another one in Hossegor (nearby-ish town) called Surf Church which is in a bar on the beach and attracts all sorts of awesome people. Something quite surreal (and great!) about a bunch of surfers in wetsuits and rugby players coming in to listen to worship band. Pretty awesome!

I've also done a small amount of travelling, though nowhere near as much as I did as a language assistant (cushiest job ever!) and managed to make it as far as San Sebastian in Spain (since Biarritz is super close to the border). Well, I can safely say that it's a pretty place. I have a large number of photos testifying to that fact... But I won't bore you with too many here. Maybe just one or two...
This is right in the town centre you guys!
Probably helped that the weather was so lovely!
Wouldn't mind living here

Though I did come across this guy...  What?
Man sticking his head out on top of a baby's body and talking in a creepy squeaky voice...
Bizarre doesn't even cover it!
So yes, I think that's pretty much all I had to update on.

Oh, except that ZOE'S VISITING IN 2 DAYS AHHHH! Ahem, I'm fine (but prepare for excitement overload in my next post!)

À bientôt les amis <3

p.s. sorry about the terrible post title! I was going to go down the Life's a Beach route but HELLO CLICHÉ! So I just used that one to tide me over... (help I can't stop!)