What LIVING IN FRANCE Taught Me About FOOD

So as you probably already know, in July I was lucky enough to live in France for the month where I did an intensive language course whilst getting the unique opportunity to live with a host family (you can read about my experiences in La Rochelle here). And thanks to this program and this opportunity, not only has my French improved tenfold, but I think the French perspective towards food has rubbed off on me a little.

Luckily for me, Delphine, the incredibly French woman I was living with, is an amazing cook with a passion for food and French cuisine. At the time of course I was grateful to eat such incredible food, but I think it’s only now that I’m truly coming to realise just how much living in France changed my perspective towards food. And here’s how I think it’s changed…

*note to the hungry* maybe go grab a snack and then read…. because some of these pictures might inspire tummy grumbling!

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Eating 1.5kg of moules caught that morning!

Freshness is key

To cook good food, you need to start with quality products. And that means fresh. After you eat truly fresh food, it will make frozen food or week old food taste like flour. I’ll never forget the time that Delphine bought 3kgs of mussels (moules in French) that had been caught that very morning. They were so fresh that they even had tiny little crabs in some of them!

And as for your bread and baguettes, if you have ever had a crispy warm baguette that’s just come out of the oven…. you will understand. If not, you are missing out and must embark to your local bakery immediately to change this.

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One of our favourite restaurants in La Rochelle. The Cave! Unlimited bread and the best rosé around!

Local

Unfortunately you generally can’t buy super fresh food from large chain supermarkets. If you want the freshest, juiciest, plumpest, ripest, most colourful produce, you need to buy local! Buying local means that the food hasn’t travelled as far, meaning less energy required to transport it. Buying local means you’re also supporting local businesses, people and their families.

This also applies to getting your morning coffee. I try to avoid going to Starbucks, Tim Hortons and Gloria Jeans. These huge companies already make enough money as it is. And this whole fair trade thing they advertise… I just don’t buy it. Instead, I’ll opt for a little cafe or street vendor. They’re usually cheaper, nicer, give better service and is all round a better experience.

Keep it simple

I think a lot of the meals I used to make in Australia were very ‘busy.’ I’d make pasta and need to put everything in it, I’d make pizza and need to put everything on it. I think it’s in our culture that we’re taught to believe that no meal is complete without meat, vegetables, potatoes. Or something along those lines.

In France, our meals would be very ‘deconstructed.’ And I mean that in a good way. We would have a bowl of tomatoes, a bowl of lettuce, a plate of steaks, goats cheese and of course some bread. I found that these meals were the most delicious! It purely relied on the quality of the produce and the flavours just did their thing on your tastebuds.

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Macaroons are a must. They’re little and filled with flavour. The perfect treat yourself treat!

Quality not quantity

In France, it’s all about quality. Our meals that we ate generally weren’t huge and didn’t leave you feeling full. But I hate that feeling anyway. Where you’re so full that it hurts to move. The meals we had were all about the quality and you were left feeling so satisfied that it didn’t matter that you weren’t full. And if you felt a bit peckish later, we would have a piece of fruit or some strawberries with mint and yoghurt!

It’s an experience

The whole journey of preparing a meal, from buying the produce, pairing it with some wine, preparation, serving and eating is a beautiful experience. It also made me realise the importance of sharing these meals with special people. Some of the best nights were spent at our dinner table sipping wine, talking about life’s problems and devouring a whole block of goats cheese (I’m looking at you Laura 😉 ).

Oh – And there’s always room for Ice Cream! (Inspired by Elly)

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Ice cream is essential!

The cons however are…

That every baguette you ever have after France is merde! 

I’m trying to carry this perspective with me. That you need to have a healthy relationship with food. Food is there to bring people together, bring pleasure, experiences, happiness and health. We need to put the best food into our bodies so we can get the most out of us! If anyone knows me, they know how much I love food and I’m a strong believer in balance. Because in a balanced diet, there’s room for icecream and macaroons… and who doesn’t want that?

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The epitome of Frenchness – baguette under arm and no care in the world

 

 

 

Why You Should LIVE ABROAD At Least Once In Your Life

Every second person these days are posting their travel pictures or posting about their plans for up coming travel. Travelling is AMAZING and I love it, but when you’re living out of a suitcase, it’s difficult to genuinely embrace a new culture and way of life. In 2013 I lived in London for the year, this July I lived in La Rochelle, France and now I’ve just moved to Montréal for an exchange at university. Whilst I’m still adjusting to my new life here, it’s really made me appreciate my previous opportunities of living abroad. So this post is dedicated to those of you who have ever thought about living abroad and I’m here to tell you why you should do it and do it now.

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It’s one thing to move, it’s another to move to another country

Sure – you may just think that if you want change, you can just move houses in your town or city, or maybe even move interstate. Sure, that’s a big thing. But at the end of the day, you have a common language, culture, and have your support network not far away.

Moving to another country, even if they speak English, is overwhelming in every sense because literally everything is new and foreign. From big things like adjusting to a new culture, way of life or new language, to the little things that we take for granted like knowing where to do grocery shopping, what phone provider to go with, how to take out the garbage or finding the best cafe on your street.

Now is this exciting or scary? I’ll leave that up to you to find out.

Nothing is familiar and you’ll look like a lost puppy

Like I said… everything is new! Back in your home city/town, you know exactly what you’re doing and where you’re going… all the time. You walk through the streets without even thinking twice about crossing the road. But in a new place, you’re constantly looking at street signs, hesitating about crossing the road, walking for 10minutes up the street only to realise you’re going the wrong way and having to turn around and go back.

For me this is a really big adjustment. Is admitting that I have no idea what’s going on – but that’s ok because you’re not expected to magically know everything about a new city. I guess the transition from being so sure and confident walking down the street, to literally feeling like a lost puppy looking up at street signs, is a hard one to make.

Sure it’s damn hard, but when you start to familiarise yourself with your area and begin to figure it all out, it’s such a rewarding feeling.

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Your support network is 14hours ahead of you

Sure it’s beyond easy to keep in touch with people back home these days with the internet. But one thing the internet can’t change is time zones. Sydney is 14hours ahead of Montréal. 14 HOURS! Sydney is in the future! It’s always ‘tomorrow’ in Sydney. It’s not impossible, it’s just more difficult when you need to talk to someone.

I think this is one of the hardest things about living abroad, is that the life you had is 14 hours away. And when you don’t have someone to talk to, you have to learn to deal with your thoughts in a positive way yourself, which can at times be challenging. It gives you a unique opportunity to get to know yourself on a very personal, different and deep level. To understand your strengths and also acknowledge your weaknesses.

A new city, a new country, a new start

How often do you get to move somewhere and have a completely fresh start? You’re free to reinvent yourself in whatever way you choose! Usually when you move abroad, you don’t know many people in that city… moving to Montréal I knew of 3 people that lived here (when I moved to London, I knew 1 – my cousin). When you don’t know many people, you need to put yourself out there and say yes. By doing this, you’ll be surprised by how many people you’ll meet.

I’ve been in Montréal for just over a week now and by going out to drinks with my housemate and his friends, meeting up with girls from Facebook, or meeting some locals to take you to the best cafes in your area… I feel that I’m steadily building an awesome network of friends which I’m extremely grateful for.

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It will challenge you to your core

So thankfully in the few days I’ve been in Montréal this hasn’t happened yet (but I know it will come)… there will be times when everything seems too hard. When things go wrong, you don’t get paid right, you lose something important, you miss out on an important celebration back home, you spend a rainy day in your room, and get a bit lonely or homesick.

“What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” These things are hard enough when they happen at home. Add the complexities of living in another country and it can sometimes become a lot to deal with. But it’s all of these little experiences, good and bad, that help you to become a better and stronger person. To be resilient, motivated, dedicated, strong and accepting or yourself and others around you. There’s not too many times in your life that you get to experience something like this.

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You never know what’s around the corner…

But why should you do it now?

I feel that the older you get, the more commitments you have, and the harder it is for you to uproot your life and move to another country. I’ve already found it significantly more challenging this time around. I think because I was so comfortable in my routine back in Wollongong. And I’m only 22! I barely have any responsibilities! Imagine when I’m 25, 28, 30, 30+… I would imagine it would only become harder with age and responsibilities.

Sure – the list above may not be all that encouraging… there’s definitely huge challenges you’ll need to overcome, there’ll be moments when you’re lonely, lost and just have no idea what’s going on. But for every challenge and difficulty there is… there’s about 50 positives. Like making lifelong friends, immersing yourself in a new culture, (sometimes) learning a new language, getting to discover new neighbourhoods, towns, cities and countries nearby… the list is endless.

So… the only real question left to ask is… where to?!

Learning A Language: Why It’s Important If You Want To TRAVEL

Having the ability to speak another language is one of the most admirable, useful and incredible skills we can have. Nothing else quite compares. Yet in Australia, learning a language is not overly encouraged or common. We already speak English, which has become a sort of universal language in itself, so why would we need to learn another? Since I was young, I’ve always had an interest in other cultures and ways of life and as I grew up, I came to realise the extremely important role that language plays in a culture.

At my high school, it was compulsory to study French for a year. However, that year was year 8, when everyone’s about 14 years old and really doesn’t care about school, let alone learning another language. I really took to it, and chose it as an elective for year 9 & 10. I wanted to continue it for year 11 & 12 however my school put French and Mathematics on at the same time so I had to make a decision. I chose French, however because of it being the same time as Mathematics, they didn’t have enough numbers. So I looked in to doing French by correspondence. I remember my year advisor taking me out of class one day to talk to me about my subject selection. He told me how French was not going to contribute towards a university degree or a career, unlike Mathematics. He told me students who take Mathematics at high school do far better in their HSC (high school certificate) and go on to get better ATARS (an ATAR is a number we use in Australia to determine what university courses you can get in to – so it’s pretty important). So… listening to my teacher and his ‘world of wisdom,’ I decided against doing French and chose Mathematics instead.

Fast forward a few years and I’ve never used that Mathematics in my life, that subject didn’t even contribute towards my final HSC mark, it’s compulsory for me to study a language as part of my degree, and I’ve just finished an intensive short course in France. Mmmm…. Yep, it seems that French really has not been beneficial in my life at all.

(To read about my short course in La Rochelle, click here).

Travelling and meeting people from across the world has helped me realise the true importance of learning a language. So here are my reasons for why learning a language is one of the most valuable life skills you’ll ever learn.

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It’s respectful

In Australia, we never have people come up to us in shops, restaurants, on the street to ask us something in their native language. If they did we should shoo them away and  think ‘you’re in Australia mate.’ However as soon as the role is reversed and you’re on a Eurotrip trying to order tapas and beer, it’s OK for you to speak English and expect the other person to know English as well?

Even if you’re not perfect and make mistakes, that’s OK. They’ll appreciate you trying.

It’s so much more than being able to say hello

When going to a new country, a lot of people learn hello, thank you and good bye. Whilst this is a good start, being able to be conversational in a language opens you up to so many more experiences. Sadly, French is the only language I (partly) speak. At the beginning of August I spent a week in Spain (awesome right?!) And yes it was indeed awesome, but I genuinely struggled with the language barrier. Sure, everyone spoke English and we could get by, but I couldn’t help but constantly feel reminded of the fact that I was a tourist. I felt like I was missing out on something. Whilst of course I had an amazing time, I’m sure that if I spoke Spanish, even just a little bit, I would’ve had an even more incredible time.

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It allows you to have a much more genuine travel experience

By being able to speak the language of the country you’re in, you’re going to feel much more immersed in their authentic culture. You can meet locals at bars, tell them about your life and learn about theirs, discuss current topics and the country you’re in.

It’s a skill that you have to keep working at

Sure, knowing a language is a lifelong skill, but you have to keep practising. And the best way to practice isn’t in a classroom or on an app, but by travelling or better yet, living in that country and speaking that language all day every day. Is there any other skill you can think of that forces you to travel? Cool right!

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You’ll learn a lot about yourself

By learning a language, you not only learn about verbs, tenses and vocab, but you also learn a lot about yourself and your personal style of talking and about you. This one is hard to explain so I’ll just use an example. My grammar is by far my low point of my French skills. Tell me a rule and I’ll remember it and use it. But don’t then tell me there’s a million exceptions to this rule… hello passé composé! But my speaking and oral skills are by far my best. Sure, you need grammar to talk properly, but it’s not the biggest deal if you use the wrong tense or use ‘tu’ instead of ‘vous.’ Many of my French friends have told me and sure they notice it, but personally I’d prefer to be able to talk to people and express my opinions and thoughts that be able to write an essay with perfect grammar.

I think this just says about me as a personal that I don’t sweat all of the rules and I’m happy to go with the flow and just have some fun, even if you make a few mistakes along the way.  Well, that’s just my little psychoanalysis of myself.

 

My month studying French in La Rochelle is probably one of the most challenging yet rewarding things I’ve ever done. I’m incredibly proud of myself and that I managed to learn more about a language and culture, but also myself.

These Are A Few Of My Favourite Things: JULY

July!!! One of my favourite months of the year! Always because… well, it’s my birthday in July. Usually it’s always cold on my birthday because at the moment in Australia it’s about 10degrees (even colder). But this month, July in France has been sunny and superbly spectacular. I can’t believe how quickly the month has gone and how much I’ve squeezed into just 31 days! Voilà, here are my favourite things from this month!

THE UK

It feels like a lifetime ago now, but at the beginning of the month I was still in the UK. Those last few days were so special because I got to see some very special familiar faces. First was James & Beth in Leeds. I met James in 2013 at a Green Day concert in London and we kept in touch. In 2013 I visited him in Harrogate and was introduced to his friends and his (now girlfriend) Beth. 3 years later I was staying with them at their gorgeous place just outside of Leeds.

Then I went to a quaint little town called Yarm which is home to one of the greatest Englishmen I’ve ever met… Khal!!! Khal was my housemate in Wollongong last year so it was very special to be able to meet his family, his twin Jaz, and see his home town. I can’t wait to see him again in Australia one day soon!

After a few nights up North, I ventured back to London and out to Essex to see Jack, a guy that was in my Politics class in Wollongong. It was cool seeing a new part of the country, and one of the oldest parts of England. His father and him kindly dropped me off at the bus stop in town the next day so I could get to the airport.

I’m extremely grateful to all of these people who put me up and went above and beyond to make me feel at home. If you even need a place to crash and a friendly face in Australia, you know where I am.

La Rochelle

La Rochelle was the place I called home from the 3rd of July. La Rochelle is probably one of the most picturesque places I’ve ever seen in my life and to be able to call that place home and live with an absolutely incredible woman. It was definitely an experience I’m never going to forget. I blogged each week in La Rochelle and you can read them here.

Week 1 

Week 2 

Week 3 

Week 4 

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PARIS

Hands down, the best weekend here in France was when I went to Paris for the weekend with my American friends. We stayed in Montmartre and just wandered the streets, drank cocktails and wine, went to the Sacre Cœur and just enjoyed the beautiful weather and atmosphere that Paris has to offer. The highlight was when we went on a river cruise at sunset. It was one of the most spectacular things I’ve even seen and I’m so glad I got to spend it with such special people.

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Île de Ré

Île de Ré is an island just off the coast of La Rochelle and one of the most unexpected surprises of living in La Rochelle. It’s connected by a huge bridge which makes getting there extremely easy. If you have a car, you can venture further around the island and get to more secluded and beautiful beaches. My first weekend in La Rochelle, Delphine took me to Ars-en-Ré, La Flotte and some secret beaches. It was at this moment that I realised that I was kind of on holidays.  I also went to Île de Ré for Bastille Day, one hot afternoon, my birthday and with my Dad to Saint-Martin.  It’s such a beautiful place which screams à la mode and chic! It’s definitely one of my favourite places I got to discover.

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My Dad Arriving

On Thursday the 28th July, my Dad arrived in La Rochelle! It was so cool and I still don’t think it’s really sunk in that we’re actually in France together! On the 29th it was his birthday and we went out to dinner with Delphine to one of my favourite restaurants in La Rochelle The Cave. We had beer, wine, wine and more wine, along with cheese, cheese and even more cheese! It was such a lovley evening and I hope I was able to make his birthday a memorable and special one.

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Delphine, me and my Dad

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FRIENDS

Now I’m all for solo travel etc, but sometimes, there’s just nothing better than sharing a special moment with the people around you. And I’m so lucky that I got to meet some absolutely incredible people from all over the world! Let the pictures tell you our stories, but all you need to know is how grateful I am that I can call these people my friends.

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TUNES

One of the hardest things about travelling is trying to keep on top of your music and making sure you’re up to date on the latest tunes. So when in doubt, just bulk download and then you can spend all of those hours on trains and buses discovering the music you’ve downloaded.

This month I’ve been loving Vallis Alps. They’re just super chilled and also work perfectly for Youtube videos. (you can check it out here).

Chance the Rapper! LOVE LOVE LOVE!!! That’s the best thing about long bus/train rides, it gives you time to discover some of those tunes you downloaded but haven’t got a chance to listen to yet! My fave songs are ‘same drugs’ and ‘no problem’

 

FLICKS

Because I’ve been so busy, I haven’t actually had a chance to watch any movies (except for Finding Nemo in French – that was pretty cool). But I did watch Season 4 of Orange is The New Black!!! If you’ve seen this season let me know because I NEED TO TALK TO SOMEONE ABOUT IT!!! It’s killing me not being able to grab someone’s hand and say ‘OMG!” Legit one of my favourite shows out there and I’d recommend it to anyone!

QUOTES

This one comes from the beautiful Delphine. Présent. It’s a reminder that every day is a new day. That there’s no use worrying and stressing over what’s to come or what has been, because we just need to focus on the now. On today. And trying to make today as good as it can be. And if it’s not good, then that’s ok. Because tomorrow is another day, and there’s a new présent to live in.

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July – you have been incredible. I’m so excited and kinda scared by how excited I am to see what August has in store for me. Whatever it is – I know it’s going to be spectacular.

À Bientôt La Rochelle

So I can’t believe that it’s our last week already?! Just when you’re getting into the swing of things, finding a good coffee spot, riding your bike to class every morning, learning more and more phrases… it’s time to pack up and go. But before we get to that, let’s recap on my last week in beautiful La Rochelle.

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Class

Monday was quite different because a group of American students (the ones I went to Paris with) had returned home which left us 8 of us in the class. Monday morning we had our 20minute presentations as well! It was quite daunting because initially I thought (how am I supposed to speak for 20minutes in French?) however I chose to do my presentation on François Mitterand who was a charasmatic French President. So it was pretty cool learning about someone who made such a positive impact on the France that we know today! For those of you who didn’t know (like me) he commissioned the glass Pyramid at the Lourve! Pretty cool!

On Wednesday we got our exams back and I could immediately tell how much my French really has improved. Whilst I still have a long way to go, this program really has given me the immersion into French culture and language and has really inspired me to continue to expand my knowledge.

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The best meal I had in France! Freshly caught mussels home cooked!

Activities

As always, another busy week with our after school activities. We went to Musée du Nouveau Monde, (the  Museum of the New World) where we wandered through a stunning old building learning about the discovering of Montréal and Quebec.

On Wednesday afternoon we went to an Oyster and Mussels farm… and anyone who knows me, knows how much I LOVE seafood. We learnt about their family tradition of farming oysters and mussels and then she leant down into the water, grabbed an oyster, cut the top off, squeezed some lemon on top and handed it to me. I think my idea of ‘fresh seafood’ has forever been altered.

Friday was our last day of class… (sad face) and our teachers treated us to a little scavenger hunt/questionnaire around the city. Whilst we tried our hardest to answer all of the questions, for some reason all of these beautiful little boutiques, cafes and patisseries kept getting in our way. It was a great end to our 4 weeks of intense classes. When we returned, we received our certificate of completion and our marks. I passed everything, and scored 17/20 for my oral skills! I’m definitely very proud that my speaking skills are my strongest and most improved!

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After the program

Unlike the other girls on the program who have to return to Australia as soon as possible to start university, I’m actually going on exchange for a semester in Montreal. And because university doesn’t start there until September, I’ve got some time to kill which means… TRAVEL. And luckily for me, my Dad is joining me for 3 weeks as we venture around France, Spain and Iceland!

So on Thursday afternoon my Dad arrived in La Rochelle! It was so surreal and special for him to see the place I’ve called home for the past month. On Friday is was his birthday and Dad, along with my host mum Delphine went out for a beautiful dinner! Later on the Australian girls joined us and we drank lots of beautiful red wine and ate way too much cheese!

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Delphine, me and my Dad

Saying Goodbye

Saying goodbye to the people I’ve met here has definitely been one of the hardest things I’ve done. The Australian girls became my sisters, the American students, some of my best friends and Delphine, one of the most inspirational women I’ve ever met. Let’s just say that I had to wear my sunglasses all day to hide my eyes. The most special part is that I will always have these incredible memories with the most incredible people. Maybe one day I’ll return to La Rochelle, or maybe I’ll see my friends in Adelaide, Brisbane, Canberra, Paris, London, D.C or Sydney. Wherever it is, these memories will definitely last a lifetime and I’m extremely grateful for being given such an amazing opportunity.

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Saying goodbye to these girls was incredibly hard

Merci et à bientôt!

Paris Is ALWAYS A Good Idea

Ooh la la… I think this week has been my favourite so far! It’s hard to believe that so many incredible experiences can even squeeze into just 7 days?!

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Saint-Martin on Île de Ré

Mon anniversaire! (My birthday)

Yay! It’s my birthday! And how lucky I am to get the chance to spend my 22nd birthday in beautiful La Rochelle! And I think that all of my stars aligned because scheduled for the date of my birthday, was a day trip to Île de Ré (meaning no class, and wonderful exploration times around a beautiful island). We all met at the station and hopped on a bus to Saint-Martin, one of the most picturesque and renowned towns on Île de Ré . We met our tour guide, Frédérique, for the day in Saint Martin before we started our little scavenger hunt. Between answering questions and taking photos… the first hour flew by. Then we went to le marché (the markets) to buy some food for lunch. Everything there is fresh and local produce and I had some of the best salmon I’ve ever had. We had a cute little picnic under a shady tree just relaxing and enjoying some sunshine. Actually, it was 34 degrees so A LOT of sunshine! After lunch we got on a tuk tuk (yay) and were chauffeured around to three interesting places, a soap making warehouse, a salt flat where they make salt and la piece de resistance… a chocolate factory! That one was definitely my favourite! After our long hot day, we spent the afternoon cooling down at a very cold yet beautiful beach.

After a quick shower and an espresso for some energy… we headed into La Rochelle for some dinner. It was really special to spend my birthday with my new friends at a beautiful restaurant in a beautiful part of the world.

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The view from my window watching the sun rise.

 

 

Cooking Class

As part of our gastronomy programme, we had two cooking classes in a local restaurant. Now I’m definitely not the best chef around, but the chef who guided us through the recipes that she created was very patient and provided a lot of guidance. The best part was when we got to eat what we created! And it was magnifique!  Then we had Joel from our Oneologie class join us to assist us match wine with the food we had created. As you could imagine, the best food with the best wine made for a match made in heaven!

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Aubergine tarte and chocolate cake

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Meeting a French Blogger

Because my host mother – Delphine – is the coolest person in La Rochelle, she set up a dinner date with one of her friends, Anne-Laure who is a travel blogger for her website Nana Voyage. Not only was Anne-Laure incredibly friendly, interesting and gorgeous, but we talked in French the entire time! I’m so glad that I got to meet someone as lovely as Anne-Laure!

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Paris

For the weekend, I decided to go to Paris with my American friends from class. Sadly, they were flying out on Sunday afternoon so it was great that I got to spend as much time with them as possible before they flew out. After finding a cheap hotel and train ticket, I thought… paris is always a good idea. My weekend in Paris was one of the best weekends of my life! The five of us went on a bateau mouche which was a 1 hour river cruise down the Seine at sunset. I felt extremely blessed to be able to spend such a beautiful evening with my friends. We wandered around Montmartre and even went to see the end of the Tour de France on the Champs Elysée. It was a pretty memorable experience.

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The Sacre Cœur has my heart 

I can’t believe that time has flown by so fast and that I’ve only got one week left! This week truly has been so special and I’m so grateful for all of the people who have helped make it that way!

This is a little teaser from my time in Paris…

 

Boats, Biscuits and Bordeaux

They say that time flies when you’re having fun. And if that’s the case then I think I’m having the absolute time of my life because the days are absolutely flying by! Week 2 held some pretty awesome things in store for us, leaving us with a jam packed week and scratching our heads on Sunday afternoon thinking where the week had disappeared to?

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Loving the streets of Bordeaux.

Class

This week has been pretty intense with coursework but it’s been extremely rewarding. I did a 10 minute presentation about a town in the South of France, and not only did I learn a lot about the cute little town of Cassis (it’s on the bucket list) but I spoke for 10 solid minutes in French?! How did that happen? I’m definitely feeling my French improve every single day and I’m extremely lucky that Delphine is so supportive and understanding when it comes to my French at home. I even gave directions to someone about how to get to a certain street in La Rochelle… in French… that was a pretty big accomplishment!

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Picturesque La Rochelle

BASTILLE DAY

I was so excited to be spending BASTILLE DAY (or Quatorze Juillet as they say in France) in FRANCE! It’s La fête nationale (national holiday) so of course we had the day off of class and went to Île de Ré to soak up the sunshine. A big group of us from my class went and we ate bread, cheese and wine on the beautiful sandy beach. Pretty much paradise! That night we all met up in the centre and La Rochelle was absolutely buzzing! There were markets, street performers and people everywhere! I watched the fireworks with a friend and it was pretty spectacular to see them explode above the iconic towers.

Sadly, that was the night that the Nice terrorist attacks happened. Luckily, there was nothing but celebrations and good times in La Rochelle however my phone quickly became flooded with concerned messages. AIM also quickly contacted us to ensure that we were safe and to reassure us that if we needed anything, they were there for us. As tragic as this event was, it really reaffirmed the belief of needing to travel and learn as much as possible about other people, culture and language so that we can unite together instead of being divided and turned against each other.

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My friends and I enjoying Bastille Day

Activities

This week was activity central! On Monday after class we went to the Maritime Museum. Now I’m not usually one for museums of the maritime type, but this was actually quite impressive.

Then on Tuesday afternoon we had a tour of the tours. La Rochelle is pretty impressive because of it’s complex and interesting history. One of the most defining features of La Rochelle is Tour Saint Nicholas. We were lucky enough that we had Emilie from Soupe De Co come with us. If you ever got to La Rochelle I would 110% recommend going up the top of Tour Saint Nicholas. Not only is the history fascinating, but the views are spectacular! And let’s be honest, your Instagram will love you for it.

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The beautiful view from Tour Saint Nicholas

We also had our other Oneologie class where we tasted cognac and worked on our smelling skills by trying to identify different types of flavours used in wines. Joel, who facilitates these little classes asked us about wine in Australia and we attempted to draw a map and explain the different wine regions. It was actually really interesting to put our taste buds and noses to the test to see how well we could differentiate smells. It seems that I still have some improving to do on that one!

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FRANCE 1

Weekend

And speaking of wine,  four of us organised a little getaway to Bordeaux. And lucky for us, we were able to score super cheap train tickets along with an awesome Airbnb! So Saturday morning we headed off to the station in La Rochelle and two hours later we were working out the tram system in Bordeaux! What an awesome city! We only spent two days there so it’s definitely somewhere I’d love to go back to one day!  I describe it as a ‘petit Paris.’ The apartment we stayed in was right in the city, close to a tram stop and just streets away from restaurant upon restaurant! We had a picnic by the cathedral and just wandered about the city. It was about 33degrees the whole weekend so it made the XXX fountain by the river that extra bit more special!

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A beautiful brasserie in BORDEAUX

Next week is also going to be a busy one so make sure to stay tuned to see what next week has in store!

 

 

 

Bienvenue à La Rochelle

The time is finally here! I’m fulfilling a life long dream of spending Summer in France! So let’s rewind a tiny bit… I just finished my French minor at university, and whilst studying French for two years was of course useful, I found it really difficult when it came to speaking with French people. After talking to some friends and doing my research, I realised that the only way to really improve my French skills is to go to France myself and fully immerse myself in the language, culture and lifestyle.

And that’s where AIM Overseas comes in. They are an organisation that provide unique study abroad opportunities for students to gain academic credit in their field of study in amazing parts of the world. And whilst scrolling away, I came across an intensive French program in a seaside town in La Rochelle. I first thought, where the heck is La Rochelle? And secondly, where do I sign up? This all happened in December, 2015. Fast forward to the 3rd of July 2016 and I was touching down in the beautiful town of La Rochelle. 

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Le port de La Rochelle

ARRIVING

I managed to get a super cheap flight from London to La Rochelle and it was a huge piece of mind knowing that my host-mother would be there to pick me up. Through this program, we have the unique experience of living with a host family (a way to really put our French skills to the test). My host family consists of Delphine, my host mother, and Laura (but more about her later). There was absolutely no messing around when it came to speaking French. I could basically hear the cogs in my brain frantically churn as I tried to remember conjugation, vocab and expressions. Ooh la la…

We threw my huge suitcase in the car and were off to her apartment, located in the centre of La Rochelle. I have my own beautiful room, in a beautiful apartment, with beautiful flowers, beautiful photos and two beautiful cats. Basically, I spent the whole evening saying ‘c’est beau!’ Delphine and I get along really well! Not only has she lived an extremely interesting life, but she’s super helpful, patient and encouraging when it comes to my French. That evening she showed me where to catch the bus from and around the port. I’m so grateful that Delphine showed me around and made me feel so welcome on my first day because the first day is hard, I’m not going to lie. There’s so many words and thoughts running around your head, but it’s reassuring to know that your host family is there for you!

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Le pain et un grand sourire

CLASSES

Before you start classes, we took a little test so that we were put in the class that corresponded with our level of French. I’m glad we did have that exam because I was worried I would struggle with the content. In my class, there are students from Virginia and Washington DC, China and Oklahoma. I’m the only Australian, but it’s great because I get to meet people from all over! Classes start at 8:30am and go until 12:45pm (with a 20 minute coffee break in the middle). Our teacher is also very patient and supportive. In class the activities we do vary from grammar, reading, listening, watching news clips, doing small presentations or playing hangman.

LUNCH

Probably the most important part of the day is LUNCH! This week varied from buying crepes by the port, to making sandwiches at home, to hitting up the supermarchés and buying food for a little picnic. We get about 2 hours for lunch which is a perfect amount of time to enjoy some to die for food and soak up some sun.

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Les autres étudientes australiennes 

ACTIVITIES

The best thing (so far) about this program is that it’s not just all about learning the language. It’s about the culture, history, food and people as well. On our first afternoon, we toured the university to get our bearings. Then we had an early mark and went on a mission to find ice cream! (The ice cream here is amazing!)

On day two we had a guided tour of La Rochelle – all in French. The best part is when you actually understand what the guide is saying… it’s how you know that you’re already starting to get the hang of it. It was great to learn about this complicated and fascinating history of this place! And even better to snap lots of photos!

Throughout the week I also watched France beat Germany in the Euro 16 and saw just how much France LOVE their football, spent every afternoon at the beach, ate at least 3 baguettes, hired a bike for the month, ate 1 more baguette, went exploring the town and improved my French tenfold!

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Mon vélo pour le mois

GASTRONOMY

So when I said this program is also about the culture, history, food and people…. I mainly meant food. Another girl in the AIM program and I are taking the ‘gastronomy’ course, where we learn about the art of French cuisine, wine, cognac, cooking….. do I need to say more? It’s all centred around food. We had a bit of an introduction to our Gastronomy class this week where we talked about ‘the art of setting a table’ and also discussed various regions in France and their famous products. We then got to taste Galette, which is a simple yet delicious cake like dessert which is special to the region of La Rochelle! If I return to Australia 10kgs heavier, I will have no regrets because everything here is DELICIEUX!

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Le centre ville

OTHER EVENTS

On Sunday, Delphine took me on a cute little picnic to Île de Ré, a quaint island about 20 minutes from La Rochelle, connected to the mainland by a huge bridge! We went swimming at two beautiful beaches, went exploring a little village called Ars-en-Ré, and the markets there. We then had a magnificent picnic on the beach complete with 2 different types of baguettes, 2 types of cheese, melon and hot coffee.

That evening Laura arrived, (remember the girl I was talking about earlier?). She’s from Columbia and she’s studying French at another place in La Rochelle. She will be living with Delphine for 2 months so I’m excited to get to know her over the next month while I’m still here! And maybe learn some Spanish!

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Delphine et moi allons mangé une pique-nique

This first week has absolutely flown by! My mind is exploding with French but I feel myself improving bit by bit and day by day. I make lots of mistakes but my confidence is growing and that’s the most important thing! Can’t wait to see what this week holds!

My Epic Travel Plans: JUNE – AUGUST

“I’m in love with cities I’ve never been to and people I’ve never met.”

After putting some plans into action, I can finally reveal to you my incredibly exciting plans for the next few months! One of the best things about travel is planning. And one of the other good things is actually making these plans come to life! Now, it’s just a matter of time.

24th June: Sydney -> Manila (one night stopover)

25th June: Manila -> London (I’m back baby!)

26th June – 3rd July: LONDON! I’m talking visiting old friends, visiting my old house, my old local pub and my old stomping ground which is East London. I’m also talking visiting friends that I haven’t seen for years, and visiting places I didn’t get to go when I was there in 2013.

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Hamstead Heath, London. One of my favourite places. Source

3rd July – 29th July – La Rochelle, France. So I’m spending a month in France doing an AIM Overseas Short Course. For 4 weeks I’ll be living, learning and breathing everything French. I’ll be studying French language every morning, and be doing cultural activities like tasting wine and cheese in the afternoon. This is where I’ll be for Bastille Day and my birthday! I’m a little nervous because I haven’t studied French for the past 6 months but I think there’s only one way to learn… and that’s do as the French do.

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The beautiful streets of La Rochelle! Source

29th July – 12th August: Roadtrip/Epic Adventures! I don’t have any locked in plans as of yet, but that’s always fun, just to wing it a little and see where I end up. I may go north to Rennes, Mont St Michel or Dinan. I may go south to Toulouse, Bayonne and end up in Spain in San Sebastian. Or I may go south east and go to Nice, Cannes and through to Italy. Wherever I go and whoever I’m with, I know I’ll have an awesome time!

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San Sebastian, Spain… who knows where I’ll end up? Source

12th August – 18th August: ICELAND! I am beyond ridiculously excited to go back to Iceland! I was there in Winter of 2014 where I nearly froze to death. This year, I’ll be returning in Summer (where it’s still likely to be cold) but nonetheless… I’m determined to get out there and discover all that this unique country has to offer. I’m planning on visiting friends, chasing waterfalls and swimming in natural thermal hot springs! Watch out Iceland!

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Akureyri, Iceland. Source

18th August —- MONTREAL! As of the 18th of August, I’ll be in Montreal. I’ll be here until late December as an exchange student at the University of Concordia! A part from having to organise where I’m going to be living during this time, everything is coming together nicely and I freakin’ cannot wait!

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Cannot wait to explore French Canada! Source 

And from there, who knows? But hey, I think that’s the best part!