YEAR ABROAD : FIRST WEEKS IN PARIS / STRUGGLES & OBSERVATIONS

YEAR ABROAD : FIRST WEEKS IN PARIS / STRUGGLES & OBSERVATIONS

This one’s really for those of you who may be embarking on a year abroad in the near future. If you’re not, you’re all welcome too I guess.

Ok, so I’m not here to tell you it’s all going to be terrible but I am going to be brutally honest about a few of the struggles I had upon my arrival in Paris and during my first couple of weeks here. Before you get reading, start worrying and over thinking, it’s not all doom and gloom and of course, it does and will improve exponentially throughout the year and then no doubt, settling back in for fourth year at Cardiff will be the next challenge! The plan here is also to throw in a few little cultural observations I’ve made at the end, so don’t get too disheartened and do carry on reading!

TRANSPORT

As with moving to any new city, getting about the place is one of the first hurdles you will encounter. Therefore, public transport must be at the top of your to-do list upon arrival. Having lived fairly rurally back home, I have driven myself everywhere since the age of 17 and in Cardiff, as I’m sure you are all by now aware, everywhere is within walking distance. Of course, I have used the tube, and various other forms of public transport when travelling, but it has never been part of my everyday. If like me, you also have a dodgy sense of direction, Apple / Google Maps or Citymapper will become your new best pal. Once you have your daily commute down, the rest (including all of the getting lost) becomes exploring. The cost of public transportation is obviously city dependant but I would advise looking into some kind of travel pass (e.g. Navigo card in Paris) to make this aspect of your year abroad life as economic as possible.

HOUSING

Accommodation was my top pre-departure concern. I had somewhat underestimated how difficult it would be to find somewhere even remotely affordable in central Paris. This has resulted in me living in a semi-suburban Air B&B room in a shared flat, which is working out well for the most part but has left me a little further away from other students than I would have perhaps liked and will definitely look for in Lyon. Thus, be organised and start looking for somewhere to live ASAP. It can be a little scary when you’re on the verge of homelessness just days before your flight but if it comes to that, remember there are always temporary options and it could be easier to find somewhere once you’re actually in your new country.

EXPENSES

Moving from the Welsh capital to the French, there has certainly been a jump in expenses so your finances are another boring adult measure to bear in mind. I’ve been learning the hard way thus far.

LANGUAGE & CULTURE

Now for the language barrier. This one was of course to be expected. Your target language is going to sound a little different in context and when spoken by your native peers than it has ever done in the confines of a classroom spoken by your numerous teachers over the years. I’ve got all my hopes set on the idea that only time will improve this aspect, practice makes perfect etc. In all honesty, when moving to a major European city the “culture shock” that everybody speaks of isn’t going to be massive, you’ll probably only notice a few little quirks.

BEING LONELY

I read somewhere recently that Paris is known as a lonely city and this reinforcement of something that I had been feeling, in turn made me feel much better about it and changed my outlook on this experience completely. As cliché as it may sound, your year abroad really is a time you can utilise to “find yourself” (as much as I tend to despise the term). Being alone is sometimes something we all need to embrace and self-entertainment, whether it be exploring your new home, studying or reading, is most definitely a valuable skill.

BAGUETTES, BERETS AND BICYCLES

To put all rumours to bed, there aren’t men with handlebar moustaches walking around in striped t-shirts with strings of garlic or onions about their necks. There are however plenty of beret wearing ladies, lots of people on bicycles and people walk around with many a baguette (often nibbled at, as I think I have demonstrated rather well below) under one arm / in an artsy tote bag.

SMOKING

Everybody smokes. Ok, not everybody. But people of every age, on every street corner, are smoking. The smoking break at a nearby office looks to a passer-by somewhat like there has been a fire drill given the amount of people who have left said building.

MILITARY / POLICE PRESENCE

Perhaps it’s coming from a small town into a big city that has made me realise the heightened military and police presence, but armed police literally seem to be everywhere. Like ants on the ground.

NOBODY QUEUES

As much as I hate to make generalisations, nobody in Paris queues and you’ve got to be much more assertive en route to the till or whilst embarking the métro.

GREEN DOESN’T MEAN GO

A green man means proceed with caution not go. Vehicles can (and will) still come at you from the left. This one, fortunately, I haven’t learnt the hard way.

EXPRESSION & EMOTION

People get visibly angry and cry in public. It’s so very un-British.

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MARVELS of MONTMARTRE: Amélie, Dalí & Artist’s Square

MARVELS of MONTMARTRE: Amélie, Dalí & Artist’s Square

Being here two weeks in advance of my classes has had its tribulations.  However, it has also given me plenty of free time to do some exploring. As a hardcore fan of the film Le Fabuleux Destin d’Amélie Poulain, Montmartre seemed like a natural and obvious place to begin. The endless steps were most definitely rewarded by the spectacular view from the Sacré-Cœur and my fangirl moment outside the Café des 2 Moulins.

7/9/2017 / Amélie Sites

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IMG_7385Misty Parisien Cityscape

IMG_7423Spot the moulin!

IMG_7446Café des 2 Moulins, where Amélie works!

IMG_7448Le Moulin Rouge

 

12/9/2017 / Espace Dalí

Espace Dalí was also on my week “To Do” list. An interest (and to some extent a confusion) in Dalí and the surreal was sparked back in my French Cinema module at Cardiff last year upon watching Un Chien Andalou, a surrealist short film by Dalí and Buñel – definitely worth a watch if you haven’t already seen it! The exhibition is kind of small but in the same way it’s intimate, thus allowing you to get around everything on offer super easily, sculpture and painting alike.

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« Le surrealisme, c’est moi! »

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« L’éternal féminin rend l’homme semblable à un crétin »

 

Artist’s Square

My visit to, and through, Artist’s Square was less orchestrated and was more of a visit en route. I was mesmerised by the artists at work and spent a good half hour walking up and down the line of portrait works, watching. I had absolutely no intention of being painted myself until I was called over by one of the men who didn’t have any work on offer, wanting to paint me “for fun” and not obliging to buy anything. Of course, not having any other plans, I thought why not? I ended up buying the painting.

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In all honesty, the lower half of my face is a little off but I do like it as a painting nonetheless. It also means I’ve got a great little artsy souvenir of my first week in Paris, and my first week as an Erasmus student, forevermore!

VACAY IN VALENCIA

VACAY IN VALENCIA

Another Spanish city break. Another girly getaway. This time Valencia was calling . . .

We’re going back a while now but in celebration of the end of exams and thus, the end of my second year at Cardiff university / reaching the half way point in my degree etc. (who needs excuses anyway yada yada), two of my housemates and I booked an urban girly retreat to Valencia, Spain. Having all acclimatised to the matte skies of Cardiff, the Spanish sun was most definitely calling. Be warned, this is a photo heavy post! 

Day one was for exploring (and papping each other it seems)

9/6/2017

Ciutat de les Arts i les Ciències / Ciudad de las Artes y las Ciencias / The City of Arts and Sciences

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Day two, I will be honest with you, was a hungover right off.

11/6/2017

We were kindly invited along to a (boozy) Erasmus Pool Party @ Tumbao Beach Club which was so much fun. 

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12/6/2017

Our last day was a tan topping (burning) beach day at Playa de la Malvarrosa. After cycling there, we rewarded ourselves with loads of obligatory paella and lazed around by the sea all day. Absolute bliss.

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YEAR ABROAD : UPON ARRIVAL À PARIS

YEAR ABROAD : UPON ARRIVAL À PARIS

As a Modern Foreign Languages student, my degree involves an Erasmus year abroad study or work placement in this, my third year. I have just arrived in Paris and quite frankly, that’s both so very exciting and absolutely terrifying all at the same time. Until very recently my year abroad has seemed like a distant, abstract idea. It has done for years.

But now it’s here and let’s face it, shit got real.

When I started the application process from Cardiff earlier this year, I felt a shift in my apprehension surrounding the move. I had been utterly petrified for months, but it started to seem a bit silly fearing something that I’d not only signed myself up for but something that is ultimately, by all accounts, set to be the best year of my life. However, in all honesty this positivity didn’t last for long and I dreaded it again all summer long.

Over the course of last Autumn semester we had several presentations on the subject of our year abroad from financing to destination choices and I subsequently sent in my preference form for approval and consideration. My first choice had been Lyon, my second was Paris and my third, Belgium. I had chosen to study. After all, the rest of my life is for proper work, eh? After a meeting regarding my choices, I was placed in Paris for the Autumn semester (September – December 2017) and Lyon for the Spring semester (January – May 2018). Although I only study one language and should therefore only have one placement, I am super happy that I get to switch it up a bit post Christmas like all my dual-honours, two language buddies.

Anyway, I thought I’d touch base in hopes of sharing the whole process from conception, and ultimately throughout its fruition. Let’s leave it for now with the motto used by the city of Paris for centuries; FLUCTUAT NEC MERGITUR which relates to the idea that she has been “tossed by the waves but does not sink”.  And hell, as Paris is surrounded by cliché let’s also hope that whatever kind of waves Paris has got in store for me that I don’t bloody sink either.

P.S. I can see the Eiffel Tower from my bed!

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BREAK IN BARÇA

BREAK IN BARÇA

I’m a sucker for a city break so when mumma suggested a girly Easter getaway, I was so down. We decided on Barcelona, having both wanted to visit for some time, and what a fabulous decision it was. Arriving on morning of the Tuesday 11th and flying home on the afternoon of Friday 14th April, we had 3 nights and plenty of daytime to wander around and explore the city. Let’s take a look at our mini adventure through photos!

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We stayed in the super central Praktik Rambla Hotel on the Rambla de Catalunya and it was so gorgeous! We had a twin room with fancy French doors onto a cute little balcony overlooking a bustling square of restaurants. The super comfy beds made for great afternoon siestas too (when in Rome and all that).

Touristing

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Our visit to the Picasso Museum was perhaps my favourite outing. Get there early to avoid humungous queues!

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Bruised like a peach in the land of the orange.

 

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La Sagrada Família

 

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Arc de Triomf

La Sagrada Família and the Arc de Triomf were spectacular. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to get into the Sagrada as tickets were sold out but it was still great to walk around such a magnificent piece of architecture.

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Couldn’t resist a snap in front of the cutest floral-fronted abode in Barcelona.

Now, onto food . . . and drink!

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Obligatory holiday ice cream snap 🍨

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Naturally, tapas and sangria were on the menu of an evening.

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We were lucky enough to have a great tapas place literally on the doorstep of our hotel so naturally we took advantage of the fact and dined here two out of the three evenings of our stay, trying out different dishes each night.

Big thanks to mum for treating me to our girly Easter break! Barcelona was great fun and I’ll definitely be back.

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FORTNIGHT in NORMANDY

FORTNIGHT in NORMANDY

Having just arrived home from a wonderful fortnight in Normandy, I thought it about time I return to the blog having not posted since before my first set of university exams. So, before getting into talk about my travels, I should say that all went well. I finished my first year studying French at Cardiff University with 69%,  one frustrating percent from a 1st but delighted nevertheless.

After months of lazing around at university and taking my first year pretty easy, I was so ready for a break having done some real work again for a few weeks. Normandy was the absolute ticket and oh so relaxing.

Having been kindly invited along by Tom’s dad, we had been so looking forward to this trip for weeks! After my new passport finally arrived, we decided that I would drive to Portsmouth, we would catch the ferry to Cherbourg, (I would be brave) and drive to the château on the other side.

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The bulk of the holiday was spent in the beautiful château above, situated in the village of Fontenay-sur-mer, Normandy which lent itself to relaxation galore.

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Our absolutely gorgeous room was ever so grand with its alcove enclosed bed and chandelier.

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On the several days that weren’t entirely spent swimming, snoozing and sunbathing, we visited local villages and more notably the nearby World War II batteries (namely Batterie de Crisbecq & Batterie d’Azeville) and Utah Beach. These visits were extremely poignant and really help to add depth and a sense of context to the Normandy scenery.

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Although the holiday was absolutely amazing, Tom did unfortunately miss his graduation ceremony. Thankfully, and due to all of his hard work & brains, he graduated with a first class BA (hons) in Ancient History so we were able to use the holiday as a huge and well deserved celebration!

IMG_5878.JPGThe staged graduation shot

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After almost two years, we finally got a decent photograph together too.

THE POETRY of SYLVIA PLATH

THE POETRY of SYLVIA PLATH

Let me live, love, and say it well in good sentences.

– Sylvia Plath, The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath.

. . . Who doesn’t want to live by such a statement?

The beauty of Plath’s poetry is something I (amongst many others I imagine) find so difficult to articulate. It’s far from cheerful, of course. But rather than to uplift you, it succeeds in doing so much more. You feel her pain and you recognise her genius within a sitting, even within a reading. Each and every poem reflects her torment and expresses her troubled mind so excellently that although  Plath’s struggles with depression are omnipresent, her poems are exquisite and so far from dull and numbing. Without hard and painful episodes, there would be a fraction of the great literature and poetry that we are so lucky to have access to. Isn’t it unfortunate that such excellence often seems to be the result of such pain?

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Sylvia_plath
wikipedia.org

I often wonder what would have come next had Sylvia Plath not taken her own life at the tender age of 30. How would her older self have reflected on previous relationships and mental instability? What would her poetry have looked like as a 60 or 70 year old woman with a far more hefty lifetime behind her and the oh-so-helpful input of hindsight? I suppose we can only be thankful for what she did create and share with us during her lifetime, and be thankful for how wonderful and thought provoking it all is.

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Of course there are the classics; Ariel, Lady Lazarus, Daddy etc. but I want to share a personal favourite with you and that’s ‘Mad Girl’s Love Song’ which I love, love, love and goes as follows:

“I shut my eyes and all the world drops dead;
I lift my lids and all is born again.
(I think I made you up inside my head.)

The stars go waltzing out in blue and red,
And arbitrary blackness gallops in:
I shut my eyes and all the world drops dead.

I dreamed that you bewitched me into bed
And sung me moon-struck, kissed me quite insane.
(I think I made you up inside my head.)

God topples from the sky, hell’s fires fade:
Exit seraphim and Satan’s men:
I shut my eyes and all the world drops dead.

I fancied you’d return the way you said,
But I grow old and I forget your name.
(I think I made you up inside my head.)

I should have loved a thunderbird instead;
At least when spring comes they roar back again.
I shut my eyes and all the world drops dead.
(I think I made you up inside my head.)”

http://www.neuroticpoets.com/plath/poem/madgirl/

Ted-Hughes-Sylvia_Plath
booksthattellyouwhy.com

I think that it would be remiss of me to avoid Ted Hughes in a post about Plath. Though their relationship was tumultuous and ultimately ended in truly devastating circumstances, they created some of their greatest works whilst together and as a result of their relationship with one another, for better or for worse.

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I was planning on leaving this post in my drafts section until I had read ‘The Bell Jar’ but I have decided that the poetry of Sylvia Plath and my thoughts about it deserve a little time in the spotlight alone, for now at least.