Friday, July 29, 2011

In Dinard.....

In Brittany finally, as promised ;-)

Just to let you all know that I'm alive and all that, and still in France (although I could get a ferry to England if I wanted).

Pictures on Tuesday or Wednesday, promise!!!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Hills in France...

When I came over here I had a discussion with a friend about the area of France I was going to, and was advised that it was very gently rolling hills, but essentially flat. Thus I had images of the Canterbury plains in my head, and was rather disappointed when I discovered that I was to be living part way up a hill! I can cycle up to the driveway, but it is an effort, and if don't want to get all smelly then I really have to walk. Or if I am wearing sandals that are all slippery on the pedals. Damned hills!!!

Anyway, climbed up the hill, it was hilly. Took some pictures from the top. Also, at the end of the series is one of the castle. Just so you know I'm actually not kidding!!!

This afternoon we are going to Brittany, to the seaside, yay!!! Hopefully my next pictures will be of the beach and the sun. I am wearing my summer dress in preparation!

Ruille sur Loir

Another village which isn't far, maybe five kilometers away, give or take. I mostly took pictures of the river, which I assume to be the Loir, but I could be wrong, I didn't actually see any signs proclaiming it to be so. I think I found a massive nunnery here. I couldn't be sure because I really couldn't quite be bothered to stop and check, but I followed the sound of the church bells chiming 7pm and decided to see if there was also a lovely church here. I found instead a wall, which I followed up some hill and around a wee way, maybe a kilometer in total following the perimeter in a loop. All I could see over the wall was what looked like the top of a cross, and the roofs. When I got to the front part (which was of course the last side I reached) I could see a big building with some clothes drying in one window. Thus I have decided it is some sort of nunnery. Oh and it did seem to have a church as well at this part.

After circling most of the village in my loop around the nunnery perimeter I then had some dinner in a restaurant which appeared to have won many awards, which was nice. The waitress spoke some English, by no means good, but significantly better than my still reasonably non-existent French, so between us I managed to order fish, which was thankfully not creamy or fatty, like everything else I have eaten since I got here. I had bread, of course, which was nice to dip in the broth, and for dessert had icecream- I even had an idea it was icecream before I said I wanted it! Although I turned out to be maybe home-made icecream or real-fruit icecream, or something. Some was green and I think apple flavour, some was white, very icy (not so creamy) and possibly peach, although I really couldn't be sure. And I have no idea what the other flavour was, but it was decidedly the most normal flavour, maybe caramel biscuit or toffee or something. Hooray I am starting to be able to order food without translation!

After my dinner I came home, but not before realising that there were tiny traffic lights which I had completely ignored on my way in. I assume they were for cyclists, but clearly rather poorly positioned as I completely failed to see them when I came in!


So I understand that I have been a little lax about updating my blog, so I will do several updates for today which has been an excellent day, and hopefully throughout it you can gather the essentials (I.e. living in a castle in the French countryside). I have cycled from the castle to the village Lhomme, and from there to Ruille sur Loir, up the valley a few Kilometers, and then home via a large hill to take some pictures where you could see the view a bit. And to get my heart beat up a bit. I should be well fit by the end of summer with all the exercise!

Firstly, I cycled to Lhomme, a really sweet little village which is the closest to the castle. Really lovely. With the bakery where I bought brioche for my mini picnic, to be addressed in detail later. In New Zealand, and in fact England too come to think of it, brioche always had chocolate or some sort of filling in it, but this was plain. I shall thus assume that we have taken up bastardising a traditional food again by adding chocolate or some other sort of ingredient which changes the essential nature of the food. But anyway. There was this really cute church in the centre of the village, which looked to be really old, and was clearly not for tourists. So clearly not for tourists in fact that I felt totally ridiculous standing there taking pictures, so I took a bit of detour and found this really bizarre place, which I can only assume was somebody's garden full of lots of old machines!

In further strangeness, I stumbled upon a little house behind the church, with such an odd little garden, it immediately made me think of Hansel and Gretel!!! I took a few pictures, but I think it was somebody's house and garden, so I felt a bit weird and stopped! But such a huge old tree overhanging this garden which seemed made for children, little stone table, flower beds. Very strange, quite eerie!

Following my explorations of Lhomme, which is a pretty tiny village, I discovered this little stream with an old stone foot-bridge next to the new one for cars, so of course I had to play on it! I ended up having my picnic of brioche and nectarine there. So delicious, and such a lovely spot. I was disturbed only twice in my endless photography, by the same man. I think he went to pick blackberries or something, because he stopped on the way there and we had one of those oddly satisfying conversations where we both talk at each other in different languages, probably about completely different things, and then walk away smiling. When he came back again maybe 15 minutes later when I was actually about to take a last picture and leave, I had the presence of mind to ask him to take a picture of me on the little bridge. Yay for my awesome Franglish (not retarded Franglish, tyvm)!

When I was cycling away from the little picnic spot I also found this little spot with more wildflowers and a view over the wheat fields, which I love. Why don't we grow wheat like this in New Zealand? It's such a similar climate, we grow other crops the same, why not wheat? There is a lot of wheat here, as well as the wine which of course the Val de Loir is famous for.

And my other favourite crop here is the sunflowers! Fields and fields of them! Look at this massive one- again in someone's garden. It's a wonder I haven't been yelled at in French and chased away really, the time I spend photographing other peoples gardens without asking! Maybe I should add that request to the list of phrases I must learn in French.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Ruille sur le Loir

Well it is a lovely little town where I am currently eating my dinner. Still on the Loir river I think. There is definitely a river, and I have taken pictures. I will post them when I am using my laptop though. I do not have magic powers to move pictures from my camera to my phone without a computer and several cables.

Anyway I have had a glorious afternoon cycling and exploring the French countryside. Really lovely. And I had a picnic on a stone footbridge :-)

Saturday, July 16, 2011

A few new adventures...

Upon realising that my last post was about Cambridge, I feel I have a bit of catching up to do. As it is pouring with rain at the moment, and is I think supposed to do so for a another few days, I suspect I shall be trapped inside this castle somewhere in France for a while yet. That's right, I am trapped in a castle. I'm so impressed I haven't dressed up like a princess yet, it's pretty tempting. Maybe we can place Kings and Queens tomorrow...

So. Turkey didn't work out. So much so that I didn't even get the chance to take any pictures :-( It was warm, the food was amazingly delicious, and I didn't eat a single Kebab the whole time! I did eat about ten different cheeses (usually 3 or 4 with breakfast and lunch) and olives with breakfast every day. Oh and I learned how to communicate in universal sign language. Now I understand why Europeans gesticulate so much, it really is vital to survival.

Following my whirlwind trip to Istanbul I returned to England, and back to my lovely friends E and D (who I may now collectively call ED...) who looked after me after my sudden departure and helped me eat all the olives I brought back. Feeling vaguely dejected I resumed my job hunt, and S2 also came to visit us, which was lovely. With both of us sitting about moping stupidly about the job situation and how much London sucks (on good day London is great, on a bad day it really isn't all that) we were struck by the appealing idea of going to Edinburgh to stay with S2's friend up there, checking out the job situation, deciding if it looked like somewhere we would want to live.

After ten million interviews on Wed, Thur and Fri (okay maybe only ten, but it was a marathon effort) and being told everyone loved me, we jumped on a train to York. Looked around York (there was a giant Yorkshire pudding, there will be pictures I promise!), drank some tea, admired walls, and got back on a train to Scotland. After a very picturesque ride along the Scottish and English East coast we arrived in the early evening to a pretty, if somewhat damp city, and were met by S2's friend.

At this point I shall skim over Edinburgh because there will be a full post on it in the coming days. I have much to say! But I spent Saturday and especially Sunday being a touch mopey as although all my interviews had given positive feedback etc, nobody had said anything definite either way. And as the two I most hoped for were through agencies, I couldn't pester them for an answer. So Monday morning I spent emailing people and following up interviews before we went out to enjoy the day, as it wasn't raining. In the mid-afternoon I get a call from my favourite agency (who I had assumed were trying to call me about one of the previous interviews) asking if I was interested in a job in France, starting asap, to which I replied with the predictable "Hells yes!". Well actually I think I said "Sure" but I was definitely thinking "Hells yes!".

So, later that night the mother from France calls me, while S2 and I are sitting in a pub having dinner (I was brave enough to try Stovies with Oatcakes, but not Haggis) and we have a chat. She seems nice, very trusting of the agent (which I also am!) and essentially says she will hire me and when can I start. And thus, Friday afternoon rolls along, and here I am cursing the Stanstead express (I really wish the would drop the 'Express' part, it's such a lie) and somehow making my flight on time. I would have stayed in London the night before, but there wasn't a bed to be had anywhere, (even if I had been willing to pay the £35/ night they were asking for dorm rooms!!!) so I raced down Friday morning instead.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is how I have come to find myself in a French castle in the Loire valley.