Tuesday, 28 January 2014

Dear Future Me...

Dear Future Me,

I wonder what you're doing, where you are, who you're with. This is a thought that crosses my mind often at the moment. 

You've spent the last 2 years in France and like with everything, living abroad has had its ups and its downs. You've trusted people you shouldn't have done and you've been hurt by them, you've found people that you now count as part of your 'French family', you've had moments where you've wanted to get on a plane and fly away, you've had moments where you have wanted to cry with happiness, you've worked in ski resorts and you now count the mountains as your home as well as being able to speak the French language almost word perfectly. But you still feel like an outsider.

What you wouldn't pay to be wander down the high street and hear English voices, go to university and speak in English all day, every day, not be judged for your accent and not feel like every problem is an unsurmountable challenge. You love your life here, but there are days when you count down the days to the next time you'll be home. At the same time, you can't imagine living anywhere else.. in the perfect world, you'd move your family, your friends, your house to France and stay here for life.

That said, you have an incredible life and you feel ungrateful to feel this way. You have had opportunities that many only dream of and you have experienced things that people twice your age have not yet experienced. You wonder whether you overanalyse things and whether you try and predict things too much in advance.

The most important thing you have learnt though is to love life and appreciate every single second of it. It sounds cheesy, but you've wasted too much time thinking about people who don't matter and about things that probably won't happen. 

What would you say to your past me? Embrace whatever shit's going on, love the people who care you about right now and delete your Facebook, you'd get so much more done.

Good luck,

Sunday, 21 July 2013

PHLOG: Grenoble - Avignon - Toulouse - Bordeaux

I've tried to write this blog several times and failed miserably to make it interesting. So I thought the best way to do it was to do a photo blog - what are these called? Video blogs are "vlogs", so this must be a "phlog"..?

Anyway back on track. The photos speak for themselves and do a much better job in showing what we got up to on our road-trip, so enjoy!

All photos are copyright: Rosie Paul. Please email goinggrenobloise@gmail.com for permission to use them.

Grenoble --> Avignon --> Toulouse --> Bordeaux

Long, open motorways greeted us and the car was the perfect way to get around and see sights you wouldn't necessarily see from a train or a bus.

Avignon, France. After what can only be described as a miserable spring in France, we took advantage of the first sunny days and spent most of our days by water. Canoeing in Provence can be recommended!

My poor Renault Clio. We did the whole 1500km in my 1.5l Renault Clio. Fitting everything in the car was a little like Tetris! Nevertheless we spent around 180€ each on petrol/food, so a fairly cheap week all in all - travelling doesn't need to be on an enormous budget or very far, it's just about seeing something you wouldn't normally experience.

Toulouse, France. If you look close enough, you can see the Pyrenees, still with snow on.

Bordeaux, France. Chilling by the pool was the next order of the day at my parents' place near Bergerac. I told you we didn't stray far from the water..!

Bordeaux, France. We did actually do a little bit of sightseeing - renting bikes and cycling around Bordeaux and Toulouse were definitely great ways to see the city. Renting bikes in these cities is remarkably easy and a bit like the Boris bikes in London.

Once you have committed 200€ as a caution I think the first 30 minutes is free, with it costing around 1,50€ for an hour? The machines don't actually take the 200€, that's just in case you don't return the bike and so it is great way to see the city if you're short of time. Passes are also available for a week or a month, which is handy if you're on ERASMUS in either of these places!

Bordeaux, France.

Time to head back to Grenoble.

This little sojourn was a great way to get out of Grenoble for a week as well as exploring departments out of Rhone-Alpes. For anyone not lucky to have a car, there is a car sharing website Covoiturage which allows you to pick up lifts to wherever you want to go, which often works out cheaper than the train. It's also a great way to practise your French and see something other than the city you live in!

That's all for now, hope you've enjoyed my first "phlog"! Heading back to the UK in the car this week, first stop Paris for a few days!

Bisous, hasta luuuego!

Sunday, 7 July 2013

Valencia: sun, sea and Spanish people

Life's a beach! Valencia, Spain
Well it's safe to say that I am no better at blogging during the holidays than during term-time so sorry! I do have a good excuse though - I've spent the last 3 weeks of my summer holidays in Valencia, Spain and what an experience that was!

I've just finished my first year at university studying a degree in Spanish, English and French and whilst I have no troubles with English and French, Spanish has been a uphill struggle and so I really wanted to spend some time in Spain this summer. Having become fluent in French in just under a year by living in France, there is no better way to improve languages than living in said-country. However after applying to endless jobs in various parts of Spain and getting no replies, I decided to book myself in for a 3-week intensive Spanish course and whilst it was fairly expensive, it was thoroughly worthwhile and I'd encourage anyone to do the same!

I booked my language course through an agency called Lingua Schools and ended up at Hispania which was near of the centre of Valencia. The school was excellent, the teachers were interesting, classes were small and I've never known 4 hours of classes to pass so quickly! Whilst language schools are not cheap, Lingua Schools/Hispania were fairly reasonably priced and I definitely feel like I got my money's worth. I did the Intensive +20 course, which is 4 hours of classes a day, either in the morning or the afternoon. I was done by 13:25 which gave me plenty of time to have a siesta, check out the local culture or head down to the beach to have a lazy afternoon!

Paella made by a true Spaniard
Meeting other people from all around the world was an amazing experience and it's safe to say that I can now couch-surf around most of Europe and a bit of the US for free. Not only did I experience the Spanish culture, but I also made sushi with my Japanese flat-mate, learnt Dutch with the Dutch people (knoflook is a great word!), cooked my first ever fresh piece of tuna with an American and I ate paella made by a Spanish woman who we happened to meet on the street. In the last couple of weeks, we also managed to become friends with some Spanish speakers, so I even managed to practice my very shabby Spanish - thanks to living in and speaking French most of the time, apparently I have the most 'unique accent in the world'! Guess I can live with that title..! 

Not only did we try out the siestas, the late-night eating and the Spanish language, we also put the late-night fiestas and national holidays to the test. Highlights include staying up until 9:30am and watching the sunrise come up, going to outdoor clubs, celebrating San Juan on the beach and just generally testing out the good old sangria. Safe to say, Spain passed the test and I can highly recommend Valencia as a good city for nightlife! 

Sunrise on the beach
Overall, the language school was a great experience.  However, I'm not one for sitting in a classroom all day, every day and although the classes were interesting - I did start to get itchy feet by the end of the 3 weeks. For me, I'd much prefer to meet some Spanish people and spend my days attempting to speak rather than learning grammar, but I guess each to their own! That said, I learnt a lot and the school gave me the confidence that I was previously lacking in Spanish as well as teaching me invaluable every-day vocabulary. Although language schools are expensive, they are a good tool when first moving to a country or if you just want to spend a couple of weeks topping up your language skills. As with everything, they are what you make of them and plenty of experiences are to be had if you go out and look for them! 

Now I'm back home for 6 days, before flying back to Grenoble. These holidays have been amazing and I can't believe that nearly 2 months have gone past. I've been on a road-trip around the south of France (blog post to follow!), spent a couple of craaazy weeks in Grenoble, moved flat and had very little sleep in Spain. Next on the agenda is Grenoble for a few days, Bordeaux for a week and a bit, Paris for a couple of days, driving home to the UK, a whole MONTH in the UK, before driving back down to Grenoble ready to start second year in September. I'm so lucky to have such an awesome life and thanks to all you guys for being part of it, it wouldn't be the same without you! (Had to get a bit sentimental at some point!!) 

Hasta luego, bisous! xxxxxx

PS. Had to finish the blog with this song. It did its rounds about a year ago in the UK, but being in Spain has put a whole different spin on it.. ♥ it

Tuesday, 9 April 2013

Nearly a year on..

Here in Grenoble we have the grand total of 2 weeks before the end of semester and therefore before the end of teaching for this year. I have no idea where this first year has gone but I find it very weird to be approaching summer again and counting down the weeks until I'm back in rainy old Blighty.

As it's the end of the first year (as long as I pass my exams in mid May!) I thought it would be a good idea to reflect on how this year has gone, the good, the bad and the plain ugly.

This time 2 years ago, I was frantically cramming in revision for my IB exams and looking forward to the end of the worst (academically speaking) year of my life. Everyone can yadder on about how the IB is great for time management, how it sets you up for university and how it teaches you to be 'broad-minded' and 'reflective' but I still maintain my opinion: it was royal pain-in-the-backside. Anyway, back on topic.. a year ago, I was heading towards the finish line of the best 5 months in la Plagne and I was pondering what this next year would bring. Had you told me at 18 that by 20 I'd sitting in my own French flat in the south east of France, speaking French every day of the week and skiing most weekends, I would have laughed. Even this time last year, I'd have been surprised. But what have I actually learnt this last year?

In the last year, I have learnt:
- how to be an adult. I think it's safe to say that I've had a pretty intense crash course in growing up. I've gone from the travelling the world without a care in the world, to having to work out what I'm supposed to do when my car refuses to move and I keep getting letters from my landlords saying that I'm about to be evicted.
-where the eco button is on my car and so I can avoid pushing it and can therefore avoid 'breaking down' ie. running out of gas when I also have a full tank of petrol..
- how to manage in a different country and in a different language. This has probably been the loneliest part of life here and something I only really realised last week. Learning to manage myself has been a massive learning curve. I've had to second guess the French authorities for nearly a year now and whilst my parents are always on the end of the phone, they're pretty useless (soz) as they neither understand or can teleport here in my hour of need. French offices can be the most frustrating places to be and queuing for hours on end by yourself is no fun, I have made a fair few friends in queues in the last few months though!! Sometimes a bit of moral support would definitely not go amiss..
- that the French say one thing and mean another. Deadlines do not apply here but imaginary deadlines will then appear a week or so after the original deadline. Moral of the story: always be prepared for the first deadline!
- how to create a life. I can't believe how far I've come, from the first night here by myself to now having a life and almost too many things to do. I don't really remember how I felt when my parents first left me in September, I seem to remember trying not to think about it too much. People, who this time last year, didn't exist to me, now take up a huge part of my life and I'm so glad I met them.
- that homesickness really does exist. And not even just homesickness for your home and your family, but homesickness for your home country, your native language and your culture. I never thought I'd ever be proud to be British or that I'd miss our weird and wacky culture and our weather, but oh my, I do. I have weeks (at the moment I'm using the 'one week a month' theory which is when I want to go home on and off for about a week every month or so) where I wish I was back in England, that I could walk into an office and solve my problem straight away, that I could go to Tesco's and pick up some Dairy Milk, that I could moan about how it has rained for the last 7 days or I could sort something out over the Internet. I have weekends when I look at people's suitcases in envy, wishing it was me who was going home for the weekend in order to eat some nice food and have a hug from my Momma. But then, there are other weeks when I remember how lucky I am, the sun is shining, the snow capped mountains are surrounding Grenoble and I'm about to head off for a weekend of skiing.. such is life!
- that it really is the little achievements that make all the difference. I never realised how much my mood can change when I manage to achieve the smallest things. Walking out of an office, clutching a number made me beam for at least 2 days, just passing my first semester made me want to skip and seeing my pay cheque go into my bank account made me cheer. Likewise though, the smallest disappointments have often been all the more difficult and more than once I have cried out of pure frustration.
- that a bicycle tyre is a pain-in-the-backside to change and that car oil dipsticks are notoriously hard to find.
- that I was more stupid than brave when I concocted this plan to come to university in France. When I first told people my plans, and actually even now, the first reaction is always 'wow! You must be really brave!' Looking back, I never gave too much thought into what I was doing. Back in January, when I was at home for a week, this came up with my parents, we all agreed that had I known how difficult this would be, I would have run away screaming. I have climbed serious mountains to get where I am right now, but that shouldn't discourage anyone. On the contrary, hopefully it shows people that it can be done..!
- that if I were to die tomorrow, I can be truly proud of what I have achieved in the last 2 years.
- that living away from your parents makes you appreciate them all the more. My parents put up with so much of my rubbish that I'm surprised they still pick up when I call them.
- that academics is a good idea and it's good to have a piece of paper with qualifications on it, but life is about enjoyment. So rather than finishing that essay of yours, go out and have fun. As Steve Jobs preached, your heart knows already what is going to happen to you, so follow it, it'll turn out for the best.
- that if you want to conquer the world, become an astronaut or simply find a good job, anything is possible.

I'm homebound in 2 weeks, followed by a week of exams then HOLIIIIDAYS! Hopefully I'll get to catch up with some people when I'm home this summer.. :)

Sunday, 3 March 2013

ESF and skiing disputes

Each winter there are various disputes between the French authorities and the British ski companies that set up business out here in the ski resorts. Last winter, it was the question of whether British-owned and registered companies should be forced to pay their 'saisonnaires' the French minimum wage and whether the employees should be put under French working contracts. This winter however, it's a whole different ball game and the French authorities have actually made a decision. As of this year, ski hosting by British guides, who do not have a diploma, is banned.

As to be expected, there is a whole variety of opinions, resulting in mainly a British vs French war of words - in particular against ESF (Ecole du Ski Français) who started the legal process against a British company, Le Ski, who operate out of les Trois Vallées. Depending on which language you speak and whether you read French or British speaking newspapers, the viewpoints are clear. 

This article by The Telegraph shows the general opinion of the UK against ESF and the French courts. From the UK viewpoint, ski hosting is a traditional part of a holiday, poses no danger to the tourists and as The Telegraph says, it in fact lowers the risks of 'testosterone-ridden' tourists hurling themselves off black slopes which they are not good enough to do. The Telegraph, among others, also argues that ski hosting brings business to the local restaurants and bars and do little but show the tourists around the slopes without 'the need to look at piste maps every five minutes'. 

Logging onto 'Les Pulls Rouges' Facebook page (a.k.a the Facebook page of ESF) and it is clear to see, this opinion could not be further from what the French think. Comments like 'it's not enough' show how the French feel towards their pistes, their livelihoods and the possible 'protectionism' that the British are currently accusing them of.

However, to a certain extent, I have to admit that I agree with the French. Having lived here for over a year, I feel like I have been well accepted as a local in la Plagne. I understand what it means to ski well and the education that is involved in teaching children how to behave on the pistes. I have learnt that the English 'I ski well' is a very different definition to the French 'I ski well'. 

And that is the difference. Taking the children out in groups last year - and yes, I do have a diploma - it is clear to see that the education we are given is very different to that given to the local children and the ESF instructors of the future. Not only is it perfecting your technique, but it is a question of learning 'piste etiquette'  - that at no time should you stop in the middle of the piste, before stopping, make sure you can be seen by anyone skiing down the piste, before skiing off, you look behind you to make sure no one is there etc. etc. I would regularly stop on the pistes with the kids, not to correct them, as I do not have an instructing diploma, but to ask them questions about what they saw on the piste - why are the poles on the left have a bigger fluorescent stripe than those on the right, why we didn't stop on that corner up there, why I ask them to always stop downhill from me in a straight line.. you get the picture.

For this reason, I agree with ESF. In ski resorts and with the ESF, there is a standard of safety that is always assured. Before, anyone could take a group of tourists out with them, as long as their tour operator had said they could. And that's the problem, you may be able to ski as well, but as an English person who has only ever skiied with your family once/twice a year, can you really start taking responsibility for a large group of tourists? Whilst you are not instructing them, the group is always going to look to you as the more experienced member - stopping where you stop, going the speed you go and trusting you on the difficulty of a certain piste. If you have no scale of what is good and what isn't, how do you know that this red is not too difficult for that person who is still snow-ploughing down the pistes behind you?

 Arguably, the diploma I hold allows me to do exactly what ski hosts do - I'm allowed to take groups of children out onto the pistes, I can take them down pistes according to their level but I'm not allowed to give them a word of instruction. But the difference between me and a ski host? The ESF have seen me ski, agreed that my technique is good enough to take these children out and they have taught me how to evaluate the level of someone within a piste, as well as teaching me all and everything I need to know about 'piste etiquette' whilst skiing with a large group.

Even so, we had problems. Last year, several of our groups got stopped by the police on the slopes. Whilst I hold a diploma, I never carried a piece of paper proving it. Each time one of our groups were stopped, we were asked to show our papers, something which none of us carried. The police would therefore stop us, take our name, our addresses and the name of the school, with the promise of checking up on us. Towards the end of the season, each time we went out with the children we were given a piece of paper confirming we were covered and with the school's details on it. It is not only the British that the police and the ESF want to target but locals too, surely this could just be seen as a question of safety?

I do, however, understand how this law could be seen 'protectionist'. In recent years, the ESF have tried to stamp out competition in resorts and remain the number one choice for skiing. Surely they could offer a similar diploma to the one I possess? Why is it a point-blank no? I'll admit, for a lot of tourists, ski hosting is a great way to discover the pistes, as well as the local bars and restaurants.

However, surely if ESF want to be protectionist, they would not go after a service which is not directly in competition with them? Is it not just a question of safety? I guess time will tell...

Tuesday, 5 February 2013


Vote your favorite IX13 blog 

I recently heard that I was nominated for a competition on Lexiophiles which is a website that contains all sorts of interesting blogs about languages, travelling and living abroad.

Firstly, thank you so much to whoever nominated me, it's great knowing that someone, somewhere might be getting something out of this and considering this mad and crazy idea, so thank you!! 

As the website says the idea of the competition is to "to promote cultural exchange and a mutual understanding of each other", which comes pretty close to what I think living abroad is all about. Whilst I have my ups and downs, on the whole, living abroad has taught me how to look at the world in a different way and I reguarly talk to my fellow Frenchies about the difference between here and the UK.

I'd love if you guys could vote for me - it's relatively simple, just click on the button above and it'll link you through. Then scroll down to "Going Grenobloise", click on it and click "Vote".. simple!!

I'll update the blog this week probably, having certain computer problems as my charger has broken.. so I'm currently updating this from the salle d'info at university in between French Law and Economics.. aren't you jealous? 

Merci beaucoup, bisous! xxx

Tuesday, 29 January 2013


Living abroad is always going to have its ups and its downs. It wouldn't be normal if I was continually living in this bubble of continual happiness and joy in a country that is not my native one. Of course, I could paint this rose-tinted image of my life here, skiing at the weekend, crazy French parties and experiences and a little work during the weekend.. and in general it is like that, but not this week. This week I have hit a considerable down, luckily we're slowly climbing our way out as I type this..!

It's been a long time (again) since I've updated but life really does just seem to take over at the moment. I have had car problems, laptop problems, leg problems, the 2 most amazing weeks in la Plagne, a fair amount of skiing days, a week in the UK and the start of semester 2 at French university. And in the main it's been great, but coming back to Grenoble after a week at home is always hard work. I don't know what it is, but being here by myself makes me feel exposed, something that only being back in the family bubble takes away. 

Of course, coming back to a car with only 2 wheels never helps. Someone decided while I was away to take off my 2 front wheels and put them under the car and cut all the electrical wiring, as you do. Cue 2 long treks to the other side of Grenoble to the garage and a 400€ bill later. It's also been the start of the semester and when your prof stands at the front of the lecture hall and says that only 30% of the class have passed your exams, you know you're probably on the wrong side of 50%.

In other news, winter is in full swing and I'm certainly taking advantage of the mountains here - although I did fall over quite badly a couple of weeks ago and thought I'd broken my leg for a week.. happily it seems to have recovered so we're getting back on the skis! On Saturday I did my first lesson for EGUG, which was a lot more enjoyable than I thought it would be and we even managed to get a couple of awesome pistes in! 

Life here is an experience and a half and I don't think I've never knew how hard it would be. People said I was brave coming out here and I never really gave it a second thought - lucky really, as had I thought the logistics and bureaucracy, I'd definitely still be in the UK. Living abroad doesn't just mean that you have to get used to a new language, but a new culture, new people and a new way of doing things. All these changes are something that the locals don't understand and being a foreigner doesn't just mean you have to adjust to living in another country, you have to adjust yourself to how you live in that country.