Chelsea here, for various reasons (namely that blogger doesn't work on my phone) this is the first time I've been able to post on here. Since we are almost at the end of our placement, I don't think it would make that much sense for me to start blogging properly now, so instead here are some of my highlights from the past weeks.
Sunday 28th October - Our First Trip to Paris
Today, we all decided to go to Paris for the day. With the help of a couple of bus timetables and the very helpful man on reception, we managed to get a bus to Saint Quentin Gare (Gare = Train Station). We got off the bus and managed to buy train tickets when one of the ladies at the station realised we were English. Charlotte figured out which train we should be on, then we all 'pooed' it and thought it was the wrong one, asked a lady on the platform who told us that needed one a different platform, and legged it through the tunnels to the other side. We were all a bit nervous and couldn't agree on which train we actually needed, luckily we saw some police officers and they informed us we were on the right train to begin with!!! We ran back round to the first train worried it might leave without us. As we sat back down, Charlotte (only slightly gloatingly) introduced us to her 'Pigeon Power' (she has the ability of a homing pigeon when it comes to finding her way somewhere), this wouldn't be the last time we made use of it!
When we finally arrived in Paris about an hour later, we were a mix of very excited and actually quite proud of ourselves for getting there. It seemed lovely, light and airy in the mild sunshine after the train and everywhere seemed to be bustling. We has all nearly starved on the train, so set off to find food, we went for sarnies on baguettes - YUM!
Then, us four girls all sat and got drinks looking across the River Seine taking it all in, it was so surreal that we were actually there. We spent the day wandering around the beautiful gardens in the centre of the city, where birds were so tame they would perch in the bushes close to where you were stood.
We the set off in the general direction of the Eiffel Tower, completely under-estimating just how far away it was! In the process we encounted a near death experience when we crossed the road only to get nearly mowed down by a cyclist. French roads, by the way, are crazy and it is definately not uncommon for people to drive across a crossing while the green man is on.
We some how stumbled across a big church called the 'American Cathedral in Paris', where we tried to speak French to a guy only for him to tell us he was American - if only there was a clue in the name (Duh!). A free classical performance was due to start soon, so as Cally is really big on music we decided to stay and watch some, which was beautiful.
It was so impressive we agreed there and then that we would look up the price on online, and make plans to go up it another day. We met back up with Sam and Harry to get the train back to Montigny.
I can't actually put into words how unbelievably chuffed I was with myself that we got all the way to and from Paris completely by ourselves. I'm pretty sure the others must have felt the same. Charlotte obviously put it down to her pigeon power.
Monday 29th October - Mayors, Milk and Malteasers!
This would be our first day at work, (sort of - it turned out to be more of a orientation day). So we all felt a little nervous and unsure what expect.
Since it was our first day, Pauline (our French contact) was giving us a lift to the 'Hotel de Ville' (French for town hall, pronounced a bit like 'hotel devil' - Lol!). We first had to use the free shuttle from our hotel to the train station Montigny, where Pauline would meet us. Before heading to the 'Hotel de Ville', we went to the office at the train station to buy travel passes for the month, which was difficult to make sure we got the right ones, if it wasn't for Pauline we wouldn't of stood a chance! Pauline could only fit four in her car at once, so it took two trips to get us all to the Hotel de Ville. On the way Pauline pointed out various buildings including the University ones. I was in the first car group, so while we waited for the others, we were introduced to the Deputy Mayoress, Michèle who showed us around the Hotel de Ville. She also introduced us to the Mayor, who was very nice and welcoming, asking us about ourselves in French. The boys were corrected on their pronunciation of 'Oui', as Pauline later explained they had been pronouncing it in a slang way that was is like saying 'yeah' - oops!
Fern and Charlotte then arrived and were briefly shown around. Then we all headed back to Montigny town centre, this time over two cars, I traveled in Michèle's car, who showed us where her home was near the town centre in case we ever had any problems while in that area, which was a really touching thing to offer.
Pauline then showed us around the main shopping area, and took us to get the necessary photo ID's for our travel passes. So, I have a very flattering picture, where it looks like I've something weird going on with my eyes!
We ate lunch out at a place called 'Flunch' (which always makes me giggle for some reason), which was quite nice. We all just wanted heaps of veg, as we hadn't had any in days (we didn't think to get any on that first night when we went shopping for bits!)
We bobbed in a few shops, then Pauline took us to the main supermarket and I attempted to do my first ever food shop by myself (or at least Cally attempted to do my first ever food shop by myself!). Me being me, I didn't go with a list or anything, so ended up with loads of random stuff that doesn't even make meals! I am still quite proud of myself though! Luckily the minibus that collected us from the airport collected us from outside the shop, as the handles on one of my bags went just walking to it!
Once we'd got back in and had something to eat, me, Charlotte, Sam and Harry decided to try and find some French culture in bar we had seen near our bus stop. Once outside we happened to notice it was all boarded up, so we carried on walking. About 20 mins later we were about to give up, when we realised we were right near the supermarket and the McDonalds. Someone mentioned that in France they serve lager in McD's, so we all trooped in. They all pooed it when it came to ordering and ended up ordering meals just to get a drink - lol! I only wanted a hot chocolate but didn't even have a clue how to ask in French. Sam said it was a "chocolate show", which I was just not believing! So me and Charlotte said hot chocolate and they seemed to understand, until I got my drink. I got a cup of warm milk, somewhat confused I realised that there was a little packet with a chocolate ball in it. So in I dropped what I assumed was the choc powder, much stirring later it still hadn't dissolved so I crushed it. Much to my dismay and the amusement of the others it was merely a Malteaser! They were just totally peeing themselves! Seriously though who would order that! Is that what the French think of us English? To be fair I still drank it though - Lol! We have since established a hot chocolate is called a "chocolat chaud" (which is actually pronounced "chocolate show!" Sorry Sam!)
So really that was just another typical day for me: buy travel pass, meet Mayor, do food shopping and drink milk containing little floating chocolate ball!
Tuesday 30th October - First Day at Work!
Our first full day at work. Cally and Sam would go to the Technical Services section in the afternoon to meet their teams and Fern to the reception where she would be working.
So we spent the morning together as a group coming up with information on our job roles back home and any questions we had for Pauline both about the work would be doing and France in general. At lunch we decided to stay at the 'Hotel de Ville'. We went to the staff canteen area which was where we noticed one of the big cultural differences between France and home. The tables were few, but very long and people chose to sit next to each other, rather than in little clusters. We also noticed that people didn't rush their food and made full use of their 2 hour lunch. (Yes we get it too! Which is a nightmare, I'm bored after 30 mins back home anyways!)
In the afternoon Pauline introduced us to one of our main tasks, organising all the books, documents and gifts relating to each of the six different towns Montigny is twinned with (including Denton). This would prove to be quite a big task!
That evening was my first attempt at actually cooking something for myself since we arrived. Pizza baguette, which was quite a achievement considering the only oven/grill we have is inside the slightly dodgy microwave that causes a power-cut whenever you try to use it. It wasn't too bad either, well it wasn't burnt and that is an achievement for me!
Today was a national holiday, so we wouldn’t be in work and so had planned to go up the Eiffel Tower. We overslept (slightly), but still maintained that we would go to Paris and up the Eiffel Tower. At least until it started hailing, thundering and lightening, the thinking was: tall metal structure + lightening = not so French fries! We settled for spending the afternoon in Montigny and started by grabbing some grub in a Italian Restaurant – I am still very proud of the fact I managed to order a my pizza in French AND asking for it without champignons (mushrooms!)
After a bit of wandering around Montigny, Fern and Charlotte suggested we try to find a haunted house that Pauline had told us about, so some Google mapping later we caught a train to Paris. Once off the train we had to use the Paris Metro (underground) system to get around, something I and some the others were quite nervous about, as our French teacher had warned us about using the Metro's late at night. Luckily we were a fairly large group and it was still early evening. We got off the Metro at another large train station in Paris, once outside again, I felt really happy as I always love being in a city when it's dark (it's something about the atmosphere I think!)
It took us a little while to find the haunted house, including some dark alley-ways that were quite scary looking in themselves and had us turning straight back around! With the help of a lady who spoke English in a Supermarket, we found the right place. There was a pretty huge queue and after speaking to one man who had been there a while it looked like there was potentially over a two hour wait. The boys and Cally didn't really fancy that and I was already looking for an excuse out, because I'm a total wimp! So after making plans to stay in contact, we broke off. Unsure what we wanted to do, we went into a bar near the train station to decide. We liked the atmosphere and welcoming staff, so much that we stayed. There was a gentleman playing piano and the waiter realised that Cally could play and we all persuaded her to give a little performance! We had a really lovely evening and just missed getting the same train that Fern and Charlotte got home, so got the next one. Charlotte and Fern had a equally good night and said they would go again, but they had queued for over two hours.
Thursday 8th November - Eiffel Tower
Today we had arranged to meet with a couple of the guys who came on placements to Ashton, earlier this year - Frederic and JB. They had very kindly offered to take us up the Eiffel Tower (2nd Time lucky! Although we weren't for letting the weather stop us this time!) and be our tour guides for the day.
Everyone was quite nervous, (apart from me - I went up a just over a year ago on a school trip), but for just 12,50€ they couldn't make many excuses and had to conquer their fears! We went right to the top and although it wasn't the clearest of days we saw some really lovely views and got rather good pictures. When I came with school last year, we came up at sunset which was beautiful, but all the pictures came out too dark, so it was good to go up during the day.
I went in the gift shop that is half-way up and did something totally out of character, and went mental getting a load of gifts, I can't say exactly what I got - for obvious reasons. Infact I spent that much that my card declined when I tried to pay, and it took a second attempt before I realised why and paid in cash - quite embarrassing! I really don't know why people say you can't take me anywhere! :O
At the bottom we met back up with Frederic (the only one to completely wimp out) and Charlotte and Fern left, because they were not feeling too good. The rest of us walked a little while and got some yummy food from a street vendor. Frederic and JB took us to a specialist gaming bar, which they told is the only one of it's kind in Paris. It was full of people that I can only assume were 'computer geeks' and had lots of different games being shown on large screens, it was quite interesting and different to anywhere I've been back home.
We didn't stay out too late, as we had work the next day, but it had been nice to see our French friends again.
Thursday 15th November - Versailles
We had planned to go to Versailles today and see the Chateau. Fern and Charlotte didn't feel up to it, so it was just me and the two boys (Harry and Sam) . It was just two stops on the Train and a short walk, before we were stood in front of the massive castle. We posed for loads of pictures and got loads of the building itself (which is why I'm so gutted I can't upload them). Went spent a couple of hours inside, and barely saw any of it, it's so huge. We did get to see the famous "Hall of Mirrors" and the King's rooms, though and took loads more pictures.
We went for a walk in the Gardens which are also 'mahoooosive'and looked into hiring a little golf buggy thing, but they were quite expensive. Me and Sam were up for hiring a boat to go one of the lakes, but Harry didn't really fancy it, so we all went for something to eat in one of the little restaurants.
After the food, we thought we had better head back, as Sam had boxing practise with one of his new work friends that night.
Hope you enjoyed reading,