Month: August 2014

Summer in the city

So I’ve got a few weeks at home before I start my assistantship in Spain. While I’m here I intend to make the most of all things British; the food, the TV, the weather, the shops, my family and my friends. A great way to kick things off was a day in London.

I love cities. London is obviously one of my favourites and its great to find different things to do each time I go. Yesterday I explored the Sloane Square area with my family, stopping at the Saatchi gallery to see their latest exhibitions and the Good Life Eatery for a delicious lunch. For some beautiful city views we then headed to John Lewis of all places, for their rooftop garden. I’d highly recommend braving the busy Oxford Street department store to reach the peaceful sun-trap that lies at the top of the building (see pictures below for proof). Before catching the train home we walked along the Southbank. This year’s summer festival is based on Love and they have plenty of live events, fairground-style rides and food vendors to enjoy. Yesterday evening there was a dance-troupe performance which was brilliant, they also have film screenings all week (I am very tempted by sing-along Dirty Dancing) so a return visit may be necessary! London is definitely at it’s best during the summer months, and, after the sleepy towns of Durham and Roquebrune, the city buzz was a welcome change.

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Six hours in Nice Airport?

Yesterday I spent six hours in the airport. I decided to take the first bus from Roquebrune at 8.51am, despite my flight not being until 6.40pm, just incase of delays (I’m cautious when it comes to French buses). All went perfectly smoothly however and I arrived at Nice airport at 12.15, a whole four hours before check-in opened. It was obviously my own doing, and I didn’t mind too much at first – in my opinion airports are quite fun places; plenty of shops, cafés, big open spaces… Unfortunately, I soon found out that being stuck in an airport with luggage is a whole different story. As check in was closed I had two huge suitcases with me, plus hand luggage, and, as the lady on the tannoy so frequently reminded me, I couldn’t leave any of it unattended. So wherever I went, my bags came too. How did I pass the time? Well my heavy load limited the options significantly. Shopping was risky because the suitcases tended to knock things over, it was also physically exhausting to drag them round. Going to the toilet was another challenge. The suitcases had to come with me into the tiny cubicle which left little room for me to stand let alone use the facilities. After a while I accepted my immobility and got out my laptop only to discover a very temperamental WiFi system. It wasn’t going well. I felt like Tom hanks in ‘The Terminal’; the airport had become my home. In the end I adopted a position on a bench by the arrivals entrance. It was a prime people-watching setting with fancy Côte d’Azur residents being greeted by their chauffeurs and the time eventually passed. I am now alarmingly familiar with both the layout and contents of Nice airport. In the future I will continue to be prompt when it comes to travel arrangements but I admit that a 6 hour buffer is a little excessive.

On a positive note, my flight was a breeze and I had an exit row all to myself; my legs and I were very happy.Untitled

Bye bye France (for now)

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It’s the end of my summer job here in France. The experience has been full of highs and lows, but I have learned a lot and the constant presence of sunshine has definitely helped me through.

Some parts of waitressing were incredibly tedious. Setting and clearing countless tables, wiping up mess, carrying plates and sweeping floors – all in thirty degree heat – was repetitive, physically challenging and sweaty. However, chatting to guests and working with my colleagues made the hard work worthwhile. It has been great getting to know different people and I have experienced first-hand how the French appreciate the effort it takes to learn the language. Some of the guests have been so keen to find out about my studies, offered tips with pronunciation and recommended parts of France that I need to visit. Fortunately, my French has improved a lot without me even realising it. In terms of speaking there is always room for progress but my comprehension is pretty good now; I am pleased with how much I have absorbed.

The great thing about working for a hotel has been the variety of people passing through; you get to witness all sorts of different characters coming and going. There was the man who dined in speedos and a t-shirt, the little boy who routinely ate 6 yogurts for dessert, the lady who moved tables three times a night… I suppose in that sense there hasn’t really been a dull moment.

Having said all that, the highlights of my stay have undoubtedly been my days off. I’ve tried to make the most of my spare time by visiting as much of the region as possible and I’ve been spoilt for choice when it comes to destinations. This area is jam-packed full of beautiful beaches and charming villages and I am pleased to say I have experienced plenty of them. Frejus, St Raphael, St Paul de Vence, Ramatuelle, Bargemon, Cannes, Theole-sur mer, Cap Taillat, St Aygulf and Les Issambres to name just a few.

I would definitely return to this area, not to be a waitress (we’ve established that it’s not the career for me), but to discover even more of the region. Clara has offered me a place to stay, and judging by how kind her and her family have been I would love to take her up on the offer.

As well as my initial aims of learning the language (and earning some money), I’m proud to say that I’ve mastered the bus-service, tried local cuisine, rented a pedalo and got a suntan. It’s back to England for now though and I’ve got lots to do because year abroad part two in Spain is just three weeks away!Untitled

My last day

befunky_artwork.jpgI think I read it in a quote somewhere, or maybe it’s just a well-known fact that it doesn’t matter what you do, it’s the people you do it with that makes all the difference. Or something like that. Anyway it’s certainly true that working with my new friends Hellia, Stoyan and Clara has made a huge difference to my experience here in France. Last night, to celebrate my final shift, we sat on the terrace together with leftover desserts and chatted until the early hours. My colleagues have helped me with demanding guests, picked up after the cutlery I’ve dropped and supplied me with vocabulary during times of need. It’s been a reciprocal relationship; in return I have recommended British music, offered them a place to stay in England and provided amusement during my moments of misfortune. It’s been so much fun to work together and I will miss them a lot. With the help of social media we should be able to keep in touch. Unusually Clara doesn’t have Facebook, but there’s always email or good old fashioned letter-writing. They are all keen to visit London one day and I am definitely happy to be a tour guide.

Monday musings #7

There’s a guest this week who consistently dines in nothing but a T-shirt and speedos. Now I understand that we are in the south of France, it’s hot, he’s on holiday, there’s a pool. But really, speedos in a restaurant? He’s obviously a free-spirited kind of guy, he has long dreadlocks and is often barefoot. I do admire speedo-man’s attitude, it’s great he wants to show off those long limbs, it’s just that his tiny shorts leave nothing to the imagination. On reflection, The French are certainly more body confident than the British. As I’ve mentioned before, beach nudity is common, if not encouraged. I respect the care-free attitude and to be fair there is no strict dress code to the restaurant. However, the other guests tend to dress up a bit for dinner, at least in more than just swimwear. The ladies whip out their holiday-chic maxi dresses, there are gold sandals a-plenty and many males opt for tan-enhancing white shirts. Monsieur in his speedos on the other hand, looks a little out of place…

Le 15 Août Celebrations

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A view of the guests enjoying the party on the hotel terrace

The 15th of August is a national holiday in France. Yesterday marked 70 years since Le débarquement de Provence; the landing of allied troupes to liberate Toulon and Marseille from Nazi occupation. Ceremonies of celebration occurred all along the coast, and here at the hotel it was no different. All the guests and staff wore white, there was live entertainment, elaborate food, and the night ended with a firework display. For me as a waitress however, it meant an extra busy shift and a long night of clearing up (I also had to borrow a rather unflattering dress from my boss because I don’t own enough white clothing). Work aside, it was fantastic to experience a day of such national importance and I am glad to have been a part of it!

Marché Nocturne

Last night I ventured down the road to the local village, Roquebrune, for the evening market. I love a good market, any country, any time of year. Its always exciting browsing for unique items, tasting food samples and discovering bargains. There’s something special about markets on a warm summers evening too (no sign of hurricane Bertha here). Markets are very common in the Provence region, each town has an evening market and a day market at least once a week. Last night it was the Marché Artisanal – a selection of handmade items from local vendors. There were stalls selling jewellery, soaps, honey, olive oil, lavender bags, pastries and nougat. I’m a sucker for jewellery so I made a small purchase; a nice souvenir to remember my summer. The atmosphere consisted of a live band playing, little children running and stray cats roaming – it was typically French and just about perfect. image image image image