Provence

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

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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

My accommodation – France

It’s about time I wrote about my living arrangements here in France. I was lucky enough to spend the first week in a hotel room (a novelty I could have gotten used to) but have since moved into shared accommodation with two other members of staff. Three of us, Marie, Sandy and I, live in one of the hotel villas. It is officially called a villa, but my roommates (who are French) refer to it as a gîte. In my opinion neither word accurately describes our little abode. While villa conjures up the image of a palatial holiday home, gîte suggests a charming farmhouse complete with shutters and a vegetable patch. Where we actually live is a small one bedroomed building. Sandy and I share the bedroom, and then there’s a kitchen/living area taken up by a sofa-bed, where Marie sleeps. The fact that the living area is effectively a bedroom makes it difficult to use any of the facilities without feeling like an intruder. It’s quite cramped to say the least but we only use it for sleeping, and we all work different hours so never really get in each other’s way.

Next week however, Marie has invited one of our colleagues to move in because his roommate is having his girlfriend to stay. This means there will be four of us sharing the one bedroom villa/gîte/house which is definitely going to be interesting. Due to my experience sharing bathroom facilities with boys at university, I have researched French vocabulary for telling him to put the toilet seat down. I am assuming that male toilet habits transcend international borders so I am coming prepared.

Overall though it has been a good experience. It’s obviously very convenient to live in the hotel grounds, we have access to the pool and it takes me approximately 15 seconds to walk to the restaurant for my shifts. As much as I loved the luxury of a hotel suite for one, it’s nicer having people to chat to in the evenings. What I have missed however, is the French TV. I became quite fond of watching those programmes in my first week but it feels too awkward to watch telly here because I would have to sit on Marie’s unmade bed to do so. I would also face judgement for my choice of programme (French wife swap or similar) so I have been reading books instead. Probably more educational anyway… Here is a picture of where I’ve been living!10460524_10203103117152928_503974044353524868_n

Château de La Napoule

This week I visited Château de La Napoule, a medieval castle just along the coast from Cannes. The ancient fortress is over 2000 years old and was restored during the 1950s by an American couple – Marie and Henry Clews. In memory of her husband, Marie founded La Napoule Art Foundation in the château. It was her dream to create an international centre for the arts in order to celebrate her and her husband’s shared passion. Today the gardens are filled with sculptures and the château itself is an artist’s retreat, gallery and museum.

As you’ll see from the pictures the gardens are full of hidden archways and ornate windows, all of which lead up to a big courtyard in the middle. The whole place is full of tall trees which provide plenty of shade – it’s a nice little refuge from the scorching midday sun.

As well beautiful gardens, there is an impressive salon du thé. They serve teas, crêpes and rather fancy sorbets that can be enjoyed on an outdoor terrace overlooking the sparkling waters and beaches below. Amazing.10589558_10203057994904900_594692529_n 10544919_10203057994744896_1055538710_n 10492389_10203058007465214_6169304620743511644_n 10592855_10203058005385162_5085474932472936274_n 10566409_10203057994864899_229281609_n 10423670_10203058004985152_4017113753439320920_n 10533252_10203058007785222_6926718174152069351_n 10592567_10203057994704895_382423601_n 10578041_10203057994784897_2056968687_n

Fréjus in pictures

Another day off and another day exploring. This time I took the bus to Fréjus; a place I’d been to previously for an evening meal. It was great to see the town in the morning this time, it happened to be market day so there was a lively atmosphere and lots to see. Fréjus has Roman and Medieval heritage so there’s an aqueduct, an amphitheatre and an archaeology museum all within a few minutes walk of each other. What I liked most however were the art galleries tucked away in the quieter streets; I discovered colourfully painted bollards, knitted lamp-post warmers as well as tiny book shops and market stalls – I will definitely be returning!10567517_10202998903627655_1999043105_n

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