a TAPIF language assistant blog / un blog d’une assistante d’anglais

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Thursday, November 29, 2012

Automne à la campagne

Well, life has been back to "normal" now for over two weeks now, and I'm feeling pretty good. When I got back from Toussaint, it was cold (and I was sick), and I thought that was permanent (the weather, not the sickness). I figured winter had arrived. (Boo.) Turns out it's been a bit warmer (highs around 60°), so really it's just autumn.* And it's a pretty autumn! Prettier than fall in the DFW, at least.

I promise I will post about school soon. However, I had a post-worthy weekend, and so I'm sharing it with you!

I will tell you that I'm really lucky because I work with a team of twelve great English teachers. They're helpful, supportive, and friendly, and a few of whom have been particularly friendly. Take, for example, Cathy,** who is so easy to work with and so sweet. I mean seriously, just wait til you hear... she basically does southern hospitality, French-style. This past weekend she and her family (husband and two kids) were going away for the weekend, so she offered us (Violeta and me) use of their house and their car.

Yup. Just like that. Allowed us to stay in their house and drive their car while they were out of town. I mean, really.

We started by leaving from school with Cathy on Friday afternoon and heading to her village about half an hour from Narbonne, which is called Roquefort-des-Corbières. The village, population around 1,000, backs right up to some corbières, or rocky mountains. It was lovely. We picked up her daughter (Elina, 6 years old) and son (Samuel, 9 years old), from school, then took them to dance and tennis.

Cathy took us for a little drive while the kids were at their lessons, and we got to see the ocean (which you can see if you look hard past the rock wall).

She also took us to the grocery store, where she insisted on buying us whatever we wanted or needed... we got tea and cookies. :)

I didn't get this tea, but it kind of made me laugh because I've never seen specifically Canadian tea before (outside of Canada); of course it's maple syrup flavored!

Each of our beds in the guest bedroom was made up with a little cadeau - a box of Ferrero Rocher chocolates, which little Elina actually kissed before making the beds the night before. YES. She's that cute.

We played games with the kids (including the French version of Operation, which is actually called Docteur Maboul) and ate dinner with the family (Cathy had prepared two lasagnas the night before so that we'd have leftovers for the weekend). After dinner we watched what is basically the French version of Survivor with Cathy and the kids on the couch with all of their doudous (stuffed animals). It was nice to be with such a sweet family and to spend time in a home (my room at the school is fine and free, but it's not homey). They left the next morning and we headed out to spend the beautiful fall day adventuring in nearby villages.

breakfast view! (You can see a corbière out the window in the background, top left.)

one of the many beautiful vineyards

We went for a drive through the étangs (kind of like ponds or swamps) along the coast.

the car we lovingly call the CathyMobile on the road between the étangs

This was right before we saw a car coming and had to run get back in the car to drive away!

perfect parking, right next to a mud hole (This was not staged, that's actually how I had to get out of the car.)

the village of Bages

more Bages

picnic area on the étang

Bages, continued, and until further notice

I'm sad that this exists.

Now we're just between villages...

vineyards everywhere!

Notice the cemetery in the background.

self-timer fun

I spy... a petit bateau.

... and then we found some horses!

Here's an exceptionally embarrassing video taken of me by Violeta! I thought she was going to take a picture/some pictures. Several fake pictures and many girl-to-horse conversations later, I realized that it was a video. Also, witness my horse-attracting abilities.

Katy, Horse Whisperer (obvz)

Click for a video of the view and some olive-picking action!

the very small fruits of our very brief labor

I can't get enough pretty autumnal vineyards!

We headed to another village, Peyriac-de-Mer, which is on the coast and has a small boardwalk.

It was cold and windy and neither of us were smart enough to bring our coats or hair ties, so we borrowed some coats that belong to Cathy's husband that we found in the car and tied scarves around our heads. It was not our most fashionable moment. But hey, we wanted to see the boardwalk without being miserable! (And we weren't in Narbonne, so we figured no one important would see us. Except that now I'm showing all of you. Oh well.)

Hobo chic?

(commence self-timer ridiculousness - feel free to skip this part!)

... and then it was time to return chez Cathy for lunch!

view from the back porch

I was pretty excited to see avocados for the first time since leaving Texas.

Saturday night we had a party with some friends at our new Spanish friends' apartment, and we had a great time! The guys made us a ton of Spanish food (which was delicious) and out of the 12 people there, I was the only American. I love that. Also? We (several Spanish people, a French guy, and I) had a group conversation, and the French guy didn't realize I wasn't French for like 15 minutes. This might be my biggest accomplishment in life thus far.

Sunday we drove to Béziers (which is about 30 minutes away from Narbonne) to visit some of Violeta's aunt's fellow nuns. I had never really met any nuns before (I'd seen them but not met any that I can remember), so I was especially interested to meet them! There were three of them (two Spanish and one Cameroonian) and they were very sweet. They fed us paella and we had great conversation about the Catholic church, Protestant churches, Europe, Africa, the States, and languages, and I even got to help them out with a few questions about English. I would have loved to see Béziers some more, but we didn't really have the time, so I hope to come back another time!

Cathy had bought all of this stuff (see the Old El Paso stuff on the left?) so that we could make TexMex on Sunday night! Seriously, how thoughtful is that?! I prepared dinner for the family Sunday night so that when they got home we could eat together.

I made edible food and didn't burn the house down. This is a success.
(ground beef with tomatoes, corn, peppers, salsa)

final product: chips, salsa, guacamole, avocados, queso, tortillas, and the meat

They enjoyed the meal and I was happy to be able to share a little bit of Texas with them (and to be able to do a little something to say thank you for all they did for us this weekend)! We had a great time, and it was nice to get away from Narbonne and the school and my little room and relax for a bit. Also, the timing was great because I've been SUPER broke since I got back from Toussaint vacation, and I would probably have been eating nothing but bread this weekend otherwise.*** I don't know how I got so lucky as to be able to know Cathy, but we seriously kept asking each other "Where is Cathy from? Is she an angel?" the whole weekend. She's like our French cousin or big sister or something. So here's to you, Cathy, and here's to our first week-end à la campagne!

*Okay, well by the time I finished writing this, it's now winter. Highs in the 40°s this week with the most ridiculous cold winds, then back up to the 50°s next week. To a Texas girl, that's winter.

**previously referenced

***Don't worry! I should be paid tomorrow and it will all be okay.