Last Day out in France – Collioure

It was only fitting that my last day out in France was spent at Collioure.  The weather was beautiful, so Susanna and I went to have a nice lunch, shop a bit, sit on the beach, and then we did the glass-bottom boat that cruises around Collioure, Argeles, Port Vendres, and some caves in between.  We ate at Chez Simone, which we’ve been to a couple times and is a great little cafe right on the beach!

I went to say goodbye to friends we made the first weekend there – Jean Louis wished me ‘bon retour’ (good return) to the United States, and hoped I had spent a good time in France.

I’ve said it once, and I’ll say it a million times – Collioure is a magical place.  Here’s some pictures from the day

Catalan marriage dance performance

On the boat ride! …Rousillon Croisieres

Cruising through Argeles

Port Vendres

The boat cruise advertised a “glass-bottom” boat, which turned out to only be a couple little foggy windows in the bottom.  And you don’t actually go into the caves because the boat is too big.  So that part was a little misleading… but as far as a beautiful cruise around the coastal areas, it was great!

It was a really nice day with Susanna! :)  After the boat ride, we had about 2 hours to wait for the train home.  So we sat at the water’s edge and threw rocks into the water like children for about an hour.  Then had a cafe and ice cream and then headed home!

Bittersweet End and Future Plans

This year has pretty much come to a close!  I was supposed to leave to come home on the 15th of May, and spend that last week of the 7th-15th traveling with my brother.  However, 3 days before he leaves, he checks his passport and it has expired!  Such a simple ridiculous mistake, so he has had to postpone the trip until he can get that renewed…unfortunately, I won’t be here.

I have friends that are staying in Perpignan until June, but during that last week I’d be here, they’ll all be gone on vacation.  And I wasn’t too interested in going traveling by myself, so I decided to change my flight and come home a week early… I’ll be arriving on the 8th!  I am excited to see my family that much earlier, and I’m not regretting cutting my time a little shorter, but it is bittersweet that I won’t have the time to travel with John…I was really looking forward to doing something really out-of-the-ordinary with him and going to visit those last couple places left on my travel list!

At the end, the 5 other girls that I’ve gotten really close with will be headed back to England, England, England, Scotland, and Utah.  It’s nice to know I have such a big welcome committee in the UK if I can get back to visit!  I feel so lucky to have been everywhere with these girls….we got to experience so much together for the first time!  Visiting, or revisiting, Italy, Spain, Holland, everywhere in France, Morocco, and the UK.  I have other friends that got over to Corsica, Prague, Portugal, the Spanish islands, Croatia…this program gives you such an amazing opportunity to travel and just gogogo!  I think its easy to see why anyone would want to come back!

I applied to renew my contract for next year.  But the government puts priority on new applications rather than renewing ones.  So I got an email recently that said there are enough new applicants to fill all the spots, but that the final word won’t come from the school district until July if they could use me or not.  But most likely, not.  That’s too bad, but it gives me more impetus to explore other programs.  I think that I want to continue this English-teaching-thing as a means of living cheaply and traveling the world for the next couple years.  It really is an incredible method of working and traveling as you go along.  And English jobs can be found anywhere!  I would really like to explore South America and I plan on starting to learn Spanish this summer.  And then also go to…maybe Korea or Thailand.  I know these are big plans, but what’s stopping me?

Thinking about Going Home

Thinking about going home just doesn’t seem real!  Although it has started to sink in more over the last week as my friends are slipping back to their respective countries – England, Scotland, Ireland, Tasmania, Canada, Mexico, Guatemala, Russia, the US.  It is so sad to say goodbye!  Making friends is such an emotional investment, I can’t believe we’re all just going to be split up again!  Haha, I need to get out of the habit of only making friends with people I’ll only know for a year or two.  It’s left me with friends spread all over the world, but none back in North Carolina!  Haha, No, I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Anyway, I’ve been thinking about the things that I’m looking forward to back home, and what is going to be hard to leave.

Things I’m really looking forward to:
* Having a stocked kitchen and nicer food that I can’t afford here!  Haha
* Having my own bathroom
* Peanut butter and Grape Nuts and normal coffee!
* Seaglass…. First thing I eat there is gonna be the egg/spinach/feta tomato wrap and homefries, yum!
* Having Netflix again and a TV!!
* Hugs from Catherine … and the rest of my family, I guess.  And Buttercup! Haha

Things I’m bitter-sweetly looking forward to:
* Having a car again…. I love driving, but it has been so nice walking everywhere this year and having such an incredible public transportation system.  (And not having to pay for gas!)
* A cell phone that works… Again, it will be so nice to be in regular contact with my friends and family again, but I’ve also liked not using a phone this year.  The last 5 calls I’ve received goes back to …February?  Haha, I hardly use the thing and it’s nice to be disconnected.

Things that will be so hard to leave:
* This coastline
* Cafes and the cafe culture
* Baguettes a l’anciennes and Pain au chocolate…. bread just doesn’t get any better
* Public transportation, Budget airlines, and the ease of traveling!
* Having French as a part of my daily life
* The friends I’ve made

Although it’ll be hard to leave, I would do this all over again in a heartbeat!  Even the teaching, haha!  Never though I’d say that.

Les Petits Démons

My 23rd Birthday! – Villefranche Caves

My 23rd birthday just came around!

My birthday also fell on the last day of our teaching contract, so everyone had double the reason to celebrate!  The actual day was on Monday, but we had a little get-together the Saturday before for all the assistants who were still in town.  Everyone was in such good spirits and so happy to still be together.  We had drinks at our house, then went to a couple different places in town.

All the assistants on our porch

On Monday, for the day of my birthday, Susanna and I headed out to the mountains to see the caves at Villefranche de Conflent.  The town of Villefranche is an old fortified city that’s still surrounded by the big city walls.  It’s a charming little town….and by little, I mean it only has two streets!  The caves are in the mountains that surround the city.

There are three caves: Prehistoire, Canalettes, and Grandes Canalettes, but only Prehistoire and Grandes Canalettes were open.  It’s 13 euros for a ticket to both caves, and you can arrive in Villefranche via the 1 euro train, or 1 euro bus from Perpignan!  Haha, this blog is turning into Languedoc Roussillon’s tourism website.

Anyway, the caves are amazing.  Prehistoire is kind of odd, with the different time periods it covers.  There’s one area of dinosaurs, then another area setup like the caves that prehistoric man was living in in the Pyrenees Mountains.  Then a third area that Vauban was using as part of the city fortification in the early 1700’s.

The Grandes Canalettes cave was much more impressive.  The cave went about half a mile into the mountain and contains every kind of cave-formation known.  It was really beautiful.

Salle Blanche


The caves are a constant damp 50 degrees, whether winter or summer.

The last room you enter is called the Salle d’Angkor where they have an ampitheatre set up with a sound and light show.  It was completely dark in the room, then the music would start playing, and light up different parts of the cave as it went.  I took a video during Ave Maria (below) but the quality isn’t great…I didn’t have my regular video cam unfortunately.

We came back on the 1 euro bus, and then met everyone for a birthday dinner at Pizza Papa.  It was the same place I had my first cafe lunch with my mom the day I arrived in France… it does fancy pizzas and it’s SO good!

My friends got me the cutest little gifts…. I’ve been feeling the need to stock up on Catalan paraphernalia to bring home and they got me a wine stopper with the Catalan donkey on top, and a book about Collioure, some Catalan/Perpignan stickers, and the cutest little macaroon shaped cooking timer, since they know I love to cook.  Haha.  Unfortunately, with the top-notch French postal system, I only received maybe about half of the cards I know were sent over….but I really appreciate everyone who sent one, thank you so much!!

It was a great birthday, and I would really recommend going to the caves if you ever have the opportunity!  So much has changed since my birthday last year, and I never would have believed I would be getting ready to come home after a year in France if you had told me last April!  I really do feel so lucky to have had this experience.

April Holidays – Biarritz

Heading into Biarritz from San Sebastian, the weather didn’t get any better.  Haha, if anything it got worse.

We stayed at the Biarritz Ocean Residence on rue Ardain, and I would definitely recommend it.   It’s nothing too fancy, but has great little apartments, and the staff is American-style friendly!

The first day there, we wanted to see the beach!  So we walked down towards the Casino in the rain.  The beach is big, but not as big (or nice) as in San Sebastian.  But it still is really beautiful, and looking down to the right, there’s a lighthouse up on the cliff.

This picture was taken later the next day during sunset

In the picture, following along the coast, you can see the beach stops and there’s a circular tunnel walkaway above/around the rocks.  We walked along the beach and eventually got to this walkway, and it was soaking wet.  At first I thought it was because of the rain, but we were standing there and all of a sudden all we could see was a big wall of water coming at us.  The stormy weather was making the waves so big that they were crashing up and over this tunnel.

It was so exhilerating to be there….the tunnel was echoing the noise of the sea so loudly, and you couldn’t tell where the next wave would come from.  We eventually moved on and walked up to the lighthouse….but about that time it started thundering and raining pretty badly.  And the wind blew my umbrella inside-out, so it was time to go inside for a while!

We went to the cinema and saw My Week with Marilyn, which I thought was pretty good.  Then later walked around some more, and cooked dinner and stayed in that night.

The next day we went to see the other side of the beach and the old Port area.  It was really beautiful.  And there were about 10 brave kids in the water with wetsuits on, but it was too rough to be able to do much swimming.

Susanna's Picture

There are tons of little shops all around the water, so we spent most of the day shopping, and then had a really nice lunch at a cafe.  Then we went back to the beach by the Casino later on for the sunset.

The sun and warm weather was sorely missed, but we did have a great time seeing San Sebastian and Biarritz.  I hope to be able to go back in warmer weather sometime.  I have to say, I preferred San Sebastian over Biarritz…even though I was only in S.S. for less than a day, I think the town and definitely the beaches were nicer!


April Holidays – San Sebastian, Spain

Susanna and I didn’t have the reservation information in front of us when we booked our train for San Sebastian.  So according to my superior memory, I bought the train for the day after we were supposed to arrive!  We went on a train down to Barcelona and then through Spain, instead of going through France, and then crossing the border there.

The forecast was a warm 50 degrees, with plenty of rain and wind!  Haha.  Susanna and I took a nine hour train ride through Barcelona and the Spanish countryside where it was 70 and sunny… and finally ended up in San Sebastian on the Atlantic coast around 10pm to rain and cold.  (The train ride from Perpignan was about 80 euros one way.  We learned its much cheaper to go through France, then take regional transport to San Seb…but we didn’t know that was possible when we booked our tickets)  Kylie and Susan met us at the train station and we went straight for dinner at a little 1950’s style diner called Peggy Sue’s.  Spain is so much cheaper than France!  We stayed at the EU Urban House hostel… great location and set up, and only about 15 euros/night.  That night, we just stayed at the hostel and caught up with each others’ vacations… Susan and Kylie had been traveling Scotland and England for the past week and a half for Susan’s birthday!

We spent the next day walking around the beaches….they are huge!  There’s a surfer’s beach, and a swimmer’s beach.  And in the sun, I would imagine them to be so beautiful!  There is a white iron fence that surrounds the beach promenade all the way around the coast.  The swimmer’s beach is protected by rocks that make the waves soft and perfect for shallow swimming.

There’s a hill to walk up on the side of the beach above the aquarium with a great view of the coastline.  Look at these beautiful houses!..

There’s also a little marina with canons that maybe used to protect the city?  Haha….I actually don’t know where they come from.

The surfer’s beach wasn’t very busy while we were there..  The beaches in San Sebastian were by far some of the nicest I’ve ever seen!  So clean and soft…but there were no shells at all which I thought was weird.

We stayed just for one night, and then the next day we headed back to France to see Biarritz!

Update: Last Day Teaching!

I’m about to leave for my LAST DAY teaching in France for this year….. I can’t believe how incredibly quickly it has flown by!  I had my last day with one of my schools yesterday, and today is my last day with the other school.  The teachers all said such nice things to me yesterday and it was really bittersweet to leave….   I’ll have a longer post later with more about finishing up.  Haha, I think I’m just surprised I made it through the whole year!

April Holidays – Perpignan and Nice

After working six painstaking weeks between February and April, I got about three weeks off work for April holidays.  I decided not to make plans for the first two weeks and instead just spend some lazy time in the Perpignan sun!  Susanna had some friends visiting, and there was talk of maybe taking a little weekend trip.

Her two friends got here and brought the sun with them!  Since our beautiful beach-week a couple weeks ago, the weather has turned back to rain!  But we had a couple nice days of about 65-70 degrees and blue skies.  We took a long bike ride out to Villeneuve-de-la-Raho where there’s a HUGE lake….. I mean, it looks like a beach it’s so big!  It was Easter Sunday, but there were tons of people out and about which surprised me!  We had a little picnic in the sun.

We went to Collioure for a day and I saw the couple who my Mom and I met the first time we visited Collioure.  The ones who said they’d take care of me while I’ve been in France.  We’ve talked a couple times since then, but this was the first time I’ve seen them since October.  It was so nice because we had our whole conversation in French and it was easy!  I’ve made at least a little progress, haha!

And it was a beautiful day in Collioure!

The weather in Perpignan ended up being really terrible during the break!  Susanna and the girls went to Barcelona for a couple nights, so I headed to Nice to see Jessica one last time before leaving France!  I stayed Tuesday-Thursday nights and came home Friday afternoon.  It’s such a long journey…. 8 hours on the train!  But worth every minute….the Cote d’Azur is an unbelievably beautiful place and I think it gets better every time.  For anyone interested… the journey from Perpignan to Nice can be done on the cheap train for 30 euros!  It turned out being my only two days on a sunny beach during this whole break!

This picture is taken from above the coast where an old chateau once stood.  Now there’s a park and a beautiful waterfall that’s lit up at night.   On one side, you see Opera plage and Vieux Nice,

and on the other side, the Marina.

When I saw Jessica before, she hadn’t moved into Nice yet.  So it was great to see her again settled into her Nicoise life… knowing all the bartenders first names and all the other English assistants.  I’m always surprised when I go to Nice how easily you can live an English-speaking life without hardly needing French.  I met a couple of her friends who don’t know any French at all, at get by just fine. And in all the bars we went to, the bartenders were exclusively English-speakers!  Jessica and I just spent two days on the beach, eating gelato (tiramisu is the best) and wondering around the streets.  We cooked dinners at her house and I got in the gym a couple times.  (My gym in Perpignan had another location about 2 blocks from her apartment!)

After returning home, I’m heading to Biarritz on the Atlantic coast side of France, and San Sebastian just over the Spanish border.  I’m going with Susanna, and we’re meeting our two friends Kylie and Susan there!  So, there will be more to come soon!


Weekend in Dublin with Siobhan

My cousin Siobhan lives in Dublin and has for the past 15 years or so.  I haven’t seen her since she was last in North Carolina which was in 1999 I think… So it’s been 12 good years since we’ve seen each other!  I found some cheap flights online that just so happened to coincide with a week off-work she was taking, so we planned the trip!

I left Thursday morning and took the FrogBus from Perpignan to Girona airport.  The bus was kind of late, but luckily there was no line at the airport so I walked right onto the flight.  Then I flew from Girona to Bristol, England.  In Bristol, I had about 4 hours to kill before my flight to Dublin.  So I relaxed, went through security, watched some tv, had a coffee and a sandwich.  With about 35-40 minutes to spare before my flight, I wandered to the gate and got in line.  But I was one of the last people to do so.  They scanned my boarding pass and then said….”Sorry we can’t let you onto this flight without your boarding pass being stamped by RyanAir passport-check, which you can find at the ticketing desk.”  Oh my god!

I freaked out because this gate was about 1/2 mile from the ticketing desk, and the line was already moving to get onto the plane!!  I started running, back through security, down to the desk for the stamp, got the stamp, then back through security where I had to unpack my computer and all that again, then the 1/2 mile run back to the gate.  When I got there, they said, “Sorry the flight left!  Just pay 100 euros, then you can get on the next one!”  Aughh!  I was so gutted and I had already used my free 30 minutes of wifi, and I hadn’t written down my cousin’s number to call her.  Long story short, I waited about 3 more hours and in 2 wrong lines, paid $10 for more internet, and (I found out later) NINETY DOLLARS in credit card charges for using the pay phone, and 100 euros for the next flight!!!    Haha….Jacqueline’s travel advice: Never use a pay phone!  Pay for internet and use Skype!

I got to Dublin about 9pm and Siobhan met me at the airport.  It was so great to see her… she looks just the same as I remembered!  We went to her house and I met Joe again, and their two boxer-mix dogs Holly and Iggy.  We just sat and had a glass of wine and chatted.  (We had this great wine called Chocolate Block…I recommend it haha)

The next day we went to the Archeology exhibits at the National Museum of Ireland in Dublin.  The best part of the exhibits I think was the bodies of people who died in the bogs and have been preserved and mummified.

We had a great lunch at Le Pichet, one of Siobhan’s favorite French restaurants in the city.  We walked around Temple Bar, saw the Spire, the “tormented testicle” art at the Central Bank, and had mint tea at a Tunisian hookah lounge.

We walked all around different parts of the city I can’t exactly remember… I loved seeing the double-decker city buses!

Haha…and at the cross-walks, they have “look left” or “look right” painted on the ground.  I guess because there are so many tourists, you can easily walk before looking the correct way!  That night we went to a friend’s house for a girls night and had great wine and cheese and other munchies.  It was great meeting Siobhan’s friends and we didn’t leave until many hours and several glasses of wine later.🙂

On Saturday, we walked around to all the markets around the city.  I love markets, and the first one we went to was pure heaven!!  It was all incredible food – Mexican (which is such a novelty to me now!); fresh oysters; fresh olives and dried fruits, hummus, and tapenades; pastries and freshly baked bread; sausages and sauerkraut; too bad I had just eaten!   But Siobhan had made fresh hot scones for breakfast which we ate with butter, jam, and fresh creme…amazing!



We went to some more food markets and flea markets.  Then Siobhan showed me this old Georgian townhouse that has been converted to a high-end shopping center…it’s incredibly beautiful.  We walked around St Stephens green (which was also lovely!),

and then met Joe for a pint of Guiness at a bar near their house.

We took a long walk along the canal by their house with the dogs,

and then finally went for a great dinner at a place called The Cheese Pantry.

The only slightly-unpleasant part of the trip were allergies I was still dealing with – and I was having these splitting headaches that continued for about a week after I got home.  Luckily they are all gone now!

I was sad to go in the morning, but it was such a nice visit!  Dublin was a beautiful city, and it was so nice getting to reconnect with Siobhan and Joe.  Thanks so much, again, for your hospitality… It was great seeing you both!

First Beach Day at Canet Plage!

This Sunday we spent in Banyuls, and then I worked Monday and Tuesday.  Everyone is off work on Wednesday, the forecast looked beautiful, so we all headed on the city bus to Canet Plage (Canet beach, pronounced Can-ay).  I’ve talked about the infamous wind in Perpignan, and it can be especially bad on the beach in Canet.  It’s a huge wide open sandy beach with nothing to protect you from the wind and blowing sand.  So imagine our joy when we get down there, and there is NO wind at all!  As one of Susanna’s local friends once told her, “you can’t get rid of the wind, because then we would be living in paradise on Earth”.   Haha….well, this Wednesday we found paradis-sur-terre on Canet plage.

We got down to the beach about 12:30, stopped into the grocery store to get some food and mini bottles of wine, and then set up shop near the water.  It was hot and beautiful…not a cloud in the sky all day.  You can see the mountains in the distance towards Spain, which I still haven’t gotten used to when on the beach.

I hate to say that any beach is nicer than the one that I grew up on, but this beach day really rivaled the ones down in Emerald Isle.  I’m so annoyed I only got one shit photo while I was there…

Canet Plage

I dipped my toes in the Mediterranean and it is freezing!!  But Kylie was sitting by the water, and when I went to join her, she said “Let’s just run in and go for it!”  She didn’t let me think for very long before we were running in trying not to feel how cold it was.  There are no waves, and the ground gently slopes out, so you have to run awhile before you are in waist-deep.  There’s no seaweed or slimy creatures, and you walk on soft sand in crystal-clear water.  (FREEZING crystal clear water).  After a minute or two, your legs go numb, and then it’s not as bad.  Haha.  I’ve heard from French people that you’re not supposed to get in the water until June…. probably a better idea.

People started filtering home, but I stayed with two other friends until about 5:30pm… 5 blissful hours in the sun.   I can’t wait to go back!   This coming up week in Perpignan, it’s supposed to be all rainy.  But hopefully by the weekend, it will clear up and the wind will stay away!  When I got home I was pleasantly red…but not too burnt.  And then I had to pack my bag for a cheeky trip to Dublin in the morning!