I get Wednesdays off from work, as the French don’t have school on those days. So this Wednesday I decided I should see some of the city. I read through my Valence brochure from the tourism center and saw a map with a couple of walks along les canaux de Valence (the canals). Apparently these canals have been a part of the city since Roman times, and I love a pretentious historical walk with water features, so off I went.
The canals are charming in parts..the parts with sidewalks. The above picture was taken right when I got to the Canal des Moulins (there are several different canals, each named for the street it follows). Seconds afterward, a rat crawled out of the bushes. In broad daylight! And it was not a charming French rat like you may have seen in Ratatouille. It could have been imported from the New York subways. Actually, parts of the canal also smelled like the New York subway, but I digress.
Well, rat or no, I decided to press on and follow the map of the canal. It was actually rather peaceful as I walked along the sidewalk in the shade of willow trees and said “Bonjour” to the retired people carrying their groceries. I even saw a gorgeous Calico cat traversing the canal on a pipe. At one point, the sidewalk ended and I just saw a dirt path going off into the trees. So I kept walking. Eventually, there was no path, only rocks and grass. And then… nothing! There was barely even a ledge of mud between the canal water and the rock wall. I suppose I could have turned around, but I could see the next road, so I decided to try my balance skills. No luck, and I slipped and got both of my shoes stuck in the canal mud. I waded through the inches of water to the road and was not feeling very happy.
But then there were baby ducks, a park, and old people on benches! And there was actually a sidewalk to follow. So I did end up walking the rest of the canal and dried out my shoes in the sun. My review of the canals would be, while they’re not on par with Venice or anything (maybe even outdone in cleanliness by Bricktown), it was a good way to see a part of the city I hadn’t seen before. And it was interesting, if nothing else. Mud and rats aside, how often do I get to walk along a Roman canal? And the rats can prepare me for if I ever live in New York.
Besides that excursion, I’ve steadily continued with teaching. Two students even gave me drawings this week and they always cluster around me when I get to the school or wave to me when I see them around town. I like working with the children a lot, but the teachers and the inspection still stress me out. I have about 11 different classes, and each teacher wants me to prepare something different. However, next week is all about Halloween. My favorite!
I’ve also been trying to socialize outside the foyer and Wednesday night international meeting. I went to a concert last night with an assistant from Canada and it was a lot of fun. The Burning Hell opened (a lot less sinister than their name would lead you to believe, although they had two songs about zombies) and the United Steel Workers of Montreal played second. Both of the bands were English-speaking from Canada and used a lot of accordion. There was even a woman from Montana in the crowd. And the lead singer of the Burning Hell had been to Oklahoma City.
This evening I started tutoring two French kids. The girl has only taken English for two months and her brother has studied it for three years. They both apparently spend a lot of time at the music conservatory and I think it’s going to be fun to teach them. I also tried Anis sirop with water for the first time at their house and it was very enjoyable.
Tomorrow I’m crossing the river to meet up with English and German assistants in Privas. I hear there is going to be a chestnut festival!