La Vie en France

Armistice Day ceremony in Valence on November 11.

Armistice Day ceremony in Valence on November 11.

I’m a little behind on posting, so I’ll sum up what I’ve been doing with some pictures of Valence. On November 11, I went to the Armistice Day ceremony in the park. It was raining, although that trend would continue for all of Armistice Day (which as you may recall from a previous post, was one long string of board and card games). It was a little unnerving that the soldiers seemed to be carrying automatic weapons for the ceremony. Although I did like their capes.

Armistice Day capes. Probably year-round capes.

Armistice Day capes. Probably year-round capes.

I went to the ceremony with Jacinta, an English language assistant from Australia. We were pretty lost about what was going on. The ceremony didn’t end with much fanfare, just the soldiers marching off and the people with umbrellas staring at them leaving. There was a lively recorded version of La Marseillaise that played during their march. But there were guys with bugles there, so I don’t know why they didn’t play it. Maybe the bugles, like the guns, were just for show. Or at least that’s what I hope about the guns. I really doubt a war is going to break out in Valence in the middle of Armistice Day.

Flowers at the feet of the WWI memorial in Valence.

Flowers at the feet of the WWI memorial in Valence.

The memorial itself is in the Parc Jouvet and includes a large concrete obelisque, two walls with soldier names from 20th century wars, and this statue of a fallen soldier. I’ve noticed that almost all the WWII memorials in France have a little box on them or a small urn that contains ashes from the concentration camps. I find this to be a little strange. I guess something needed to be done with the ashes, but then again, all they are is stashed at the bottom of a giant block of concrete. I don’t know, something about it is off to me.

Le Suisse(s). A creepy Valence speciality.

Le Suisse(s). A creepy Valence speciality.

On Saturday, November 15, Sarah, an English language assistant from England working in Privas, came over to Valence and we went to the Bouquet de Vins. It was amazing. We paid 5 euros to get in and could taste all the wine and regional food that we wanted. The regional delicacies included Le Suisse, seen above. He is a pastry man who tastes like an orange scone. The story goes that when Pope Pius VI died while in prison in Valence in 1799, the Swiss Army men who guard the pope came to collect his personal effects. To honor this or mock them, no one is sure, a local baker made a pastry wearing the Swiss guard uniform. And for whatever reason, they kept on making them. The above Suisses are in the window of what people consider to be the best bakery in Valence. I did buy one of the tiny ones on the left when Liza, another assistant in Privas from the States, was visiting.

Stairway to the center of Valence.

Stairway to the center of Valence.

In addition to le Suisse, there was nougat, chocolate, cheese, truffle oil, caramel liqueur, and so many other things that are far from health foods and therefore amazingly decadent. Of course, there was also the wine. Over 150 wines and things in the wine family were available for the degustation, like the Champagne-like Clairette of Die. All of the wines were good, although I definitely liked the Clairettes. The wines were all from the region, so there were a lot of red and white Côtes du Rhône (as we are along the Rhône river). And the best part is that none of them were terribly expensive. There were a few that were 40 euros, but even that is decent compared to the cost of wine in the States. On average, the wines were around 8 euros. And all of the winemakers were very friendly and chatty so I got to learn about wine in French.

View of the cathedral in Valence.

View of the cathedral in Valence.

I think I’ve finally detoxed from work in the States and can relax. It was just such an abrupt change from working full-time 40 hours a week in a job that never had a break from stress, plus all the freelance work I was doing. I think I’m to a point now in France where I can finally just relax and not feel like I’m wasting time. I don’t know if it’s being an American or what, but I always feel guilty about relaxing when I could be working. I’m also used to rushing around to get things done as quickly as possible so that more work can be done. It’s just such a different approach to life here where it’s okay to drink coffee and stare into space for an hour. Not that I’m going that far yet. If you know me, you know that in a way I like to deadlines and work. But I am starting to not be stressed by the stress-free life, if that makes sense.

Kiosque at the Champ de Mars in Valence.

Kiosque at the Champ de Mars in Valence.

Work continues to get better as I adjust to the teaching routines. I really do the same thing everytime in terms of the ritual of the class: song, redo what we did last week, introduce new material. Soon I’ll be starting the Very Hungry Caterpillar in three of my classes. I’m also getting better at my private lessons. All of the kids I teach privately are incredibly sharp. So I’ve been using the book of Native American short stories I brought. My favorite is the story of the rattlesnake. Basically, a boy is walking along the road after a cold night and sees a rattlesnake. The rattlesnake asks the boy to pick it up, warm it, or it will die. The boy says no, the rattlesnake will bite him. But the rattlesnake promises not to, so the boy picks it up, warms it, and then the snake bites him. The boy asks the snake why it did that when it said it wouldn’t bite him. The rattlesnake says, yes, it said it wouldn’t bit him, but the boy knew it was a rattlesnake.

Parc Jouvet in Valence.

Parc Jouvet in Valence.

I’ve gotten to a point where I have somewhat of a routine. I can look forward to the bar quiz on Tuesday, although I’m usually not too much help with the questions about France. I usually meet with the international people on Wednesday. There are philosophy lectures on Thursday. And usually music at the pub on Friday. I do like to mix it up, so this week me and Lauren, a language assistant from Canada, went to the Internationale Biennale Design in Saint-Etienne. It was mind blowing. I have many pictures and will post about it soon. This weekend I was hoping to meet some other assistants today in the South, but I don’t think it’s going to work out, so I’ll try to catch them tomorrow. Next week will be epic, with two Thanksgiving celebrations, the Fete de la Lumiere, and Ratatat in Lyon.

I have a lot more pictures of Valence on my flickr that you can check out. I’m trying to work all my photos into blog posts, so maybe some of them will turn up here soon.

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