A Travellerspoint blog

Don't Eat the Mayo


After looking at my new apartment and getting a feel for where I would be living for the next couple months, I felt ready to make the move to St. Etienne. A secretary at the school I’m working at told me that she was renting a room in her apartment which was really close to the school. Since transportation is expensive and most of the university students had already taken the furnished apartments in the center of town, I decided living with the secretary would be a good idea. Dimitri and I went to look at the apartment last Saturday and meet the family I’ll be living with. After we had some coffee and chatted about rent, living arrangements ect, Dimitri and I wandered off to find something to eat.



We ate at a restaurant in town where we both got Kebab, which is an amazing Turkish Sandwich that is extremely popular in France. I had eaten Kebab dozens of times in Roanne and thought nothing of trying out this fattening but wonderful guilty pleasure in my new city. However I made one decision which completely altered everything. I got mayo on my sandwich. I thought nothing was wrong with this until about three or four hours later when we were walking around the city and suddenly discovered that I was not feeling that well….

Come Sunday morning I was extremely sick. So sick that we found an urgent care Doctor in Roanne so we could figure out what was wrong. He told me it was most likely stomach flu and gave me some pain meds. I headed back to Dimitri’s dad’s apartment to sleep and ended up canceling my classes the next day. I spent the next couple of days sleeping, writhing in pain and running to the bathroom. My stomach felt like it was exploding every time I ate and the pain would last for hours. After a couple of days of barely eating and sleeping, I started thinking this wasn’t just a simple stomach flu. I got up Wednesday morning to say goodbye to Dimitri before he went to work and fainted while talking to him. He had to slap me to wake me up again. We then decided to find a new Dr. The good thing about French Doctors is that some of them will come to the house, which this one did. He ordered tests and said I might have salmonella poisoning. I had to wait two days for my test results since Nov 11 was a work Holiday and everything was closed. Results showed I definitely was sick (duh) and the Doctor gave me medication for infectious colitis. In other words, I ate something with bacteria in it and they wreaked havoc in my stomach and intestines for a week. Everyone agrees that it was the Mayo.

I have never been so sick and so scared in my entire life. Even when I was little, the stomach flu seemed to pass in 24 hours, but this was horrible. I lost 10 pounds in one week. Lord knows I want to lose weight while I’m here, but this was not the way I would have chose.

Thankfully, I’ve been recovering well. The medicine seemed to work and after four days of eating nothing but rice, pasta, apple sauce and toast I can FINALLY eat real food. I can’t even begin to explain how much I savored my first real meal. I never thought I would be so excited to eat an egg and vegetables, but I swear it was amazing. Dimitri’s sisters even made a cake today to celebrate the end of my illness. Chocolate cakes definitely wins over rice!

Although I would rather swim in a bath tub full of eels then go through this again, I am very grateful that this happened to me this year and not last year. Dimitri’s family was exceptionally kind to me and did everything they could to take care of me and make me better again. They called doctors for me, drove me to get my lab work done, and went to the supermarket to get special food for me to eat. I can’t imagine what it would have been like if I had gotten sick when I was living with the assistants.

I love the food in France, but still I think that there are some rules that should be followed when eating while traveling:
1.) If you really want to know the best and worst places in town ask a local. I told my students where I ate and they told me that it was not a good place to eat. Locals always know best.

2.) Check out the place when you walk in the door. Does it look clean? Check out what the other people are eating and see if it looks like something you would want to eat.

3.) Always bring antibacterial just in case there is no soap in the bathroom. I happen to be an antibacterial addict and always have some with me.

3.) DO NOT GET MAYO ON YOUR KEBAB! Everyone I talked to told me this. Lesson well learned…

Posted by jauntypag 09:24 Archived in France Comments (1)

Night of Frights in the City of Lights


For Halloween weekend, I went to Paris with Dimitri and his family. Despite the lack of Halloweenish events going on and ignoring the fact that for the first time in my entire life I didn’t dress up for my favorite holiday, we had a darn good time. We stayed at Dimitri’s uncle’s apartment which is in “la defense.” His apartment has the most stunning view Paris I have ever seen, complete with the Eiffel Tower and the Arc de Triomphe. Despite the multiple pictures I took of the view, nothing compares to the original thing. I hate to be super corny, but I was completely glued to the sparkling lights of the Eiffel tower each time it began to shimmer. Dim’s family chuckled when they saw me gazing out the window, but it doesn’t matter. There is something about that shimmering monument which never ceases to stun me.

View from the apartment

View from the apartment

View of Paris from apartment

View of Paris from apartment

We went to see the Paris Opera house and then discovered a part of Paris I never knew existed: the Japanese district. Turning down one of the side streets from the Opera house suddenly takes you away from the tourists into a whole different culture. Instead of French cafés and tourists shops, there are Japanese book stores, supermarkets and sushi restaurants. We decided to stop and get a drink in a little restaurant/supermarket called “Kmart”. For three green teas and one orange juice the total came to…… are you ready for this…. remembering that we are in Paris where one coke can cost 10 euro……. Our total bill came to 2Euro 50! That is approximately 4 dollars for drinks in what is usually an overpriced city!

The Paris Opera House

The Paris Opera House

Although I’ve been to Paris multiple times, I’ve never seen the catacombs. So when Dim’s dad asked me what I wanted to do, that was the first thing I said. However, once again it was not in the cards. We got to the catacombs only to discover that the line was a minimum wait of 2 hours. So although I was a bit let down, we ditched that plan and moved on to “les Puces” or the flea markets. Although it wasn’t the catacombs, I was not disappointed at all. I really enjoyed looking through all of the old furniture,pictures and of course jewelry. One of the best things we stumbled upon was a shop with old American clothing. They had bomber jackets and varsity letter sweaters hanging on the walls and even an old Harley Davison welcoming potential customers. As we were looking around Dimitri discovered quite an interesting tee-shirt. It was a bowling shirt, and on the back of it in big letters it said “Grand Rapids, Michigan”. Go figure that we would stumble across something from GR in the flea markets of Paris!

American shop in the flee market

American shop in the flee market

We then left the flea markets and had an outstanding lunch at a busy little restaurant nearby. I tried oysters for the first time and what turns out to be the last time as well. Good thing Dimitri loves the slimly little things and he ate the rest. We stuffed ourselves on fish, bread, wine, champagne (ok well I drank the champagne because it was graciously offered to me) and crème brûlée then headed back to the apartment to meet up with Dimitri’s grandparents. They had brought a special cake from Brittany for me to try which was incredible! So although I was not hungry, I managed to eat a slice…. or two. The weekend of over eating continued when we all went out to lunch together the next day. Dimitri’s grandpa insisted that I have a glass of champagne, and I am never one to turn down this yummy French drinks. So we ate and talked and walked around and then ate some more. We finally headed back to Roanne around 5pm, everyone over stuffed and in a bit of a food coma but quite content after a lovely weekend in the city of lights.

view from the apartment

view from the apartment

Posted by jauntypag 09:42 Archived in France Comments (0)

Weekend in Deutschland

and settling back into French life.


I still can’t really believe that I am here once more. I feel like I’ve come back to a life that I’ve always known, except some slight differences. It is extremely odd to be back in Roanne, but not see my friends all of the time. Instead of living in an apartment with other assistants, I am staying with Dimtiri’s family until I find a place in St. Etienne.

Despite my frustration in apartment searching and not seeing my friends as frequently, I think I made the right choice to come back. I felt that since I did not find a job as a teacher in Michigan, I would end up substitute teaching for a year. There is nothing wrong with subbing, however I think that the monotony of the job would get to me and I would end up wishing I had accepted the job in France. Besides, I was offered two different assistant jobs here, so I felt that there was a bigger push for me to come back to France.

Thursday night, Dimitri’s mom invited all of the English teachers I worked with last year to have dinner with us at her house. I was very touched by this gesture, and tried to help her out the best I could with preparing things to eat. It was wonderful to see everyone again! :) The new English assistant also came by so I could meet her. I have to say, it was hard not to be jealous of her, knowing that she was living in my old apartment, working with my old students and living the life that I absolutely adored last year. But at the same time, I am very happy to have a change. I think that if I came back and did the exact same things I did last year, I wouldn’t enjoy my time here as much.

This past weekend, Dimitri and I went to visit some friends in Pontarlier, which is in north east France, right on the France/Switzerland/Germany boarder. We spent the night at their house and then set off early the next morning to Europa Park in Rust, Germany so I could see what a European theme park was like. The park was a bit like Epcot and Ceader point mixed together. Each part of the park is designed to look like a different country in Europe. They really did a great job making it look authentic. Mixed in among the Greek taverns and the spinning Matterhorn in Switzerland were some great roller coasters. My favorite thing about the park was that they went full out on Halloween decorations. There were over 160,000 pumpkins decorating the streets of the park. You could see pumpkins sitting on window ledges and lining the streets. Flower beds were rid of their flowers and were instead stocked full with orange and white pumpkins of different sizes. In the center of the park was a huge indoor roller coaster which looked a bit like the big white epcot ball, except for Halloween it was transformed into an enormous jack o’ lantern!

Europa Park Jack o' Lantern

Europa Park Jack o' Lantern

We stayed late at the park so we could attend the “Terenzi Horror Nights” which is a bit like “Halloweenends” at Cedar Point. They opened up a special part of the park at night and transformed buildings into haunted houses. Monsters and scary looking creatures walk down the street next to you and follow you around as you go from haunted house to haunted house. They even grab your ankles and touch you on the shoulder sometimes, which I think is not allowed in most U.S haunted houses. I think the fact that they were speaking German as we were running through the haunted houses made it ever more bizarre. Considering that Halloween isn't celebrated very much in Europe, I was impressed.

And in other news, the strike here continues… aka, it’s hard to find gas because the gas stations are closed, it is difficult to travel by train because most of them are canceled, and every day a large group of protesters goes marching down the street. We are talking about 200 people with signs shouting and singing and honking car horns…. So that the government takes notice that they don’t like the change in the retirement age. The government wants to change the retirement age from 60 to 62. I've been told that even with everyone striking, the government will not change their point of view on this issue. However the French take full advantage of their right to strike and are full displaying their displeasure.

The strike

The strike

Last but not least, I thought I’d explain some interesting little things I’ve shared with the French thus far.

  • My ability to still make ridiculous mistakes in French. If you use the wrong pronunciation on “anneaux” (meaning rings) you find yourself suddenly talking about the “Lord of the Sheep” instead of “Lord of the Rings.” Frodo would make an interesting sheep I suppose.
  • When making “sausage rolls” I explained to Dimitri’s mom and sisters that we call them “pigs in a blanket. They not only found this hilarious but thought that the name was way cooler in English than in French. One point for American creativity!
  • Since most of the music on the radio here is American, I’ve had lots of questions about the meaning of song lyrics. My favorite would have to be explaining what “pretty fly for a white guy” means.

If you have time (and do NOT get creeped out by clowns, vampires, blood and guts) check out the commercial for Terenzi Horror Nights! Its cool to hear them speak in German! Terenzi Horror Nights

Posted by jauntypag 03:35 Archived in Germany Comments (2)

Back Again

Yep, I'm going back again!


Oct 18 2010
My first day back in France has been a trip of ones.

One lovely, long flight from Detroit to Paris. Probably the best flight I’ve ever taken because I slept for most of it, therefore it passed in the blink of an eye.

One very tired customs worker who barely glanced at my passport as I went through customs.
One huge rush to find my bags so I could make my train to Lyon on time.

One huge strike canceling most of the trains leaving Paris, including my own.

One hundred million confused American tourists staring at the departure board saying “what does supprimé mean?” (It means the train is canceled.).

One French train station worker per hundred thousand American tourists, trying to tell them what they need to do to get to their destination.

One Michigan girl who got her ticket all straightened out and contently sat and ate a sandwich while waiting for her train.

Not one French person responding to me in English when I talk to them in French. :)

One confused Californian couple asking me for help.

One French teenager rambling about her problems to her mom on her cellphone causing all of the people on the train to stare at her. (oh how I’ve missed the French non-subtle open stare! )

The one and only babbling French teen now talking to herself as she searches her bags for her misplaced itinerary.

One very ticket off French girl who was now kicked out of first class because she could not find her ticket.

One cute little girl sitting next to me pretending to talk to someone on her mom’s cell phone. “allo!?” “allo?”

One extremely packed train composed of everyone whose trains were canceled, resulting in constant groups of people coming in and out of the car wondering where they should be sitting.

One surprising realization: Packing up my bags and getting on a 7 hour plane ride seems as normal as packing my bags to go back to Grand Valley after a summer at home. I feel comfortable here, at ease, and speaking French is now as easy as speaking English (in most cases). I’m sure this will change a bit once I get to the city I’ll be living and teaching in, but for now I feel at home knowing that I’m going back to Roanne for a while.

One more hour until I make it to Lyon.

One huge huge wish that the trains will not be messed up there!

20 Oct 2010
Ok after I wrote this on the train, I arrived in Lyon only to find that my train to Roanne was….. Canceled. I therefore waited for another 2 hours for my train. I was exhausted but I met up with Dimitri’s dad and took the train back with him, so at least I had someone to talk to.
Honestly, the strikes here are INSANE. Trains are cancelled. People are marching around the streets with big signs and shouting at the top of their lungs. The craziest of all in my opinion, students are skipping school and causing riots, like lighting cars and trash cans on fire. This isn’t only in big cities like Paris, the setting the trash cans on fire thing was at the school I worked at last year. All of this because they are adding two years to the retirement age. In France, retirement is paid by those who are currently working. So everyone working right now must work 2 extra years to pay for those who are already retired. Fair? I have no idea, but I still don’t think that smashing car windows and cancelling trains is going to change anything.

Things on my current to do list:
Find an apartment in St. Etienne
See friends
Fight jet lag
Find tutoring jobs so I will not be completely broke throughout this year.

Posted by jauntypag 05:36 Archived in France Comments (2)

End of the Journey

and oh what a journey it has been!




After a week and a half of re-adjusting to life as an American citizen, I felt capable of sitting down and writing my thoughts. I attempted multiple times, but couldn’t pin down half of the things I was thinking. For some reason the things I wanted to say simply fled from my mind each time I started writing.

Last Week in Roanne
I revisited all of my favorite spots in Roanne the week before I left. I took time to walk down the little side streets, have one last drink at a favorite café and say goodbye to my friends, colleagues and students. I have no regrets. I did almost everything I said I was going to do while in France.
My ride to the airport felt surreal. It felt just as if Dimitri and I were going on another weekend trip to one of the little villages around Roanne. Reality hit as we were saying goodbye at the security. Saying goodbye to everything and everyone is a horrible thing to do. Thank goodness for water proof mascara and Kleenex.
last night in Roanne

last night in Roanne

I’m Bacccck!
My arrival back in the states was a bit more complicated than planned. I had to fly through a tornado to get back to Detroit and my baggage was left behind in Paris for an extra two days. However seeing the ear to ear grins on my family's faces when I walked through the arrival door was magnificent. I have also been lucky enough to see many of my close friends during the past week who were more than excited to welcome me back home. Saying “hello” is so much better than saying “goodbye”.

Wait…Am I Really Back?
At times, it seems like I’ve never left the USA. I’m back in my old room, in the neighborhood I grew up in. I’m driving the same car I drove before I left and going to the same stores. I know it’s corny, but sometimes I think my whole experience in France was a dream. I wanted to have an experience like this for for so long, its hard to believe that it actually took place and was not just something I was day dreaming about.

But clues remain of my life abroad. For example:

My sudden confusion of how many enormous American flags there are in the USA.

My absurd forgetfulness of English words. ( I literally had to walk around Krogers in search of a zucchini to show my mom so she could tell me what the name of it was in English).

My dislike of American wine

My realization that many of the stereotypes are true.

Forgetting that the stores do not close between noon and 2pm for their lunch break.

The fact that I had to donate all of my summer shorts, skirts and capris to good will since they are now too big.

The millions of pictures I took there and the memories which will be impossible to forget.

Most Frequently Asked Questions

So now the answers you want:

Am I happy to be back? Of course! It has been wonderful to see my family and friends again after eight months away from them! Flowers blooming, Brad Paisley concert with my girls and a welcome home party all made my first week home extraordinary!

Do you miss France? Of course. The little town of Roanne was my home for eight months. I met wonderful people, visited amazing cities, and fell in love with the country. After having such an unexpected amazing time, it would be impossible not to miss it and the people who made my time there unimaginable.

Will you go back?
I couldn't stay away if I tried. If not for a job, then on vacation for sure. At the moment, I have no idea if I will get a job here in the states or if I will be offered one in France. Either way, I’m keeping my options open!

Would I do this again? In a heartbeat. Hands down the best experience of my life. My French improved drastically, I got to travel and more over I got to see France in a way that a tourists never could.

And what is happening with the boyfriend? (the most popular question:) )Hopefully, he will come to visit in the summer! It sure will be interesting to introduce him to the USA and see how well he does with speaking English on this side of the ocean!



All's Well that Ends Well

So we’ve reached the end. The end of my assistantship. Its unbelievable to be on the other side of this experience. A year ago I was here wondering “Where will I be teaching in France?” “What if I hate it there?” My thoughts have changed now. Now I’m wondering “Wow, did that really happen?” and “How did it go by so quickly?”

Thank you for the comments, support, advice, love and kind words during my time abroad. I appreciated them more than you know. Every card that was sent was displayed on my desk until the day I left. :) You’d be surprised how much a little comment can brighten someone’s day when they are far away from home.
And that’s all folks. I hope you have enjoyed this blog and have at least gotten a little peak as to what it was like to live in France.

Stay tuned for the next blog… who knows where the wind will take me now…


French Friends

French Friends

my  American girls

my American girls

Posted by jauntypag 21:23 Archived in France Comments (0)

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