Saturday, February 9, 2013

Bonjour Rouen!

First  Two Weeks in Rouen

Rouen-the Cathedral stands out, and the Seine is to the left, and in the background you can see the University of Rouen (where we take classes) and to the rightish in the background is where I live in one of the valleys.-my host parents took me up here on our drive to their house to get an overview of Rouen. 
Well it has been an exhausting whirlwind of getting into the swing of things here in Rouen and, well obviously, I haven't been able to keep up with a regular blog. This is a catch-up blog of what's happened since I left Quebec and journeyed to the next part of my adventure...France!

We arrived in Paris at 8 am French time (2 am US East Coast), so it is safe to say that we were all exhausted with as much sleep is possible on a semi-turbulent 6 hour flight. We grab our luggage and clamor into a van that Roy (the director) arrived in to pick us all up. Almost immediately we all fall asleep for the whole 1 and a half hour drive to Rouen.

The courtyard of our little hotel
We drop off our accompanying  SLU professor and her husband and daughter at their apartment (and help them lug their suitcases up three flights of stairs). Then head to our little hotel we are staying in for the night. We barely have time to drop our luggage before we are swept away on a tour of the city by Roy after a delicious and much needed lunch. Good thing he didn't trust us to get back to the hotel or dinner later that night on our own (Rouen is a very tricky city-for everyone, not just me!-and we were all completely jet lagged!).

For dinner we went to a pizzeria and met "les anciens" (the students from SLU who are staying the whole academic year in Rouen-we are les nouvelles). It was really nice to talk to people who know the area and most of them have been in the same boat as us in this Francophone program, so they were really reassuring.

On Sunday we all got up and went to the Sunday market where we purchased fresh flowers for our host families. Then we had lunch and met up with our families. My family was the first to arrive so I did not have a chance to meet the others, but my host family has been wonderful! There is the mom, dad (Francoise and Thierry), two sons (Philippe-24, Thibault-11-14?-not sure) and two daughters (Aurelie-not sure, but has a baby due soon! Anne-laure-23). I have met everyone except Aurelie. They know enough English to help me out when I don't understand things, but it is still intimidating not being completely comfortable with the language, hopefully that will come with time and learning.


On Monday, we went in and filled out paperwork and such to get enrolled and had lunch with the coordinator on the University of Rouen side of things, Sophie. She is very helpful if we need anything from host families to bank information. And she speaks fluent English. 

On my tour around Rouen with my host family they showed me the bus route to get to school the next day. It's a 20 min walk (uphill halfway) to the stop in the morning and then a 10-15 min bus ride.

The stop I get on at in the morning (I take the 40) or the 4 sometimes which is just a little ways away

Sooo as some of you may know-I could get lost in an empty box. So this was an adventure and a half getting home in the dark from a different location (I got to school just fine!). So we went to a big shopping center to pick up a few essentials and there was a 4 bus which also goes to the Frechon stop. So I thought it would be easy to take the 4 and I'd know where to go from there. Turns out it wasn't that simple (or actually it was too simple). I should have just had to take the bus for one stop but the stop came sooner than I thought, so I just got off at the next stop and got way turned around and then just walked in every direction possible-there are a lot of round abouts which did not help matters at all!! I literally walked down every single one of the streets and finally went into a hotel and asked at the desk (in broken French) where a restaurant was that was my landmark for my house. They told me it was straight down the road next to them, but I was sure I had already gone down that road, but I was tired and willing to try anything. So I walked out and turned down that road and sure enough...that was the correct one(pretty sure it hadn't been there before). This hotel, by the way, was right next to the shopping center we had been at earlier that day before heading home and my stop was just by the round about it was on. I should have just walked home...

The rest of the week went much smoother!! Made it to school and back  and in and out of the city without (much) problem. On Thursday night there was a flashmob of the teams in the French Cup happening in Rouen (major synchronized skating tournament) just outside St. Ouen church. On our adventure of a walk there (we were not lost, just taking a scenic long tour of the city...) we walked by the Rouen Cathedral (pictured below).

The Rouen Cathedral -at night (this could totally be a painting right?)

The flash mob of skaters

Then on Friday night we got tickets to see the real show! It was absolutely incredible. Roy's daughter is on one of the French teams.
The sheep is the symbol of Rouen because it was a large wool and textile industry.

One of the American teams cheering another one. (I had no idea we had a team, let alone that this was a sport...)

The American team

I think this is a Finish team--don't quote me on that (there were a lot of Finish teams though and they won first and third with Russian in second)

The Russian team (see link below-such flow!)

The teams all had such different and extravagant costumes! 
On Saturday Feb 2nd, a previous student from Turkey visited (mom and daughter) for the weekend. On Saturday my host mom, dad, the mother and daughter and I drove about an hour to an old fisherman's village of Honfleur. It still produces fish, but is much more touristy than it used to be when that was its main economy, now these re-purposed old facades and streets are lined with expensive (though gorgeous) shops to buy paintings and antiques.

A narrow cobbled street of Honfleur

The church in the middle of Honfleur . The ceiling is built like the bottom  of a boat. 

The harbor of Honfleur

A view of Honfleur from a lookout we drove to after. The bridge (Le Pont de Normandie)  in the background connects Normandy (Honfleur) to Le Havre (and is one of the longest cabled bridges in the world).-over the river Seine.  

Then finally, last night (Friday the 8th), our program director bought us all tickets to a Cali concert (a popular French singer-I think he is the Rod Stewart of France). We walked over the bridge from the the center of the city to the more industrial side where the concert was held at a venue called Hanger 106 (cent-six in french). For those of you who may know, this venue had the exact same vibe and look of higher Grounds in Burlington, VT. 
View of another bridge from Pont Jeanne d'Arc


Cali crowd-surfing (he's kneeling on people's hands if you can't see)

Cali-such energy!
 The rest of this weekend should be pretty calm, just resting and planning for our vacation! I'll be travelling with my friend in the Francophone program-Brittney and we will hopefully (most definitely) get to see my SLU buds Liz and Kim in Copenhagen for a couple days!! This vacation week tail-ends our week excursion in Paris (we leave next Sunday!) It may be after that when I blog again unless the Caps decide to win a game...then I might make a special tribute blog. I'm cheering my loudest from across the pond!

Bonne journee!