When we last parted, I had left off as I was boarding the train to Montpellier. I ate my lunch on the train, and mostly listened to music and slept, as I wanted to have my energy up for the afternoon welcome party.
Upon arriving at the train station in Montpellier, we were treated to a surprise! Our partners had come to pick us up in the train station. It was so nice to see them after 2 months apart. However, it was daunting as now, it was time to speak French. We made our way to the school on the Tramway that is the public transportation in Montpellier. All of the tram lines are decorated with fun patterns, like green and yellow flowers, blue birds, and others. They reminded me so much of caterpillars! It was fun but a bit intimidating to ride in them. There were a lot of people, and they all spoke FRENCH!
Seeing the school was a bit of a shock for me. It was SO different from my school at home. It was much more like a college, I guess. There was a huge courtyard in the middle, but it was dirt instead of grass. Some trees provided shade, and a few picnic tables sat around for seating. The classrooms were not inside at all, but three floors of classrooms with doors that led onto a terrace/deck structure. Multiple levels of stairs led up to the three floors of classrooms. Everything was outside! The lockers, the doors to the rooms, the doors to the bathrooms, everything! It was very different from my preppy little technology-obsessed school. They welcomed us with traditional French foods, like crêpes, breads, cheese, and sausage. We played a game (that I can’t remember the name to) which was similar to Bocce Ball. We played a trivia game about the city, but of course, I knew nothing!
After the party, it was time to head home. I was welcome into a one floor, small apartment in a complex inside the city, about a 10 minutes drive from school. My partner and I shared a room. Her brother and parents each had a room, but there was only one bathroom. And the toilet was in a separate room! That was a new concept for me. The kitchen was adorable, with all red cabinets and appliances. The living and dining areas were very modern, as her step-father painted lots of canvases with eclectic designs on them. There was a wrap-around terrace that housed plants and drying racks for the clothes. It was a downsize from my American home, but I was excited to try the city living.
We didn’t eat dinner that night, as we had eaten at the party and weren’t too hungry. I was tired and a little overwhelmed, so I went to bed a little earlier.
We awoke at 6 AM the next day to get ready for school. I also had my first French breakfast at home, which was a tartine! Un tartine is butter and jam on bread. Pretty simple, but really really good! Especially when, instead of jam, you use apricot jelly! Best. Thing. Ever. We had a 10 minute walk to the tram station, and then about a 20 minute tram ride, with one switch of lines at the big train station. In France, there are officers who will flood the tram at random spots and check people’s tickets. My partner didn’t tell me to scan my ticket, so we got a ticket. Thankfully, a friend of hers’ dad worked for the tram and straightened the ticket out, but it wasn’t exactly a great way to start off the morning.
We arrived at school, and I met all of her friends. They were nice, but I didn’t talk too much, as I was really nervous. The first class of the day was Spanish, which I know nothing about. They were watching a movie with French subtitles, so I was able to catch some of the storyline, but I probably missed a lot of it. Then, we had English class! Thank goodness! A few of my friends were in this class, and so we were interviewed by the French kids and even had an Americans vs. French game of trivia, asking each other about the other’s countries. It was fun! Next was math. It seemed like they were learning some of the stuff I had learned in class that year, but I couldn’t really understand the questions.
After math, it was time for lunch. On this particular day, my partner had a two-hour lunch period, which seemed insanely long compared to my 30 minute lunch period. We went to – you’ll never guess – McDonald’s! Which, oddly, has been dubbed “MacDou” in France. I was laughing inside, as their McDonald’s is two floors, and actually quite nice compared to ours.
We headed back to school, as the exchange group was taking a trip to one of France’s most famous pastry and candy shops, Cabiron. We met in the courtyard, and then took the tram to the end, and walked on a bit of a sketchy road, and finally made it (sweaty and tired) to the location. We were greeted with water and orange juice, which we quickly chugged glasses of. We were then ushered inside where we were given hairnets and full body aprons, and divided into groups. My group was assigned to make les apéritifs, which are kind of like appetizers. We first made scrambled eggs mixed with peppers, but then put that mixture back into the egg shell for presentation. The chefs had a fancy little contraption that you could snap on the top of the egg and it would cut a pretty little circle out of the top and leave the rest of the egg unharmed. That is, if you were good at it! We had some fails, but all in all that recipe worked out pretty well.
We then made some salmon that was cooked on the edge but raw on the inside. I tried it, and it was okay! I’m not a huge fan of fish, let alone raw fish, but I’m glad that I tried it. Then, on top of that, was white chocolate with spices in it. Yes, you heard me correctly. What an interesting combo! The last thing we made we dubbed “fishburger!” It was raw bass fish mixed up in some sort of like seasoning or sauce and then put on a mini biscuit, so that it kind of looked like a small hamburger.
While we were cooking, they brought out some homemade ice cream for us. One was mango passionfruit something – BEST ICE CREAM EVER! It was so good! We all picked that to be our favorite. The other was vanilla with a French candy mixed in, something similar to Rolo’s, but smaller. That too was pretty good! Still, the mango won us all over. They also gave us some homemade marshmallows and let us go to the chocolate maker and dip them in and try their chocolate. It was SO good!
At the end of the class, each group presented their foods on a table and we had a huge buffet and got to try everything. The dessert were the best part! Little cakes, crême brûlée, small taco shell-like pastries with chocolate and almonds, and so many others. It was so much fun tasting all of the foods my classmates and I had learned to make.
I’ve never even taken a cooking class in America, so it was super fun to try making some French foods. Now I can (if I can remember) make these recipes at home with my family, and bring a little bit of France back with me.
After the class, my partner and her friend and partner went to the mall. Their mall is a little smaller compared to ours, but it has three floors! We went into all the teen stores, but I didn’t get anything. They don’t really have any of the same stores as America, except for Sephora.
We went home and just relaxed the rest of the night. I read a lot, and we watched TV. Not that I could understand any of it!
Today was just another day at school. I don’t exactly remember what classes my partner had that day…but I didn’t understand any of them so it didn’t quite matter. On this particular day, my partner got out of class around 11 am. So, her, myself, and three of her friends just walked around their town center for a little bit. We looked in some stores, and just kind of explored. After a while, her friends all drifted off and we met another group of kids, which thankfully had some American girls in it! We went to a little café and I got a smoothie and a croissant which were VERY delicious. After that, my partner and I went home and ate lunch, which I’m pretty sure was this delicious creamy potato dish. SO GOOD!
After lunch, it was time to go celebrate a friend’s birthday! So, we went to this huge mall called “Odysseum” which has an aquarium, movie theatre, shops, food, and of course, the “laser game.” Yes, the laser tag place was called “Laser Game.” Now, I had never done laser tag before, so this was a new experience for me. It was so much fun! The girls were CRAZY! They would jump out from behind corners and scream and yell and chase you – it got pretty intense. I had so much fun playing two games of “laser game” but then it was time to go home. Her parents picked us up, and we actually headed to the beach just to peek for a few minutes. Mediterranean beaches are beautiful – soft sand, warm water, with Africa right across the water. So. Cool. Then we actually headed home, and had dinner, and chilled out the rest of the night, per usual.
Whew! One week down. On Thursdays and Fridays, my partner did not have to go to school until 10 am! It was so nice to sleep in that morning. I thoroughly enjoyed it, as I was still adjusting a bit to the time change. She had class until 5 PM today, which was a long day for me. Especially French class, which was two hours long, and at the end of the day. One kid wanted me to read a poem out loud – IN FRENCH! I declined quickly. They did, however, put English subtitles on the movie they were watching so that I could understand, which was very nice. For lunch, we walked to a boulangerie for lunch, which is a French sandwich shop. I think I got a chicken wrap and a cookie, which was very delicious. We sat outside the school walls and just talked at lunch. This particular day was pretty low-key, as all we did was school. It was a nice relaxing day.
Today was the last day of school for the French kids, so my teachers decided to take us on a walking tour of Montpellier, just the Americans. We met around 8 AM that morning, and ended up just talking for about two hours. It was so nice to catch up with the American kids and realize that they were having the same embarrassing struggles and awkward situations as I was. It was nice to know that not everyone was best friends with their partner, too. It was a really great bonding experience.
We set out to the town to grab some lunch before our tour, and found a yummy crêperie. We all ordered apple cider, which crêpe – mine had egg and cheese on the inside. It was simple, but very yummy.
After lunch, it was time for the walking tour. With the impending doom of thunderstorms, we pulled out umbrellas and raincoats and prepped for the afternoon. The city really was beautiful – we saw a lot of pretty architecture and sites. I couldn’t tell you any of the history of it, as our tour was in French. Oops! It was an okay afternoon, but we were all pretty tired
Then, the torrential downpour began. We were running through the streets with squishy sneakers and soaking butts. Eventually, my teacher told the tour guide we should just end the tour early. Which we all agreed with. We hopped on the tram to the mall, as we still had some time before we had to be back at school. The group of students stayed together, and went to Relay, which is kind of like a Barnes and Noble. We looked around; some of us bought books or souvenirs for their family. Then, it was time to warm up a bit, as we were soaking wet. We went to the waffle stand – yes you heard me – for a warm waffle. I got one filled with nutella – best thing ever. Highly recommend it.
We met our partners back at school, and headed home for the night. We had another relaxing night at home, which I couldn’t complain about. I was tired and wet and cold from my day, so I was perfectly happy to stay at home.