Sunday, December 19, 2010

Winter has arrived!

Bonjour tout le monde!

I figured I would start putting little French phrases out there, it is a learning opportunity!

The month of December so far has been a long one, but still fun and filled with school work and snow!
We got a snow storm here a few weeks ago, I am sure some of you have seen it on the news.
It snowed for two days and so many roads were blocked and a lot of transportation systems were cancelled.

Lucky for us high schoolers, the bus system was stopped for the Wednesday and there were at most six people in class.  Since I live in Bonneville, the same town as the high school, I had to go to school. It was nice though because in one class there were three of us and in the other we were six.  I had only two classes that day!

A week later all of the snow was gone and everyone was happy. Unfortunately it snowed again on Friday, we only got a couple of inches though and not too much was blocked.

Finally it is vacation time!
Friday was a day full of school... but lucky for us that we got to eat in just about every class.  In the afternoon, there were college students, who were in 1ere ES at the high school, who came to talk to us about opportunities for university and options that are available to us with the ES Bac.

I found it all very interesting, but I was not concerned because since I am coming back to the US for my senior year, I am not going to finish the Bac or go to University in France.

Tonight we had our Concert de Noël for the Harmonie and it went very well.  We all looked beautiful in our "costumes" and we played very well.

Tomorrow we leave for Barcelona and then we head off to Pamier, near Toulouse for Christmas and then up to Nancy in the North for the New Year!  We are really going to be all over the place for Christmas, with not a lot of downtime, so look out for another post after the New Year!

Happy Holidays everyone and have a Happy New Year!



Sunday, December 5, 2010


Hey everyone!

I have to apologize for my tardiness in my posts, my life is pretty normal now but still filled with work and family time.
As I wrote in my last post, I have routines and I have everyday things and activities now, so sometimes I just cannot find the time to write.  I love to write and update everyone though and today there was a lot to write about.

Today I made my Thanksgiving turkey, a little late, but I got it done.
I made the turkey with a simple stuffing of onions, carrots and celery, and on the side another stuffing, green beans and potatoes.

We had Joelle and her friend over and our friend Pierre-Louis from the Harmonie to eat at noon, and then we left to ski! It was the first time I have ever gone skiing, and I can say that I was excited until I saw the slopes!

Don't worry, I didn't go on a real slope, I stayed at the bottom with Anne and she taught me simple things, like the "chasse neige" (snow plow) and how to turn.  I was so scared at the beginning and the ski shoes were squeezing the life out of my feet!  My poor toes were frozen AND squished!  After a while I got used to it and went down little hills at the end of the slopes and did very well!

I am so glad that I went skiing and I am looking forward to the next time.  The best part was definitely at the end when everyone finished their slopes and Adélie and I pushed each other in the snow, it was a little bit cold but it was fun.  We also went to the ski lodge and drank hot chocolate, it felt so good to be inside and warm.

I am going to update again as soon as I can but I hope you all enjoy this for now!

A plus!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

A Day in the Life of Vicki- An American turned French Teenager

A great day in the French school system always starts with a healthy breakfast consisting of chocolate special K with a very full glass of milk on the side.
That is how I start out almost every school day, except for the occasional nutella slabbed brioche.  Since my school day is very long, I need to eat a good breakfast to keep me going until either noon or one when I eat lunch.
In fact, every school day for me is different, but all Mondays are the same, all Tuesdays etc.  So here is my schedule for every week, I start school every day at 8 am.

8h- Latin
11h-History and Geography
14h-History and Geography
16h-18h- French

11h-Math Spé
14h-SES (Sciences Economics and Sociology)
15h-History and Geography
16h-18h-Arts Plastiques (Art class)

8h-History and Geography


9h-Math Spé
11h-13h-TPE (a group project that we present in March)
14h-15:30- SVT (Sciences of Life and Earth)
16h-18h- Phys Ed

Yes, my school days are very long, except for Wednesdays, but I will get to that .  Now that it is Daylight Savings time, it gets dark around five thirty so I get to walk home in the dark!  It is not a big deal though because I am almost always with Adélie or one of my other friends.  Also, I take karate on Mondays, so I go straight to my friend Mélanie's house with Natacha after school.

My loft
The fall I fear every morning from my loft
I am sure that you are all curious as to what the food is like at school.  Everyone eats at the "cantine". Youhave a lunch card and you zing it once you get in line. There is something different every day, but you get an unlimited supply of bread, then a yogurt or fruit and cheese and sometimes a tart or pie.  Then a small salad or cold veggie.  The main course is not always the best, but I would much rather eat that than the freezer stuff they serve at my high school in the USA.  It consists of some kind of meat or fish and veggies.

Another curiosity is études, it essentially translates to study hall.  But you are not assigned to a classroom, you can do what you want because it is a free hour.  There are rooms for études, simple classrooms where you can work or listen to music or play cards.  Most of the time, I have études at the same time as my class so we go into the études classrooms and work together on homework or just talk.
The family room/tv room

Now the most interesting of days that you will find in France, Wednesdays.  I have class until noon and then Adélie and I go home to eat lunch.  It has become a tradition on Wednesdays to eat Ramen, there are so many different flavors and watch the Simpson until 13:45.  We have saxophone lessons at the Scart-à-B from 14-15:15, so we have to eat before we leave. After the sax lessons, Anne picks us up and we go grocery shopping.  This takes between an hour and two hours, there is a lot to buy!  My favorite part of the grocery shopping is picking the chocolate.  They have a full aisle of it!  Chocolate is very important to the French, and there are so many different kinds and flavors that it takes me fifteen minutes just to look at them all.

The dining room and open space!
Yogurt is also a very important part of teh every day life of the French.  I am talking not just fruity yogurt, but chocolate, caramel and pistachio yogurt!  We eat it as a dessert after dinner very often!  My favorite yogurt is Caramel au beurre salé. Yum!

Benoit's car
Another thing that is a huge part of my every day life here is milk.  We could drink two liters a day if we wanted to.  We drink a lot of milk at breakfast and again at goutez when we get home fromp school.  To add onto it, the milk is amazing!  My favorite use of milk is by far using it to dip brioche into!

Anne's car
As for the normal French dinner, there isn't exactly an average main course.  We eat something different every night, so it could be sausages with potatoes and onions or a HUGE pumpkin filled with bread and cheese.  We actually had taht the other night, I have pictures, no lie.  the pumpkin was so big that we invited people over to help eat it, but even with eleven of us, we barely made a dent in the monster.

The HUGE pumpkin
After the course, we usually take cheese, it consists of multiple types.  My favorite is the driest possible goat cheese and Reblochon.  After the cheese, which we clearly eat with amazing French bread, we take dessert which could be a couple of different things.  It could either be a piece of fruit or grapes, a pie or cake that Anne made, or yogurt.  It really depends on what kind of mood you are in and sometimes you take a little bit of everything because you just can't decide!

My room
As I said before, I continue to play the saxophone here and I take part in an town orchestra called the "Harmonie".  The band has "répétitions" on Friday nights from eight thirty to ten thirty and sectionals on Saturday afternoons.  I mentioned in a previous post that the Harmonie is open to everyone from all ages, from 10 to 70.  The band is really fun and everybody is extremely nice and friendly.  I also have to mention that our band conductor is the strict opposite of Mr. Lordan, her name is Delphine and she is always telling jokes, SMILING (what a concept!!) and laughing with us.  There are always little concerts or festivals that we play at, and of course November 11th, which of course is a huge day in France.  The Harmonie played at three different ceremonies for three different towns that day, each where a very similar speech was given.

Now onto my house here in Bonneville!  The house really is a normal house, I have a bedroom there is a living room and a kitchen and all that.  I am not really quite sure what else to say by way of the house.  The garden is huge and they grow at least ten different kinds of veggies, including that HUGE pumpkin that we ate and enormous zuchini also. 
The front of the house
Have I also mentioned that we have a cat here? They got him a couple of days before they got me, so we are adapting together and sharing the same experience, ok not really but anyways... He is very energetic and il fait beaucoup de betises.  It is weird not having to worry about taking the pup out or feeding her or anything.  I get to feed the cat instead!!

I hope that you all enjoyed this post and if you have any questions or requests do not hesitate to comment, I am most likely over 3,000 miles away so I cannot bite :)

Thanks for reading and tune in next time!


Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Vacances de Toussain

Les Vacances de Toussain lasted from the 23rd October until the 4th of November.
This was the first vacation of many during my stay here in France, and I think that this vacation will have been the most relaxed of them all.  For a slight preview for the upcoming vacations...
Chateau de Saumur

Vacances de Noël- December 18 until January 3rd
Joelle is going to take Adélie and I hiking in the Pyrenées and then down to Barcelona. After that we are going to gather at Anne's sister's house with her side of the family for Christmas and another friend's house for New Year's day.  There will be about fourteen people at Anne's sister's house for Christmas and for New Year's a smaller gathering, about eleven.

Vacances de Février- February 26th until March 7th
We are going to go skiing for essentially the whole two weeks.  For the first week I am going to take lessons and then I am actually going to ski.  We are going to have 27 people maximum at the house at once and an average of about twenty for the two weeks.

As I said before, this latest vacation was busy, but not as busy as the  upcoming vacations.  We left Bonneville early Saturday morning and drove to Angers in the region Pays de la Loire, on the other side of France to visit Adélie's godmother.  It took us about 9 hours in total to get to Angers, but along the way we stopped for a nice break at the Chateau of Chambord.
Chateau de Chambord
 We stayed at Adélie's godmother's house until Thursday where we headed out to Paris. On the way to Paris we stopped at a few other chateaus and ate lunch in a cute town where the chateau d'Azay-le-Rideau was.

Chateau d'Azay-le-Rideau
Adélie and I stayed in Lucile's (the sister of 19 years old) apartment in Paris.  Our first stop in Paris was the Louvre, and as soon as I stepped into the courtyard with the glass pyramids, I instinctively snapped into tourist mode.  I took out my camera and took pictures of everything, the sisters were walking at their normal speed, but I was always a few meters behind them because I took so many photos. 
The pyramid in the courtyard of the Louvre.

Mona Lisa, she sends her regards!
Once we got into the Louvre after eating a satisfying baguette sandwich for lunch, I took out my camera and did not put it away for the next three hours.  Lucile is a student at the Louvre school, so she knew exactly what she was talking about and showed me each corner of the Louvre and some of the really magnificent pieces of work and history that are there.
Vénus de Milo
We went from one hall to another over three hours and still barely covered a quarter of the pieces of art that the Louvre houses.  The best part of my trip to the Louvre was definitely seeing the Mona Lisa, with bright red ropes around her holding the hoards of people back on one side of the room and a huge painting with very few people standing around it on the other side.

The crowd in front of the Mona Lisa.
The crowd in front of her neighbor.
That night, Joëlle, Adélie and I went to the île de la cité and visited Notre Dame.  The cathedral was so pretty at night time, and even though we couldn't go inside we got to appreciate the outside.  Afterward we took walk to the Quartier de restaurants and tried to pick a restaurant to eat at.  The small street was packed with other restaurant seekers, and we had restaurants lining both sides of the street.  There were so many choices that we had to round the corner twice, there were Greek, Italien, Mexican and even an American Western restaurant.
We finally decided to eat at a creperie and I have to say that it was a very good choice!

We took the Paris vélib back to Lucile's apartment, the bikes in big cities with stations everywhere.  Biking in Paris at 10 o'clock at night, it was an experience that I am always going to remember.  Good thing that we were in one of the quieter parts of Paris with less traffic or else I would have been ten times more scared than I was.

My beautiful and deliscious crêpe.
The next day Adélie and I got to sleep in a bit because the sisters had a rendez-vous at the Grand Palais.  Anne picked us up and we went to eat at an Asian restaurant before going to the Musée d'Histoire Naturelle, where I met a small portion of the family.
In front of the evolution case in the museum
 There was a dinosaur exhibit along with the rest of the museum, so we spent the afternoon there.  The exhibit was fantastic, with activities and interesting facts for all ages, but it was so packed that we did not stay long enough to read every plaque and see every fossil and case.  What was really amazing though, was that everything, I mean everything in the exhibit was also written in English.  I got to enjoy the exhibit along with the rest without having to pull my dictionary out every other word.
We then visited most of the rest of the museum before being called by Adélie's ten year old cousin Trevor to go down to the café for a snack.

That night we went to see a saxophone quartet and they were hilarious!  The music was great and the script was even better.  There, I met another portion of the large family.  There were twenty two of us!  We then went to a large restaurant to celebate four birthdays that fell during the month.  But do not worry because that was only one part of the family and I will meet the rest of them during Christmas and ski season!

At the top of the Chateau d'Angers

The house that Angers is most known for.

The chateau that Sleeping Beauty was supposedly based on.

Chateau de Villandry
That is all for now, we had a 6 hour drive home from Paris on Sunday.  To make the drive better, Adélie and I watched The Incredibles (in French of course) on Anne's laptop.  I am still on vacation, in fact I don't start school again until Thursday, but now it is time to start the homework...

Oh, I also have another book to read for French class, it is called "Le Jeu de l'Amour et du Hasard" by Marivaux, so wish me luck!

Don't forget to tune in soon, because the next post is titled "A day in the Life of Vicki Miller, an American turned French Teenager".

Ciao! À Bientôt!

Monday, October 11, 2010

More Strikes and Lots of Fog!

You would not believe the amount of fog there is in the mountains!

Every morning I look out my sunroof window and all I see is white! Then I sit up and still see white, then I really look out the window and I finally see the town, covered by a thick layer of clouds.  All throughout the day and into the afternoon the mountain-tops are in the clouds.  Sometimes in the late afternoon around four or five o'clock the clouds clear out, but the usual fall day-so far- has been cloud covered town and mountains and an average of 11C.  That is not bad for the autumn in the mountains, but as Adélie said, it is not going to stay this way for long, they call for a snowy winter this year, YAY!

That doesn't mean there will be snow days, because there are not many snow days here, you get to school when you get to school.  The same thing goes all year long with the teachers, there are no substitute teachers.  If a teacher is absent or on strike, well good for you because you will not have their class.  Tomorrow there is another strike and I have Math from 10am to 11am, then I have "études"-their version of study hall or free time- until 3pm when I have an hour of History and Geography!
We have already had 4 days of "grève", and I have come to like the striking ways of the French :).
I found an Asian food store! It had a full aisle of different flavored Ramen and even had fish sauce!

On the other hand, there was a blocus at the high school on Friday morning.  The essential layout of a blocus is an organized manifestation of the students blocking the entrance of the school.  This is their way of "striking" if you will, because they litterally blocked the other students from entering the school.  In this case, there were ways to get through the sea of people, but they were packed tight.  Around 8:30 the students were able to enter the building, but there was a maximum of 6 people in all of my classes.

We got our Maths Spé test back and I got a 17/20, which made me very happy and we are going to take another Math test on Friday on percentages and factoring.  I better watch out for my periods and commas and show all my work, I should ace-oh wait I can't use that word because you can't get an A in France- so I should 20 this test!

This weekend we returned to Benoît's parents' house in Sothonod in the Juras to finish picking the ripe fruits and nuts.  This time we picked the rest of the blackberries, little kiwis and the beginning of the nuts.  We have to come back in a month or so to finish the nuts.  We brought a little picnic of leftover broccolli and beef tart with fresh bread, grapes and pastries.

On our way back to Bonneville, we had to drive through a cloud!  The whole mountain top was inside the cloud and at one point we could see no further than a meter in front of the car!  The trees were all surrounded by the cloud and the fields with the cows, you could barely see the cows. 
These are photos of the view in front of the car on our way down the mountain.  It took us about twice as long as before because of the fog and clouds, but we finally came out of the cloud and listened to classic French songs on the way home.  It felt weird, because these were songs like "Don't Stop Believin'" and "Can't Buy Me Love" and "American Pie" that everybody knows!  I was the only one in the car not singing along to every single one of them!  But no worries, because Adélie is going to pound them into me until I know them all by heart too and can play them all on the piano :).

So, about those little kiwis that we picked at Sothonod...
They are absolutely deliscious! They taste like fuzzy kiwis but minus the fuzz and are about the size of the top of your thumb and are slightly sweeter.  Tonight we had them for dessert and we finished the whole medium-sized-colander full of them!  Good thing we have another box-full in the basement :)!

This was my plate tonight after dessert, the only reason that I left the two is that one fell on the floor and the other one was not in the prettiest shape. :(

I am off to bed early tonight, since I start at ten tomorrow I can sleep in!!

I will study hard for my next tests and I will update soon, we have close family friends coming over this weekend and then next weekend is vacances de Toussain!
I will certainly have lots of stories to tell so tune in next time!

Ciao and Bisous!

-I am finally getting used to the bise every time I say hello to someone! For those who don't know a thing about the French culture, the bise is the custom greeting of friends when they see each other for the first time in the day, it is one kiss on each cheek- more of a cheek touch and a kissing sound, but you know what I mean- for two girls and a guy and a girl, and more often nowadays, the boys give a firm handshake to each other.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

AFS Weekend

My first AFS weekend was this weekend, and it was so much fun!

It was so nice to be able to talk and connect with people who are experiencing the same thing as I am. Also, we spoke French only when necessary, during the group activities and the group meetings, but the rest of the time we spoke English.  It was a little bit weird at first, because after talking for fifteen minutes, I realized that that was the most fluently paced English that I had spoken in a month!

 One of the activities we did was musical chairs, but the only source of music that we had was Marshall's ukulele and Emily's voice.  There was a group of students from the Student Ambassadors program at the castle with us, below is not the castle that we stayed in, but the castle at the top of the hill that we were on and visited Sunday afternoon.

The Student Ambassadors were going to New Zealand, Marshall's homeland, and the United States for two weeks later in the year.  They talked to us a little bit about our experiences in France and then played games with us.

We spent most of Saturday and Sunday in Isère with AFS, but there was not a lot of time acutally spent doing AFS activities. We had a two hour activity period with samll groups both Saturday afternoon and Sunday morning, but the rest of the time we had to ourselves and the other AFSers. 
 Above are the three Americans, Ashley-Marie on the far left is from Austin, Emily is from Connecticut and me, well I am from beloved Massachusetts.

When Ashley and I took a couple of minutes to check out the property, I looked down and saw a bunch of dandelions.  I know I was stupid, but I seriously thought there were only dandelions in the US and Canada, I am not kidding.  So when I saw them all on the grass leading up to the parking lot I had to have a picture with them!

Nikita-German, Marshall-Kiwi, and me-you all should know.

Another one of the activities that AFS had us do was to draw a little flag of our home country and on the other side write our name and then place it on the map of Rhône-Alps.  There were so many people clustered in Lyon and St-Etienne, but then there was only me and a girl from Paraguay in the North East near Geneva!

Once we got to the top of the mountain that we stayed at over the weekend, this was the view and there was a map at the top of what cities were where and what you could see.  The castle was all closed off though so we could only look and enjoy the view.  It was also so windy at the top, we all felt like we were going to get knocked over!  It was fun to be with people from around the world and share our experiences that are so similar, yet so different. 

In this last picutre, there is Marina-all the way at the top- from Brazil, Nina-to the right- from Australia, and Jacob-on the bottom- from Denmark.  The mix of people was really amazing, and it was so fun to hang out with them and learn about what their lives were like at home, and to hear the different languages.  Jacob's accent in English is so great, and when he rapped in Danish we could not stop laughing!

This week is/has been/is going to be my hardest week so far, because I have so many exams! I got my math test from last week back and I got a 16/20.  I am very happy with the grade, but I have to remember that they don't use the quadratic formula here and that I have to use a comma instead of a period!  I have already made that mistake so many times!

I am off to study for the many more exams I have this week and to read some more of L'Etranger by Albert Camus for French class.
Until next time!
A Bientot!

Wednesday, September 29, 2010


Yesterday, I went to MacDonald's for the first time in about six years.  Not only any MacDonald's though, a French MacDonald's.  It was vastly different than any experience than I have ever had.  I got the "Royal Bacon" which came with fries and a soft drink.

Now think American MacDonald's and the size of the burger I bought in America...My burger was easily half the size of an AMerican bacon burger.

And the fries, they were the size of the fries in a Happy Meal, easily.  The best part was, that when I was finished I did not feel like I needed to run a 5k to burn it off. That would not be a bad idea, but I was left feeling perfectly satisfied, if you will.

The drink was between the size of a small and a medium in the US.  I got a Coca-Light, that is what they call Diet Coke, so don't come to France and ask for a Diet Coke because you will not get one.  All of the portions were reasonable compared to the American burgers, my friend Marine was able to eat four Big Macs in the span of fifteen minutes without getting sick!

Also a little tid bit for anyone who wants to comment and does not know how:
You can now comment as status Anonymous, but if you do please sign your name/s!
You simply have to click select profile and then Anonymous to comment then hit comment!

Thanks for reading my adventures, I have many more to come!

Monday, September 27, 2010


Saturday, Adélie and I went to Lyon with Joelle and a few of her friends.  We took the train from Bonneville to the Gare de Lyon Part-Dieu in the center of Lyon where we met Joelle.  We then went to the one and only mall in Lyon, it was absolutely huge and I now understand why they put maps in almost every corner of malls.  We met one of her friends Ivan, who owns an apartment in Lyon at the mall and then proceeded to Les Halles de Lyon, where fresh produce of every sort is sold.  Since we were going back to Ivan's apartment to make lunch, we had to buy something; and boy did we buy something.  We bought quenelles, which are heaven made of flour, eggs and butter, a lobster sauce to cook them in, and pralines for that afternoon's gouter.  There were stations for fresh meat, seafood, saucisses, and dried food.  There were also a few pastrie shops, such as the one that we bought the pralines at, throughout Les Halles that had tummy-rumbling desserts on display.

After buying the ingredients for the future meal, we took a stroll back to Ivan's apartment by crossing through downtown Lyon and the Rhône Bridge.  After eating the magnificent meal of quenelles, rice and green beans, Joelle, Adélie and I headed down to visit Old Lyon.  We took a "funiculaire" to the top of the hill with the Basilique Notre-Dame de Fourvière, which was built in honor of the Prussians not invading Lyon.  The three of us rented a bike from Vélo V, one of those bike stations where you can rent a bike for a day, week or year.  The hill was so steep I was afraid that I was going to fall right over the handlebars.  The other thing was that whenever I stopped, I had to get off the bike completely because my legs were too short to reach the ground.  Once we got to the bottom of the hill where  I could breathe and walk again I was totally fine.  As we were walking through Old Lyon, we ran into La Fanfare de L'école Centrale Lyon who were playing a mix of so many different known tunes, the Aristocats to the University chant in the USA.
This past week I received my first test (devoir or controle in french) in french class in "figures de style".  I was absolutely terrified of taking it, because I did not want to see the outcome.

When we got them back a few days later I was so shocked to realize that I got a 14.75/20!  In France all of the grades are out of 20, so do not determine the percent in your head, because it is not like that.  That grade is not bad, in fact all grades above 10 are not bad.  Also, Adélie asked my French teacher later in the week if she had scaled the test for me and she told her "no", that she had to recount the points a few times to make sure she had gotten my number right!

The pictures that you see above are the views from either side of the bridge crossing the Rhône. After we crossed to the other side of Lyon, we also saw the Saône, and the place where the two rivers connect.

This week I have one test in every class so please wish me luck!

Also, tomorrow I will have my first encounter with French MacDonald's!

To see how I fare with all of the above, tune in next time!