To finish, here is a blog about our favourite moments in France. Get ready to laugh, cry and hear about the ridiculous number of times we got lost.
The Saxophone Adventures- Esther
Caitlin and I always joked about how this story could be a blog in itself. The time has come.
Caitlin is a wonderful saxophone player (alto sax to be exact). The only problem is 1) she doesn’t like to play in public, and 2) she didn’t bring her saxophone to France. Mostly because of point 1. However our supervisor Christine pulled some strings and found a man who owned a tenor saxophone. Did Caitlin want to play the saxophone? Did she play the tenor saxophone? Did I need to go with Caitlin into central Paris to collect a saxophone? The answer to all these is no. However Caitlin has a spirit of adventure that’s infectious, so when she said ‘Do you want to go to Notre Dame to find a saxophone?’, I couldn’t turn her down.
After we completed work at a women’s homeless shelter, we got on a train to Notre Dame (which was odd in itself as an old man was singing incoherently). When we arrived, Caitlin exclaimed ‘Look at that big church!’ At which point I told her it was Notre Dame Cathedral. It had started to rain but when you’re stood between the Seine and Notre Dame, you can’t help but be excited!
It was Halloween, cold and pouring down with rain. We got lost very quickly, looking for the apartment of a man we’d never met. I must say that Google Maps saves lives because we have gotten lost so many times on this Gap Year. After many Parisian back streets we found the apartment where he lived. It was large, open space and given its central location in Paris, probably worth a fortune. He was the brother of one of the church members and very welcoming to two drowned rats coming in from the rain. He took us down in a tiny rickety lift to give Caitlin the saxophone she couldn’t play. We got chatting briefly about the saxophone and the man asked us what we would use it for. Caitlin in a blind panic told him we were in a jazz band. I can’t help but feel like I added fuel to the fire, saying ‘She plays saxophone, I play piano, Jonny plays clarinet and Taff sings.’ Who knows why we told this kind man about all our jazz band dreams. I still think it could happen in the future.
Back into the rain, and we had to find our way back home just in time for the rush hour. At one point we both got wolf whistled, which was ridiculous because we were both soaked through clinging to a very damp saxophone. We made our way home soaking wet, holding onto a saxophone for dear life, packed in with other commuters on the train out of Central Paris. Though the entire day was a struggle, it felt like a quest in which we succeeded (even if Caitlin never really played the saxophone whilst in Gif). It was funny and we really bonded together over something stupid.
Just the Gilets Jaunes- Caitlin
It was so hard to choose a story to write about, to sum up six whole months of a life so unlike anything I’ve ever experienced and narrow it down to just one article? Near enough impossible. Do I write about the time we as our little anglophone four had to sing and preform at a funeral? Or perhaps the time I became such good friends with a lady that I’m now set to inherit her Parisian poodle? How about that day when I left the team for a day to join in a protest, the time I got a ride on a Vespa along the south coast or even one of the countless stories of running into Paris after a days work? Ooh la la…
I’ll go for one of the most memorable ones, that left us on a platform at midnight with no way of getting to our safe suburb, one team member down, and a little concerned for safety.
Following a great day of work the sun was setting and I was determined to get up the Eiffel Tower, despite my previous attempts of sneaking the team after doing something else in town to the direction of the monument, we hadn’t actually managed to actually set foot on the thing yet. So tonight was the night. Delighted that despite the long day the team was onboard with the plan, I led us onto a train that was to destined lead us to the tower.
Fast forward half an hour, this train was in fact, not destined for the Eiffel Tower but was going in the completely wrong direction. Yelp. This is not the story however, and had this been the case the night would have been over, but it was far from finished.
Esther, who in fairness had been working at the homeless shelter all day, at this point decides enough is enough and finds the next train to Gif, taking Taff’s bag of spare baguettes and waving us goodbye from the RER B. Baguettes in tow. One member down, one bag of baguettes less, onwards and upwards. We will get to the tower.
The nearest station that would lead us to the tower was about 40 mins walk away, so off we went, through some suspiciously quiet streets of downtown Paris, but nothing google maps couldn’t solve. Not because the detour was on me, but I’d go as far to say as it was a nicer aspect of our evening!
So here’s the juicy bit. Hopping on the metro at a station that whisked us away on an overhead
trainline through the arrondissements we caught a glimpse of the tower out the window. Wow. We will get to this tower! This trance that Paris by night set us into was quickly interrupted by a vast explosion from beneath. Shocked and scared we looked around and saw flames beneath, but none of the other passengers seemed to be the slightest bit bothered, only being upset when the train announced it wouldn’t be stopping for safety reasons. Thinking the worst, a man in front, aware of our pale faces explained in short English “Not bad. just Gilet Jaunes” This explosion was coming from the protestors beneath, who were in the process of setting cars alight. Well if it’s ‘just the gilet jaunes protesting and it’s just cars on fire’, and the locals aren’t phased, then neither should we be! We will get to this tower. Hopping off at the next stop we trotted along without interruption from these protestors to the tower, where we successfully queued and took the stairs (bad in the short run, great for our legs in the long run) to the top. All is well. We got to the tower!
Off we pop and back to the station to get the train and then off home, this evening should be done done. Well, I’m afraid not.
After being told by three different stations we were to find another one because due to the Gilet Jaunes they had closed the line, we spent at least two hours walking from station to station. It was approaching midnight and we were all missing Esther and the baguettes, and were conscious that finding our way home might soon become more of a serious issue, but I can tell you prayer works and a train was running again. The final miracle of the night came to us in the form of the number 11 bus which doesn’t run past 10:30pm, but through the literal grace of God we got on at 12:20am, and it ever so kindly led us speedily to our warm, safe and out of harms way beds. A little part of me thinks that even though the bus driver looked like Pitbull, he was actually an angel. Amen to that.
A Christmas to Remember- Taff
Christmas Day was a truly a beautiful day. I am so grateful for so many people making this such a special day. First and foremost we cannot forget Jesus, it was his happy birthday! Christine who began cooking the turkey from early hours – we all love and appreciate her. Esther and Jonny’s mothers whose giving hearts has left me completely lost for words. Bridgette(a cool lady from the English club who’s responsible for the beautiful silver ring that goes everywhere with me on my finger.
Our host family, who I am eternally grateful for, we love you Bernard and Jacqueline- your mother and fatherly love wad overwhelming. To my secret Santa, they (esther*cough cough*) know who they are. Their present was really heartfelt, a beautiful silver necklace that goes everywhere with me. Islay (The dog) you’re such a sweet dog and thanks for the warm cuddles we got to share. Lastly I extend my love to my beautiful family back home, distance was never, and will never be a barrier for us.
Halfway Up a Ski Slope- Jonny
This is the crazy story of Team France trying to find Senator Lake. We had arrived in Valburg after a two hour bus journey when we decided to explore the area. When Googling the best things to do in the area, Senator Lake was one of them. So we followed Google’s directions and made our way to the lake.
We got to the ski slope and Google was suggesting that we go up straight it, up the steep snow covered, full of skiers slope. Immediately it was obvious that Google did not have the directions to safely get to the lake. We then asked someone in the nearby cafe for directions to the lake, but they gave us vague directions like go over the hill and the down (I knew our experiences at min y don would be useful!). This hill had a ski run on it. So while we were dodging skiers, we were trying to figure out exactly which down he meant? There was a fork in the road. Did he mean down right to the road back to town (the opposite direction of the lake) or down left towards another ski run? We decided to follow a sign post that pointed towards the lake which was down and left.
There we were, slipping our way along the ski run to try and find our way to the lake. We definitely got looks. Eventually we had to stop in a forest clearing beside the ski run to find our bearings, and take a break from the crazy situation we were in. While on this break, we saw some people waking along the ski run further down from us. Curious, we followed the path they took but arrived at what looked like the end of the path, except two women were walking towards us from beyond “the end of the path”. The team encouraged me to ask the woman how to get to the lake. At last we were on the correct path towards the lake! We excitedly started our way towards the lake..but we never actually made it because we realised that if we didn’t hurry back soon we would miss last bus out of Valburg.. Yeah I know, you didn’t get the satisfying conclusion of us finding the lake, us too. But we have a funny story and if we ever go back to Valburg, at least we know how to get to the lake.
That Team France makes it back home easily
For Christine, Peggy and Etienne and all their church projects
That Team France’s tour will be successful
Editor’s Note: Though unrelated to the rest of the blog, it would be criminal if these photos didn’t feature in our final blog. Enjoy!