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12 of 12 for March 2011

16 Mar


This 12th was a particularly lazy day. By the time I got out of bed, it was already lunch time. So I eschewed baguettes and croissants for a tasty ham and gouda panini made with our panini maker. With a side of Colbert.


This photo was taken at nearly 4 in the afternoon; my roommate and his girlfriend, a Spanish assistant from Colombia who also works in our académie, were still in their pajamas, working on spring vacation plans.


My somewhat cluttered room has been adorned with even more maps from my Italian voyage.


The reason we stayed inside most of the day was the unpleasant weather; for the past week we’ve had unseasonably chilly, rainy, and very windy weather. This is the backyard at our house under grey skies.


In the evening, we took a bus into town on our way to another assistant’s apartment for dinner and a get-together.


Assistants and the apéritif.


Tayson’s tasty fried rice with Chinese sausage. We gobbled this up pretty fast.


And a delicious tapioca pudding with banana for dessert.


Alice shows off her scarf.


Jorge reenacts an anecdote involving his French flatmate and a joke about white flags.


The beautiful fountain at Place de la Liberté (notice the similarity to the Statue of Liberty?) on our way to the bus stop.


Sam, one of the British assistants, lounges with natural class as we ride the night bus back home.

12 of 12 for February 2011

16 Feb


I began this Saturday the 12th with a walk to the bus stop, on my way to rendezvous with another assistant.


Our destination was Bandol, an upscale seaside town to the west of Toulon. When we arrived, the market was in full swing, including this enticing assortment of cheeses.


I captured this typically French scene at a café in Bandol’s pleasant Place de la Liberté.


Pastel Provençal colours abound on the side streets.


Another shot of the market as the sun started to come out.


On the western edge of town we stumbled upon the Plage de Rènecros, a circular beach with bright blue water.


Fellow assistant Alice payed homage to the scene by making some very nice watercolours.


I’m not exactly sure what these are, but I’m guessing some kind of jellyfish.


Another of Alice’s oeuvres.


Waiting for the train back to Toulon.


Later that evening, I met up with another assistant and her French friend to see The King’s Speech (poster on the far right) in version originale (non-dubbed). A very good film indeed.


After the movie, my friends and I headed across the street to Mezzo, a fast food pasta place that I’d never been to before. A bit more pricey than I’d expect, but a very tasty way to end the day.

12 of 12 for January 2011

18 Jan


The 12th was a relatively uneventful and typical (half) workday. This was the view from one of the streets near my house in the morning, the mountainsides illuminated by the legendary lumière du Sud.


Since the bus schedule is a bit sporadic and the arrival times unreliable, I walked the first leg of my commute, about 20 minutes. This house further down the road with a big yard almost makes Toulon look like the countryside. The peak on the far right is Le Coudon, the name of my high school.


On Wednesday morning I work with two BTS classes, post-graduate students who take courses in a specialized area (for my students, it’s import/export). They had to listen to a recording of a news report about the effect of increased free trade in Southeast Asia, specifically China’s ability to outcompete other nations and draw their labour force away. It was a difficult assignment for them.


French high school students usually only have Wednesday classes in the morning, as the afternoon is reserved for sports or other extra-curricular activities. This means that I get to go home at lunchtime. I re-photographed the day’s first picture in a later light.


Since it was such a beautiful and warm day (after two months of subpar weather), I decided to walk to the beach and meet up with some other assistants. This is the view about 20 minutes on foot from my house.


Quelle belle couleur…


My roommate Adam and fellow assistant Alice joined me on the beach. Here they’re staring pensively towards the old fort.


In the evening, I went to my first tutoring gig, near this house in my neighbourhood (behind a couple of gates). I’m tutoring two teenage girls who have a fairly low level of English and who are extremely shy, not that I can blame them. I’m hoping that next time I’ll be able to engage them a bit more. At any rate, it’s extra money in my pocket.


I returned home for a relaxed dinner in the tiny kitchen / dining room / living room / laundry room. With the obligatory baguette.


Adam found some unused hot chocolate mix in the cupboard, which was rich and delicious.


In order to make my miniscule bedroom less resemble a prison cell, I’ve decorated the walls with maps I’ve collected since I arrived. Here you see Corsica, Ornans, Lille, Franche-Comté, Bruges, Dijon, and Lyon.


To prepare for the next day’s classes, I did some research on Australian English in order to quiz the students. My favourite was “shark biscuit” – someone new to surfing.

12 of 12 for December 2010

16 Dec

On the weekend of the 12th, I was up in Lyon with a few other assistants to see the annual Fête des lumières, or Festival of Lights. Since we were out past midnight on the 11th, I took this shot of a colourful light installation around 1am on the 12th as we walked back to our host’s apartment.

After a very restful sleep, we woke up late in the morning. Our host (who is also an English assistant, in Lyon) had a really nice apartment, complete with a variety of artwork provided by the French subletter.

Fellow Toulon assistant Vanessa and I headed to Lyon’s Christmas market to experience the local holiday atmosphere. Being a chestnut fanatic, she couldn’t resist some hot wine with chestnut flavour.

The Christmas market was really bustling with people.

Since we hadn’t eaten dinner at a restaurant in France for a couple months, we agreed that we would look for a reasonably priced place to experience a Lyonnais meal that evening. We scoped out the picturesque Rue Mercière to find a suitable restaurant.

Seeking shelter from the cold, we went inside the Eglise Saint-Nizier and discovered this nice candle display on the altar. As per tradition during the festival, the Lyonnais light candles in recognition of the Virgin Mary, whose protection they prayed for during the plague of 1643.

Inside the church was also this “hands-on” display (pun intended) where visitors express their thanks to Mary and write prayers on their hand outlines.

Continually seeking shelter from the winter weather outside, we found refuge in a small, infinitely charming café where we got cheap hot drinks and shared a mouth-watering tartine with chèvre cheese and thyme.

We swiftly scuttled over to FNAC, a big entertainment / book store. We used the display iPads to check our e-mail until the store closed.

Although the festival officially ended on the 11th, a lot of the illuminations were still up on the 12th. I’m not sure if the Palais de la Bourse is always lit up like this or if it was just for the festival.

We finally rendez-voused with our host, Maggie, and headed off to a Lyonnais restaurant for a delicious dinner. Our table was at the very back of the restaurant, essentially inside the kitchen. Saucisson chaud in a beaujolais sauce was the main course, followed by a very tasty fondant au chocolat. Only the French know how to eat so well.

Since it’s very difficult to see major English-language films in Toulon without French dubbing, I promised myself before going to Lyon that I would take advantage of their version originale screenings. Maggie accompanied me to see the new Narnia movie, Voyage of the Dawn Treader (in 3-D). It wasn’t quite as solid as the first two films, but it restored some of the vibrancy and optimism of the first installment, and I quite liked the ending.

I took the above picture during one of the previews. My next 12 of 12 will be in – you guessed it – 2011.

12 of 12 for October 2010

12 Oct

My first 12 of 12 from my new home in Toulon, France!


I woke up at 6 AM with a slug on my wall. Blargh.


My typically small French kitchen, which I share with my two roommates (one French, one American). My breakfast is on the table.


When I got to the bus stop at 7 AM, the sun still wasn’t up yet.


Here is a view of “Le Coudon,” a mountain so-named because it supposedly resembles an elbow (un coude) in La Garde, the town where I teach. It also lends its namesake to the high school I work at.


On Tuesdays I only work at the middle school. The teachers’ lounge was still pretty empty when I got there at 7:45, but within 15 minutes I was whisked away to my first class. I answered an interminable number of the students’ questions about me (for the umpteenth time – I’ve had to introduce myself to a dozen different classes already).


I only had three classes in total, but I was surprisingly fatigued by the time I left the school. Aside from the Q&A session, I also led an entire lesson in one class (which was challenging) and worked with small groups in another (which was frustrating), all with absolutely zero preparation. I’m hoping I’ll get some advance notice in the future. Nothing in France is well-organised. (Except the strikes.)


I walked back through downtown La Garde to run some errands, stopping at this War Memorial. Sadly, the Tricolore is missing its red band.


Tuesday is market day in La Garde. I didn’t buy anything, but I enjoyed browsing. All the food is locally grown.


I took the bus back to my neighbourhood in Toulon, La Serinette. It’s a pretty nice residential area, but it’s not particularly close to anything.


Here is my bedroom, or — as I prefer to call it — my breezeway. It’s small, but it gets the job done. On my laptop screen is the interesting new season of Weeds.


My roommate and I walked to the neighbourhood bakery for our daily baguette. He snapped this photo of me outside the shop. Ridiculously French.


My fairly simple supper consisted of salad and a poêlée campagnarde. Potatoes are good.

12 of 12 for September 2010

13 Sep


I had the house to myself with Angel on the morning of the 12th. She woke me up at 4:30 in the morning to go to the bathroom and eat. When I got up later, she was of course back to sleep.


Outside, it was a dreary and slightly cooler than average day – a rarity during the past few months. It’s starting to feel like fall.


My parents came home later and caught the end of the Patriots game.


The first signs of autumn.


We had free game coupons for Pirates Cove mini-golf, so we decided to go for the first time in many years. We were the only people there.


The sun came out during the game. My dad beat me by a few points, but I shot the only hole-in-one.


I think this is a Washington Hawthorn tree? Nice berries.




On the way back, I snapped this shot of Laconia after climbing over some railroad tracks.




My first Jell-O in a long time as well. Orange for autumn.


My departure for France has really snuck up on me – I leave in 9 days. Here’s my pre-departure checklist.

12 of 12 for August 2010

14 Aug


The 12th was a pleasantly cool day, so I took advantage of the nice weather for a little hiking excursion. I began with a stop in Gilmanton, a historic village situated along the Old Province Road, which connected the seacoast towns with the mountain towns back when New Hampshire was still a British province.


I came across a field covered with wildflowers. I couldn’t capture the whole field with my camera, so I zoomed in on a little section. Goldenrod, Joe Pye weed, boneset, and blue vervain dominate.


Another old home in the centre of Gilmanton. You’ll notice a touch of orange on the tree at the right – it seems the dry summer has led to some trees in the area turning prematurely this year.


Such is the case for this maple tree next to the Gilmanton public library.


As I continued driving towards my hiking destination, I passed through the community of Alton Bay. I liked the colours of these cottages on Lake Winnipesaukee.


These old fellas were admiring the view of the lake from the town docks.


My hike of the day was Mt. Major in Alton. Despite my years of living in the Lakes Region, I had never hiked it before, in part because I knew how popular/crowded it usually was. Even on a Thursday, there was only one spot left in the trailhead parking lot. Of the three trails to the summit, I foolishly chose the blue trail, which is the most direct – and most demanding. The trail is basically a constant ascent over mercilessly rocky terrain. I was struggling to keep hydrated, but chugging the water from our home faucet (drawn from an Artesian well) was making me feel nauseous. I almost threw up a couple times, but I soldiered on to the summit.


The view from one of the open faces of the mountain near the summit. Here I’m looking northeast over Rattlesnake Island (with the little hump) towards Tuftonboro and the Ossipee Range.


Plenty of wild blueberries in the higher elevations.


Finally made it to the top, and was humbled by all the small children up there (although they surely took other trails). Here’s the view to the north, towards the Sandwich Range. On the way down the mountain, I took the much more leisurely yellow trail.


Although I had made every effort to stay hydrated during my hike, it wasn’t enough. It’s a common problem for me when hiking – if I don’t replenish my water quickly enough, I develop a splitting headache. I had to retreat to the basement and turn out all the lights, aside from the Colbert Report. A (caffeine-free) coffee milk, an aspirin, some cold water on the face, and a short nap sent my headache packing.


I spent the evening organising all the paperwork necessary to submit my visa application at the French consulate in Boston the following day. This is the work contract I waited to patiently to receive. It lists the two schools where I will be working – a high school and a middle school in a college town suburb of Toulon, on the Mediterranean coast to the east of Marseille. I leave on September 22nd.