As you may know, one of my greatest passions in life is for the French language and anything to do with France in general. I was lucky enough to participate in a French exchange between my college and a college in Rouen, and finally the time had come for us to travel over there! The journey was insanely complicated and stressful with three different trains to catch, but we were all so excited that the 12 hours of travelling flew by with card games, word games and just general chatter in both French and English! We got the Eurostar to Paris and then walked through the beautiful city to the other train station, and I think in that tiny space of time I fell in love with it all over again. It's my dream to move to Paris in the future and I was just reminded of how much I want to do that!
On the first full day, we drove to Caen to see the memorial museum all about the Second World War which was amazing and also very upsetting and made us all reflect on the events of the past. We went to one of the D-Day landing beaches and then to Ohama beach to see the American War Memorial. I was completely blown away by the sheer amount of graves, all white crosses or stars in perfect rows, seeming to stretch on forever. We then went to the Pointe Du Hoc which you may know if you have seen Saving Private Ryan as it is where the soldiers are climbing up the cliffs of Normandy. There are still huge craters in the landscape from where bombs landed. In the evening we went to a crêperie with all of the correspondents and then to a bar for drinks, where I had some of the best white wine I have ever tasted.
On Saturday morning we had to go to college with our correspondents as the poor things had school! We sat in on an economics lesson in French which was an odd experience. We then went to the house of the teacher organising the exchange and did some French baking, including chouquettes and madeleines. They tasted amazing and we ended up eating far too much. We went to a big shopping centre with our exchanges but the shops were very similar to the UK so we ended up in yet another bar. In the evening I went to a party at another correspondent's house which was so fun! We played ring of fire in French and it was really nice to talk to all of their other friends whose English is not so advanced as we had to speak French to them with no exceptions. We danced the night away to both French and English music and I had my first (few) tequila shots with salt and lime.
On Sunday morning I finally was able to have a lie-in. (I don't know how they cope having school on Saturdays!) Solveig, my correspondent, went out to buy pain au chocolat aux amandes for breakfast and we had a lazy morning talking with her brother, who looked like Alex Turner and was wearing British flag socks as I was there! In the afternoon, we went to see a French film in the cinema with my friend Natalie and her correspondent, who is also Solveig's friend. We were both baffled that we understood it completely without subtitles!
On Monday we spent a day in the centre of Rouen. We walked through all of the pretty side streets with colourful wooden houses and stopped off in a café for a coffee and popped over the road to a boulangerie where I got the best pain au chocolat aux amandes I have ever tasted. We visited some of Rouen's most famous cathedrals which were absolutely breathtakingly beautiful. We went to the Sienne museum to look at the impressionism which was also a fantastic experience and I found what I think is one of favourite paintings; Claude Monet's Vive la France. We went for lunch and I ordered macarons for desert which were so delicate and delicious. We then had some free time to walk around to shops, but we only managed a bit of shopping before we ended up in yet another bar for more drinks! Solveig and her sister took me out to dinner at a really expensive traditional French restaurant which was absolutely lovely of them. I was so proud of myself as I managed to conduct the entire conversation while we were there in French! As it was our last night, we met up with all of the correspondents for more drinks and to say a little goodbye.
I had some of the best days ever in Rouen and I can't wait to go back again. I have fallen in love with the French language and culture all over again and I know it's what I want to pursue in the future! My French has improved an insane amount and I am so much more confident in my speaking, however I did learn quite a lot of slang which I need to remember not to use in my exam... I'm now in a permanent state of Franglais as I am just using whichever word comes to mind whether it is French or English, much to the dismay of my boyfriend who doesn't speak a word of French!
I hope you enjoyed this slightly wordier post about my time in Rouen as much as I enjoyed my time there and also reflecting back on it by writing this!
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