“Home is where my habits have a habitat.” – Fiona Apple

After two rather surreal weeks of living in a château, I am finally, to my slight relief, chez moi. Matt and I moved to the foyer on Friday after the quickest bit of packing the world can ever have known and a couple of hours of knowing neither when we were leaving nor who was taking us. Despite the chaos, we made it, and that’s the main thing.

As someone who is more than a bit familiar with the concept of a room ballot (one of many things that New College has taught me), I am very pleased to say that if the Résidence Pont de Mayenne (the name of the foyer) had a ballot system in place, I would come out on top. I’m in Shaun’s former room, apparently the nicest in the whole place, and I’m not even slightly sorry to be bragging about this. It’s spacious and light and, being a studio instead of just a bedroom, comes complete with a little “kitchen” (a dubious title given that it consists of a fridge, a sink, and two hob rings) and a bathroom. It could not be more idéal, especially given that the CAF (a French thing that means you get money off rent – the vagueness of that definition is a good reflection of the extent of my knowledge of it) will mean that I’ll be paying about €250 a month for accommodation. A bargain by anyone’s standards.

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Yes, that is a second desk…

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Chez moi

As well as the unexpectedly excellent room situation, it turns out that Laval itself is actually pretty great. It’s just about the right size, meaning that, although everything is within walking distance, there are still plenty of things to see and do. It’s also far prettier than I expected and has a fair few historical buildings to visit, all of which I am yet to frequent.

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The nightlife is also surprisingly good for a town of this size, as we found out on Friday. Daniel, Shaun, and Laura came to Laval with us for the final night of their year abroad (they left yesterday, much to our chagrin) and, after having been chez Linda, a lovely colleague, for sangria, we all went with their friends from the foyer (who I’m very much hoping will soon be my friends too) to an Irish pub up the road, O’Regans. The members of the group with sturdy livers and no desire to go to bed (read: not me) went on to some more bars and then a club and it was, by all account, a great night out. So my hopes in that respect are fairly high.

I have also managed to wade my way through French bureaucracy and open a bank account. Matt (extremely hungover) and I went to the bank yesterday, and the highlight of the obviously thrilling trip was when, partway through our 4 hour long appointment, Matt nervously asked Agnes the bank lady where the toilettes were. As his gueule de bois meant it was difficult for him to speak a word of English, let alone French, I gave him a knowing look to which he replied with a brief worried glance before hobbling off. After a rather long amount of time which left no doubt as to what he had been getting up to, he returned and sat down, before taking advantage of Agnes’s lack of English to mumble to me “We have to leave now”. Pretty soon after that, and emerged triumphant with our complementary USB sticks and about 100 more sheets of paper each than we had before. Small victories, eh?

Working in the office last week was not the most exciting thing I’ve ever done in my life. However, the work is not difficult and I will definitely be speaking French on a daily basis. Also, now that the teenagers’ stage has finished (at long last) there should be a bit more for us to do.

On the subject of the French teenagers, I don’t think anyone was sad to see the back of them. As anticipated, the second week was considerably more difficult than the first, although being in the office meant that I largely steered clear, and, if I’m absolutely honest, I think they were equally as happy as we were that it was all over. As is tradition at Langue & Nature, there was a boum on the final night, complete with (yet more) karaoke and the absence of two boys who were banned after balancing one of the beds vertically against the wall in their room. We all struggled to smother our laughter when we heard about that. The next stage is during the last two weeks of October, and it is with a mixture of trepidation and tentative excitement that I contemplate the prospect.

Finally, being chez moi means that I can move away from an overload of carbohydrates and get some balance back in my life. Although the aforementioned “kitchen” facilities are somewhat limited, that hasn’t stopped me yet: tonight, I made a cauliflower, chickpea, and mushroom curry. Yum.

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We’re only about seven minutes from a Carrefour, the bastion of French supermarkets, so hopefully my motivation in terms of whipping up veggie treats will not diminish any time soon.

There’s also a fabulous bakery across the road, and it has apparently won awards for its baguettes de tradition. I am yet to sample one of those but I did try one of their pains au chocolat for breakfast this morning (extra kudos to the bakery for being open on Sundays) and it was excellent. When in France, access to a good boulangerie is, obviously, crucial…

So it’s back to work tomorrow and, now that Shaun and Laura have left, Matt and I are riding solo. Does anyone want to place a bet now as to how many things we can do wrong within the next five days?

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