No More Indoor!!!

To be honest with you 3 weeks has flown by and I actually don’t have all that much to write about…shocker right?! After those horrendous exams we all had to go through the further purgatory of picking our modules for this semester; which involved us going to numerous things that we gave up with to play on various tablets and other electronic devices. We even walked to a different campus to try one out only to decide before going in that the masters subject of foreign affairs was not for us (though it may have had something to do with the fact that the walk was not worth the time it took and due to a tiny underestimating of the time it would take, the lecture had started without us). However some did make the cut and finally we all got that sorted.

The main news I have is that the indoor hockey season for the Tuquettes ended on Sunday. After a pretty successful season, we’re exchanging the humidity and push passing for some good old wind, rain and proper hitting…Thank God! Team talkAs much as I like to watch indoor hockey and participate occasionally, I have come to realise that playing it on a regular basis is not for me. Anyone who knows about my temper can only imagine what it’s like with the heat turned up a fair few degrees in a sticky sweaty hall; to sum it up…Not pleasant. That is not to say that I haven’t enjoyed it at all however; we had a fantastic time in Lyon for the 3rd Round of the National 1 Tournament! TuquettesA win, a walkover and a draw with the team standing 2nd in the league is not a bad set of results and of course we all had a laugh on the 4 hour each way train journey and running around Lyon in our free time. I even met up with my friend Tanita from Bangor which was awesome! We did however, miss out on getting into the final for numerous reasons but on the bright side, that does mean one less long journey for the girls and we went out on a high so I don’t think anyone could have complained all that much.Tuquette's Toast

Sunday saw some hard matches played and although we did lose both games against SA Mérignac it was evident that both of our teams fought hard and we did ourselves proud.TUC PyramidLast Indoor Comp.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

NeckNomination

Speaking of being proud, I felt a warm fuzzy feeling inside after I completed my NeckNomination a few days ago; not with a pint but with 2 cups of hot chocolate. SDFs (homeless people) in France are more numerous than you may think and I decided that I would befriend one and do something nice for her. I’m happy to say that she was very appreciative of a warm drink and I daresay the company too. It was apparently her lucky day as not more than 5 hours earlier, George had gone out and bought the same woman lunch! If anyone has been nominated to down a pint of grim juice then I strongly urge you to do as I did and turn it into something positive. I guarantee you’ll feel so much better for it!

To go with the stories of success, I am also ecstatic to report that my boyfriend Jack has been given (and has accepted) the opportunity to do his masters project in the Seychelles during part of the summer…Lucky Sod! He’ll come back all tanned and with pictures of him on a beautiful Island with beautiful animals when as of yet, I shall be vegging on the sofa gaining nothing but old age and a large backside…what a wonderful thought. At least I did get to celebrate with him though. A week in Reading wasn’t long but it was enough to go out for a nice meal and enjoy the wonderful weather…haha yeah right it was pouring the majority of the time!
Rain

That’s one thing I’ve got over most of my friends and family for the moment at least…SUN!

On that note I think I shall go out and soak up some rays.

Until next time!

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Bonne Année à Tous!

And so, we may be a month in but I’ve been busy so Happy New Year!!! I am now legal to drink in the USA (fat lot of good that is when I went there on holiday LAST summer) but hey it’ll count in the future. I enjoyed two Christmases, one with family I hadn’t seen in two years and the other with my sister’s boyfriends…no, not my boyfriend, my sister’s…that didn’t make me want to hurl into a bucket or anything! But all in all, one of the best Christmas holidays I’ve ever had.

Photo by Sharon Miller

Photo by Sharon Miller

Alas, the bliss could not last forever… The dreaded exams approached fast and the two weeks after I got back were like being hit by 7 mini earthquakes or floods with no weather warnings or preparation. I think though, that I was fairly lucky in that my first exam was the most horrific thing I think I have ever attended in my life! Why is that lucky? I hear you ask. Well, it’s lucky as I knew from then that nothing would ever be that bad ever again. Seriously, this lovely man came out of the exam room at 8.30am to reassure everyone in the corridor that it would not be a nasty experience and to relax; all well and good if you had him as your examiner. I should be so lucky…4 hours later after finding out we weren’t on the exam list and then insisting we had taken the course, I came face to face with Satan’s wife! She’d already made a French student cry; things were looking pretty bad for me. I had watched Georgina go in before me and she came out rather solemn…I was soon to find out why. I was given a topic I didn’t know anything about but I thought I’d give it a go…big mistake, after a grilling and some very unnecessary rude behaviour from Mrs Hitler I was released; I had survived, that was all that mattered. One down, six to go…brilliant.

It was a good job then, that we had George’s 21st to celebrate and that I had some hockey in the middle to chill out a little bit! The second round of the Ladies National Indoor Tournament was held in Toulouse, it was perfect; we didn’t have to spend hours travelling and we had more supporters…and they’d made banners! Pre-match Line UpFirst match went really well with a win of 3-2 and I saved a flick! Talk about pressure but a slight touch of my stick pushed it onto the post and it went wide (and I’m glad as we had the Cardiff and Bangor lot watching; couldn’t disappoint them)! Annabel scored too so it was cheering and whooping all around. Off to have lunch with the TUC girls and 2kg of pasta, we had no choice but to burn all that off and we gave it a good go with the amount of effort put into our second match. SaveIt was closer than the score suggests as we lost 5-2 but this was against top of the table who had previously beaten a team we had lost to (they beat this team 15-3), therefore we were pretty damn pleased with that result too. Team dinner was hilarious with chatting and practical jokes such as our coaches shoelaces being tied together by a particularly mischievous team member who I will not name as Axel still has not figured out who it was! Late night with some much needed sleep in preparation for our last match which we played on the Sunday and won 7-3 and with that we concluded an awesome weekend!

So, those two weeks were a bit of a blur but eventually the exams were done and I even know that I passed one! Check that out for exceeding obligations and indeed expectations! So for two days, I was free!!! What better way to celebrate than a little wine tasting trip? So to Gaillac we headed. Just under an hour from Toulouse by train and costing under 10€ each way, it was a worthwhile trip. All of us had a really good time trying all the different wine (even with yet another wife of Satan acting like a pompous sour lemon) and of course I came back with a couple of bottles; I mean, it’d be rude not to!

Photo by Gethin Bennett

Photo by Gethin Bennett

I do have one more thing to write about; I have a friend who said he would read the blog that was about him and while I’m sure he’d love the whole thing to be about him, I fear that it wouldn’t necessarily be something that a lot of my family and friends would ideally love to read about…however, I will say a huge congratulations to Lionel and his wife and I hope that March brings all that it is supposed to in the form of a new little hockey player to join the Tuquettes!

(Lionel je crois que tu peux comprendre ton nom et tu sais que j’ai écrit ce paragraphe pour toi, spécialement. Alors voici la traduction: J’ai encore une chose à écrire; j’ai un ami qui a dit qu’il lirait le blog qui était autour de lui et bien que je sois sûr qu’il l’aimerait tout cela pour être à son sujet, j’ai bien peur qu’il ne serait nécessairement quelque chose que beaucoup de ma famille et mes amis aimeraient idéalement lire…Pourtant, je dirai félicitations énormes à Lionel et sa femme et j’espère que mars apporte tout ce qu’elle est censée sous la forme d’une nouvelle petite joueuse de hockey pour rejoindre les Tuquettes!)

And so that’s been my time so far in Toulouse for 2014. Looks like it’s going to be a good year! Hat’s off everyone!

Élément Choc

I can’t believe that’s a whole semester over already! I’ve been here for 113 days (just under 4 months) and looking back, it’s flown! I promised this blog would be shorter and it will be; I just wanted to share with you the final stages and giggles of semester 1 including French soirées, musicals, tournaments and even our first exam!

First of all, I have been keeping these pictures safe for when I wrote this and I think it’s about time that they were shared. The Erasmus team organised a night out for everyone under the theme ‘élément choc’; pretty self-explanatory, you dress up nicely and you have one item of clothing/accessory that is a bit unusual or shocking. Unfortunately due to prior commitments and time constraints I could not attend this event however this did not mean I was about to miss out on all the fun…shopping for that ever important shock element! The following images depict a rather amusing shopping spree with Rebecca and Georgina and finally the lovely Miss Annabel McKane modelling one of our hockey club’s ‘slim-fit’ shall we say, bibs:Shock Shopping!Georgina - HairbandRebecca - Pink WigAnnabel - Bib

To continue with the French entertainment, myself, Rebecca and her friend Alice went to see Mamma Mia! I LOVE this musical and even completely in French (yes songs too!) it is an absolutely fabulous show! The highlight of course had to be some old man a few seats down from us singing along…to everything…without knowing the words…out of time and out of tune…great. Evil glares did not work and sadly nobody closer to him gave him the swift dig in the ribs that he deserved. I mean, I appreciate that he was enjoying the show but COME ON!!! Mamma Mia!Fortunately this didn’t ruin the spectacle and actually started to cause uncontrollable laughter from a surrounding group of people when the man’s wife decided to make it a hideous duet with her out of sync clapping…how is that even possible?! There is a beat…clap…on…the…beat!

Of course, it wasn’t all fun and games in the final run up to the end of term (much to our dismay); we had an exam to revise for. Yay! Just to clarify, I find revising hard enough to motivate myself for at the best of times, let alone when the exam in question does not count for anything except maybe pride…and let’s be honest, I lose most of my dignity when I go on a night out anyway so not a major catastrophe there to be honest.

Photo by Rebecca Jones

Photo by Rebecca Jones

Buuuuuuttt I was convinced by my more scholarly and sophisticated peers to knuckle down at least a bit. I’m happy to report that actually I didn’t think it went too badly, I don’t think I passed but I did for all intents and purposes, manage to answer most of the questions I was asked to some degree…to what avail I have no idea as we have yet to be given our results but hey, I tried. The best part of the day though had to be our celebratory meal…YUM! Well-deserved I’d say.

In a bid to pre-establish the fitness levels before gorging myself on mince pies and whatnot I participated in 2 hockey tournaments the last 2 weekends. Indoor hockey isn’t really what I’d class as my particular speciality but I gave it a go…even had my own small fan club for a couple of matches for the L’Isle Jourdain tournament! Isle de Jourdain - Tuc 1 et 2Yeeeaahh was fun but diving about so much indoor can be rather painful as I found out the next day when I was reduced to nothing more than a crippled being with extremely limited movement, sad times I know. So it goes without saying that I was happy to be playing out for the tournament at Orléans, especially after a ridiculously long journey involving numerous sleeping positions and various stretches to make sure I didn’t face-plant my way out of the minibus when we got to our destination after about 5 ½ hours.

Some people should really learn the difference when putting signs on tables!!!

Some people should really learn the difference when putting signs on tables!!!

A weekend full of good hockey and a lot of laughter is what was had though so there are no complaints here.

To pass my final few days I’ve done an epic amount of shopping at the beautiful Christmas Market in Capitole, enjoyed some lovely mulled wine and randomly…saw a couple of Sumos on the metro (stay classy Toulouse)!Sumo

Now all that’s left to report is that I have had a brilliant first semester, roll on semester 2!

Photo by Rebecca Jones

Photo by Rebecca Jones

Joyeux Noël et à l’année prochaine !!!

Deux Semaines aux Petits Oignons

Now I know many of you will wonder so I shall explain the meaning of this blog’s title. As everyone knows, we all like to use idioms in our colloquial language (day to day expressions) for those who care little for the technical terms. For example in English there is the phrase: ‘it’s raining cats and dogs’. To any foreigner this must sound bizarre; I myself don’t fully understand the origin of this saying however I suppose that’s part of the nature of idioms…to sum up something in a manner where everyone knows what you mean…without necessarily understanding the exact meaning of what you’ve said. Same thing goes for other languages; I do not mean that the French say ‘il pleut les chats et les chiens’ in fact if you said that to someone here I doubt very much that you’d get any response other than a look of bewilderment. No, actually they are far more charming and say ‘il pleut des grenouilles’ or ‘il pleut comme vache qui pisse’ (it’s raining frogs/like a pissing cow) I told you, bunch of charmers aren’t they? Anyway, the particular idiom I have chosen for my title is ‘aux petits oignons’ literally ‘pickled onions’ so as a literal translation my title reads: ‘Two Weeks of Pickled Onions’ what I mean in plain English is that I had a really good two weeks; practically perfect in fact.

Another bout of birthday celebrations was the first order of business. The lovely Mr Joe Perry turned 22 and what can I say? The antics of the night had such a profound effect on him that his body and mind would enjoy them all the way through to the evening of the next day…hey, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger and I’d say we all had a pretty epic night out!

Once everybody who was affected by the infamous substance known as alcohol, had recovered, we decided it was time for another vitalising cultural experience in the form of a day trip to the beautiful city of Foix.

Chateau de FoixSituated close to the borders of Spain and Andorra, it is one of the most beautiful places I have explored yet, if not the city itself then the stunning views that it offers from the top of the castle. We were fortunate enough to have picked the one clear day in the week for our trip and this meant that we had perfect views of the Pyrenees Mountains and what seemed like the entire Ariège River Valley. It really was a sight to behold even if there were large gaps between the walls and where we were standing consequently leading to vertigo for some in our group and rather non-PC jokes about what or who could fall through said gaps…but that is all I shall say on that matter. Although I managed to fit my leg through up to my thigh! What can I say? I like heights.

Chateau de Foix 1

Given that this was to be a cultural trip, it seemed only fitting that I ate a proper cultural lunch…can’t get more French than escargots right?! Snails are actually rather yummy, rather like chewy garlic mushrooms…though they aren’t the most aesthetically pleasing things as I found out (I would NOT look at these little suckers while you still have some left to eat)! However that was all washed down later with a lovely hot chocolate and the most beautiful slice of apple and blueberry pie! Seriously that dessert was a creation of some Food God somewhere! If anyone’s in Foix at any point, definitely check out ‘Croustades’ It’s a divine little tea room and the owners were so lovely and accommodating…and English which did help with such a big group of us and communicating the moving of all the tables. It just goes to show that you can end up finding some absolute gems when you don’t expect to. I mean, we were just walking along chatting, trying to find somewhere nice for a hot drink and this man asked if we were English, saying it was rare to find such a big group of English speakers, he then noticed Joe by the door of the tea room and said ‘oh, that’s my tea room’…fate at its best there ladies and gents!

Now for the mahoosive highlight of my last two weeks: I got to enjoy week in the UK!!! I do love it in Toulouse do not get me wrong but there’s only so much time and distance you can put between a girl and her best friends and boyfriend before she starts to feel like she’s lost a limb…it’s like forgetting your phone when you go out or not putting on a piece of jewellery that you wear every day. But I got a very early bus and arrived at the airport 2 hours in advance I was that excited! Ok I was planning to get there a bit later in all honesty but Georgina pretty much made me crap myself that I was going to miss my flight if I took the later bus…I wasn’t taking any chances. As it happened everything went very smoothly and I walked through the airport and through security in 10 minutes so had plenty of time to kill (most of it spent playing candy crush, I won’t lie to you). Finally, I boarded the plane. Basic flight details:

  • I helped a lady with her hand luggage.
  • I found out very quickly said lady didn’t like taking off or landing.
  • I reassured her (in French I might add).
  • I fell asleep then woke up with my head in the aisle.
  • Plane landed and I chatted to the lady I met all the way through to passport control.

All in all a success and I immediately texted my friend Scott to come and get me…yes I am lazy like that, it was easier given where he lives, for him to pick me up than for me to get a train. I did not force him, he agreed out of his own free will. Either way we got back to his mum’s house where I enjoyed a gorgeous proper roast dinner! After that bowling was a hilarious way to spend the evening and as it turns out I was rather good! Bowling

Well, I won the first game…Came second by 3 points in the second…third in the third and the less said about the last 2 games the better I think…I felt like my thumb was going to fall off! Roy got his hot chips from McDonald’s and we parted ways. Scott and I then enjoyed a very windy trip to Brighton the next day before I boarded my train to Reading.

See actually I am very self-functioning on public transport; I even take buses out of my own free will now! Rocked up at a beach of a hockey pitch and demonstrated what can only be described as a koala impression when Jack ran over to say hello (him being the tree). To my genuine surprise this was not met with loud woops and jeers and I enjoyed watching the rest of his training after which we walked back to his and I waited until midnight like the good girlfriend I am to wish him a Happy Birthday! The celebrations of the day included a lovely brownie cake made for him by his flat and of course the drinking games in the evening…well, they were highly amusing!Jack's Cake

His flatmates are a right laugh and were sweet enough to give him presents all ‘Jack-related’: Scrumpy Jack, Jack Daniels and Coke…and Frosty Jacks Cider; for those of you who didn’t do the whole ‘I’m a rebel drinking at 16’ thing, you should know that cider smells like arse and tastes even worse! 'Jack' PresentsNeedless to say it didn’t go down well and it was a slightly worse-for-wear man that went to his lectures the next morning! This did not stop him thoroughly enjoying a birthday meal with all his friends at Las Iguanas on Wednesday though…and it was Happy Hour! Yay! Cocktails all round; though none had vile cider in though so we were all safe. The best event was yet to come however. It does not take someone very long to figure out that I am somewhat of a loud person…I like to talk…so keeping quiet + me is not normally a brilliant equation. But, I did manage to book a pretty awesome 1 year anniversary surprise for Jack…and keep it secret! Be proud people, can I get a round of applause please? A well done? Anyway, with him feeling apprehensive about the whole thing on the way to this surprise I was more than happy to get the reaction I wanted when I saw his face light up with a massive grin when he spotted the name on the tickets I showed an usher: Reginald D Hunter. I think I did good and the show was pretty damn decent if I’m honest. Surprise

Then all of a sudden I was at my last full day in England. Unsurprisingly I spent all that I could of it with Jack…if not err quite how I had envisaged it… He was playing hockey, I was supposed to watch. In short, I ended up on the pitch umpiring in jeans and a knitted jumper…was an experience I suppose and it was a good game; 6-0 win to Reading Uni over Newbury and the lads were in good spirits even if I did get to know them a little better than I’d planned as we had to spoon to fit in the car on the way back; oh how I miss the uni banter! So, what better way to top off and end the week then, but with a Nando’s? I had a craving; Jack had never been, so it was perfect! A couple of films when we got back and then 5 hours sleep before I had to get up and go. I grabbed a Christmas Costa, experienced a lovely last minute platform change and then I was on my way. I held everything back until I got into my room in Toulouse…and then boy did the dam break! But only 26 days and counting until I fly back for Christmas. I have my chow mein sauce for stirfry and I have my minions advent calendar!

Minion Calendar

Yeeaahhh be jealous!

So after a bit of sadness at leaving after such a perfect week, I’m now looking forward to enjoying the countdown until Christmas.

Restez Heureux! (I promise my next blog will be a lot shorter!)

Les vacances à la Ville Rose

I have never looked forward to half term so much in my life and I don’t even do anything that substantial here; yet in the typical student fashion I felt the break was well deserved and even somewhat overdue! I got to see the additional parts of Toulouse that I didn’t get round to exploring in my first couple of weeks and the best part? I got to do it with friends and not as a complete lemon…always a bonus.

Emily's 21st

Photo by Emily Donnan Courtade

And what better way to kick-start things than with a 21st Birthday celebration? Emily’s birthday was awesome to say the least; anyone who feels comfortable drinking and playing ring of fire with their mother present and participating I might add, is a top human being indeed! (Mum if you’re reading this, it’s not that I wouldn’t want you at one of my pre-drinking sessions…I’m just thinking of your safety…and sanity). To top this all off we went out to a club where I attempted to salsa dance…Safe to say I had no idea what I was doing, I prefer singing to dancing but apparently I didn’t look completely wooden or like my limbs were being electrocuted so overall a success; maybe I’ll start lessons…

After what was a pretty decent start to the holidays I am ashamed to say I didn’t really do a lot in my first couple of days during ‘les vacances’; most people had gone home and I sleep a lot as it turns out. BUT, I did get off my fat bum on Tuesday in search of something to do. It was a promising beginning as I met Joe and Emily to go to the train station in the hopes of finding a cheapish impromptu trip to a nearby paradise…This proved a bit less than fruitless as we spent hours searching for destinations online after obtaining nothing useful from the station. Turns out, it’s rather difficult to get to places from Toulouse…even if they aren’t technically that far away. So, armed with sandwiches and pastries from La Mie Caline, the search continued…and dwindled further. We had pretty much given up when Emily received a text…a saving grace of sorts…we had plans! How exciting! Beauty and the Beast at the Ballet;La Belle et La Bete - Ballet wasn’t quite the road trip we’d been theorising but it was to be a cultural experience so entirely worthwhile I’m glad to report. Even if it was the weirdest version of Beauty and the Beast that I have ever seen! Hey, I already mentioned dancing wasn’t my preferred activity. It was a fun night though, I got to see something new and Joe learned that a curtain goes in front of a stage before and after a performance, and that trying to catch a photo of a dancer mid leap is not necessarily a clever idea.

In light of our dismal search for an activity to undertake during the daytime the day before, we had agreed after the ballet that Wednesday would be better and with this in mind…we didn’t wake up until the afternoon; typical. However, things quickly improved as we wasted no time getting ourselves to the Natural History Museum for an afternoon of biological and historical discovery.

AnimalsPlants

We watched the evolution of the world, went round walls of bugs and animals and even saw some bears…ok they were fake obviously but still, a good collection of exhibits all the same.Bears

Plus, I actually got to see one of the plants I find most fascinating, the pitcher plant or sarracénie to use the French term. Basically, it’s an interesting looking carnivorous plant which traps, drowns and dissolves its buggy victims. Isn’t that lovely? Well I thought it was pretty cool.

Pitcher Plants

So, our Wednesday was somewhat more of a success. Not to mention the fact that hockey in the evening despite only 5 of us turning up, was one of the most entertaining sessions yet! Je vous aime, les Tuquettes!

The next activity on my half term itinerary was to venture out of Toulouse to Carcassonne, I went and saw the city briefly a few weeks ago with all of the Erasmus students but I didn’t feel that an hour and a half predominantly spent eating really did the beautiful city justice. So I caught a train back to meet a friend also in France for the year, and he showed me the proper sights of Carcassonne; including the views from the walls and the beautiful Cathedral.CarcassonneCarcassonne Cathedral

Now I know I am not a tremendously religious person and I don’t pretend to follow any faith as such, however I lit my candle and placed it alongside the rest to show that my mind is open and I appreciate the beauty of the beliefs, customs and reliquaries of others even if they are not my own.

My candle is circled in red but you may need to click on the image to see it properly.

My candle is circled in red but you may need to click on the image to see it properly.

It was not an overly long visit to Carcassonne as the prime reason for my meeting my friend Josh was to go to Avignon to see my first ever rugby league match. A World Cup match at that…may as well experience my ‘firsts’ in style. So we commenced the 2-3 hour drive north. Supposedly 2-3 hours. This journey progressively got longer and longer due to the fact that once we’d arrived in Avignon, the directions stopped (I was given an excuse almost comparable to that of a child in infant school that had not completed a piece of homework: that the printer had run out of ink and the dog chewed the replacement cartridge). We were on our own, a temperamental male driver and me; brilliant. The events that followed consisted of:

  • Driving in a full circle of Avignon to end up at the same starting junction…three times.
  • Taking an unknown number of wrong turns.
  • Me laughing a lot at our misfortune to try to lighten the mood.
  • Josh refusing to laugh with me…
  • Checking into the wrong hotel.
  • Receiving the worst photocopy of a map I think I have ever seen in my life!
  • Asking a man for directions, finally.

Finally, we came across the ticket office and decided to stop to pick up our reserved tickets (this was the part I had done and no surprises therefore when it all went smoothly). Following this miniature success we took a deep breath, got back into the car and eventually found the correct hotel. It was then a quick matter of dumping the bags, running across an industrial estate, eating a KFC Sharers Bucket then heading off towards the stadium…1.5km away from our hotel…my arse was it that close!

Rugby Ticket

But we got there after 20-30 minutes, fought our way through the crowd to our seats just in time to watch the national anthems, the famous Haka and the pleasantly fast game to follow in which France got completely mullered by New Zealand; final score being 48-0.

Ultimately from my first rugby league experience I have learned:

  • Never trust a man who says he knows where he’s going…always check for yourself!
  • Learn a flawless design for a paper aeroplane so that you can use the paper left on your stadium seat as a far superior annoyance to anyone else’s. (Or to throw back at someone who hit you with their origami structure).
  • Develop and Master the patience of a saint so as if you’re sat near to anyone remotely annoying, it’s at least tolerable.

    This lady drove me insane!

    This lady drove me insane!

 

 

 

 

 

 

But my main highlight has to be of course; the fact that I couldn’t complain that the same scrum was being played over for 20 minutes as can happen in union.

Rugby

I must say the pace of this particular match was much better suited to me…no I am not trying to spark the age old row between league and union, I’m just saying there are aspects of both which I hate and which I like. In all seriousness it was a really good experience and I’m happy I got to watch such a high level match.

And all of a sudden we ended up at the last 2 days of half term! I’m relieved to report that the drive back to Carcassonne (despite a minor diversion hiccup) was far more successful and I caught my train back to Toulouse with no issues. I spent my Saturday relaxing and organising events for Sunday. Nothing sums up ‘La vie Français’ better than a food and wine festival and all I can say is wow!

Photo by Tessa Simkins

Photo by Tessa Simkins

I had the most amazing time walking around trying various types of cheese, bread, cake and of course, wine. There were vintages from all over the country and once we got stuck into asking for tasters it was an experience I will remember fondly. (No I did not get so hammered off free wine that I forgot what happened). I engaged in many conversations about the origins of certain wines, what best to consume with particular beverages and even when in the day they can be best enjoyed. I must also add that I did try a wine that was 252€ per bottle and I can tell you all now…just because it costs more doesn’t mean it’s better! It was the only wine all day that I just held my breath and knocked back.

And what would life be if I didn’t bring back some souvenirs? I purchased a beautifully sweet bottle of red wine that is to die for but being a student and a sometimes immature minded one at that; I could not resist visiting a stall with the most interestingly named concoctions. After 8 shots and deliberating between flavours, I turned away the ‘Baiser Fraise’ (‘Strawberry Shag’) and ‘Gratte-Cul’ (‘Scratch your Arse’) and I eventually came away with a bottle of ‘Le Kiki à Franky’ (‘Franky’s Willy) and ‘La Turlette au Chocolat’ (‘Chocolate Blowjob’). Both of which taste lovely and with names like that in addition to the sheer hilarity and charisma of the man selling them, I am glad I made the investment.

Wine

So there you have it, my half term. Sorry for the length of this post but I couldn’t bring myself to leave anything out!

À Bientôt!

Une Vie Normale?!

Well, I feel quite depressed to admit that nothing of massive interest or grand excitement has happened over the past 2 weeks. This could potentially mean I am getting old and therefore boring…oh the joys of my life. However, I will not let my ship of life sink without a fight so I shall endeavour to give you people something entertaining to read so that you are at least under the impression that I am making the most of my time here.

Ok no I may have lied slightly; I literally just remembered that although most of my lectures are relatively tedious and boring…

Homeless Man in EU

one of my EU ones was made considerably more amusing by the ‘SDF’ or in other words homeless man who came to talk to us. At first we thought…no, this cannot be the man we’ve heard about; as George said, without meaning any offense of course: ‘he looked a little too well dressed’. But it was, the man, the myth, the legend. Apparently this is a normal occurrence; he walks into the hall, waves at everyone and then proceeds to march up to the front, stand next to the lecturer and take over for a bit. I have heard tell that some lecturers find this somewhat creepy and so run away…understandable I guess; however our lecturer stood aside and let him say his bit and even allowed him to kiss her cheek. After this cheeky bit of action he went and sat down to listen to the rest of our lecture…I suppose you can’t blame the guy making a name for himself and getting snippets of a university education in the process. I couldn’t help but wonder if Bangor would be so accommodating? It was an amusing thought and discussion with the other Bangorites as to what the reactions of certain lecturers at home would be and how they would handle a similar situation.

(For example, those Bangor Law students reading this, picture a random homeless man walking into Gwilym’s lecture, then compare the outcome you reach to that of the same scenario but it’s John Alder’s  lecture. I personally would love to see Gwilym, Chaynee or Anne McLaren deal with it!)

Be proud of me people, I had a tee-total night at the Cardiff Flat! Well ok I didn’t actually go out but I went to socialise and had a hell of a lot of fun playing ring of fire with no dire consequences on my part…apart from nearly having to kiss Gethin’s feet…but it was quickly converted to cheek after Helen realised the severity of my hatred/genuine fear; all in all a good night as always. To be followed up of course the week after at a ‘french kissing party’ I’ll be quick to state that I didn’t take part in this, I chose to pay for my shots but it was a good night…hot nightclub and lots of drunk people…highlight of the night had to be almost getting puked on whilst riding the night bus home…seriously some people have no sense of dignity! Because of course I can say that without an ounce of hypocrisy…

Photo by Gethin Bennett

Photo by Gethin Bennett

Now, I am supremely pleased to report that the Tuquettes won our competition game yesterday! 4-2 away against SA Mérignac. Proof right there that all of our fitness sessions and whatnot are paying off. Lucie was on fire in goal, Patricia and Annabel did the ‘etrangères’ proud by scoring all the goals and I enjoyed a long run around on pitch… even more so when Axel said that people could ask me to swap positions with them if they needed a bit of a break. Why I chose to put my all into the fitness tests is a mystery to me…I nearly died! Needless to say, we were all ecstatic with the result and celebrated accordingly…crashed out almost instantly on the bus home and woke up to the sight of this:

Petrol

 

For those who can’t tell…it’s the petrol hose being passed through the window so it’d reach…interesting French happenings.

Also, thought I’d mention and give due praise to this shop on Place Capitole (I can’t remember it’s name) for making the most insanely awesome chocolate sculptures and selling them at a surprisingly decent price for what they are! Thorntons eat your heart out!Halloween

That’s about all I can report for now. I’ll try to find some more adventures for a more interesting post next time.

À la prochaine!

Plus en Plus de Papier!

First of all, I would like to announce that you can all enjoy slightly shorter posts now as I am caught up with my blogging! This will be the last post in such quick succession and although my next one will be at the weekend, it will relay the most recent two weeks gone by.

As I’m sure you can guess by the title…I am beyond fed up with the amount of paperwork in this country! Where at home in the UK most applications and forms for various things are set up and completed online, France is somewhat backward to say the least in that everything involves a pen and paper! Nothing is simple and the most surprising fact is that nobody seems to think the system needs changing apart from the students, yes even the French ones! Surely that should start ringing alarm bells somewhere? My mum told me before I left that I wouldn’t have to worry about doing, obtaining or finding certain things because it wasn’t as though I was going to a third world country but at least if I had been going somewhere a bit less fortunate in terms of technology and standards I would have expected difficulty…instead I expected simplicity and have in fact been met with walls and unhelpful bureaucrats at every turn! I’m used to a working environment where people will bend over backwards in the name of customer service so being told flatly and consistently ‘non, je peux faire rien, c’est pas ma responsabilité’ in other words ‘I can do nothing, it isn’t my job’ without so much as a sorry was most infuriating. Needless to say I was ecstatic when I thought I’d completed all of my paperwork…until I had an email full of hockey documents…I swear I nearly burst into tears! However these seemed a little more straightforward thankfully. True it took me and Annabel 2 hours and 23€ each to find a doctor so that we could get a medical examination done to deem us fit for sport but it’s finished at last and I couldn’t be happier.

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Photo by Emily Donnan Courtade

On a more positive note, after all that stress I enjoyed a night out with the Erasmus group at a Jazz concert which was pretty awesome.

Photo by Emily Donnan Courtade

Photo by Emily Donnan Courtade

It’s not my usual style of music but I loved it! So easy to sit and just listen to a band with your friends and not forgetting the social drink or two. I met Gethin’s friend from home and proceeded to increase my knowledge of Welsh speaking…I will learn at least basic conversation skills…I am determined! As Rebecca said a few weeks ago, if I don’t go home speaking French I shall go home speaking Welsh. I’ll let you know how that turns out. The next night out I had was supposed to be for an Erasmus Buddy night however the bar was a bit on the small side so that didn’t go so well, I spilled more drink than I consumed as I couldn’t move without bumping into someone and then the inevitable happened…I never usually wear my glasses out…the one time I do…they get knocked off my face and trodden on before I can pick them up…sod’s law! So a life of contacts for me until Christmas it is then… At least it was a good night out.

So there you have my first (and hopefully last) ‘rant’, and here are my first Welsh words to sign off:

Diolch yn fawr am ddarllen!

(Thanks Rebecca!)

Parce que Toulouse est une Ville Touristique

Well these two weeks were definitely exciting! I got to be an actual tourist and see pretty much everything major that Toulouse has to offer. Not forgetting though…Proper lectures officially started and wow was that a rude awakening! To sum it up:

  • Very fast French.
  • Complete dictation (no back and forth between students and lecturers)
  • Hour and a half of solid concentration.

I tell you what, trying to keep up either writing or typing is a complete mission, I thought my hands were going to fall off and I despair to say that it isn’t getting a lot better…AZERTY keyboards are impossible! But if I want my iPad to record everything with the accents and the auto-correct in the right language, it is a key skill that I shall have to master. Oh, and I am pleased to announce that that was the week that I finally got my student card! Despite being told that we’d get it after our first week so that we could access internet in halls and on campus. If it wasn’t for some lady on our halls site taking pity on us and giving us a random username and password to use we would have been stuck like everyone else…no internet for a grand total of nearly 3 weeks! Not that I’m dependant on it or anything but you know, even for the week we didn’t have it I was struggling purely for the fact that I couldn’t look up places to go do things, to eat, to enjoy and I couldn’t skype anybody…that feeling for almost 3 weeks may have killed me so thank you to the nice lady in the Université Paul Sabatier office! French Admin should treasure an employee like yourself…you’re rare in this country! Anyway, moving swiftly on, I had many things to look forward to for these two weeks besides a legitimate uni intranet login.

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Photo by Rebecca Jones

First stop on the list was the Cité de L’Espace for a casual day trip. I visited the Kennedy Space Centre in America in the summer and so had kind of got a thing for learning more about space and all the shuttles etc. I have to say, that although some bits seemed the same and evidently this centre was nowhere near the magnitude or operational standard of the KSC, I was taken in by shows in the planetarium and even managed to follow the French voiceover…though I did admittedly strain on occasion to hear the US English underneath…I’m only human after all. We had a laugh in the interactive parts of the building revealing of course, our inner children. But the highlight was by far…moon walking!

Photo by Gethin Bennett

Photo by Gethin Bennett

That’s right ladies and gents…we all took it in turns to be strapped into a big white rucksack thing and bounce around a short circuit.

Ok, I know it sounds dire but trust me it was hilarious. Oh, and being me, I bought souvenirs.

Cite de l'Espace - Coins

The 2nd trip we enjoyed was a visit to the rugby stadium on Saturday night to watch Stade Toulousain play Biarritz Olympique. Although the some of the others had been before I was enjoying the atmosphere as a newby. For such a small stadium that crowd can roar! Qui ne sauté pas n’est pas Toulou-sain! (For those lacking in French language skills…’those who don’t jump aren’t from Toulouse!’) Therefore meaning…you get up and join in or you get heckled slightly…your choice. Was great fun, got myself a souvenir cup (they make you buy the cup for 1€ to avoid waste) even if it did take a while to explain to the woman at the bar that I didn’t in fact like Carlsberg and so therefore wanted ice tea…in the novelty cup. Got my point across in the end…never say die! The night concluded with a 31-7 win for Stade Toulousain so all was merry there. So in true sporting etiquette…we left the stadium in search of food…pizza to be exact and I can now highly recommend ‘Pizzéria Angelo’ on Rue du Taur as an awesome place for a decent pizza made properly, right in front of you, cooked in a stone oven and doesn’t cost the earth. Whilst we’re on the subject of recommendations I shall take the time to name another great place to eat out; it’s inexpensive, you can sit inside or outside under a marquee, the service is fast and the food is plentiful, tastes insanely good and costs pittance! A restaurant just by Jean-Jaurès metro station called ‘Pizza Pino’. Definitely one to note down for group dinners, parent visits or even just a light lunch.

Stade Toulousain - Ticket (14.9.13)

TUQUETTES!

Everyone knows all good things come in 3s (bad luck is just a rumour) and so the third and final day in my consecutive trio was the day of my first hockey match for my new club, TUC (Toulouse Université Club). The irony being that this club is not a university one so a year off the ‘Get it down’ chants and the not all liquid dirty pints is ahead of me…that’ll be interesting when I return to BUHC! Anyway, the nearest hockey pitch/astro-turf is in Bordeaux and so it was an early start to meet for the long drive northwards. Why I said I’d play in goal I don’t know…the weather was gorgeous! So naturally I felt like your Nan’s roast chicken in the oven at 200 degrees for 4 hours on a Sunday! Now isn’t that a pleasant thought? We played 2 games with lunch in between and I can safely say that although we lost both, our team at least showed potential and spirit not to mention a fair degree of team dynamics which was remarkable considering we’d only had 2 training sessions together! Overall, I just felt good to be back on the pitch after a summer of not playing. Anybody who says that they can wake up at stupid o’clock in the morning, travel for 2 hours, play 2 hockey matches, travel 2 hours back home, force themselves into the shower and then stay awake for the rest of the evening…is lying! All I can say on that matter is that my bed was greeted like a long lost best friend after that day!

I didn’t think much could top that week but I had one more event to look forward to; the Erasmus group’s beach trip to La Franqui with a stop in Carcassonne on the way. Carcassonne is an immensely beautiful fortified town which offers the most

Kiss the Shrimp

Photo by Gethin Bennett

incredible views…I never actually saw them as it took so long to get lunch and we only had an hour and a half to spend looking around…but I have reliable reports from my friends that did manage to get up onto the walls that it was definitely worth the climb. I am looking forward to returning in early November and exploring the town properly that’s for sure! La Franqui was breath-taking as well…a Mediterranean coast?! What more could you want for a beach trip? It was time to get a tan on… And an appetite too apparently! I have never seen so much paella in my life than what was served to us on the first evening! Followed by cheese, which I also pigged out on, followed then by éclairs which, thanks to my extra pudding stomach, were added to the list of consumed items. I. Could. Not. Move. Safe to say we worked out we’d been eating constantly for an hour and a half if you included the pre-dinner nibbles and I swear I had not just a food baby…but a food brood! Didn’t stop me from having a huge portion of Calamari and chips for lunch the next day though; I think I got my money’s worth out of that trip.

La Franqui

Photo by Emily Donnan Courtade

 

 

 

 

 

 

Salut pour le moment!

Trollouse

The introduction lectures had begun, the French speaking had been kicked up a notch and I had been forced to actually switch my brain on…Didn’t go too badly if I recall it correctly, or rather, it could have been a lot worse.

First of all there was the inevitable shock to my system of having to be up at 8am, ready by 8.30am to make our trek on the Metro line to be sat in a lecture hall on our university campus by 9am. Ok, managed that (surprising to those of you reading this who know me well, I know). The second task of the days this week was concentrating on speaking and listening to French during these lectures, I mean, they were only 2 hours long and I only had one per day but I was a bit caught off guard at how mentally tiring it is to continuously make your brain think in another language that you are by no means fluent in. At all. Having said that, I did manage it to a supposedly comprehensive standard at least I mean, the lecturer did seem to understand whatever I said to her or asked her rather than looking at me like I was speaking almost as good ‘French’ as Joey from Friends… So ultimately I call that a success. For those of you who don’t know what I’m on about please click on the link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kujMmdwGPoo it’s worth it for a giggle trust me!

But, enough about the boring stuff; onto the more interesting events! Such as meeting a fair few Erasmus course mates from so many different countries! I now have Dutch friends, French friends, German friends, Spanish friends and who knows how many more…anyone in my friend zone has nothing to fear…it’s a supremely multicultural place. In all seriousness though this is what it’s about really, I can forget the academic pressures for the moment (not hard to do when my year here doesn’t count towards my degree), and consider that I’m in a different country, surrounded by so many different people and things to do and see! I have the opportunity here to gain life experiences that I can treasure forever, as soppy as that sounds!

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Photo by Gethin Bennett

Going back to the student norm though, first stop for the Erasmus lot was social getting to know one another drinks on the Monday night of our introduction week and I must say, although the drinks are slightly pricier than what I’m used to, and there’s no cider! The atmosphere and location of the bars and pubs is spot on; for example, who can argue with a view of ‘La Garonne’ 10 feet from where you’re sat enjoying a cocktail.

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Photo by Rebecca Jones

The cocktail scene wasn’t a part of my drinking life for long however as I was introduced to a speciality here known as a ‘demi-pêche’ (lager and peach syrup) considering I am not the greatest fan of lager, it isn’t actually that bad! And for this introduction I have to thank my Cardiff Uni friends. This reminds me, I actually have another thank you to make to one of them. Mr Gethin Bennett provided the title for this particular blog and I shall explain its origin in short:

  • Night of pre-drinks at the Cardiff Flat.
  • Ring of Fire was underway in no time at all.
  • All was going well until I pulled out a Joker card from the circle.
  • A Joker apparently means you are a troll.

Basically, I spent the next round of the game sat under a rather small table in the middle of the room, forbidden to speak unless I wished to ask for my drink: ‘Troll want my drink’. I was finally freed when a sock was thrown at me which in turn lead to my confusion as to whether I was indeed a troll or a house elf due to the cries of ‘Dobby’s Free!’ that followed the sock throwing. But thanks Geth for that hilaaarrriooouusss nickname which of course has stuck hasn’t it… So now you all know.

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Photo by Rebecca Jones

Now, for those of you who know me, I am an avid hockey player. But hockey is not popular by any standards in France, and although I had done some research I wasn’t holding up hope for playing much whilst here. Until another of the Cardiff lot came to my rescue; Annabel mentioned in a short conversation that she couldn’t attend a rugby match with the rest of us due to the fact she was going along to a hockey training session, which then consequently resulted in me abandoning watching the rugby too of course. So off we went to find this team…a metro trip, a walk and a bridge later, there they were…a group of people with hockey sticks! Never in my life have I felt so happy at that sight, normality was right there in front of my face. True the pitch we train on is not specifically for hockey but the sport is essentially the same so I’m not complaining at all. I went to bed that night with a due sense of fulfilment (along with the aches and pains of a first session back after a lazy summer plus the seemingly never ending mental exhaustion of yet more French language). Let me tell you something though, no matter how small the interest is in this sport, they take it seriously… the moral of the story being: pretty as the park may be where you’re undertaking them, fitness sessions are designed to kill you.

However I am happy to have the one sport under my belt. I was planning on joining a university club too, most likely handball and to get involved with this I was looking forward to the ‘Portes Ouvertes’ which I had understood would be some kind of fresher’s fair, like Serendipity in Bangor and so with that in mind I was prepared for loads of stalls, loud music and a lot of bustling people…the actuality of what I got was anti climatic to say the least; 2 tables, 3 old men and a leaflet. I was not impressed. Hockey will have to do for now.

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All of this exercise evidently sparked a domino effect; that is the conclusion I have come to. I shall explain; I refer a lot to taking the metro everywhere as we live so far out from the centre of town, but there is in fact a bike service in Toulouse, ‘VélôToulouse’ is brilliant, you rent a bike for 1,20€ a day and off you go on your own little adventure. So with my new found energy bug and George, Rebecca and Natalia’s sense of adventure we decided to bike into the centre of town before we joined the Erasmus group for a tour of Capitole and surrounding areas. This could have gone better given that we lost Natalia in a matter of minutes as we stopped to wait for Rebecca who was getting used to riding a bike for the first time in donkey’s years and Natalia proceeded to cycle off despite us yelling after her that we’d stopped. We waited by the Canal du Midi where we’d agreed to start our route into town and after 10 minutes we gave up waiting and began our journey. Taking only half an hour and being rather picturesque, this is now a favourite cycle route for me when I fancy a change from the metro.

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Photo by Rebecca Jones

Another long post I know but I am almost caught up I swear!

À la prochaine.

 

Come At Me France!

Ok, so I know this is a bit delayed…a month and a half delayed if we want to get picky. However, blogs seem to be the in things at the moment so I thought I’d give it a go. I mean after all, I do want to remember my year here and what better way to do so?

Probably best for me to start at the beginning while I still have at least a bit of a recollection of my first couple of weeks here:

And so, despite a few minor complications regarding opening times of offices and a specific move in date, the flights were booked and everything was set for me and one of my fellow students Georgina, to fly out to Toulouse together from Bristol. We had survived our first dilemma with the administrative systems in France…and we weren’t even there yet! Oh well, eyes forward and full speed ahead etc. etc.

I arrived at the airport full of excitement…I was about to check off my 75th Gromit! Indeed, the Bristol Bulldog was the last one I could get to before I left the country and so I left the remaining five for the rest of my family to find and photograph. For those of you reading this who don’t have a clue what I’m on about, there was a Gromit Trail in Bristol this summer which saw 80 Gromit statues placed in random locations around Bristol (technically 79 as one was actually in London Paddington Train Station). It was a huge event which sparked interest on an international scale believe it or not! Google it for more information if you like, the purpose of this is not to chat non-stop about Gromit sculptures. Basically, it was great fun even though I did sacrifice my favourite shoes having done so much walking in them… and ultimately, it was heart wrenching to leave knowing I only had 5 left to see considering I’d found the majority of them with my best friend Trudi, and even my mum had gotten involved! So I had my picture taken with my last Gromit, said goodbye to my parents and held the tears back as I rounded the corner to airport security.

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After fighting to get my electricals and liquids in and out of my extremely big and heavy rucksack that I’d somehow managed to get away with for hand luggage, I finally got to the departure lounge and found Georgina. We boarded the plane…insert any generic flight details that you like here I will not bore you with relaying every second…and an hour and a half later we landed in Toulouse, and boy was it HOT! I’m telling you, wearing half my winter wardrobe to conserve room in my suitcase seemed a good idea that I regretted almost instantly as we got off the plane!

Now, as you can imagine, it was a tad on the uncomfortable side being surrounded solely by french people and knowing that english wouldn’t get us very far but we made our way to the bus stop to get to the centre of town where we’d pre-booked a hotel. Thankfully there were no complications, we checked in fine…and got straight onto the free Wi-Fi…I think back on it and shake my head slightly in shame but in our defence we were letting people know that we’d arrived safely and that it wouldn’t be wise to ring or text us. Plus, we did leave the mother-ship eventually and got out to explore our new home town; we even got a bank appointment booked for the following day, oh I still remember the initial feeling of productivity and accomplishment…I had a smile on my face and thought…how hard can this be really?

Very…I found very quickly, was the answer to that question. First order of business for our first full day: Accommodation. We had been told to present ourselves to members of staff in the international office on campus which we found and therefore did so. We got handed bits of paper with supremely basic details and instructions on them and then were directed, not to the halls we had been originally told we’d be most likely to live in, but to an entirely different campus, 11 metro stops away…yes, 11! In a nutshell, the events that followed were:

  • We travelled to a building as directed by staff, this building was closed.
  • We fortunately found two of our other Bangor Uni friends with whom we went to the 2nd building we were directed to.
  • We then were told that this 2nd building was in fact our home for the next 10 months.
  • We were given more bits of paper and at last KEYS!!!

All in all, this entire escapade took about an hour and a half or so and I have never been happier to burst into a room…and find that I could not flop onto the bed as it was on 4 poles about half a foot above my head. In short, I spent the next few minutes unpacking before the four of us went to the bank.

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I know I’ve written a tonne already so I shall just sum up the events of the next couple of days before our pre-term introductory lectures started:Just a heads up, if anyone wants to open a bank account in France, make sure you have at least 3 hours spare time and are prepared to sign an entire tree’s worth of paperwork! Eventually we’d finished though and met up with the final two Bangorites to do a quick food shop and settle in.

  • We walked all over the centre of town to find a cheap shop for bedding and other homely necessities.
  • We filled in yet another load of paperwork (nothing seems to be done online here).
  • We feigned horror at the fact we have only a fridge and 2 hobs in our rooms, no oven/microwave/toaster/kettle.
  • We then got over this as we are mature adults who can get by without such materialistic things (though I do now have a toaster).
  • We settled into life here and went out for drinks and ice cream and basically began the tourist life enjoying everything Toulouse has to offer.

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Photo by Rebecca Jones

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So that’s me done on my arrival and first few days in the beautiful city of Toulouse. It’s been a long one but I do have ground to make up remember =D. I’ll catch up eventually so expect more soon.

À Bientôt