Hello everyone! I am in France, in the town of Le Puy-en-Velay, and I am happy to finally have time to write my first blog post ever! After 15 long hours of travel that included two trips through airport security, a tram and two train transfers, all while carrying 5 suitcases (and thankfully receiving a lot of help from nice French people!) Igor and I arrived a little over a week ago to do the Teaching Assistantship Program in France (TAPIF). We were both placed in high schools in this picturesque little town in the Auvergne region, right in the heart of France, or what locals keep referring to as “La France profonde.” Le Puy is one of the oldest cities in France, and was the sight of the first crusades. According to the high schoolers here, there isn’t much to do, but for us the change of scenery is interesting enough! We get to look out the window and see what everyone imagines small town France to look like – narrow cobblestone streets, colorful shutters, cafés with huge outdoor patios, boulangeries, patisseries, charcuteries, everything else-eries… it’s pretty adorable. Here’s a little taste of the French adorableness:
The most famous landmarks here are the statue of the Virgin and Chapelle St Michel d’Aigulhe, a little church on a tall volcanic rock formation called a “dyke” (the Virgin is also on a ‘dyke’ and my contact person Flo told me that a lot of French people get weird reactions from anglophones when they try to explain that their town has a virgin on a ‘dick,’ their English pronunciation of ‘dyke’ haha). The Chapelle St Michel is pretty cool; it looks very impressive since you can see it from almost anywhere in the city (including from our kitchen window!) and the church and the rock light up at night. We visited the church last weekend, and it is actually really small inside, but the view is definitely worth the trip and the 3euro admission. Also the very small town of Aiguilhe where the church technically is, which is 2 minutes from our house, is very charming. This whole region is extremely hilly so there are lots of nice views from all over the city, but Aiguilhe is mostly up on that big hill the church is on, so they have especially nice views. Last Sunday they had the ‘Fête aux Miels’ or Honey Festival in Aiguilhe and it was so awesome! We bought some honey and hazelnut honey spread, and then later that night we came for the fireworks and this really nice French man wearing a straw hat with flowers all over it gave us free soup and talked to us for a half hour about life in the country and how he loves the calm and the nature and the traditions here. He was so welcoming, as is everyone in Le Puy so far, and we get a lot of attention because we are foreigners, but in a good way. Everyone is interested in why we’re here and are happy to share their traditions and culture with us. It’s very refreshing. Maybe small towns aren’t so bad after all.