Les vacances de la Toussaint

After seulement deux semaines de travail, it was already time for les vacances.

I started the holidays with a trip to the marché where, à ma plus grande joie, I found marshmallow tea cakes. Getting a second one for free was the icing on the (marshmallow tea) cake. Plus tard, Anna and I met up with some assistants from Guebwiller and Mulhouse (one of whom got his vélo stuck in the mud and hitchhiked to Colmar with a woman from Senegal). As it was la fin du festival du film, a group of us went to the cinema that evening to see “Les Héritiers” – complete with a Q&A session that went on for plus de quarante minutes! That said, c’était une bonne soirée – for anyone qui s’intéresse, here is the bande annonce:


Le lendemain, a few of us decided to go for une randonnée. We took the (très petit) train to Metzeral. Following some confusion with route signs, we headed out of the village and walked past a horse which was complètement bonkers. Further up le chemin there were several chutes d’eau with little bridges across them. Après environ two hours of walking, we made it to Lac de Fischboedle. Since there was lots of soleil, it was un lieu parfait for a pique-nique. We then continued to Lac du Schiessrothried, which had the closest thing to a plage that you’ll find in Alsace. Cue: attempt to se faire bronzer. Résultat: I ended up sunburnt. All in all, une journée merveilleuse.


Des chutes d’eau


La forêt magique


Me, Adrienne, Pauline, Anna et Inga à Lac de Fischboedle


À la (fake) plage

A couple of days plus tard, I took the train to Sélestat. The town itself was un peu trop petit à mon avis, but the art installation sur les remparts compensated for this: il y avait 310 plaques, featuring single words, phrases, pieces of poetry, proverbs and memories.

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However, ma raison principale for visiting Sélestat was to go to an attraction called ‘Montagne des Singes’*. Oui, I am un enfant at heart. I was given a quiz to complete: despite it being (sans doute) a quiz for children under the age of around 10, I was la seule personne walking around filling in the answers to win a Barbary ape toy…! Since I had to read the information signs which were written in French to get the answers, I think it was une activité éducative…

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The following day, I decided to follow up Jade’s advice and headed to the boulangerie named Poulaillon. Their pain au “choco-smarties” is littéralement the best pain au chocolat EVER. What’s not to like about a pain au chocolat covered in chocolate avec smarties?

pain au choco smarties 22.10.14

Le meilleur pain au chocolat du monde

Later that semaine I took the bus (et train) to Freiburg im Breisgau – ma première fois en Allemagne! Heureusement, I had the map I picked up at the airport – not understanding a word of German I wouldn’t have rated my chances at asking for directions! There was an assez grand marché in Münsterplatz (think the usual, plus beaucoup de stalls selling bratwursts), lots of little streets, and two large-ish parks. The highlight of la journée came when I found chocolate for 39 cents in Aldi: chocolate for this price n’existe pas en France. Or, au moins, not in Colmar.

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L’administration française is an ongoing cauchemar. Having handed in tous mes documents, something, somewhere, has gone wrong and my dossier de Sécurité Sociale is not complete. Chers élèves, this is exactement pourquoi I told you I probably wouldn’t live in France again. That aside, tout va bien.

Last Saturday I took a (très) short trip to a nearby village called Turckheim. Being very small, there was pas beaucoup à faire; I managed to get (slightly) lost on a (signposted) walk and ended up in some vineyards and what can only be described as someone’s jardin. I also finished reading La mort heureuse, and have concluded that après two terrible existential books by Camus, I have aucun besoin to read a third.

Sunday morning brought clock changing, and confusion on my part (linked to the fact I was catching a train that morning). For some reason, I was being un peu stupide and wasn’t entirely sure if the whole clock changing shenanigans existed en France. It does. De toute façon, I made it to the station on time, caught both my trains – passing a virtually non-existent version of Passport Control on my way through Basel SBB – and met up with Olivia in Bern. We got a bit lost en route to the hostel and once there it was trop tôt to check in…so we left our things in the luggage room which smelt of mouldy bananas.

Our first stop was the BärenPark: une occasion to see some bears. Suivant a successful viewing of one bear, we walked to the Rosengarten – which, à cause de la saison, was rather lacking in roses. We then wandered back through the Old Town – passing beaucoup de fontaines – to the cathédrale; after climbing 312 steps I had aucune difficulté in believing it was the tallest spire en Suisse.


Le symbole de Bern

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This was followed by a quick trip to the Botanischer Garten and a walk along la fleuve – the water was so clean it was unreal! Ce soir, we found a large crowd gathered in front of Parliament. We had aucune idée of what was going on, but decided to stay and find out. It turned out to be an event called “Rendez-vous Bundesplatz”: essentiellement, an incredible lights show.

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A bit of Britain in Bern!

Side note: The word ‘Youthhostel’ conveys an image of la jeunesse which was not entirely évident in our hostel; in our dorm there was un homme who looked around the sixty-year-old mark.

The following day, après taking full advantage of the hostel breakfast (which even had hot chocolate!), we went to Einsteinhaus. Einstein’s former maison is now un musée – and one which I found très intéressant. Next, we went on a free tour of Parliament…en allemand! Neither of us speak German, but heureusement we had been given leaflets en anglais! It was pretty cool to have a tour, even though I have absolument no interest in politics.


Chamber of the National Council


Following the tour, we found quelque chose à manger: we bought an apfelstrudel and a slice of wähen süss (which turned out to be a redcurrant tart) – they were délicieux! L’après-midi, we took a (free) tram (and the funicular railway) up to the Gurten – a mountain/hill just outside of Bern. C’était très foggy, so we couldn’t see much, but it was nice for a wander. Then we took un autre tram and went to the Naturhistorisches Museum Bern: at first it was plein de taxidermy, but it improved when we found the section on tectonic activity and the interactive section complete with a mini cave…


un «selfie» pour finir notre voyage à Berne

Yesterday, je suis allée à Bâle. Mon père wanted une photo of (à mon avis) one of the most hideous buildings on the planet: the Bank for International Settlements. Just to clarify: he wanted it for work, pas le plaisir, but it’s still hideous. Photo taken, it was onto the tourist-y parts of Basel. Across toute la ville, there were stalls selling food and local products: it was la foire d’automne.


Installation de Jean Tinguely



La foire d’automne

It was une ville agréable, but I had a constant fear of being run over par un tram! J’ai passé the afternoon at the zoo; c’était fantastique…especially the wolves!


On the train home, there was un petit problème: the door to get off the train in my carriage got jammed shut. Luckily someone managed to open it, or I could’ve ended up stuck on the train which was going to Nancy…

Aujourd’hui is Halloween – un peu étrange to think this time l’année dernière I was wearing a bed sheet for a skirt, had marker-penned a dark mark on my wrist and was hit on by a weirdo in Wire. Oh Leeds, I miss you.

À plus…

* For anyone in the NW of England, it’s like Trentham Monkey Forest (nr Stoke-on-Trent) but bigger; for anyone else…think Gibraltar’s Barbary apes…


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