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Hiking in Marseille’s calanques: part 1

Stretching along the coast from Marseille to Cassis is one of France’s most unique national parks: the Parc National des Calanques. Whether by sea or by land, the calanques are a must-visit if you have more than one or two days in Marseille. After two years here, I have explored many of the popular hiking trails through the calanques (though I’ve yet to visit them by sea… a huge dream of mine!). But despite my repeated visits, walking through the jagged, rocky paths of the looming limestone cliffs never ceases to be anything less than sublime. Here I’ve detailed several classic hikes that I’ve taken, all accessed by public transportation, thus ideal for tourists or non-driving people like me ! Be forewarned: not all of these hikes for the faint of heart… some of the trails are rocky, uneven, and have intense altitude changes, so be sure to take the proper precautions – water, decent shoes, more water, sunscreen. But if you are up for the challenge, pack a picnic and a swimsuit, and lace up your walking shoes! The calanques are sure to reward you with astounding landscapes and breathtaking beaches — all without ever leaving the city !

**Additional note: if you are exploring these hikes between June 1 and September 30, be aware that the park is more strictly monitored for fire prevention during the summer. Check here to make sure access is permitted before venturing out. If you want to check out all the possible paths and plan your own hikes, I highly recommended buying an official IGN map of the calanques. All trails and transportation options are extremely well marked and color coded! 

Calanque de Sugiton

Length of hike: around 90 minutes to the beach, slightly more to return
Difficulty of hike: ✭✭✩✩✩
Superlative: Most versatile, best WOW-factor

Sugiton

Sugiton is probably the most classic of all the hikes in this post. It’s the hike the Tourism Office recommended to me when I first asked about accessing the calanques by public transportation. It’s got everything you could ask for: stunning vistas, turquoise water, a sunny beach, and the possibility for a little cliff jumping. Plus, a large majority of the trail is paved, making it one of the less technically challenging hikes. Full disclosure to give you an idea of the trek: I’ve done this hike in sandals – though I wouldn’t necessarily recommend it, especially if you’re not very surefooted.

To access the trailhead, take the line 21 bus from either Castellane or Rond Point du Prado metro stations to the last stop in Luminy. (On weekdays, I prefer the line 921 Jet Bus, the express version of the 21). From the bus stop, go up the hill towards the Ecole de Beaux Arts and you’ll see the entrance to the National Park ahead of you. Follow the red trail markers up the wooded path. Eventually the landscape will begin to change and become more rocky, and you’ll arrive at the paved road. Continue descending, following the red blazes to cut through the switchbacks. The best part of this hike for me, is when you turn the corner and suddenly, BAM! the Mediterranean in all of its turquoise glory. Shortly after, follow the signs for the beach (Plage) to continue descending to the water. If you’d like, you can also turn off the trail a bit earlier to climb up to the cliff’s Lookout Point before heading down the beach. Sugiton has a medium-sized pebble beach, which can be uncomfortable without proper footwear, or you can also relax on the large sunny rocks facing the open sea.

Loop to Calanques de Sormiou and Morgiou

Length of hike: 1 hour from bus stop to Sormiou beach. ~2 hours to to Morgiou port and back to civilization
Difficulty of hike: ✭✭✭✭✩
Superlative: Most striking views

Sormiou:Morgiou

Sormiou and Morgiou are different from the more secluded Sugiton because they are both inhabited and accessible by car. Each has a mini port and are dotted with houses and cabins where (I presume) people live. As a result, the beaches themselves are a tad less magical than Sugiton – something about walking past a parking lot and a port-a-potty on the way to the beach sort of kills the romance of nature. However, the pedestrian-only trail between the two calanques takes you up and across the top of the cliffs and offers some of my all-time favorite views of the chain of calanques as it stretches down the coast.

There are multiple ways to access Sormiou by public transport, but I usually take the 23 bus towards La Cayolle from Rond Point du Prado and get off at the last stop: La Cayolle. When you get off the bus, you’ll continue straight down the street until you reach the Parking lot La Cayolle where you’ll see the trail head ! After entering the park, continue down the road until you see a trail veer off to the left. Start the climb, making sure to turn around at certain intervals for a sweet panorama of the dense city behind you. You’ll eventually arrive at the parking lot and beach of Sormiou. Take advantage of the comfortable sandy beach for your picnic or even a nice swim !

Once you’ve enjoyed Sormiou, it’s time to start the really fun part of the hike ! From the beach, you will follow the paths to the left to walk among the picturesque cabins. Continue to follow the red-marked trail up, up, and up until you reach the crossroad at the summit of the cliff. You can either choose to take the red path back down to the port of Morgiou, or the blue path which is slightly longer, but in my opinion has much nicer views, as it takes you to the far end of the cliffs towards the sea! I will admit to sometimes feeling lost on the seemingly endless blue trail – just keep going and eventually it will cross with a small trail marked with black blazes which will lead you down to the Morgiou beach. To finally rejoin civilization, follow the road and the red blazes until you find the bus stop line 22 Les Baumettes which will safely return you to Rond Point du Prado.

Calanque de Marseillevyre from Les Goudes/Callelongue

Length of hike: 1 hour from Callelongue to the beach at Marseillevyre
Difficulty of hike: ✭✩✩✩✩
Superlative: Least strenuous hike, Most interesting flora

I wrote about this hike last year!

Marseillevyre

The Marseillais call the tiny fisherman’s village of Les Goudes ‘le bout du monde’ : the end of the world. And for good reason; this neighborhood all the way at the end of the coastline is extremely isolated and tranquil. Just up the road from les Goudes is the calanque de Callelongue, an even smaller community with just a few houses and cafés. But it’s from Callelongue that you can very easily depart on a short and non-strenuous hike to a lovely mixed sand and pebble beach, with a pleasant familial vibe and even a tiny restaurant that stays open until it runs out of fresh water for the day (seriously!).

Because the starting point of Callelongue is “at the end of the end of world, the bus journey there is rather long, but you’ll get to see quite a lot of Marseille on the ride. If it’s summer, you can opt to take the Maritime Ferry from Pointe Rouge to arrive at Les Goudes by boat ! Otherwise, take the route 19 bus from Castellane or Rond Point du Prado all the way to its terminus at Madrague de Montredon. From there it is possible walk to Les Goudes and Callelongue, but it will roughly double your hiking time. If you’re more pressed for time, take the number 20 bus through Les Goudes to the terminus at Callelongue. From there, walk to the right around the row of restaurants to the trail head. After a short rocky climb, the walk plateaus and the Mediterranean stretches in all directions before you! Follow the red and white trail markers for around an hour and you’ll eventually arrive at the beach where you can rest your feet and stop for a picnic and a swim! This hike is right at the beginning of the calanques, so the cliffs are not quite as massive and striking, and the landscapes are much more wild and filled with fascinating Mediterranean flora. It’s a different vibe, but certainly not any less impressive! See for yourself !

Coming soon: part 2 ! ❂

How about an update

Hey there gang ! So I managed to participate in a full TWO days of the March Slice of Life Challenge, and haven’t found much inspiration to write since… Not because I haven’t been doing inspiring things – au contraire ! I guess I just haven’t been motivated to put them down in writing.

Anyways, lots has happened since I last wrote and I hope I’ll soon find the motivation to tell you about some of them. But in the meantime, I thought I’d share a few general updates and photos to flex that writing muscle again! Since March, I went to Athens with my best friend, my parents came to visit me in Marseille and Paris, I finished my 3rd (and probably final) teaching contract with TAPIF, I applied to three French university Masters in teaching and have been accepted to at least one of them, and have been generally enjoying my drastically reduced work hours in the gorgeous landscapes of Marseille 🙂

So now, on to some…

Recent Highs & Lows

Highs of the recent weeks would definitely be being able to take maximum advantage of the glorious outdoor spaces Marseille and its environs has to offer. With friends, I was able to hike in the Côte Bleue to the north of Marseille, the îles Frioul, the Route des Crêtes in Cassis as well as a few old calanque faves. I’ve learned how much of an outdoor person I am – just spending the afternoon in a park, at the beach, or taking a walk is extremely pleasant and can turn my meh days much better ! Maybe it’s because the summer air doesn’t feel like walking through a swimming pool…. (And don’t worry, I’m currently working on a post to share directions for some of my favorite hikes!)

Lows mostly have to do with the school year winding down… My time at my schools ended very anti-climatically with a couple of my colleagues completely unaware that I wouldn’t be coming back. The real cherry on the cake happened on my very last day of work. Many people have since told me they have had literal nightmares about getting sick while in the middle of teaching and, well, I can now say with absolute certainty that I would not recommend it. What started off as a truly lovely day, where I showed my classes the finished books we had written together and colored pictures of Washington, went rapidly downhill after lunch. In the middle of reading a rowdy class of 2nd graders “Larry Loves Washington, DC” I started to feel a little rumble in my stomach….not the good kind. I tried for as long as possible to hold it in, wanting to at least finish reading the story, before I had to straight up sprint to the bathroom where I saw my lunch for a second time…apparently the veggies in my pasta had gone off and my stomach spent the next 40 minutes or so getting it all back out. Luckily my colleagues were all super understanding, let me off the hook for my last 2 classes, and after about an hour I felt fine and even got my appetite back almost right away. I met my friends at the beach and ate plain bread and drank gatorade and took a nice long nap.

In the Kitchen

In much more successful kitchen experiments, I have been going all out on different kinds of salads now that it’s picnic weather ! I made a delicious chicken salad using a rotisserie chicken, a greek-inspired pasta salad that is really similar to a pasta salad my mom always gets at the grocery store deli, and a super simple potato salad ! I loved these recipes because they were flavorful, somewhat flexible, much cheaper to make homemade, and made huge batches so I had food for several days with minimal effort. Will definitely make all of these again!

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What I’m Reading

I have been absolutely dreadful about reading recently… Every book I pick up, I haven’t managed to get past the first 100 pages, even though they’re books I like and have been wanting to read for a while. I’m thinking of starting a middle grade or YA book series, something easy to read that I’ll enjoy and can read quickly, to get back into the habit. I’ll take any and all suggestions in the comments ! In the meantime, I have a ton of great books waiting for me on my kindle once I finally get my reading stamina back : The Power, Uncommon Type (a book of short stories by Tom Hanks), The Song of Achilles, and lots more !

What I’m listening to

Hardly a week has gone by that I haven’t listened to Janelle Monae’s newest album Dirty Computer in its entirety. Her music is so funky and fun, and this album in particular has gotten particularly politically pointed. I love that she discusses without shame sexuality, feminism, blackness in such a bold way. I still haven’t watched the full visual album, but I have heard it is equally as stunning !

Although the French rapper Orelsan has been on my radar for a while, I never really listened to much of his music. I decided to give a few songs of his a try, and really quite enjoyed them. His big hit right now is La Pluie, which he produced with Belgian superstar Stromae (please write more music 😩) and I also enjoy some songs by his group Casseurs Flowters.

What I’m watching

After the big social media uproar over the cancelling of Brooklyn 99, a show that wasn’t even on my radar until then, I decided I had to check it out for myself. Luckily, the first 4 seasons are on French Netflix and thus began a multi-week binge of the entire series ! You guys it really is so good. I’ve been a huge fan of Andy Samberg since middle school and he is so great in the show. I’ve always had a soft spot for procedurals, and this comic take on shows like CSI or Law and Order is just delicious. The writing gets better and better each season and I’m looking forward to watching the 5th season and eventually the new 6th season which will thankfully be aired by NBC.

New Words

As I explained in my previous update post, my roommates and I have been curating a post-it note dictionary wall of expressions in many different languages (but especially French & English). Here are some recent additions:

to cut the cheese = péter

poireauter = to hang around
faire poireauter qq’un = to leave someone hanging, make someone wait
(poireau is the French for leek, so this verb is especially funny)

ahurissant / être ahuri(e) = stupefying, dumbfounding / to be stupefied, dumbfounded
(My roommate loves to teach me words that are extremely difficult for English speakers to say, so she can laugh when I repeat them 15 times incorrectly. Another least favorite is feillu, or leafy)

That’ll never get old = On s’en lasse pas

Knock yourself out = Fais-toi plaisir

Avoir un coup de barre = to crash (in the sense of suddenly being very tired)

Et voilà voilà ! More stories soon, I hope ! ❂

Those who can, teach

There’s a pervasive notion, especially among expat communities that I’ve noticed, and that has been getting under my skin more and more recently. The idea is treating teaching English as a side hustle, something you do to support your lifestyle abroad even if it’s not something you actually care about or even like. This is a concept I have heard repeated in TAPIF or Expat groups, by bloggers, even by some of my own friends, and it’s something that, especially recently, makes my blood boil !

I have seen countless assistants arrive in France with absolutely no desire to teach, coasting along through their placements with the bare minimum effort and spending the rest of their time planning their vacations to every corner of Europe. Now, I will admit this is okay for a language assistant. It’s a short commitment and it’s designed to be a mobility program : they expect you to take advantage of being in Europe! If you don’t take the job seriously…. tant pis. It’s not like you really have any real responsibility anyway.

Where it really gets me is when people say things like “Well, I really don’t see myself teaching in the long run,” “It’s just not for me,” even “Ugh, I honestly hate teaching,” all the while applying for teaching jobs in universities or language schools because “it’s the easiest job to get, the easiest way to a visa.”

I wish those people would realize how disparaging that is towards career teachers. Teachers are some of the most passionate people in the world. Especially those working in schools. They are constantly learning, they recognize the hard work and effort it takes to be effective, they put in extra hours to reach that one struggling child, they understand the enormous responsibility they have to their students to not phone it in.

My own mother has been a teacher for more than 25 years, is CONSTANTLY learning new methods and experimenting in her classroom to find the best ways to teach her students. Her work is her passion, and as a result, she is an incredible role model for her students and even her colleagues ! And despite all of her experience and passion, she STILL sometimes has doubts about whether what she is doing is adequate, about whether she’s really cut out for teaching.

I myself really love teaching, have accumulated a lot of experience over the years, but still have some anxiety over choosing to go into the field full-time because, well, I believe teaching is something you should be 100% committed to. To me, it’s not a side gig or something to pay the bills; it’s a huge responsibility. Would you really put TEACHING in the same category as walking dogs, babysitting, mowing lawns, driving for Uber, bagging groceries, ripping movie tickets ???

Look, I believe in letting everyone make their own choices. I’m not going to tell anyone to stop working in education, and certainly I won’t stop anyone from giving teaching a try to see if it’s something you enjoy and feel good at. And I don’t mean to insinuate either that all of the people who have said that teaching isn’t ultimately for them are only doing the bare minimum and then punching out. You can care about your work and also know that it’s not what you’re ultimately cut out for. But I think it’s a big old shame that teaching is such a disparaged profession that we have started to approach it as something people do when they can’t find another option, that they try for one or two years before moving on to something better, because “– what, like it’s hard?”

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Yes, Elle Woods, it is hard. Just ask a teacher ! ❂

Sun sun go away

It’s official. The French weather authorities crunched the numbers and determined that Marseille was the sunniest city in France in 2017. Our 3,110 hours of sunlight beat out Nice (3,047) and Corsica (3,036 in Solenzara).

So a weird thing about living in Marseille is that I am constantly complaining about how much sun there is, especially in the winter. I am 100% here for sunny, warm days you can spend lounging on the beach or drinking rosé on a sunny terrasse. But when it’s cold and sunny, you sit inside all day wishing you could be outside, but knowing you won’t last more than a half hour at most before giving up in favor of warm toes. And when that freezing Mistral blows, no amount of sunlight can make me go outside.

This is where I really see the value of lousy weather. Isn’t it sublime to curl up on the couch while rain lashes the windows and you take a sip of warm tea? Is there any excuse better than a massive thunderstorm to cuddle under your covers until 2pm, thinking about the soup and cookies you’re going to make later? After all, how could you possibly go out in weather like this?!

On the other hand, is there anything more embarrassing and low-key demoralizing than spending that same afternoon in your pajamas, wistfully staring out the windows at the beautiful blue sky every 20 minutes and wishing you had the motivation to get dressed and venture out? What’s worse than having the motivation but finding upon finally leaving the house that the wind has picked up to speeds so fast you can barely walk two blocks without being pushed off the sidewalk?

I realize arguing for worse weather is a pretty hard sell. But sometimes I just wish the weather would go all out: please either be stunningly gorgeous, or disgustingly unpleasant. Choose one. It’ll make it easier on the rest of us ! ❂

Slice of Life is a daily writing challenge during the month of March hosted by Two Writing Teachers. Visit their blog for more information about the challenge and for advice and ideas about how to participate

Wandering feet Wandering mind

I’m on day 3 of 10 days of traveling during school vacation and I’ve already walked 30+ miles in dirty keds and two pairs of socks. My toes feel permanently cramped, and I’m having sense memories of my high school era shin splints.

But if you must walk an average of 15 miles a day, Rome is not a bad place to do it ! I spent a regrettably short amount of time in the Eternal City and the only things on my itinerary for the roughly 36 hours were to see some famous monuments and eat as much as possible. Mission Accomplished!

What I love about traveling alone is that I’m not beholden to anyone as I plan my day. Want to walk 25 minutes out of the way to eat at a certain sandwich place someone recommended? Let’s do it. Feel like going back to that cute café even though you spent two hours reading there yesterday? Nothing stopping you. Make it up as you go along and suddenly your pedometer reads 38,000 steps.

What I find fascinating about solo travel is the silence, or sometimes the lack thereof. I spent two days basically not speaking to a single soul save the various merchants who sold me tea and pasta and sandwiches and fried balls of rice and postcards and magnets. Some people prefer to fill that quiet air with music or podcasts. I like to let chance and imagination do that work.

I like to watch and listen to the people I pass on the streets, guess their nationality. If they’re speaking English or French, I like to eavesdrop, imagining joining in their conversation, silently answering their questions or judging their choices. If they’re speaking Italian, I like to listen to the sounds, repeating those round open vowels under my breath and pretending that I actually know more than seventeen words.

In the absence of people to entertain me, I like to invent them myself, hosting long discussions, usually out loud or under my breath, with imaginary persons. I spent a particularly long walk yesterday explaining to a make-believe French person – perhaps a colleague of mine, or a recent acquaintance – why the patriarchy is bad for men and women. Don’t ask me how my mind got me there, but 35 minutes later I had arrived at the Pantheon and worked out exactly what vocabulary to use (correctly conjugated) when this very subject inevitably comes up in conversation…

And sometimes, my mind is honestly just blank. Maybe it’s some kind of meditative state where I simply let the sounds and voices and people and images wash in abstraction in front of me. I’m not necessarily listening or observing, just being for a little while. It’s peaceful, but not in a forced way. I like knowing that I don’t always need to be doing something to occupy my thoughts. Sometimes it suffices to just be. And just like that you don’t even feel the dozens of miles or tens of thousands of steps pass you by. At least not until the next morning!

What do you do to keep your mind occupied when you’re traveling or alone ?? ❂

Slice of Life is a daily writing challenge during the month of March hosted by Two Writing Teachers. Visit their blog for more information about the challenge and for advice and ideas about how to participate

Christmas Tag!

Happy Holidays everyone!! 🎄🎄 I was nominated by Bola and Kenny for the Christmas Tag, a fun survey of holiday related questions and answers. It’s been fun to read about everyone’s different traditions 🙂 I’m currently on a bus to Nice to catch a flight to Prague, a nice alternative to distract myself from the fact that I won’t be seeing my family for the second Christmas in a row.

What Is Your Favourite Christmas Film?

It would have to be a toss up between White Christmas and It’s a Wonderful Life. It wouldn’t be Christmas without the dulcet tones of Bing Crosby and the gorgeous Vera Ellen dance numbers. And I have been such a huge Jimmy Stewart fan ever since my mom and I marathoned all the Alfred Hitchcock films back when Hollywood Video still existed. I introduced It’s a Wonderful Life to my French roommate a few weeks ago, and gosh darn if the ending doesn’t make me cry every single time! She was also very touched by the film and said she wants to show it to her parents, so successful cultural exchange!! Next, she’s promised to make me watch classic French Christmas movies like Le Père Noel est un Ordure and Les Bronzés Font du Ski.

Is Your Christmas Tree Real Or Fake?

Real! When I was younger, we used to go every year to the Christmas tree farm out of town, and spend all day running around in the fresh air looking for the best tree. Now we tend to go to the Boy Scout parking lot sale or the local garden store, but if we spend Christmas at my parents’ house then we almost always have a live tree to decorate. Even if we wait until December 24 to decorate it!

Last year, my roommate and I created a crafty paper tree to give our little apartment some Christmas cheer. All the ornaments are cut out from magazines and brochures we’ve collected over the year. And here is our cheerful alternative tree this year 🙂

What Is Your Favourite Christmas Song?

One of my all time favorites is Little Saint Nick by the Beach Boys. It’s funny, because I’m not a mega Christmas music lover (I try to avoid it for as long as possible, until I really feel in the Christmas spirit!), but there are so many songs that trigger massive nostalgia that I’m hard pressed to choose just one that I love. The Vince Guaraldi Charlie Brown Christmas album, Pink Martini’s recent Christmas album Joy to the World, the classic Bing Crosby/Nat King Cole/Frank Sinatra/Doris Day/etc versions of the classic carols, and especially the fun motown takes by The Drifters/Ronettes/Jackson Five/etc.etc.etc.etc…. OH! And I recently discovered a Christmas album by Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings that will knock your funky socks off!!

If you prefer Michael Bublé then you are dead to me.

What Is Your Favourite Christmas Scent?

Fresh pine needles and a wood fire in the fireplace!

Do you have any Christmas Eve traditions?

For years, we would go to my paternal grandmother’s house each Christmas Eve. Her family was part Hungarian and Polish and she was very attached to that heritage, although she never lived there. We had a Christmas Eve dinner composed of stuffed cabbage rolls, kielbasa sausage, and ham, with palatschinke (Hungarian crêpes with jam) for dessert! After she died, the tradition faded out, but I am primarily a creature of habit and usually manage to convince my mom that we NEED to have cabbage rolls or it simply won’t be Christmas.

Do You Open Any Presents On Christmas Eve?

Yes, we would open presents from my dad’s family on Christmas Eve while we were all gathered. On Christmas morning we opened presents from “Santa” and from the rest of the family 🙂

What Tops Your Christmas Tree?

A beautiful angel figurine (that I think my parents got in Italy?)

What Is The Best Thing About Christmas For You?

I think traditions are really important and love doing the same things, eating the same meal, having designated family time, and everything that comes with the holiday season each year like clockwork. That being said, I recognize that our lives change, and with them our traditions. It’s been three Christmases that I haven’t spent at home, and two without my family. As long as I can spend the day with people I appreciate, doing something culturally enriching, then I think it’s a holiday well-spent !

What Is Your Favourite Festive Food Or Treat?

Anything with peppermint!!

What Is On The Top Of Your Christmas Wish List This Year?

This year I treated myself to a bit of retail therapy, but more importantly, I’m headed to Prague to spend the holiday with some great friends I made in DC before returning to Marseille over the summer. Haven’t seen them since we all arrived in France about 3 months ago, so I’m looking foreword to some friends, vin chaud, markets, castles, bridges, and all Prague has to offer!!!

Thanks for reading!! I’ll specifically tag Erin, and Shaun, but anyone is welcome to join in!

Remember me??

Helloooo again! Me voilà! I’ve been back in Marseille for exactly 2 months (as of yesterday), and have like 6 blog posts on my back burner, but can’t seem to get any of them finished. So I’m putting out this little snapshot update, in the hopes that it will jumpstart my blogging again!

Lots has happened in the past 2 months, but also not much has happened at all… I found a new (French!) roommate, I met new assistants, I caught up with old friends and colleagues, I started back at school and then immediately went on two weeks of vacation, I went to a concert, I bought theatre tickets, I went hiking, I rode a city bike, I went to the beach – a lot, I started two puzzles, I drank tea and pastis and wine and lemonade, I finished one of the puzzles, I bought seven plants…. The list goes on. So here are some highlights and lowlights:

Highs & Lows

I’d say on the whole, these two months have been full of many more highs than lows, from casual evenings with friends on the beach, to quiet afternoons drinking tea and doing a puzzle with my roommate, to singing head, shoulders, knees and toes with my students, I’m constantly reminded how much I like living here! Getting back into the swing of teaching with my colleagues has also been wonderful. They are about 80% of the reason I wanted to return for a third year, and they are still as supportive and fun as ever!

I do have a couple of lows…I don’t want to make a big deal about them because I truly believe that things can always be worse, and it’s a big part of my nature to roll with the punches and move on from things I can’t change. But last month I was the victim of a scam…!! Woohoo yep, that thing everyone tells you to protect yourself from and that you think could never possibly happen to you because you’re too smart, too vigilant, too wary — yeah, it happened to me. 👍👍

Basically, a guy contacted me via one of the handful of internet ads I have online advertising my services as an English tutor/translator asking me to translate some documents for him. I sent him an estimate and we agreed on a price. He sent me the first document, I got to work, he sent me a check for a second document. He told me, actually the second document isn’t ready yet, can you reimburse me for that second document? Seemed logical, so I did. The check he’d sent me bounced. I lost 500€ and a little faith in humanity, and a little dignity. It sucked. I went to the police and filed a report — in French. It was stressful. My friends were the best and woke up at 8am on a Saturday of vacation to go with me. Most importantly I am fine, it’s only money, and life continues to go on, much more positively !!

In the kitchen

My new roommate, Pauline and I have discovered a shared passion for hummus. #Blessed with Pauline’s food processor we have become homemade hummus maniacs. Her friends won’t let her come to a party if she doesn’t bring hummus. So far, we have made plain hummus, roasted red pepper hummus, beet hummus, and curry hummus. Next, we want to try carrot or sweet potato hummus or roasted garlic hummus! What hummus combinations do you recommend?!IMG_0249

In related news, I learned that in French, the word houmous does NOT form a liaison in the way that hôpital does. In fact, I’ve been learning that A LOT of words beginning with H that I assumed made liaisons, actually DON’T 😱

L’hôpital and leshommes. But le houmous or des haricots. Also, it’s not enhaut, but en haut, which I have been saying incorrectly for about 6 years now. I guess that’s what I get for never taking French phonetics classes…

What I’m reading

For the past few weeks, I’ve been rereading The Handmaid’s Tale for the first time since initially reading it in high school, and since watching the first season of the (excellent) Hulu series. I’m really enjoying how poetic yet accessible the language is. It is, of course, a devastating story, but one I think everyone should read. I also have a greater appreciation for how well the series reflects the book, in both content and tone, and it’s making me very curious to see how the series will continue!

There’s a long queue on my kindle, but up next I’ll probably attack either Hidden Figures or If We Were Villains.

What I’m listening to

In October, I went to la Fiesta des Suds an annual three day music festival in Marseille. There were maybe a dozen artists playing on a handful of different stages at a really cool indoor/outdoor venue near the docks of Marseille, but the big draw for us was Bigflo & Oli, a really young (they’re 24 and 21 respectively) brother rap duo from Toulouse. I’ve appreciated their music for a while, having randomly discovered them on a Spotify playlist. Their lyrics are really excellent, the tracks have a great musical quality to them, and they rap about subjects from their lives: school, friends, family, becoming an adult, following your dreams. Have a listen:

Probably their most well-known song Dommage, was co-written with Stromae and tells the stories of people who should have followed through on their ideas, but didn’t have the courage.

Also this song from their first album never hesitates to make me laugh (sorry people who don’t speak French)

The Rough Translation podcast by NPR had a fantastic first season which I just finished listening to. The premise is to cover international stories that are in conversation with American current events. My favorite episodes were “The Refugee’s Dating Coach” “American Surrogate” and “Om Alone in India”

What I’m watching

I’ve been using my vacation to power through FX’s series The Americans on Netflix. Took one look at the description and thought it’d be right up my alley: Russian spies  + the Cold War + FBI drama…. I’m hooked!

New words

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Last year, my Costa Rican roommate and I started a post-it note wall with words and expressions in English, Spanish and French. Usually they’re random things that came up in conversations and we didn’t know how to translate. So we wrote them down and looked up equivalents in several other languages. Since my French roommate moved it, the wall has been quickly growing. Here are some recent additions:

To be on a roll – être en veine – être sur sa lancée

être à coté de ses pompes/ses baskets/de la plaque – to be out to lunch – to not be with it

tergiverser – prevaricate

Twist my arm! – si tu insistes – pour te faire plaisir

Rouge sur blanc, tout fout le camp. Blanc sur rouge, rien ne bouge – Beer before liquor, never sicker. Liquor before beer, you’re in the clear

There you have it! Hopefully I’ll be back soon with a less whirlwind post… In the meantime, never forget the immortal words of Barty Crouch Jr: CONSTANT VIGILANCE! ❂