It’s crazy to think how fast 7 months can pass. My English Language Assistant contract was up at the end of April but since the spring holidays fell mid-April til May, my last week of classes were the week the holidays started. Since it was the last week of school, I took some sweets and treats in for the pupils to enjoy (after getting permission from the teachers, of course). The kids were a bit restless all week, excited about finishing school for a few weeks, but it was a little bittersweet for me, knowing that I would be finishing working with them.
It was difficult having to say goodbye to all of my classes. I had a few classes in each of the three schools so I would have my final class with one group, only to return to the school to teach another later that week. I received so many lovely goodbye cards, notes, random little presents, and artwork, all saying thank you from the students for me being there. It hurt my heart a little…okay, a lot, when I left those classes for the last time. Some of the pupils cried and I just didn’t know what to do with myself! Oh man. One of the classes even sang part of The Beatle’s “Hello Goodbye” to me, with the assistance of their teacher. They’d obviously been practicing it and it was just so sweet of them!
And with my last Friday afternoon class, my experience as an English Language Assistant was over. My dad would be arriving in two weeks to help me pack up and take me home again on the long 14 hour drive (I know, he’s awesome) but in the mean-time, I was taking the opportunity and my last pay to travel freely while I could.
It was a busy 2 weeks, visiting 3 different countries, but it was brilliant and some of my favourite times travelling throughout my time abroad. I’ve written about them and put them in ‘order’ of my favourite to ‘least’ favourite trips below (who am I kidding? I loved them all!). Enjoy!
I’m going to keep this short as I plan on writing a separate post about Barcelona. Side-note: “Barcelona” by Ed Sheeran came on my iPod while writing this. Completely unplanned but it made me smile.
When: April 2012
Cost – Accommodation: €32 (1 night)
Cost – Transport: €47 (Train)
Why I enjoyed it: The weather was absolutely glorious while I was there. As my first trip away by myself, I had a great time exploring and doing everything as I wanted to (I had travelled to places alone before but I had always met someone there). I wish I’d had more time to explore though as one day is not enough.
I loved the Sagrada Familia, exploring the interior, going up in the lift to explore the exterior on the east side, and enjoying the museum below it too! The views were incredible. All of the Gaudí architecture in Barcelona is amazing, and I enjoyed seeing the Barri Gotic (Gothic Quarter) and the wonderfully colourful food market. I would go back to Barcelona in a heartbeat but definitely for longer this time.
When: April 2012
Cost – Accommodation: €116 (2 nights/3 people)
Cost – Transport: €73 (TGV Train)
Why I enjoyed it: I visited Lyon with my best friend from Amiens to meet up with my best friend from university. It was a great opportunity to catch up and to take in the sights of Lyon. We went on a bus tour as I think that’s one of the best ways to see the highlights of a city and then explore more in-depth.
We visited the Basilica Fourviere which has incredible views from its vantage point above the city and an Eiffel Tower-esque tv tower (which apparently technically pre-dates the Eiffel Tower). We also saw the impressive painted walls around the city, the Old Town and the Place Bellecour. I visited Lyon when I was in high school but I definitely enjoyed it more this time around, being able to appreciate it and explore as an adult.
When: May 2012
Cost – Accommodation: €39 (1 night)
Cost – Transport: €62 (Train)
Why I enjoyed it: Again, I went to Dijon on my own and I enjoyed exploring in my own time. Dijon is the birthplace of Gustave Eiffel (namesake of the Eiffel Tower), home to the famous Dijon mustard (I had to pick up a few types as souvenirs), and the typically French aperitif ‘Kir Cassis’ (named after Dijon’s mayor Felix Kir). The cocktail is made up of white wine and a blackcurrant liqueur and while it was something I had had in Amiens, I just had to try it in Dijon! It’s a sweet drink so if that’s not your thing, maybe don’t try it. I really like it… I also may have bought some Crème de Cassis to take home with me too…
This was another flying visit where I took in the sights of La Nef (the library), the Musée des Beaux Arts, the Palace of the Dukes and Liberation Place opposite, and many churches including Dijon’s Notre Dame, Saint-Michel, and Cathedrale St-Benigne. As it was such a nice day, I also spent some time in the Jardin Darcy, enjoying the peace and beautiful scenery. There’s a lot of history here and it’s a great place to explore.
When: April 2012
Cost – Accommodation: €35 (1 night/2 people)
Why I enjoyed it: My Amiens best friend (AMB) and I did a lot of walking in Toulouse, trying to get in as many sights as possible with only one day to explore. It was mostly a passing tour, rather than going in anywhere specific but it was good to get a feel for the city. Our hotel looked out onto the Prairie des Filtres, a popular park which leads onto the River Garonne. We were also near the Galerie du Château d’Eau, a water tower turned art gallery which was pretty cool.
We visited the sandy coloured Hôpital de la Grave, the Pont-Neuf arched bridge over the river, the Capitol Square and Dungeons, the Palais de Justice, Toulouse University, and the usual tour around the churches in the city, including the Basilica Saint-Sernin. The city is a pretty cool place to visit and I enjoyed being able to wander, though again, I wish I had had more time!
When: April/May 2012
Cost – Accommodation: €76 (2 nights/2 people)
Why I enjoyed it: After arriving at the hotel quite late, AMB and I spent a while wandering around trying to find something to eat when we came across this little takeaway place. The pizzas there cost €2.50! That’s probably the least amount of money I’ve ever paid for a pizza (excluding slices or frozen) and it was awesome! That might have been because of the late hour and I was hungry but I don’t care :p It was still impressive.
We spent a lot of time wandering, admiring the very impressive and imposing, Duomo Cathedral which faces onto Duomo Square. We also went to see Sforza Castle and explored the grounds, seeing the Porta Sempione from afar. I spent most of my time there trying to eat as much Italian food as possible – risotto, pizza, gnocchi, ice cream – and it was all delicious. The biggest downside for me was that the weather was miserable the whole time we were there, with a lot of rain. Being Scottish, I’m used to that but I didn’t expect it from Italy in May… That being said, it’s still a cool city to visit and somewhere I would go back to at some point.
And that was it! I returned to Amiens to pack up my stuff and on the first weekend of May, my dad and his girlfriend arrived to help me pack everything into the car and wander Amiens for the last time. That Monday, we were off on our 750 mile journey back home and I was saying à bientôt to Amiens. My year abroad was over.
I hope you all enjoyed reading this post as much as I enjoyed writing it, and my Year Abroad series, in fact! It was strange writing about closing a chapter on my life in Amiens, while writing the closing ‘chapter’ of this series but it was almost cathartic too. It has been great to take a trip down memory lane writing these posts, helped by the fact that Facebook’s ‘On This Day’ feature has been reminding me with posts and pictures too. It’s actually 5 years today since I was in Milan. Crazy stuff!
Thanks for reading and I’ll see you soon with my next post!