Monday, January 17, 2011

La Vie Valenciennois

I think one of the most important lessons I have learned since I have been here is this: no matter where you go, everyday life is everyday life. It doesn't matter how exotic the locale, eventually you settle into a routine, and maybe even get a little bit bored sometimes. And that's ok. That's kind of what has happened to me lately. There was the tumult of going home and coming back and getting readjusted and everything, but now I'm settled right back into my old routine and, yes, a little bit bored.

I never thought I would be anything but thrilled about only working 12 hours a week and having basically no other obligations to anyone, and believe me, after my last year at IU and my crazy summer spent criss-crossing the country to teach, for a while that schedule was a welcome break. But now I'm starting to get a little bit... antsy. I've been looking for opportunities to get involved in other activities, to volunteer, or something similar, but so far I haven't had much luck. So mostly I've been reading. Voraciously. In French, in English, fiction, academic texts, journals, news. The backs of cereal boxes. Everything. And that has been both informative and enjoyable. I'm also planning some travel for the coming months, as I have more money and more vacation time than I did last semester. In two weeks I think I am going to take a long weekend trip to Paris, and in March I am tentatively planning to see Berlin and Krakow. So that's exciting.

I've been suffering a little bit of cabin fever lately, too, as winter in Northern France generally means cold and rain. Indeed, last week it rained for five straight days, so I've been stuck in the house a lot. But then, miraculously, we had a gorgeous weekend this weekend. On both Saturday and Sunday it was fifty degrees and sunny, which was a VERY welcome change. I took advantage of the good weather by getting outside and walking a lot. I love walking. With friends, with the dogs, or just by myself with my iPod. It's just such a great way to explore, exercise, and have good conversation, either with friends or just thinking to myself. On Saturday afternoon I took my pal Joey and my camera with me, and photographed some of the more historical parts of Valenciennes. A large portion of the city was destroyed in WWI, and again in WWII, but there are still some very old neighborhoods, a few even dating back to before the French Revolution. Most of the buildings on my block were built in the early 1800's, but I know there are older ones around town as well. So, without further ado, here are some pictures:

There are a lot of houses like this on the South side of the city. They weren't destroyed during the war because they were used as officers' quarters during the Nazi occupation. 
French people always keep it classy, even if they're just spending as Saturday afternoon in the park.
This tower is all that's left of the original city walls and ramparts, built in 1449. The top story was blasted off in some war, and repaired with brick some time later.
Another part of the tower. Inside, there are some creepy-looking, winding stone stairs that lead down to the river, which runs under the tower.

Someone important is buried here. But we don't know who (whom?).

Classy French doorknob.
The end!

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