Rouen and Le Havre
Much of my visit to France was spent in Rouen – a place where would be no shortage of people for me to see as I lived there for roughly seven months while working as an English assistant teacher at Lycée Les Bruyères in neighbouring Sotteville-lès-Rouen.
At first, the plan was to spend three nights at Jean-Jacques and Dillian’s place in Sotteville (I met the two through a conversation class I conducted at that town’s public library in late 2005/early 2006). But Myriam (who was a philosophy teacher at Lycée Les Bruyères during my time there) invited me over her place for a dinner on Monday night with her, her husband Thomas and a couple of other folks.
Myriam and Thomas had always struck me as luddites. For the longest time, there was nary a TV, computer, or cell phone to be found in their apartment. But surprise, surprise: Myriam now has a digital camera (she was busy snapping pictures during Monday night’s dinner) and a mobile phone. Maybe Thomas is the one who hates technology: He showed no interest in being photographed.
Anyway, Myriam, Thomas, Ophélie, Olivier and Sacha (I think I got the correct names for the three) exchanged stories. Unfortunately, I struggled to pay attention to the stories largely told in French, but I did have the opportunity to ask Myriam about the time – when she was living in Paris – she found a lost American passport (She called the American embassy and the passport was eventually returned to its rightful owner). We joked out what it would be like to like to find a celebrity’s passport (Myriam said she’s wondered what Matt Damon’s passport would look like). After dinner, we listened to some Lou Reed and Myriam even presented me a gift: a Bernard Lavilliers album.
The next morning, I took the Metro to Sotteville, where Jean-Jacques picked me up at the station nearest to his and Dillian’s house. It looks pretty much unchanged from my last visit there. After breakfast and relaxing for a short time there, I took the Metro into the city centre, where I did some shopping (I bought two little notebooks in which I write new French vocabulary and three postcards), window shopping and exploration of Rouen on foot. Until my legs got tired. Anyway, here are some pictures from my Tuesday in Rouen:
After walking around Rouen a bit, I met up with Emeric, who was a student at Lycée Les Bruyères, when I was there. He wasn’t in any of my classes, though (but was still at the lycée the last time I visited the building in 2009). Emeric is a university graduate and actually, spent some time in Barcelona working for a company that makes the material for laboratories. But now, he is working at Printemps, a chain of French department stories. He was able to see me during his lunchtime, and we chilled in a cafe where he is very friendly with the owners.
Interestingly enough, in that cafe, there is a picture of the Beatles crossing Abbey Road. Emeric has told me he’s been at the real Abbey Road, but there’s nothing super special about the area.
After hot chocolate with Emeric, I spent some more time reacquainting myself with Rouen’s rive droite. But I was seriously hoping to meet up with two more people that day: Ophélie (another former student at the lycée) and Eric (a dude I met at my foyer). Like most people during weekday afternoons, they’re extremely busy but fortunately, I was able to meet up with them 🙂 Well, after convincing Ophélie to come along to Saint-Sever (a section of Rouen) because Eric would be there. Ophélie drove me to Saint-Sever which was surprising because (a) I didn’t think she would have a car and (b) she drives a really nice car and I’m not used to seeing university students driving nice cars.
Saint-Sever also features a shopping centre and Ophélie (a) being a woman and (b) being in a shopping centre during les soldes certainly didn’t waste a good opportunity. Anyway, the three of us just relaxed in a cafe. I was content to listen to Ophélie and Eric get to know each other a bit. The good news is Eric is coming to New York in September. Unfortunately, I’m not sure if I will be there to meet up with him. But if I am, that would be so exciting.
The next day, I went to Le Havre – a place that is considered neither a tourist attraction or pretty. In fact, I went there with two fellow English assistants in spring of 2006, and they thought the place was ugly. However, I went there to meet up with Maureen, whom I met the last time I visited Lycée Les Bruyères (She was not a student there during my time as an assistant). Maureen is quite bright, as she is studying International Relations (I think) and has done an internship at the French embassy in Moscow. She also spent quite bit of time in Siberia, and she told me the place is not as bad as everyone says it is.
Maureen didn’t have too much time to chat, but I’m glad she was able to make time to meet up. Anyway, I wasn’t planning to spend a lot of time in Le Havre – in fact, I wanted to get out ASAP as there were more people to see in Rouen. But unfortunately, there was an accident along the Rouen-Le Havre train line. I’m not exactly sure where the accident took place or what happened but all the trains to/from Paris were delayed at least an hour. So, I took two slow-ass buses to get back to Rouen. I took two slow-ass buses to get to Le Havre from Rouen, which was fine as I was scheduled to arrive at ten a.m., when I was supposed to meet up with Maureen (she greeted me at the Gare Routière in Le Havre). But as great as it was to save money by taking the €2 intradepartmental buses, I lost a lot of time as the train from Le Havre to Rouen would have taken roughly an hour while the bus(es) to Rouen took more than the double the time.
Once I got to Rouen – or more specifically, Sotteville, I lost all train of intelligent thought. I was heading to Sylvie and Bruno’s house (The former was a member of my conversation class at the library in Sotteville and the latter is her husband), but to make a long story short, I foolishly got lost. Jean-Jacques had given me a map of Sotteville and Sylvie told me the address of her house in a text message (the house is near a metro station), but I spent too much time running in circles until Sylvie found me. Sylvie and Bruno told me it was no big deal, but I felt so stupid.
But I felt better over some crêpes. Sylvie and Bruno made crêpes – actually, Bruno has started working at a boulangerie and on Wednesdays, he makes crêpes for the boulangerie (Unfortunately, he has to wake up at 3 a.m. six days a week). I thought the crêpes were quite good. We also talked about the time they visited the Grand Ole Opry (Sylvie and Bruno) are big country music fans, and I excitedly listened to some country music (a probable first for me).
Fortunately, I wasn’t done meeting up with people in Rouen. Santiago (a Spanish teacher at Lycée Les Bruyères) told me to head to a cafe where he would doing some work. So I met up with him there, and he invited me to eat at a Chinese restaurant. Which was great, but I wasn’t hungry. And I wanted to meet up with Karolina, who first came to Rouen as an English assistant but has stayed in the city since then. So I was able to convince Santiago to come with me to the Cathedral, where we met up with Karolina. She actually had time to come to the Chinese restaurant with us, which was a pleasant surprise.
I was very content to listen to Santiago and Karolina chat with each other. Karolina is working at the Rouen Business School but actually took a trip to China with some students a couple of years ago. She said it was an amazing experience. Meanwhile, Santiago gave me two presents: comic books written by journalists which Santiago says includes reflections of current events. Pretty sweet 🙂