It has been a while since I last published a blog post, I reread my last before sitting down to write this and was surprised that it was posted in November, but what’s more shocking is that we are now into February and I am more than half way through the year I have looked forward to since applying to university.
A lot has happened since I last posted: I celebrated a birthday; I returned to Scotland to celebrate the 80th birthday of my grandmother; I completed first semester; spent Christmas with family and friends at home; survived a series of exams; and started my second semester back here in Grenoble.
It has been said that Valentine’s Day has played an important role in my family, evidenced by the number of birthdays we celebrate in November, mine included. 2016 was a particularly special year for the family as the matriarch, my grandmother, celebrated 80 years. At the end of November I returned to Scotland to celebrate at the Lake of Menteith Hotel, set within the Trossachs National Park. It was a strange feeling returning home for such a short time but completely worth it to spend a perfect weekend spent with four generations of family.
Upon arrival back in France I celebrated my own birthday at an Irish pub in the town followed by some questionable bowling into the early hours.
Christmas, for me, began at the end of November with the ouverture of the Christmas market here in Grenoble – a market I frequented consuming my weight in vin chaud; soupe à l’oignon; crêpes; galettes; gaufres; raclette; bretzels; gratin dauphinoise; pains d’épice and anything else I could see or smell around the quaint Christmas market in the city’s main square at Victor Hugo.
At the beginning of December I took my Christmas spirit on a pilgrimage to Europe’s Capitale de Noel in Strasbourg with the university’s international students association InteGre. Strasbourg for me was vastly different from the image I had previously held, admittedly I didn’t know much
about the city other than the placement of the Parliament of the European Union, and it being the home of the Counsel of Europe’s Court of Human Rights. Strasbourg was larger and more beautiful than I had previously imagined. The Christmas market was spread across the length and breadth of the Gothic city with the Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Strasbourg at its heart, almost three days spent drifting through the city and we didn’t manage to see it all. The law student in me wished we could have spent some time visiting the European Institutions, but the entire rest of myself was more than content following my nose through the city. I would recommend a trip to the market in Strasbourg to anyone who loves Christmas, food and drink as I do.
If you read my first blog-post, you might remember my mentioning my misfortune while travelling, misfortune which fortunately until recently has been dormant.
At the end of December I returned home to spend Christmas with my friends and family in Scotland, a 2-3 hour journey which took 24 hours door to door. While sitting in the airport departure lounge, my flight to Edinburgh was cancelled 5 minutes before boarding due to adverse weather conditions. The weather was fine in Grenoble, and fine in Edinburgh, but foggy in London which meant all the flights flying in or out of the capital were grounded meaning there were no planes to take us home. Unfortunately, we were waiting for the last flight to Scotland for almost a week which meant we spent the remainder of the evening in Grenoble airport awaiting instructions. As much of a disaster as it was, I couldn’t help feel sorry for the poor French airport staff for having to deal with a planeful of angry Scots, many of whom were at the end of a boozy ski holiday.
A series of Chinese whispers spread through the many stranded passengers: we would be flying out from Grenoble despite there being no planes and no flights for days; the flight would be tomorrow; the flight was going to London; the flight was going to Birmingham; the flight would be from Lyon; we would have to make our own way to another airport; we would be stuck forever in France… Eventually we spoke to a member of staff who explained that we were to be bused to Geneva, spend the night in a hotel and fly direct first thing in the morning. The greatest pride of my semester being that my friend and I managed to navigate the situation without reverting back to English, and we even translated a little for the boozy skiers. Once we knew the plan we were lucky to discover that the staff in the only bar in the airport were still serving so we sat down to a dinner of salt and vinegar Pringles and a bottle of wine while we waited for the bus to take us to Switzerland.
New Year and Exams
I arrived back in France for New Year’s Eve and as much as I was excited to celebrate the New Year for the first time in a country other than Scotland, the reason I returned so early truthfully was due to the university Exam diet which began on the 2nd of January. With the way the flights worked, the latest I could have left Scotland in order to make it back to France in time for the exam period was the 29th of December.
New Year’s Eve was quite anti-climactic: there was no countdown; no auld lang syne; no ceilidh; and the club we walked across the city to end the night in was closed (yes closed on new years eve!). It has always been said that Scotland is up there with the best places to celebrate new year, and in my experiences of Scotland and now France, it remains at the top of my list. On New Year’s Day, feeling uncharacteristically fresh, I climbed to the fort de la Bastille and enjoyed a drink, the view, and catching up with friends.
The festive spirit was brought to a swift end with the end of semester exams looming. During the January exam period I had three exams to complete: Droit Constitutionnel; Relations Internationales; and Philosophie et Théorie du Droit. The three exams were all conducted in French, face to face with the module organiser. I wasn’t confident. In the end two out of three went better than expected and the third was not a complete disaster but not great.
The first snow
Incredibly, and luckily for me, almost immediately after my exams had finished and I had arranged to take my first ever snowboarding class, the snow arrived in Grenoble overnight.
The university École de Glisse offers students at the university reduced transport and ski-passes at two nearby ski resorts. I, having skied before, decided to use this opportunity to learn how to snowboard and I’m glad I did. Since my exams I have been in the mountains at least once a week which has been exhausting and often painful but consistently the highlight of my week.
Now, a month into my second semester in France, I have received my exam results, the world didn’t come crashing in on me, and so I’m feeling a lot more comfortable living and studying in France. I was told before I arrived that the second semester would be better and I don’t disagree with that assessment so far, long may it continue.
This semester I will be studying:
- Droit International Public;
- Droit Pénal;
- Science Politique; et
- Droit Constitutionnel – La Veme République.
Strangely we were not permitted to continue our language classes into the second semester so I have substituted French for sport, the sport being snowboarding. Each Thursday after 4 hours of lectures in the morning, I spend the afternoon snowboarding at Les 7 Laux undertaking a snowboarding lesson for which I will receive credits and a grade at the end of the semester.