Head-to-head: Gap vs. Grenoble

Here are a few pictures of Gap, though I need to get some more of the old city itself (I get a little uncomfortable giving myself up as, for now, a tourist).

My favorite thing about Gap, so far, is how unexpectedly the mountains emerge from behind the buildings

Gap is not really known for its charm, but it is a very active city.  We’ve been told over and over how ‘sportif’ its residents are, especially in the winter.  And, walking around, it’s very clear why this area attracts this kind of person.  I’m still not quite used to seeing an Alp appear, as if out of nowhere.  Sorry, Appalachians, but height-wise, you’ve got nothing on these big honkin’ things.

I’m not teaching yet, but my roommate Emily and I have been very warmly welcomed by all of the teachers and school staff we’ve been introduced to so far.  Actually, two nights ago, we had both of our burners going full blast when our electricity cut out.  After leaning an inadvisable distance out of our windows, we concluded it was not a building-wide issue, so we took to wandering around school grounds hoping that someone had stayed beyond the normal 8pm dismissal.  When we saw a woman who looked like she knew what she was doing escorting a student into our building, we approached her.  We demurely said the standard niceties, but the poor woman still looked a little taken aback.  As soon as we uttered the words “We’re the language assistants living in the boarding school” she immediately relaxed and directed us to a ‘Monsieur Pic,’ who came to our apartment, pushed a green button, and made us feel like fools for being so nervous about getting our electricity back.

Yesterday, some of the teachers at our school were faire-ing la grève (they were on strike).  Apparently the French government is hard up for cash (ring any bells?) and has gotten rid of a lot of teaching positions since last year.  The teachers we’ll be assisting have warned us that they’re overworked this year, some classes have as many as 35 kids.

Since they weren’t around, Emily and I took an early morning bus to Grenoble, the closest large city.  Grenoble seemed nice, though admittedly we went with no preparation and still don’t know if we really ‘saw the sights.’  Nevertheless, we walked around the centre ville (usually the oldest part of any city), had a decent lunch at a restaurant couscous (a restaurant that serves Moroccan or North African fare that’s probably been adjusted for French taste), and took a cable car to the top of a bluff overlooking the old city.  Sometimes Grenoble reminded me of the prettier parts of Paris and other times it seemed like a standard European city.  Regardless, we had beautiful weather and it could be good to go back for a festival or special event.

  

Bon ben, à plus!  MB

Welcome to Gap! Today jeans are 20% off

Salut!

This is my first post from my latest experience in France (if you want, posts from my semester abroad are below…but seriously, don’t worry about it).  For the next 7 months, I will be an ‘assistante de langue‘ or assistant teacher of English in one high school and one middle school in the town of Gap.

Gap is the capital of the Hautes-Alpes département (like a state, but these divisions aren’t as significant here as in the US), but it is quite small, only 40,000 people.  Still, it is within a bus or train ride of cities like Marseille, Grenoble, and Nice.  I’m thinking weekend travel will be a must!  In the winter, though, we’ll be pretty close to some ski stations that are supposed to be of varying difficulty.  I hope to give it a try!

There’s not much to report so far.  I’m living in the boarding school section of the high school where I’m teaching for 7-8 hours a week.  My roommate is named Emily.  She’s from Essex, in the Greater London area.  We have our own rooms and sinks (and bidets…we’re both quite amused by these), as well as a kitchenette, shower, and toilet.  In France, and probably other parts of Europe, sinks, toilets, and showers are not necessarily in the same room.  It seems a little inefficient to me, but that’s just my American pragmatism.

The apartment is small, but very inexpensive, and we can come and go as we please.  Today our coordinator, Dominique, who is very sweet and helpful, showed us around the high school.  We met several English teachers, all of whom were similarly helpful and encouraged us to reach out to them with any questions or problems.  It’s very nice to know they’re there, especially since this is my third time in France overall, but the first time I’m without a host family.

We went to the market on Saturday.  Though the city itself couldn’t really be described as charming, the old town (centre ville) is very cute and a designated pedestrian zone.  The surrounding landscape is stunning, mountains are constantly popping out from behind buildings.  I haven’t had the chance to take pictures, but it’s very clear today, so I will post some soon.

More later, MB