La Fête des Lumières

The Festival of Lights is a Lyonnaise tradition which includes activities based on light and usually lasts four days, from the 6th Dec to the 9th. The peak of activity occurs on the 8th. The festival opens with a beautiful firework display over the river and the two main focal points of activity are typically the Basilica of Fourvière which is lit up in different colours, and the Place des Terreaux, which hosts a different light show each year





On the 8 September 1852, as the city was preparing to celebrate the installation of a statue of the Virgin Mary in the Chapel on the Fourvière Hill, the ceremony had to be abandoned as the River Saône was overflowing. The festivities were put back to December 8 of the same year. But the climate did not favour the organisers – a violent storm broke out during the day, and the event had to be abandoned. Then seeing the weather improving as night fell, the population spontaneously lit their homes with candles and Bengal lights and hurried down into the street.


Since then the ritual has been repeated every year – the people of Lyon decorate their windows and balconies with thousands of little lights – candles protected by little glass shades whose flames wreathe the city in a warm and gentle light, as winter draws near. While continuing to respect this age-old tradition, the festival has over the last ten years mutated into an outstanding urban event, born of the wish to create a festival that would unite all of the people of Lyon and continue to celebrate the lighting of the city begun in 1889. Since then every year, for four nights around the 8 December Lyon becomes the centre of light show design with artists from around the world, performances and light shows creating unique designs that attract millions of visitors.

Based on this tradition, the Festival of Lights has since become the world’s principal event for creative light displays, showcasing the work of top artists and offering an open-air laboratory for up-and-coming talent.

Text taken from wikipedia and the fete des lumières official website.





Visiting Lyon


Visiting Lyon has been one of my favourite moments of my year abroad as it’s such a beautiful city with a rich cultural heritage.
The first picture in this post shows ‘la fresque des lyonnais’. An iconic mural painting which pays hommage to the 31 figures notable in Lyons history. The famous lumiére brothers, the duo who invented the first film, were one of the many personnalities featured on this iconic wall.
The second and seventh pictures show Lyon’s famous Traboules. During the 16th century Lyon was a major leading force in the production of silk in France and it was these Traboules, covered passageways,  that allowed the transporation of silk between buildings to protect it from being damaged by the weather.  The Traboules connect the Vieux Lyon area with La Croix Rousse Hill also known as ‘the hill that works’. This district is where one of the very first worker revolts, the canut revolts,  occured due to poor working conditions.

In pictures 4 and 5 you can see the beautiful Basilica of Lyon sitting on top of the Fouvière hill, also known as ‘the hill that prays’.

The last picture for me qualifies Lyon’s superb gastronomy. Lyon is known for its good food and this tart did not disappoint. Even though it was from a high street chain bakery it was one of the best tarts I have eaten putting us Brits to shame. Both flavour and texture was impeccable and hard to fault.  The pastry was crisp and buttery, the creme patissier was lucisous and the fresh raspberries were just wonderful. It was the perfect recovery after a rather chilly visit around the town admiring all it’s famous landmarks.

Finally, picture 9 shows the inside of a church during La fete des lumières which I’ll talk about in more detail in the next post

La Musée de la Piscine

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Roubaix is a town not far from Lille and many students I worked with travelled from here everyday to get to the sixthform. One of the gems of Roubaix is La musée de la Piscine. As the name suggests it was a former swimming baths which has now been renovated into a museum. There’s a lovely feel to the museum, it’s very light and I love the water feature in the middle paying hommage to the museum’s former state as a swimming baths. As an industrial town,  Roubaix was a huge textile manufacturer in the past so the museum also has lots of information about this too, with a section showing all the different material samples.

In terms of the art, this one painting in particular really caught my attention. It’s called Marat Assasiné- The Assasination of Marat and was painted in 1880 by Jean-Joseph Weerts.

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Initially I had no idea what this painting was about. I was curious to know the story behind this painting and why this woman had killed this seemingly inncoent man. I thought this may have been about love, maybe he had been unfaithful to her and she ended up killing him but that couldn’t have been further from the truth. In fact the context of this picture is political. During the French Revolution,  two prominent radical groups fought for power: the Girondins and the Jacobins. Marat was a member of the jacobins. He is represented in this picture as a sort of martyr of the revolution. In fact we can’t tell from the picture but he actually suffered from a debilitating skin condition. Instead he is painted in a style reminiscent of a Christian martyr, with the positioning of the body and the body bathed in a soft, glowing light. There’s also no bathtub and we know he was killed while bathing. Did the painter decide not to paint this to preserve his honour? Who knows.

So why did Charlotte Corday kill Marat?

In short it was in response to the September massacre in Paris and across various other cities in France . Emma says that Charlotte Corday was a courageously self-sacrificing but politically naive young lady. She held Jean-Paul Marat responsible for the Reign of Terror in the French Revolution. She hoped that his assassination would end the Terror and help guide the Revolution toward the more moderate course that she and her Girondist friends favoured. But Charlotte Corday’s assassination of Jean-Paul Marat was invoked to justify
escalating the Terror, which was a consequence opposite what she had hoped for.


I thoroughly enjoyed discovering the story behind this painting and am really glad to have been exposed to this wonderful piece of art which was so engaging and dramatic!



Surprise Farewell party  

So the days are fast approaching for the grand départ to France and I cannot wait. Although I knew that this day would arrive I didn’t believe it was actually going to happen.  I cannot believe that God is blessing me this wonderful  opportunity and am looking forward to discovering what lies in store for me.I will miss my family and friends and I’ve been really touched by all the gifts and efforts made by each and every one of them. France here I come


Working as a language assistant


It’s my first day and I feel like the new kid at school. I’m not even sure I know where the school is so I leave my house and hope for the best. Luckily I see some children and I presume they are going to the same place so I follow instinctively. There’s a lady at the gate directing the new pupils on where to go . I on the other hand look for the reception desk. After asking someone for directions I’m on the right path but bump into the headteacher before even reaching his office. He was on his way to give a welcome speech to the new students and jokingly said that I looked more like one of the students than the english assistant, well the French don’t disappoint with their directness do they?

The first few weeks at school have been frustrating. I was not given a timetable for weeks and so I felt  a bit useless. However when I eventually did get to start working with the pupils it was great. I had heard horror stories of language assistants being placed in really difficult schools and having a hard time with the pupils but for me that was not the case and the fact that this lycée had been awarded best lycée in France for 2013 showed by the quality of the pupils. They were very receptive, enquiring and eager to learn.

French schools are different to English schools in many ways. Take for example the Conseille de classe, this is a meeting which occurs at the end of each term with teachers, parent representatives and pupil representatives present. Each individual pupil on the register is discussed within the meeting to determine how they are progressing. Students can  be awarded ‘mentions’ which are divided into encouragements, compliments or félicitations. Encouragements is for when a student has been working but thier results are not exceptional, compliments is for good results but maybe and félicitations is the highest commendation for attitutude to work and exceptional grades. A conseille de classe would be the place where we would have to discuss if a student had to repeat a year or not. This is known as redoublement but does not exist in the english school system. Another revelation to me was ‘la vie scolaire’  these are the dinner supervisors, exam invigilators, the place to come if you come in late. They can also make phone callls home if messages need to be passed on from pupils to parents, they do photocopies and lots more . In england the supervisors or dinner ladies rather would not have a specific office nor deal with absences or punctuality, that would be the job of reception. Then of course you have the whole uniform thing- in France it doesn’t exist which I found strange as it’s not something us Brits are accustomed to.

I have enjoyed many moments at the school for example going with the A-level literature class to watch Sherlock Holmes at the theatre, baking with the As- level girls to raise money for the refugees at Calais. Enjoying many of the ‘gouters’ arranged by the girls. Helping out at homework club and talking to the adorable year 7′s and of course the banter between the students in class. But above all it has to be the friendliness and support I recieved from my fellow colleagues especially Stéphanie

La Braderie 2014


La Braderie is an annual event in Lille which takes place on the first weekend of September every year. Over 2 million people came from across Europe this year hoping to pick up a bargain or find some hidden treasures. It’s a huge market that spreads across the whole city where vendors will sell anything from old furniture, clothing and even books. It reminded me very much of a carboot sale but on a much larger scale.  There were also many food stalls and it was interesting to see the vast array of north african streetfood available. The Braderie has become more commercialised over the years with more and more business’ taking to the streets as opposed to private vendors selling  goods and you can feel this loss of authenticty but there is still a huge buzz in the city and the huge crowds of people do make it quite special.

It’s also a celebration of  two of Lille’s most famous delicacies Moules frites and beer. You will see piles of mussel shells in the street which show the sheer amount of mussels that will be consumed during this weekend and restaurants will compete to see who can make the biggest pile of shells in the street!




For more info about the Braderie check this page out.

Playing Football in France


As a language assistant I have admittedly been given quite a bit of free time so I thought I’d take the opportunity to do what I love most – play football. Initially it was my housemate who really encouraged me to join a sports club. Adèle used to attend Taekwondo classes but after telling her it wasn’t really my thing she quickly went online to search for the nearest women’s football club and I’m so glad she did.

I benefited so much from these football sessions, linguistically and in terms of staying healthy. It also helped me stay occupied and not feel the loneliness when my housemates would be occupied doing other things. I got to meet so many French people who were so lovely and accepting and I never thought that I’d have a football coach and french teamates shouting instructions to me in French,  I know it sounds silly but it was such a good feeling.

It’s funny to remember all the different characters there were at the club. Ludo was a simple guy who people used to joke around with, his role was to lock up the changing rooms during each training session and provide us with training equipment, Ilyes- our crazy overweight coach, he was the laid back type who had no real ambition in terms of winning but he was a nice guy, Mansur was Ilyes’ boss he coached us one evening and was brilliant and extremely movitating but some of the girls thought he took football a bit too seriously. Then there were the girls, Sarah- our captain, Flavia-the player who everyone was in awe of, my fellow anglophone from Ireland- Chelsea,  Juliette-the striker and Imène the youngest member of our team.

I’ve had many good times with this team, but the funniest moment had to be when I wanted to play a league game without a ‘licence’. We were short of players so me and another girl who wasn’t even  part of the club decided to play.  We both needed licences to play so we searched through all the license’s that the club had, scanning the photos to see which ones looked most like us. We both picked out our licences- I was now to be known as Sarah and she was to be known by some other name too. Everytime someone called me I was oblivious to the fact that they were actually calling me- I was not used to be being called Sarah! The other girl who didn’t have a license ended up being the best player on our team, she was tall and athletic-,she wasn’t even a footballer she was a boxer. Even though we lost badly she was the only one on our team  who managed to score a goal  and what a spectacular goal it was. She managed to bicycle kick the ball into the goal and we all ran to her esctatic and filled with emotion there was this sort of adrenaline rush that we all experienced that day.  I’m smiling so much, even now, as I am writing this post because it brings back so many memories, even if I’m not the best at articulating them. During my year abroad this was one of the experiences I enjoyed the most, it was nice visiting other places and doing touristy things but joining this club and sharing the experiences with everyone who was a part of this club was even better than that.


For those of you comtemplating joining a sports club during your year abroad I would thoroughly recommend it. In fact I even considered staying in Lille just so I could stay at that club.

The details of the club I joined are as follows: A.S. DU VIEUX LILLE

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Address: Stade Adolphe Max, Avenue Adolphe Max, 59800 Lille

It’s location is convenient as it’s not far from the city centre and there’s a bus which drops you off nearby. They accept players of all levels so don’t worry if you’re a beginner, many of the girls did this as a recreational activity. If you want to play league games you will need to apply for a ‘license’ but the club captain will be able to sort this out for you.

For the more skilled among you Villeneuve d’Ascq is an excellent club and had a more competetive approach to football. They always finished top in our local league and are the best choice if you are looking for competitive football.


To find your local football club and see fixtures and results visit: