Friday, October 30, 2009

How I'm spending my All Saint's Day Vacation

Writing this in bed. I woke up sick yesterday morning. I think it’s just a cold, but I feel sleepy and achy so I'm staying in the house again today. With all this H1N1 stuff going on, Claudine is ensuring that I moniter my temperature constantly. So far no fever, so I think I'm okay. I don’t think anything induces homesickness more than being ill and not having your proper bed to rest up in. On a positive note, I do have some time to catch up on my blog writing.

One of the perks
of working as a teacher in France is the vacation time. And seeing as I am officially working in the system for the next six month, I will also enjoy 8 weeks of it. You read that right my friends: 8 WEEKS. I thought teachers in Toronto had it made with summers and holidays off. But in fact they do not. Teachers in France benefit from almost 8 weeks of vacation (10 days October, 2 weeks at Christmas, 2 weeks in February, and 10 days in April) BEFORE the summer break. Over lunch last week I confided in my fellow French teachers just how little vacation the average teacher in Toronto gets in comparison. They were dumbfounded.

Vraiment? Not even two weeks off for Easter? Mais, no!”

I shrugged, slightly embarrassed, and quickly added, “But school doesn’t start at 8:30 and end at 4:30 like it does here, we start at 9 and end at 3:30.”

As if the extra hour and a half difference everyday somehow equates to 5-6 extra weeks of vacation time…I decided not to tell them that schools in Toronto don’t get 2 hours for lunch either. I didn’t want to spoil their appetite with such a disgusting fact.

But, I digress…

Seeing as I am currently on holiday, I’ve been “profiting” as the French like to say, in this fantastic city. Yesterday I met up with some language assistants in the afternoon for a day of all things touristy. We started off at the Louvre, but after seeing the massive queue outside, and realizing that we should take advantage of the beautiful weather (17 degrees and sunny!) we headed off towards the Arc de Triomphe instead. I think I’ll go back to the Louvre sometime in the dead of winter when the gloomy weather has warded off all the tourists.

As we walked down the Champs-Elysee towards the Arc, we came across a little exhibit on Vogue magazine. Lining the street were posters of various Vogue covers dating back to the 50’s. Couldn’t help but take a few pictures. After the Arc, (we didn’t actually go up because the women at the ticket booth wouldn’t let us go up for free, even though we are entitled to with our long stay visas) we headed off to the lesser populated, but no less beautiful Musee Rodin. I have to say this was perhaps one of the best museums I’ve ever been to. Once inside, I was blown away by the understated elegance of the museum, originally a Hotel, where Rodin spent a lot of his time scultpting. The gardens surrounding the building are impeccably manicured, with rose bushes, shrubs, and pebbled paths neatly lined with trees. They provide a perfect backdrop for the sculptures scattered within them. It was wonderfully quiet inside, as if we’d stepped into another universe, far away from the bustle of the city. If ever I need to get away from it all, I just have to take my book and plop myself down on a chez-lounge by the fountain.

Although the museum is small, it is intimate and unpretentious. Natural light pours in through each window giving the sculptures a luminous glow (as if they needed any help). Many of them aren’t even enclosed in glass casing; you can put your face right up to the kiss and actually see the lovers' white hot marble embrace. Definitely a museum that evokes all the senses.

At one point before leaving, I found myself looking out an open window gazing out at the skyline of Paris. With my hands grasping the iron railing and the evening air on my face I had one of those moments where it hit me. Stevie, for the next six months, you get to live here. How lucky am I?

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