I have been in Perpignan exactly 24 hours and all I can say is that I have had a very welcoming arrival and so far it’s been good. My house has four walls and a ceiling, my housemates are lovely and it’s 30 degrees.
My alarm was set for 3am yesterday, and despite having barely 4 hours sleep due to skyping friends all evening, I managed to get up just fine.
I’d like to say I am a light traveller and I usually take a small case, but for six months away that is just NOT going to happen. I realised the night before that I had seriously overpacked my suitcase by about 28kg. Yes, you read that correctly! I don’t even know how this happened, but I swear it’s all the grammar books, I don’t really have that many clothes with me… I decided to take a carry-on cabin bag as well as my suitcase which helped a lot. I checked in at the Ryanair desk, however my bag was still 2kg overweight, and I had to pay a £20 fine. In the past this has happened with other airlines and it never really was an issue. Oh well, lucky it still wasn’t 28kg over, otherwise I would have had a serious issue!
My plane from Liverpool to Carcassonne set off at 7:30am and I arrived local time at 10:30am at possibly one of the smallest airports I have ever visited. Yeah… it is definately the smallest. I managed to get on a navette, or airport shuttle bus to the station for 5€, definately better than a taxi. I had a 2 and a bit hour wait for a train to Narbonne as I had missed the previous train by about 10 minutes, but luckily there was a shop with food and I could relax whilst reading Cosmo in French.
Lesson number 1: French train stations are not all that accessible.
Okay, I knew this already, especially with travelling on the Parisian metro a lot but SERIOUSLY?! How do people with limited mobility do this? Try going up and down stairs to get to your platform with two suitcases (one weighing 22g) and a heavy rucksack. There are these things called escalators/lifts and they are really useful. I managed, just.
I had to change trains at Narbonne to get to Perpignan. This station was much busier and luckily some people pitied my stuation and helped me with my bags up a flight of stairs. One woman who helped carry my smaller bag asked me where I had to go next and helped me find my TGV train to Perpignan. She met with her grandad on the platform and out of no where he offered to take me to Perpignan train station as they lived nearby. Normally I would not accept to ride in a stranger’s car in England, it’s just not done really is it? But after a long journey and the horrible thought of having to take these suitcases on another train and several flights of stairs, it sounded like an amazing idea, and they were both really lovely people. This is not ‘Taken,’ don’t worry! So, they drove me to the station and I practised my first real conversation in French since my French speaking exam in early June. The lady’s grandad was surprised when I said I was English, as apparently he thought I was French! Wow what a great way to start 😀 This helped me relax, to know that my French can’t be all that bad, and so I got to sit back and appreciate the beauty of the scenery during the drive, which includes seeing the Pyrenées in the distance!
At Perpignan train station, I was met by my landlady’s dad who drove me to the villa and showed me around, with that thick southern French accent where they roll the r‘s that I had never really heard before. We have a TV, which makes me so happy, as I didn’t have one last year, and of course, it’s all in French, so good practice. The villa is located near the university, which is excellent too. I later learned that it is also nearby to a bank, boulangerie, épicerie, bus stop and furniture store, pas mal hein? Also, it is not on the top of a massive hill, which is something I along with many students in Sheffield must endure during our studies there. It is not close to the city centre, which is around a 30 minute walk, probably about the same distance for me when I am in Sheffield which isn’t bad, but there is a bus.
There are 5 of us already here in the villa, 2 still to arrive. I have met everyone so far for now. There is one Japanese guy, one Japanese girl, one Brazilian guy and a French guy too. The great thing is that they don’t really speak any English, and this was 100% what I was hoping for. Whenever I randomly spout some English, they have no clue what I am saying, so I have to talk in French otherwise I won’t get very far.
After I unpacked my bags, two of my housemates were kind enough to accompany me to the shops so I knew where to go, where I bought some bedding, kitchenware and food. Luckily, everything in the kitchen is communal so I didn’t need to buy any plates, cutlery, pans, utensils, not even olive oil. I just bought some glasses and a mug as that’s more hygenic. I was worried about the prices for homeware, but we went to a shop called Babou that was very cheap.
Afterwards, we returned home, ate and by 8pm I was so exhausted I fell asleep! After a long sleep, I got up at about 10am and had a lazy morning. I signed up ages ago to receive a mentor at the university who would be willing to help me settle in and help me with registration etc. I did the exact same thing at Sheffield with my home university, but I was the mentor, not the mentee! I received an email from her today which is good and I know who to speak to if I have any issues or questions at the uni.
This afternoon the same two housemates and I ventured out to the city centre on the bus. It was good to see what it’s like, there are plenty of shops, eateries and places to explore. I bought a French sim card, but my phone is blocked as it doesn’t accept foreign sims. I went to a few shops to get it sorted, but everyone is still on holiday and I must wait a few weeks for them to return. I could always buy a cheap phone for now, but I think I can wait a little while for it to get sorted. We stopped off at the épicerie on the way home and I got a few more things.
I luckily don’t have any plans until Sunday, so I have a few days to rest and recuperate after a crazy summer. This time last week I was on a coach to Jerusalem, the week before I was at the Dead Sea, and three weeks ago I had just got back from Poland. On Sunday, the landlady is coming round in the morning to finalise our contracts and talk to us. I won’t be able to open a bank account until after we do that, because I need evidence of proof of address. It’s quite nice to not be able to sort anything just yet. It’s all out of my hands and I feel like I can just relax for once. I have another full week after that before classes start so I have plenty of time.
So that’s it for now, I am going for a little sieste as I am still so tired. It’s just so great to be here at last after so much organisation, research and decision-making.
Good luck to all my fellow Modern Languages students who are heading out to their Year Abroad destinations in the next coming days and weeks 🙂