Sometimes, time crawled; mostly, it flew. 2017 is, in the words of The Proclaimers, ‘Over and Done With’ – or rather, it was three days ago, but I’m late to the party with my end-of-year roundup. (I didn’t join the #bestnine2017 Insta-party, but rest assured this post will contain a sufficient number of photos.) 2017 wasn’t without its low moments, but overall I had a darn good year. Life in the Real World (as opposed to Life in the University Bubble) was a steep learning curve, and I learnt a lot of valuable lessons along the way, most of which are summed up in this post. La Grenouille Anglaise has come further than I thought possible, and for that I owe every reader of this blog an enormous thank you.
January | When I flew back to Lyon last January, I landed with a bump: the harsh realisation that I could count my friends in that city on one hand. I struggled with loneliness, and there were times when I really, really, really wanted to pack it all in and come back to England. Life felt like ‘In The Bleak Midwinter’ personified. Fortunately, a steady supply of Cadbury’s, some self-care in the form of many trips to the Parc de la Tête d’Or and several afternoons spent exploring Lyon’s traboules soon had me back to my usual self. I learnt to enjoy my own company; that books can solve many problems; and that, sometimes, it pays to put number one first.
February | Side-splitting teaching moments aside, the highlight of February was my three-day trip to Chamonix. A trip up the Aiguille du Midi had sat on my mental to-visit list for quite some time, and luckily Laurence was game for a snow-filled adventure. Although the clouds rolled in only thirty minutes or so into our visit, the views up until that point were nothing short of spectacular. We also had an absolute blast hiking up Planpraz in knee-deep snow on our final day in the Alps.
March | March was a fairly low-key month, one of those that slipped by quickly and left me feeling as though I hadn’t done all that much. However, putting my go-go-go approach in park for a while taught me that staying put isn’t always a bad thing. I saw the blossoms bloom, then tumble from the trees in the breeze. I saw seas of yellow daffodils. I spent time visiting my favourite animals in the nearby (free) zoo. I read books. I explored more of Lyon’s museums. I lived. I laughed. And before I knew it, April had rolled round.
April | If I had to sum April up in a single word, jam-packed springs to mind. I finished classes, explored more of Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes, showed my family round Lyon and finally made good on my promise to visit Simone in Bamberg. Bavaria exceeded expectations on every front: fairy-tale architecture, streets steeped in history and tasty grub. I also acquired a taste for hiking solo – and I’m so glad I bit the bullet and went for it (on multiple occasions).
May | Every student – current or past – knows this to be the month of exams, and for the first time in eight years it wasn’t for me. (Hooray!) Instead, I spent a fair amount of time melting in distinctly sweaty-smelling lecture theatres invigilating others’ exams. I made the most of my Carte Jeune Musée, notching up four museum visits in a single month. I also squeezed in another solo hike, got somewhat sunburnt watching a lot of (free) tennis at Open Parc and, for the first time, began to understand why everyone loves Paris.
June | My time in the Land of Baguettes was up (and I’m still mourning the croissants, éclairs and other carbs I left behind), but I left satisfied that I had made the most of my time there. I visited the awe-inspiring Palais Idéal, the realisation of a humble postman’s lifelong dream. I returned to the Chartreuse, a gorgeous region of limestone cliffs, dense foliage and winding trails. I had a whale of a time exploring Lyon and Geneva with two friends from home. And, while I may have left Lyon, the city will always remain with me – in my memories, taste buds and photos.
July | Saying non to renewing my contract as a lectrice and leaving Lyon meant rolling the dice – and I was chuffed to bits when my gamble paid off and I landed a job in publishing. Alongside house-hunting and completing employment-related paperwork, I had a lovely time at Wimbledon with Mum, spent a few days in Kent and squeezed in a weekend in North Wales. I also turned twenty-three, and marked the day with a hike up Moel Famau and a slab of cake at the summit.
August | New job, new city, house pending – that just about sums the month up. (I also owe a huge thank you to my uncle for letting me stay at his until I could pick up the keys for my new abode.) Simone, whom I visited in Bamberg, was in the UK over the summer, so I managed to meet up with her twice, which was lovely. We saw Much Ado About Nothing (the play I studied way back when) at The Globe one evening, and I discovered that standing up in a warm, crowded space for nigh-on three hours makes me rather dizzy. Laurence came down to London for the Bank Holiday, and we spent a day by the sea in Rye, a day exploring London and half a day at the Notting Hill Carnival.
September | September saw me move to Cambridge, into a lovely (but under-insulated) house with Laurence. I still detest having to dodge the overly-enthusiastic students selling punting tours every time I go into town, but I’ll take the peaceful life in Cambridge over hectic London any day. (Just don’t get me started on the cost of commuting.)
October | Laurence and I kicked off October in the Cinque Terre, and by golly it lived up to the hype (helped largely by the fact there weren’t so many tourists in the cooler autumn months). Shoulder season is the way to go! Back in the UK, I caught up with my cousins at the Ely Apple Festival . . . and Laurence and I then went to the Cambridge Apple Festival the very next day! I had a ridiculous amount of fun in the apple peeling competition, and managed to produce a metre-long length of peel. (It doesn’t sound like much written down, but it took a lot of concentration!)
November | Why hello, Bonfire Night. Oh, how I missed you last year! Mum and Dad visited in early November, bringing with them a boot-ful of my cooking utensils, blankets and other essentials. We wrapped up warm and enjoyed the fireworks on Jesus Green with my auntie, uncle and cousins. (I was pleased to see my council tax materialising in the form of a twenty minute display of multi-coloured fizzing fireworks.) Later in the month, Laurence and I revisited Leeds – and I made no secret of the fact that I had an absolute ball. We also popped over to Ely for the Christmas Gift and Food Fair, which I didn’t get round to blogging about but highly recommend visiting.
December | Before I knew it, December had arrived and with it an open invitation to consume chocolate with breakfast, a smattering of snow and many, many mince pies. I had not one but two Christmas dinners (five if you count repeats with the leftovers) in Cambridge and Chester, and a wonderful couple of weeks catching up with family and friends up north. Seeing the baby orangutan, not-so-little bear cub and an utterly adorable sengi at Chester Zoo was a definite highlight.
Bonne année, one and all – and here’s to a fantastic and fruitful 2018!