A French Summer in Troyes

Troyes (pronounced ‘tʁwa‘) greeted us in all its splendid summer glory. The beauty and rustic charm of this old town… Troyes, vous êtes très belle!

(the first French song I fell in love with in Troyes, heard everywhere in the shops!)

Here are a few interesting facts about Troyes:

1) It is dubbed the ‘city of 10 churches’ because of the high density of churches & convents punctuating every corner of the city centre.

2) It’s home to Lacoste. If you’re a shopaholic, Troyes’ major designer outlet store carrying over 100 brands like Lacoste, Polo Ralph Lauren, Timberland, etc., would be a dream come true.

3) This city’s located along the Seine river about.. 150km southeast of Paris (thanks Wiki).

4) Half-timbered houses which look like it popped right out of a fairytale are spotted at every turn in the city centre.

5) Also home to the football club association, ESTAC. (Folks here are pretty big on football!)

Bonjour, Troyes~

Lying on a bed of marguerites and thinking, life is good! (this was before projects and tests came bombarding us proper. still, beyond thankful for the grass on this side of the world, which was, quite literally, much greener).

Université de Technologie de Troyes – where I spent the best 5 weeks of my university life.

Where nature is lush & unreal.

And the houses come right out of a children’s storybook.

This was the traffic junction we crossed each time we went grocery shopping. The green man’s always too quick. Either the pedestrians here walk way fast, or we’re the ones who are slow.

Halal, is it meat you’re looking for?~~ No, bread! *laughs at own joke* 

This is the halal bakery just around the corner where we stayed! I was thrilled when I first saw this because firstly, I love bread, and secondly, also more importantly, it’s halal. I had thought that it’d be hard to get halal food in this small town, but hey what dyou know. I remember bumping into a fellow lady in hijab who greeted me with a smile and ‘Assalamualaikum‘ after buying baguettes from this bakery. The hijab’s a great conversation starter, really. I was beginning to feel more welcomed. I could get used to this. Always a great joy to know that there are fellow Muslims present at every corner of the world, and knowing that He is always looking out for us.

Delightful French pastries which I SORELY MISS.

My first poisson baguette for lunch! Salmon sandwich, simplest but the best. I remember frequently getting confused with poisson & boisson. Poisson means fish, while boisson means drink. Since the difference lies in a letter, I always think of b for beverage, so b for boisson. That helps me remember better. #frenchlesson1

Our grocery haven, where we stock up bread, biscuits, cereals, chips, and more bread. Here’s #frenchlesson2: My friends & I would always read the ingredients on the biscuit packaging to check if there was any alcohol in it. For the first few weeks, we’ve been reading beurre (which actually means butter), as beer. I was amused at the number of biscuits that contains beurre in this place. As it turns out, after finally being smart enough to Google Translate, we found out that it was just butter, really. Beer in French is biére. Well. We were close.

Happy kids!

This was taken a couple of hours before the sky got dark (it gets dark at about 9), the Mcdonald’s closed its doors (most of the shops here close about 5), and the wind got way too chilly. What happened next, was us hysterically trying to run away from the cold wind, which was a failure obviously, because the more we ran the colder we got /facepalm/ we were quite a hilarious sight. Troyes at night is desolate and peacefully quiet. There was literally no one around. We had our hoods on and ran back to the dorm as quickly as our tired legs could carry. Felt like a scene out of one of those films, yknow. Crazy fun #YOLO experience though!

Meet my friend, Wafae. The first hijabi (and probably the only in campus) friend I made on my second day in UTT. She’s from Morocco, and she’s been studying here for 4 years. Her close friend is Loubna, another Moroccan girl. Wafae and Loubna are friendly, beautiful souls. Wafae and I communicate in English, of course. She communicates in French with her french classmates, while she talks to Loubna in fluent Moroccan. I absolutely love listening to her switching languages so fluidly. Her English isn’t perfect, but enough to understand. Sometimes she gets slightly frustrated when she couldn’t find the right English word, and turns to ask Loubna for help, but usually they’d both end up spurting a Moroccan word instead. We’d all laugh it off, and just left it at that. We’d teach each other through our conversations – basic English for her, basic French for me. I always looked forward to having conversations with Wafae & Loubna in school.

Look at the portion just LOOKIT. The only available halal food conveniently filling enough to stave off our hunger (besides our packets of Maggi Mee which occupied half of our study table), is kebabs. And they make darn good doner kebabs. There are 3 of these shops near our dorm, but no one does it like D&S’ Kebab – the best kebabs, fries, and spot to catch our World Cup Matches at night after classes.

Not forgetting, they also offer the best view of sunsets #nonfiltre #aunaturel

The frequency & timing of buses are reliable but they are pretty limited. They have many different routes and on some days/time, they won’t operate. So we’d have to always check before heading out, just in case. On days they don’t, we resorted to relying on our good ol’ legs to bring us to where we wanted, even if it means a 45 minute walk away. Europe makes you exercise a whole lot!

Took the bus to the heart of Troyes~
Churches are a common sight – the city’s certainly living up to its name
The first time I ever entered one. It was grand, but not as grand as the Notre Dame in Paris (most majestic church interior I’ve seen thus far).

The shopping area, with H&M, Celio, and many other recognisable stores. Globalisation makes us feel at home, not sure if that’s a good thing though (the consumerism devil whispers yes.)

Wafae & Loubna first introduced us to their favourite place to have coffee – French Coffee Shop. This became our favourite spot to chill too whenever we’re at the city center. I remember ordering my usual Friotella each time we’re here. The lady at the counter and the owner of this joint are some of the friendliest people we’ve met.

& this, my friends, was our first time having a proper three course meal. This was our welcome dinner at one of them obscure, posh, French restaurants, in the city centre. I remember us Malay/Muslim bunch feeling a tad out of place because they were serving chicken, and we knew that they weren’t aware of our restrictions. We felt bad about it, so we simply excused ourselves from the dinner. However, we were blessed with the kindest caretaker/friend from UTT, Emilie, who insisted that we stay and catered to our needs by requesting for the chef to cook salmon for us. She’s THE best. On top of that, due to all the seats being taken up by the other students, and we didn’t want to be sitting at odd places, we were given the VIP table where our professors were sitting. We were the first Singaporean students to have a casual chat about the country we came from with our profs over some classic French cheese, potato cakes, sumptuous salmon, and chocolate desserts. Unforgettable dining experience indeed.

A peek into what we learnt throughout our exchange programme, in our French & Europe History module. I remember trying to memorize a nebulous ball of facts about Joan of Arc, Napoleon Bonaparte, Marie Antoinette, King Louis, a slew of French presidents, and the European Union, amongst a million other historical facts. My friend & I chose to research on the Franco-Ottoman Alliance for our presentation. Never learnt so much history in a span of just 5 weeks!

This was during the social evening event, where we got acquainted with our buddies for the first time. My buddy’s Stefan, the one on the left. I remember trying to speak whatever scant amount of French I know to him & Senan, and they told me they were impressed and prompted me to speak again – perhaps they were surprised to see an Asian capable of enunciating their beautiful language well, hur hur! The one in the middle is Ali, and beside him is Senan. My friend mentioned that Stefan reminded her of Bruno Mars. And another said Ali looks like Pharrell. And Sean (not pictured) looks like Shane Filan from Westlife. So we were going around taking photographs with the ‘star-studded crew’, humoring ourselves silly, and laughing all the way back to our dorm.

With Cyrille, our French teacher, who blatantly laid the rules on the first day of lessons that he refused to entertain any questions in English – only French in French classes. Parler français! Always a delight to attend his lessons. I swear his voice reminds me of Benedict Cumberbatch, and that he has a twin at the place we had our crepes. We asked him if he had a brother working at a restaurant, but he said ‘sadly, no, I don’t have any family members working in a restaurant’ (in French of course).

I’d have picnics everyday for lunch breaks if my campus in Singapore was this picturesque
“A flower does not think of competing to the flower next to it. It just blooms.”

(I’d like to think that I was blooming/tanning in the quietly glorious Summer sun. It doesn’t show, but I was content and bursting with happiness on the green dotted with the loveliest butter yellow. We’ve been experiencing the coldest summer ever since we arrived, but the sun was slowly warming up the town & lighting up the skies.)

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