Life in Cannes: French Grammar, Beach, Morrison’s, Brunch, Rinse & Repeat

It is safe to say that I have done a fair bit of traveling in the last three months I have been in Europe. So far I have traveled to London, Florence, Paris, Dublin, Mykonos, Santorini, Salzburg, Vienna, Avignon, Ventimiglia, and not to mention all of the tiny journeys I have made to neighboring Côte d’Azur cities! And this weekend I went to Barcelona for one more weekend traveling adventure. But, there are some clichés which ring true: there’s no place like home. And (sorry, family) I am not referring to Southern California. I am referring to the happy home I have found and made here in Cannes. And since I have been talking about my journeys abroad, this week I am going to talk about the journey that my typical week in Cannes looks like.

Monday: My alarm goes off at eight o’clock in the morning but do I ever get up at that time? Never. I hit snooze and fall back asleep for a short ten minutes before I wake up again and get ready for class. I do the basics (clothes, teeth, pack my school supplies) and then it is off to breakfast. I try not to fall down the Harry Potter-esque spiraling staircase (truly the only thing that has ever made me fear for my life) in my morning drowsiness then walk to the Salle à Manger (cafeteria). “La carte, s’il vous plaît,” the cafeteria employees demand when we enter. We flash our student I.D. cards then grab our tiny breakfasts. If there is one thing I will remember about France – and Europe – when I leave, it is that no one here knows how to make a proper breakfast. My typical breakfast at the collège includes a hard boiled egg, an orange, yogurt, a banana, and coffee. And coffee is served in a big round bowl. It was a big of an adjustment, at first, but after doing it for three months, my stomach has adjusted.

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At nine a.m. people start lazily making their way towards class – but generally they only make it to the courtyard where everyone congregates and converses for a few minutes before finally actually going to class. During the first week of school, everyone was early only to realize that the french were always about five minutes late. Our only morning class is a three hour french intensive class and everyone is in a different class at a different level. In my class, we focus on a new subject each week, which we use as a perspective to study and analyze the french language. Last week, the theme was art and “La force d’image” and this week’s theme is film (perfect of me). We are using a diverse film vocabulary to analyze films, en français bien sûr, and learning “les expressions de l’opposition et de la concession” which I would explain further, but there is no exact english translation so it would be a bit difficult!

We have one fifteen minute break during class, which is really a twenty to twenty-five minute break when everyone, again, goes to the courtyard and talks and laughs. Some buy a small coffee, muffin, or a pain au chocolat from Le P’tit café on campus. Then it is back to class for another hour and a half before we have lunch at noon.

At lunch, it is not like your usual college cafeteria, buffet-style of eating. I sit at what is known as the “green table” – where people who are vegeterian, pescaterian, or gluten free sit. But before I eat my main course, I wait in a Disneyland-style long line (that I wish I could fastpass) for access to the salad bar then sit down and the cafeteria employees come by each table and serve us our food. The food is okay – it is by no means amazing, but (most days) it is not complete trash either. Then we are served dessert – usually fruit – and then I have about an hour to myself before my one and only seminar of the week.

This semester I took a French Society/Civilization seminar, that took place on Mondays from 1:30 p.m. – 5:00 p.m. It was actually a fascinating class because we learned a lot about how the french government works, french culture, la laïcité (secularism – a very important French right), the social inequalities and problems plaguing immigrants or residents in the banlieues (ghettos), France’s history of gender roles and equality, and we did a lot of research on the recent French presidential election (Woohoo Macron! Vive la France!).

After class, we will usually seek out dinner around seven p.m. Dinner around Cannes can range from an expensive seaside restaurant that you can only afford if you’re one of the celebrities visiting for the film festival or a cheap kebab from a food stand. There is also an in between though. Two popular dinner choices are Indian or Chinese. Both restaurants are fairly cheap and, even better, very close. The college campus is located about a mile to a mile and half away from the center of town, where most of the restaurants are located. So having good, cheap food close by is a blessing. Sometimes, if I really do not feel like going anywhere, I will simply cross the street to Café Picco where I can grab a salad to-go and eat it in my room while watching Brooklyn Nine-Nine.

But most of the time, I buy groceries from local stores like Monoprix (France’s less cool version of Target) or Leader Price. We don’t have fridges or kitchens in our dorms so I have had to get incredibly creative in order to save money. My typical grocery list includes rice cakes, tomatoes, oranges, bananas, nutella, and cheese. So how do I keep my cheese cold without a fridge? The windows in our room have to sets of shutters so my roommates and I put our cheese on the window sill in between the closed shutters and it keeps the cheese cold. So my typical dinner is a rice cake, covered in cheese and topped with sliced tomato – which probably tastes better than it sounds.

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And that about wraps up a typical Monday.

Tuesday: Tuesdays are basically the same as Mondays, minus the afternoon seminar. From 12:30 p.m. on, I am have no class! I usually spend my time writing, watching Netflix, or going to the gym. I also use my free time to do laundry. While I may have started out the school year paying 5 euros for a single use of the washing machine and a tiny sphere of detergent, I realized that it was just too much money. So I bought some laundry detergent of my own and started washing my clothes by hand and it has saved me so much money. Then I hang my clothes on either the heater in my room or out the window.

Speaking of the window in my room, some days I wish I could plop a couch down in front of it because I have a beautiful view of the campus’s courtyard and the beach, less than a block from campus.

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At 5:30 p.m., I take the bus to La Bocca, another part of town, where I teach English lessons to a little french girl. I tutor her for about an hour then catch the bus back to the campus. And that is it for my Tuesdays!

Wednesdays: If I were to state that Wednesdays were nothing special around Cannes, someone in my program might slap me. Because Wednesdays in Cannes are our sacred karaoke nights. But before I get to that, I use my free afternoons for some alone time in the lovely atmosphere of Café Picco where I sit and write my blog posts before grabbing dinner with my friends.

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Then ten o’clock strikes. Le p’tit café fills with students and and their bottles of wine. Funny french story about wine on campus: alcohol is forbidden but wine is totally a-okay. Upon arrival at the collège, everyone was confused about the presentation of this rule. “Alcohol is forbidden on the campus. Also there is a wine tasting on campus this Wednesday!” our program director said.

We asked her, for clarification, “Wait but we cannot have alcohol on campus?”

“No.”

“But we can have wine?”

“Of course.”

To me, there has never been anything more french than not considering wine a type alcohol. Anyway, at around 11:00 p.m. everyone leaves the collège and starts to make the long trek toward our karaoke night sanctuary: Morrison’s.

Morrison’s is the Irish Pub in Cannes that hosts karaoke nights on Wednesdays. The bartender knows almost all of us by name and looks out for all of the collège students should we ever need anything. And we spend the night dancing and scream-singing on top of a tiny stage to every Kelly Clarkson/Katy Perry/ABBA/insert-pop-artist-here that we can and we usually don’t get back home until 2:00 a.m. Obviously, this kind of night out is not for every Wednesday. I usually only go if it is a special occasion (birthdays, friends visiting, etc.) and when I do it is always a blast, but I always wake up feeling like I want to cut my aching feet off on Thursday mornings. And that brings me to . . .

Thursday: Thursdays are for recovering from karaoke nights for those who went out – or taking care of the karaoke night survivors (for those of us who did not go out). After class, I enjoy spending my afternoons at the beach. The water is always crystal clear and the horizon is set against the backdrop of a blue sky, mountains and islands in the distance and a brilliant and bright yellow sun.

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Friday: Fridays follow the usual schedule. Occasionally, our program director will host a little activity for us to do – getting ice cream together, touring Nice, or visiting some of the monuments around Cannes. On Friday nights, everyone usually goes out again. First, everyone congregates at Morrison’s for a beer then we head to Play, the local dance club, always filled with lots of people and music. And that is how we finish our weekdays in Cannes! Then it is finally . . .

The Weekend (Saturday & Sunday): On weekend mornings, I finally get to sleep in – which would be great if my internal clock did not wake me up at 9:00 a.m. no matter the day. So I get up, shower, and then head to brunch. Brunch is everyone’s favorite meal at the collège. There are scrambled eggs, fried eggs, crèpes, baguettes, cereal, fruit, yogurt, sausage, and cheese. I actually thoroughly enjoy sitting down for a long meal, mid-morning, chatting with friends and stuffing myself full of “real” breakfast food.

Other than brunch, what is there to do in Cannes? Having been here for three months, I’m very aware that Cannes is definitely considered a small town and can start to seem a bit boring. But I still love the sunny little beach town. Some weekends, I do local traveling (like I discussed in my last blog post), other weekends I write in the local coffee shops, or I go to the beach. It is never a dull moment with the group I am in Cannes with, though. Someone always has a way to keep life interesting even on what can seem like the dullest of Sunday afternoons.

On weekend evenings, I enjoy “splurging” a little bit for dinner, and by that I mean buying food out at a restaurant like Ma Nolan’s (see blog post: “Mal du Pays & Tacos”) or trying a new seaside café. One weekend, my friends and I went on a “chocolate crawl” where we visited various candy shops around Cannes and bought a bunch of chocolate. Some weekends, we have movie nights in the P’tit Café. But there is always something fun and relaxing to do.

And that sums up a typical week in Cannes for me (if I’m not traveling)! Check out the new “Local Recommendations” page for all of my favorite places in Cannes.

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