631 days and letting go… From Wales to France

Naked (acoustic version) – James Arthur 

Bonjour, bonjour

I hope you’re all alright. It’s been a while since my last post here, almost 4 months and I feel kind of rusty. I think that when we realised we were going back to France, I stop taking the time to write to focus on our last moments in Wales, then we came back to France and I wasn’t able to write about the whole Welsh experience. I have recipes and walks along Wales nicely waiting to be published but I really wanted to write about these 631 days before moving on to something else. Here’s the story.

Our very first Welsh sky.

If you’ve been following the blog or my instagram for a while, you know that we, le Barbu, my cat and I, went to live in Wales for almost 2 years. On September 26th 2016, each of us took a suitcase and got on a plane, single flight for London where we stayed 2 days and jumped in a car to Cardiff on September 27th. On this day, this night, we took the Severn Bridge (it will always be the Severn Bridge for us), and arrived right when the sun went down. I will not talk about why and how, I’ve done it in the post “A year in Wales” I also said that I’ll do another post next year to see where we would be and honestly I didn’t know if we would still be in Wales or back in France.

A lot of things were discussed, I secured a place at Swansea uni to be a French teacher but I also secured one in France to be a primary teacher, le Barbu had a nice job, less stable but still and nothing waiting for him in France. We took the decision together, little cat being at ease everywhere. We came back. I don’t want to talk about politics but of course Brexit played a major role even if we felt safe in Wales, the Welsh are extremely welcoming and nice but not being sure of what my degree will become if I had to go back to France, no being sure of a stable future, living somewhere where we voted against us, our future… We missed our families, our sea, and other little things.

I absolutely don’t regret our days in Wales, I still think about in with melancholy, this little country is now a part of me; landscapes, language, rythme, atmosphere, people, sounds, smells… All of this is in me and will never go. I’ve grown, so much, and made things there; dreams came true, a lot of dreams came true. I finished my post last year with a list of things that I didn’t have time to accomplish and here you can see how it is now:

  • Run in London ✓
  • Visit Tintern Abbey ✓
  • Go on a hike ✓
  • Learn Welsh (I tried, I am still trying and it’s hard!)
  • Hike Pen-Y-Fan ✓
  • Go to Tenby ✓
  • Run a half-marathon (I was SO scared but it was SO great, I am very proud) ✓
  • Run 10k in a race ✓
  • Go to Aberystwyth
  • See the waterfalls in Brecon Beacons
  • Rent a small boat in Roath Park
  • Rent a cottage for a couple of days
  • Going back to Snowdonia

I still have things to do and it is okay because I will go back, I will go back to accomplish these things and so many more. And I can’t wait.

I will not list all the things we’ve done because we’ve done a lot but there are things that I’ve done and either 1) never think I would them or 2) dreamt of but thought unrealisable. Fulfil your dreams is not given to everyone and I feel so lucky, filled with joy every time I think about it.

  • People. I’ve met extraordinary people, talented people, nice people, crazy people, interesting people, people from places I’ve never been… Some became friends and I didn’t think I would become attached to them. I’m sending a lot of kisses and love for you.
  • Runs. A lot of runs, races, pretty medals: a half-marathon, a Movember race, London iconic 10km…
  • Win. I won at the Bingo Lingo £20 and I had to show up on stage to take them, me being one of the shiest girl before.
  • Market. I did a market, I sold my own cooking and baking! People came to buy me stuffs I had made and even bought them again once finished because it tasted good.
  • Home alone at the cinema, should I say more? My favourite Christmas film in a cinema.
  • London. I went to London so many times I can’t even remember; the little 15 year old girl who dreamt about living there is so happy.
  • Musicals. I went to London and Cardiff and saw Mary Poppins, Pride and Prejudice, The Lion King, Wicked
  • Concerts. I dreamt of going inside the Royal Albert Hall and I did! Nashville, Passenger & Stu Larsen, Anne – Marie & Ed Sheeran…
  • PubQuizzes. LIFE. We alsmot won.
  • Procession. Marching with my friend to celebrate Women’s vote is one of the amazing thing I’ve done and am proud of.
  • Sports. I went to cricket, rugby and hockey games. FUN.
  • Big Pit, we visited a mine and it was very interesting.
  • Bill Nighy. I saw Bill Nighy in real life. IRL. IRL. IRL. Just wanted to cry. Thanks Hay-On-Wye!
  • Classic. On a girls’ night out we went to Cardiff Castle to see the The Lord Chamberlain’s Men playing The Tempest by Shakespeare. Incredible.
  • Snow. It snowed so much it was perfect. Just perfect.

We crossed the country, from East to West, South to North, under the sun, under the rain. Yes, it’s not a cliché, it rains in Wales but before we left we had a 2 months of non-stop sun. God how crazy it is.

We also made the most of living in Wales to travel to England; London, a lot, but also Bristol, Brighton, Weston-Super-Mare… And our little ginger cat really liked his Welsh life, from the seagulls to the vet (he is now bilingual too), from our carpet where he liked to lounge to our bow window where he liked to sit and spy the passers-by.

One of the great advantages of living abroad is that you can take a step back from your own country. I love France, and you tend to love it more when you are away and you miss insignificant things, but there are things that Wales has and that I terribly miss since I’m back in France. We should learn from them:

  • Politeness. People always ask if you are okay, shops, tills, buses. They say sorry, a lot, maybe too much, but at least they say it. Kindness is great too.
  • Queue. No it’s not a cliché, these people know how to queue. They don’t push others, they give their places to people in need. And I don’t really understand why but at the toilet, the women’s queue is faster.
  • Tolerance. Sorry for what I am going to say but fuck how good it is to be in a country where you can dress as you want, make up as you want, colour your hair as you want without being called a freak. CRA-ZY! I am not saying there are no assaults but for god’s sake I saw a 70 year old lady with pink hair!!! And if we had to talk about religion, you would think again about our vision of secularity.
  • Generosity. People are generous, welcoming. They ask you if you need help, they have little boxes at the tills for donations, I saw people giving coffees to homeless persons, I even saw a man talking to one of them, going to Burger King and coming back with food for him. There are bowls for pets in a lot of places. There are just small actions but it means so much, during these 631 days I’ve not ceased to be amazed.
  • Eggs. They are either free range or organic.
  • Meat. More cooking choices, which is great but now I miss having the choice and the taste of mature meat. About choices, a lot of choices for vegans!
  • Lattes. I went to a cafe in France and asked for a latte, they came back with a milky espresso. Eurk. Coffee is stronger in France.
  • Parks. Lot of parks, great to go for a walk, a run, breath fresh air. Plus: they are clean because people really take their dog’s poo in bags.
  • Calm. It is so calm, so great to think and air your mind. I had the great idea to go to a shopping centre 2 days after being back to France: horror, horns, people in a hurry, self-centered and sad-looking. HELP.
  • Freedom. As I told you before, you can wear whatever you want and be whoever you want to be. I saw travellers with their horses, horse-drawn carriage and that’s okay.

Some people might say “Well, if you love it so much but don’t like France then go back”, it’s not about this, it’s about trying to learn from others and being inspired. I love my country but it has flaws.

What a long post… I hope you’re still alive at this point and if you are well done! If you want, here’s a list of the posts I’ve made about Wales:

Others are coming: places I’ve loved and recommend, Mumbles, Rhossili, Carew Castle, Tenby, the Enchanted Forest of Castle Coch, Pen Y Fan, Cardiff under snow…

If I tell you that these pictures were taken in Wales, would you say I’m crazy? Because I might be, I’m crazy about this country. I would never let anyone say “oh, fine, England – Wales, same”, I would never ever say that it always rains and that it is a sad place. Yes, there are a lot of castles, sheep, rain and it is very green but there also mountains, sea, cliffs, museums, legends, and the greatest heart. Since I’m back in France, people say that I’ve changed and I know it, to quote Wicked “Who can say if I’ve been changed for the better? Because I knew you, I have been changed for good.” I was born in the Arcachon Bay, raised in the Bask Country, grew up in Bordeaux but I became an adult in Wales. I’ve learnt so much. As I was saying in the post “A year in Wales”, now my dear Wales, you are a part of me, you will always be and I deeply love you. I wanted to tell you this one more time. WALES FOREVER.

See you very soon for recipes and walks.

Bisous

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