Tag Archives: france

The Vallée Blanche: An Unforgettable Day

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“The starting point of all achievement is desire”

Napolean Hill

I’m not what you’d expect from a girl who’s lived in Chamonix for 4 months. You’d think I’d be a whizz on the skis by now but I’m not afraid to admit that I remain pretty average… Some things click, others don’t and that old chestnut, fear, hasn’t quite been conquered slope-side yet. Which is what made yesterday all the more magical.

A Journey Into The Unknown

Doing The Vallée Blanche, Chamonix’s well-known off-piste ski route – 20km long with a vertical descent of 2700m – was something I was determined to do. I knew I probably wasn’t good enough, I knew it would be tough and frightening but most of all I knew that I’d really regret not doing it before leaving.

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As you can see from the pictures above and below, the views are stunning, with the high mountainous plains providing a sense of wilderness like nothing I’ve ever experienced. It didn’t matter that I nearly toppled down the side of a mountain at one point or that I was tethered like a horse to my patient companion, Mowgli, down the narrow descent at the start – this was a once in lifetime experience I wasn’t prepared to wimp out on. And boy was it worth it.

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Journeying into the largest glaciated domain in the Alps, the Mont Blanc massif, was nothing short of sublime. The sheer scale of the mountains and the giddy heights which see you looking down upon the puffy white clouds is incredible, swamping worries like little ants. No matter how bumpy the slopes were in parts, no matter how many wobbles I had, I couldn’t help laughing at myself – even more so during those moments tinged with terror. My anxieties simply felt so small compared to the grandeur around me.

A fitting end to an unforgettable few months.

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How Can You Apply This In Your Daily Life?

Next time you’re feeling overwhelmed or weighed down by anxiety, go to nature. The sound of the stream, the bark of the trees, the scale of the mountains – they heal souls. The beauty of nature cracks you open like a nut and relieves those man-made worries which so easily weigh you down.

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#nature

#peace

#beauty

 

 

Moving Abroad: Montpellier, France

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Ever dreamed about moving abroad but don’t have the foggiest where to start?

With such an array of choice from Europe to Indonesia and beyond, considering a move abroad can be overwhelming. Whether immigration requirements and researching new job markets to making new friends and the cost of living, upping sticks can seem a real minefield. But it doesn’t have to be.

That’s where Gazing Girl comes in.

In a series of short interviews with UK guys and girls who have moved abroad to France, Spain, Singapore, Australia and beyond, we hope to give you the push to follow your dreams.

Over to you Jess…

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Can You Tell Us A Bit About You?

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I’m 31 years old. I moved to Milan (Italy) after Uni, then to Montpellier (France) the year after that in 2007, and have been here ever since.

I’ve been working as a fitness instructor since 2009 after having done a training course here in France and also teach English at the architecture university. I studied languages (French and Italian) at Birmingham University in the UK.

What Inspired You To Move Abroad?

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My parents have always brought us on I holiday to the South of France (they are retired language teachers) and my elder sister has loved in Montpellier for about twice as much time as I have.

I started thinking about living in France when I was a child. I’d always seen myself living here, but can’t really explain why. Happy childhood holidays probably have a major part to play in it and I also love the idea of living somewhere where I am ‘different’. I also love speaking a foreign language and even though my French is now fluent, I still learn new things.

How Big Is Montpellier?

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Montpellier is the 8th largest city in France and the fastest growing city there in the last 25 years. Located on the south coast on the Mediterranean sea, it’s the third-largest French city on the Mediterranean coast after Marseille and Nice, with a population of around 600,000 people.

How Did You Manage The Change?

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The change seemed quite natural for me as I had always seen myself living in France or abroad. I already knew the south of France pretty well and already knew that I loved what it had to offer; the views, smells, tastes and activities…

What’s Been The Biggest Highlight?

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In Montpellier I would have to say the weather is probably the best highlight. It’s a particularly sunny region. I also fell in love for the first time ever…

What’s Been The Biggest Challenge?

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The break up of said love…

What Has Surprised You Most About The Country?

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The amount of undeclared work that is available even in quite well-placed job positions (lawyers, pharmacists, dentistry…)

What’s Your Favourite Aspect Of The Country?

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The language is gorgeous and once you begin to master it, it’s magical.

The French are very proud of their country and rightly so. Across the country there is such a huge and spectacular variation of landscapes and this aspect goes even further when we consider French territories such as Guadeloupe, Martinique, La Reunion and Corsica.

I also snowboard as the Alps are a mere 3 or 4 hours away and the Pyrenees more or less the same. However, as a snowboarder I definitely prefer the Alps. From Montpellier you can drive to Spain in about 2 and a half hours.

During summertime I have the choice of the beach or the river!

What’s Your Least Favourite Aspect Of The Country?

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The French elitist attitude that for something to be good it has to be ‘made in France’. Maybe also the number of people who smoke, although this does seem to be decreasing.

What’s The Biggest Difference To The UK?

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The mentality of the French is maybe a little less open-minded than in the UK. People can be quick to judge and be critical on appearance.

In the UK it is far too easy to buy junk food. I’m not saying junk food is hard to come by in France but it is much harder than in the UK. I definitely consider this a positive difference!

The social scene is also totally different. The French don’t drink in the same way as people in the UK and going out starts much later – around 9pm onwards depending on the event and time of year. Nightclubs only get busy from around midnight until 4 or 5 am.

How Did You Find Making New Friends?

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I already had my sister here so knew some of her friends and then met the English speaking crowd of Montpellier.

After about a year of this group of people, I found that these people weren’t really ‘right’ for the lifestyle I wanted and I was sometimes ‘friends’ with people simply because we spoke the same language in a foreign country. After a while I realised that this wasn’t necessarily enough for me to base true friendships on and gradually broke away from that circle and made my own friends who are mainly all French.

I find that in Montpellier it can be quite difficult to find true friends. There are too many people who are here for a short time so just as you become great friends, he or she is off to another destination.

What Is The Foreign Job Market Like?

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Montpellier in particular isn’t great for jobs. There are few well paid jobs and a lot of job seekers but Montpellier is one of the fastest growing cities in France. This means that while there are more people, the number of jobs hasn’t grown at the same rate. France also requires a lot of French qualifications and doesn’t always accept foreign diplomas or qualifications. The system is quite rigid which means that for foreigners, depending on the sector, it can be hard to find work.

As a fitness instructor I have 3 long term contracts and as an English teacher I have a long term contract which can be hard to come by.  English teaching on a long term and well paid basis is hard to find here.

Do You Get Homesick?

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Flying home to the UK (Southampton, in my case) is fairly easy with an airport in Montpellier with low cost flights to Gatwick and Stansted. Nimes and Marseille are other possibilities. Nimes is a 40 minute drive from Montpellier and Marseille is approximately 1 hour 20 minutes. I’ve also flown from Beziers and Carcassone to Bournemouth on low cost flights. However these routes only operate during summer periods.

How Hard Is It To Get A Visa?

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As a UK national, no visa is required to live in France.

What Would You Do Differently Looking Back?

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Nothing!

What Advice Would You Give To Someone Thinking About Moving Abroad?

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Do it!

Don’t be afraid of the language barrier. It’s something that can rapidly change over time and as English speakers it is rarely a major problem and can in fact often be an advantage. However if you are planning to move for a specific job, make sure your qualifications match up to the job you’re planning on moving for or that they are recognised in France. This includes university degrees.

What’s Next For You?

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I think I will be staying in Montpellier for at least the next couple of years and probably in the same jobs. I hope to buy a place instead of renting but I have to work my way round the banks first!!

How Can We Contact You?

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Via email (jessa83@hotmail.com) or Facebook (Jessica Cole).

What’s Your Favourite Quote?

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Mountain Healing

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A Starry-Eyed Sight

I have a ‘wow’ moment every Saturday evening driving back from Geneva to Chamonix.

The mountains are spectacular by day but even more so by night, I’d say.

What Gives Mountains Such Dreamy Drama?

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Maybe it’s their snowy peaks illuminated against the night sky or the stars sparkling a little brighter against their sleeping summits. Or maybe it’s the way they wrap themselves around you, imposing and protective all at once as you drive through the valley towards your cosy bed – almost indiscernible but definitely there – stillness and drama combined.

How Do Mountains Nourish The Soul?

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Whatever it is, it’s sublime – and a relieving reminder of how small we are in a big world.

Happy Monday All :)

#mountains #nature #peace

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Chamonix In Pictures

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Four weeks in Chamonix and I’ve survived belly-flopping face-down into the snow (unwitnessed – small mercy), breaking a pair of skis (apparently pretty hard to do at my ‘level’), four hour-long hikes and learning to cook. Those are some of the lows (not really).

The highs are a no-brainer. The daily intake of scenery is nothing short of spectacular. From snow-drenched forests and lake-side views clearer than glass, to breath-taking glaciers heaped in ice-like lava and heavenly amounts of cheese and wine (raclette, fondue, fondue, raclette), this is a place to spend a while.

Below are a few snaps of the pretty little town that goes by the name of Chamonix. A town which is bigger than I’d imagined, where St Bernard dogs drink out of fountains and vin chaud is consumed like water. I can see why the Romantics came here to feel better.

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1. Chamonix Centre

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The quaint little valley town is flanked by the Alps, billowing and calm all to once.

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A stretch of the main shopping street which typifies Chamonix rural-chic. As one of the more prestigious ski resorts, it’s no surprise it’s on the pricier end of the scale…

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The ultimate Christmas location… Chamonix by night.

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La Calèche, a well-known restaurant in Chamonix centre, is one of three excellent restaurants owned by a local entrepreneur. Lined with wood and pictures a-plenty, it’s a super cosy place to while away an evening.

2. The Sky Line

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The views from Brevent, one of the most popular skiing areas in the valley.

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First day back on the slopes after ‘the accident’.

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Trees, trees and more trees, this is the perfect place for nature-lovers and tree huggers.

3. The Glacier

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The view of Glacier des Bossons and its icy, pale turquoise covering. Not a bad way to start your day.

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The view of Chamonix from above, nestled between the Alps.

4. Para-Gliding and Rock-Climbing

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Hiking down the mountain after my ‘accident’, I stumbled across these para-gliders setting sail across the pistes. Although things could only get better after ‘Incident Whiplash’, this was definitely the high-point of the day.

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Rock-climbing in Gaillands between Chamonix Centre and Les Houches. Cold on the hands but super fun.

5. The River

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The River L’Avre runs the length of Chamonix. Not a bad view from home and lovely to wake up to the rushing sounds of nature.

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6. The Lake

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The stunning Lake Gaillands with its mirror-like reflection of the mountains is hard to beat for wow factor.

7. The Forest

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The Gaillands Forest nestles behind the lake and is a beautiful place for a run.

8. Hiking A-Plenty

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Innocuous this may look, but this was the scene of a four hour hike that may have involved more than a literal stumbling block… The moral of the tale… don’t forget to use your poles properly… and be prepared to feel unfit even if you count yourself ‘sporty’ (I blame the altitude…)

Interesting fact – hiking is, apparently, a wonderful form of couples’ therapy (presumably the making up part makes up for the arguments which ensue on the way up)!

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A little friend I found on the easier hike near Les Bossons. Surrounded by snow-covered trees, this really is Christmas Heaven. Like something from Narnia, I half expected elf-like animals to hop out from the undergrowth. Scenery like this is the perfect distraction from exercise!

9. The Slopes

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In the bubble on the way up Brevent to the safety of the blues slopes. Never trust a man who tells you to go on a black run on day one… Bad idea…

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One of the chair lifts on Brevent where blue slopes abound – perfect for experts in clumsiness such as myself.

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The skis I managed not to break…

And last but not least….

10. Apres Ski O’Clock

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Tick tock tick tock – vin chaud o’clock. Whatever the hour, with bars a-plenty slope-side, elevensies and afternoon ‘tea’ abound!

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Some delicious treats from a local bakery… A dangerous place to pass with an empty stomach…

French Word Of The Day!

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Exiger - To demand / require

Wider Context

Le rétablissement du pays va exiger un engagement de la communauté internationale - Restoring the country will require the commitment of the international community.

Nous avons le droit de les poser et d’exiger des réponses des autorités américaines - We have a right to ask questions and demand answers from the US authorities.

exiger qch – to insist on stg

exiger beaucoup de – to make great demands on sb

exiger son dû – to demand one’s pound of flesh

French Word Of The Day!

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faire des bêtises – to do something silly / to play the fool

Nous savons tous que, dans leur exubérance, des jeunes peuvent parfois s’écarter du droit chemin et faire des bêtises - We all know that young people, in their exuberance, might sometimes be led astray and do something foolish or stupid.

Synonyms - Faire l’idiot, faire le zouave, faire l’imbécile.

5 Of The Tallest Buildings In The World You Need To Visit!

1. The Canton Tower, China

Also known as Guangzhou Tower (Chinese: 广州塔), The Canton Tower is a 600 metre tall multi-purpose observation tower in the Haizhu District of Guangzhou, Guandong, China. The tower became operational for the 2010 Asian Games and briefly held the title of tallest tower in the world, before being surpassed by the Tokyo Skytree in 2011. It’s now the fifth-tallest freestanding structure in the world and is lit by seven thousand LED light fixtures which change colour across the entire height of the tower. A beautiful kaleidoscope of colour against the night sky.

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2. The Burj Khalifa, Dubai

The world’s tallest man-made structure, the 829.8 metre high Burj Khalifa in Dubai holds the official title of ‘Tallest Building in the World’. It was also the location for the current Guinness World Record for the highest base jump in history! Designed as the centerpiece of a large-scale, mixed-use development including 30,000 homes, 9 hotels, 7.4 acres of parkland, 19 residential towers, the Dubai Mall and the 30-acre man-made Burj Khalifa Lake, the decision to build Burj Khalifa is reportedly based on the government’s decision to diversify from an oil based economy to one that is service and tourism based. Great attention-grabbing strategy!

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3. The Empire State Building, New York

An 103 storey skyscraper located in Midtown Manhattan, The Empire State Building is an impressive 443 metre high. The world’s tallest building for nearly 40 years until being overtaken by the original World Trade Center’s North Tower in late 1970, The Empire State Building is currently the fourth tallest skyscraper in the US (after the One World Trade Center, the Willis Tower and Trump International Hotel and Tower) and the 25th tallest skyscraper in the world. The views over New York are breathtaking, its distinctive art deco style belying its timeless appeal.

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4. The Eiffel Tower, Paris

The iconic iron latticed Eiffel Tower, named after its engineer, Gustave Eiffel and located on the Champ de Mars in Paris, is the tallest structure in Paris and the most-visited paid monument in the world. Standing some 324 metres tall, it held the title of the tallest man-made structure in the world for 41 years, until the Chrysler Building in New York City was built in 1930. The tower has three levels for visitors, with restaurants on the first and second and an observatory on the third. With views over one of the most romantic cities on Earth, it’s pretty clear why it’s such a popular proposal spot…

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5. The Shard, London

Also referred to as The Shard of Glass, Shard London Bridge and formerly London Bridge Tower, The Shard is an 87 storey skyscraper in London that forms part of the London Bridge Quarter development. Its privately operated observation deck, The View From The Shard, is a popular spot for tourists and Londoners alike. Designed by the Italian architect Renzo Piano, the Shard is currently the tallest building in the European Union, standing at an impressive 309 metres. As London’s highest viewing platform, The Shard is a wonderful place to take in over 1,000 years of the capital’s history. What’s not to like?

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