Category Archives: Travelling

Applied Linguistics Conference in New Zealand

I’m off to New Zealand in two weeks to present at the Applied Linguistics Association of New Zealand / Applied Linguistics Association of Australia conference in Wellington. My presentation is “Formality and Francophonie: Stylistic and geographic variation in university textbooks of French” (Spoiler alert: there isn’t much.) The conference is November 27-29 at Victoria University of Wellington and I plan to live tweet the sessions I attend, probably with the hashtag #alanz2013.

Wellington with cable car (Wikimedia Commons)

Wellington with cable car (Wikimedia Commons)

Then on November 30, Michelle will be joining me from the US and we will begin our annual vacation together. (Remember our European and Australian vacations?) We’ll be exploring both the North and South Islands of New Zealand as well as the Cook Islands, which is in free association with New Zealand.

This will be my first trip to a tropical island in the South Pacific and my first experience with Polynesian languages. I hope to learn more Maori and Cook Islands Maori because right now my vocabulary is limited to kia ora / kia orana.

Holiday Weekend in Gold Coast, Queensland

I flew up to Gold Coast last Wednesday to meet up with one of my oldest friends from Michigan. Jessica just finished her postdoc in Melbourne and is moving back to the US tomorrow, so this was our last trip together in Australia.

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View from hotel in Broadbeach

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Queensland needs more beaches

Most people head to the GC either for the beaches or the theme parks. We did spend some time on the beach, but we actually spent most of the time playing with cute Australian animals at Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary.

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Jessica and me on the train at Currumbin

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Momma kangaroo and joey

Of the various districts in the Gold Coast, Surfers Paradise is probably the most well-known and popular. I definitely heard a lot of foreign languages (mostly French!) spoken there. The tallest building in Australia, Q1, is also in Surfers Paradise. You can go up to the Skypoint observation deck (though it’s rather expensive) or even climb around outside.

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The Q1 in Surfers Paradise

We also rented a car for the day and drove down to Byron Bay in New South Wales, where the most easterly point of the Australian mainland is.

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As close to the US as I can get on foot

Gold Coast is a great tourist destination since the airport is quite small (and resembles a food court more than an airport) and public transportation to and from the airport is incredibly easy to figure out. Bus 702 serves the airport every half hour and heads up the Gold Coast Highway. If you buy a go card from the shuttle desk in the airport (for $5) and add money to it, you will save a lot.

The rest of my travel photos are in the Gold Coast album at the Gallery.

A Weekend on Kangaroo Island, South Australia

Kangaroo Island is Australia’s third-largest island and definitely worth a visit for the beautiful beaches and adorable wildlife. Although I’ve been to many beaches in Australia already, every new one I see is just as gorgeous as the last one. KI did not disappoint.

Pennington Bay

Pennington Bay

The first view upon getting off the ferry in Penneshaw:

Clear water

Clear water

Sadly, I did not see any (live) kangaroos on the island, but I did see plenty of sea lions, wallabies, echidnas, goannas and koalas.

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Sleepy sea lion at Seal Bay

My friend and I drove down for the weekend (it’s only a 1.5 hour drive from Adelaide, plus a 45 minute ferry) so we weren’t able to visit all of the towns and attractions. We mostly did the southern coast along the highway (the only paved road) since riding in my little car probably wouldn’t have been too comfortable in the north, where almost all of the roads are gravel. The major tourist attractions are mostly along the southern coast too.

Remarkable Rocks

Remarkable Rocks

Weirs Cove

Weirs Cove

You can also fly to Kingscote from Adelaide and rent a car (there are no taxis or public transportation on the island) instead of driving. There are some bus tours that depart from Adelaide but the one day tour sounds extremely exhausting, so I would highly recommend driving and staying for a few nights. Just try not to drive after dark when the animals come out!

Watch out for wildlife on the roads

Watch out for wildlife on the roads

Check out the Kangaroo Island album in the Gallery for more photos.

Australian Vacation / Holiday 2012

I recently returned from two weeks of travelling around Australia. A friend from Arizona, Michelle, came to Australia for the first time and we decided to visit all of the major tourist attractions. We went to Sydney and Melbourne, drove along the Great Ocean Road, enjoyed a few days at the Great Barrier Reef and Whitehaven Beach, and finished at Ayers Rock Resort. Michelle also came back to Adelaide with me and we went to Cleland Wildlife Park so she could hold a koala (one of the few places in Australia where you can do that) and up to the Barossa Valley for a wine tour. Because of the large distances between all of these places, we had to fly everywhere but since flying in Australia is the opposite of flying in the US (i.e. it is actually a pleasant experience), we had no problems with our flights or baggage.

I met Michelle in Melbourne where I had rented a car so we (ok, I since Michelle had never driven on the left before) could drive along the Great Ocean Road. We actually did it in one day, which turned out to be nine hours of driving for me, but we made so many stops along the way that I was not tired at all. Plus the drive is incredibly beautiful and I was so excited to finally be doing it.

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We also wandered around Melbourne in 100° heat (38°C) and watched the Penguin Parade on Phillip Island. Then it was off to Airlie Beach where we did the Great Barrier Reef and Whitehaven Beach tours with Cruise Whitsundays. I managed to not get sick on the boats, but even if you are prone to motion sickness, they are totally worth it!

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Next we flew down to Sydney and luckily it was not as hot as in Melbourne. I don’t really like big cities but the big cities in Australia are different than those in Europe or the US. I can’t really explain it but they are just somehow better (like everything in Australia!)

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The last destination was, of course, Ayers Rock – or Uluru, as it is called by the traditional owners of the land, the Anangu people. There are also other rocks in the national park, called The Olgas or Kata Tjuta, which are just as beautiful. A three day pass to the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park only costs $25, but getting there and the price of accommodation can be a bit high.

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We flew to the Ayers Rock airport instead of Alice Springs (“only” a five hour drive away) because we were staying at the Ayers Rock Resort next to the national park, which is the only place to stay since there is no camping inside the park. It is essentially its own little town, with a gas station, grocery store, post office, police station, etc. but what I loved most was hearing so many languages. Since Ayers Rock is the biggest tourist destination after Sydney and the Great Barrier Reef, there are more foreign tourists there than Australians. Australia is very multilingual and I often hear several languages in the big cities and even when I’m out shopping in the suburbs of Adelaide, but languages were everywhere at Ayers Rock! In addition to the wonderful dry heat of the desert (anything less than 95°F / 35° C and I’m chilly), it was paradise for me.

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I’ve already uploaded my photos to the Gallery, and I’ll work on typing up some travel trips for anyone who is interested in going to the same places. But I do need to get back to working on that pesky thesis over Christmas break. If only I had the life of a kangaroo…

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I’ve uploaded some videos of Ayers Rock, the Great Barrier Reef and Australian animals to my Youtube channel.

Off to Perth for a Teachers of French Conference

I fly to Perth, Western Australia, tomorrow to present at the Teachers of French Association Conference. My presentation on the vocabulary coverage of French textbooks will include the beginning stages of my PhD project. I will report back on all of the presentations and everything new I learn about teaching and learning French in Australia next week.

Then thanks to the Easter holiday, I have a few days to explore the Perth region, including Fremantle and Rottnest Island. La vie est belle, n’est-ce pas ?

Beach on Rottnest Island

Trains and Planes in France and Australia

Traveling by train is still a pretty nice experience in France, and even though Australia is just as big as the US, long-distance train travel across the continent is quite enjoyable Down Under too. I have taken the high-speed TGV and slower regional TER trains in France numerous times, and when I first arrived in Australia, I took The Overland train from Melbourne to Adelaide. I don’t have much experience with trains in the US, though I would love to hear some opinions on Amtrak.

Most areas of France are well-linked by trains and the TGV routes lead to the major cities. Annecy is only 3.5 hours from Paris on a direct TGV line and tickets can be as low as 17€ or 22€ if you buy early enough. The TER ticket prices never change and you can buy them right before getting on the train. The convenience of being able to hop on a train and get to where you want to go without having to drive (especially if the weather is bad) was always a nice possibility in France. I took the TER to Grenoble last week from Annecy and while it cost 37€, it was probably only slightly more expensive that paying for gas and tolls – which are rather expensive in France – and knowing that I didn’t have to drive through the snow or while tired from traveling/jet lag was worth it.

Even though Australian trains are not high-speed and the journey from Adelaide to Melbourne took 10.5 hours, I would gladly do the trip again to see more of the countryside between the large cities. Australia has fewer major cities (and people! there are only 20 million people in the entire country after all) but they are all linked by railways and tickets can be as low as $50 for some routes. Taking luggage is free though sometimes there are restrictions. For example, the Overland allows 2 checked suitcases at 20 kg each.

I traveled a lot by plane while living in France, but mostly to other countries since France is rather small and taking the train is usually easier. Flying in Europe tended to be a hassle because of the ridiculous liquid ban and always having to go through security at every stopover if you didn’t have a direct flight. Luckily with the Schengen Space nowadays most airports don’t require you to go through security as often as long as you are traveling completely within the borders (similar to flying domestic in the US), and even though you can at least lock your bags (unlike in the US where TSA gets to steal your stuff), friends and family still cannot accompany you to the gate. Plus the US continues to use irradiating body scanners, while they have been recently banned in Europe where they only use non-irradiating scanners. You only have to face the dilemma of get cancer or get groped in North America. So I have never liked flying because of the unpleasant ambiance I find at airports, especially American airports.

And then I flew on a domestic flight in Australia.

What a world of difference:

  •  ANYONE can go through security to get to the gates.
  • You can lock your bags.
  • You don’t have to take off your shoes.
  • THERE IS NO LIQUID BAN ON DOMESTIC FLIGHTS.
  • The security agents are actually nice!
  • Qantas still provides free food and free checked luggage.
  • Even though Virgin Australia (on a Saver fare) and Jetstar (the low-cost offshoot of Qantas) make you pay extra for food and luggage, it’s still rather affordable to fly across the country.
  • DID I MENTION THERE IS NO LIQUID BAN AND ANYONE CAN GO TO THE GATE???

The only thing that I didn’t like was that no one checked my ID at any point so I could have used someone else’s boarding pass to get on a plane. But overall flying in Australia is a very pleasant experience and a thousand times better than flying in the US.

Catalan Tutorial – Learn to speak Catalan

Thanks to Jonathan, you can learn to speak Catalan on ielanguages.com.

Catalan is spoken by 11.5 million people, mostly in eastern Spain (Catalonia, Valencian Community, Balearic islands) as well as in southern France, Andorra, and Sardinia, Italy. Barcelona is the largest Catalan-speaking city, and Catalan is recognized as a co-official language with Spanish in the regions where it is spoken in Spain.

The first thirty lessons of the Catalan tutorial are now available.

If any Catalan speakers out there can provide audio files or spontaneous listening resources, please let me know!

 

First Impressions of Australia

I arrived in Australia a week ago today! These were my first thoughts:

This is winter?

Everyone speaks with such an adorable accent.

It’s not that expensive.

After two pleasant flights with Etihad Airways that seemed to go by extremely fast (I highly recommend them!), I arrived in Melbourne last Tuesday night. Customs went smoothly, the airport staff was kind, and the sniffer dogs were too cute. I boarded the SkyBus (buy and print your ticket online to avoid waiting in line) to head to Melbourne CBD, i.e. the central business district, or what I would call downtown. I was only wearing a sweater and cardigan, but did not feel cold when I stepped outside at 7pm. Even during the hour-long train & bus rides back to my friend’s place in the suburbs, I never once put on my jacket. I nearly laughed when I looked up the record low temperature for this area: -2.8°C / 27°F way back in 1901. So this is winter, eh?

Even though I arrived in Melbourne, I won’t actually be living here. I am currently visiting a friend from the States, and will head to Adelaide soon where my university is located. I absolutely love Melbourne and imagine that I will feel the same in Adelaide. Melbourne may be the second largest city in Australia, but it doesn’t have that big city feel to it that I don’t like about many of the other large cities in Europe (especially compared to Paris). There aren’t that many skyscrapers blocking out the sun, you can walk everywhere in the CBD – plus there are free trams and buses for tourists to get to all of the major sites – and there are beautiful parks on the edge of the city with plenty of green areas. Even a two minute walk away from the CBD you will find pretty residential areas. This is what (my idea of) a city should be like.

Besides the sightseeing, I’ve mostly been shopping for stuff that I couldn’t bring with me and finishing up the administrative things. Everyone has been so helpful, and it’s certainly a change when the cashier starts up a conversation with you while bagging your groceries and the bank employees fill out all the paperwork and wait in line with you to make sure you’re able to accomplish all of the things you need to. Everyone seems so polite and kind and ready to chat with you even if they don’t know you, which is a major difference from European culture that I had been missing. I’m already learning some Australian words, such as Flybuys (loyalty program owned by Coles), Maccas (McDonald’s), esky (cooler), sultanas (raisins) and tasty (cheddar), and the shortened forms of other words such as brekky (breakfast) and bikkies (biscuits, or cookies/crackers since a biscuit is an entirely different thing to me).

Prices are not as high as some (Americans) have complained about. Coming from France and the euro, it’s pretty much the same. Melbourne’s population is about 4 million people, so it’s a bit difficult to compare to Chambéry or Annecy in France with their populations of 50,000. Thanks to the strong Australian economy and dollar, the capital cities are now among the most expensive in the world with regards to cost of living. Sydney and Melbourne are now ranked between Paris and New York, while Perth and Brisbane also made the top 20. Luckily for me, Adelaide has the cheapest rent out of all of the capital cities (not to mention the driest weather).

From what I’ve seen so far, groceries are nearly the same as in France, gas is definitely cheaper (more like 1€ a liter) but restaurants and books are a bit more expensive. Clothes and electronics seem to be the same – that is to say, higher than American prices because of the exchange rates, but then again, what isn’t cheaper in the US? The only thing that does seem cheaper in Europe is internet. Unfortunately Australia has broadband caps on internet usage (same as Canada, New Zealand and AT&T and Comcast in the US), so paying only 30€ for unlimited internet plus cable TV and free calls to several countries is one thing I do miss about France. Nevertheless, I think I will be better off in Australia because I will have a higher income to compensate for the higher rent.

I am slowly resisting the urge to say bonjour to everyone instead of hello – Chinese and Italian are the major foreign languages here – and discovering the subtle, or not so subtle, differences between Australia, France, and the US. Australia definitely has a lot in common with the US (stores open on Sundays!), but it does share some similarities with Europe that are a welcome change from the American way (you only pay for calls you make, for instance.) I’ll post again soon about all the differences and similarities among the three.

Once I get into my apartment on Friday, I’ll update with part 3 of moving to the other side of the world. I nearly cried at the bank here because of how easy it was. Oh Australia, I hope I never have to leave you.

Moving to the Other Side of the World, Part 1: Leaving France

I’m moving to Australia in one week! I’m almost completely packed and have taken care of most of the paperwork with regards to leaving France. Since David (and yes, Canaille) are staying in France and moving back to Annecy, I don’t have to take care of everything or even move everything right now – though I’m really just leaving behind furniture and books. I have donated some of my clothes to the local Scouts and given away smaller things, such as my bread machine, to people who will use them. I always hate when I feel like I have too many possessions that I don’t really need and moving overseas is a good opportunity to really sort through everything and see what is truly important to own and what you can do without.

As far as paperwork goes, I am leaving my French bank account open so I can still use my bank card when I come back to Europe. I’m sending a lettre de résiliation to cancel my mutuelle (private health insurance), changing the car registration & insurance to David’s name, and signing a pouvoir pour l’état des lieux so he can sign for me since I won’t be here when he returns the keys to this apartment. This is obviously much easier than if I had lived alone in France, because then I would also have to cancel electricity, water, internet, etc. You can easily find sample résiliation letters online when canceling contracts, but always make sure to send them recommandé with an accusé de reception!

Since I am not flying to/from the US or Canada, I am only allowed ONE checked bag and one carry-on bag, with maximum weights of 23 kg and 7 kg. I technically could check an extra bag, but it would cost $45 PER KILO. (I have no idea why flights not going to the US/Canada allow such limited luggage. It’s rather unfair, isn’t it?) The rest of my things are under 23 kg too, so being able to check a 2nd bag would have been perfect, but oh well, I’ll just have to send some stuff via La Poste. Unfortunately, they no longer have the slower, cheaper option for shipping packages overseas (économique) and the regular international rate is expensive. The only other option is their pre-paid boxes that only come in a few sizes/weight limits (such as L for 36.50€ or XL for 43€), so I will be using three of those to get the rest of my stuff across the ocean.

Colissimo

La Poste does offer a cheaper book rate for sending boxes (maximum 5 kg each) or bags (25 kg) overseas, but many postal workers do not know about it and the bag option is particularly difficult to use since you must go to a Centre de Tri and convince them that it does in fact exist. I will be sending at least 7 boxes of French books this way, at 13.72€ each. Oddly enough the webpage about the livres et brochures rate mysteriously stopped working a few days ago, but you can still access it through the Wayback Machine.

All that is left is to get to the airport on Monday and settle into the (hopefully) comfortable seats on Etihad Airways. I am actually excited about flying with a 4 star airline for once. Even though I’m flying economy, I bet it will be much better than flying economy on certain other airlines… such as any that are based in the US. I already know that I will have power & USB plugs for my laptop/iPod/Kindle, plus a 10.4″ video screen with 600 hours of entertainment, so I definitely won’t be bored on the seven and thirteen hour flights.

Everything for Australia is already taken care of – including opening a bank account and finding housing – which I will explain in part 2 next week after I arrive. Here’s a teaser: moving to Australia is turning out to be a million times easier than moving to France.

Six Countries in Fourteen Days: Vacation 2011

I had a great time on my vacation this year. We visited six countries – Italy, Slovenia, Croatia, Montenegro, Greece & Turkey – and I took over 600 photos! This was also my first time on a cruise, which was a neat experience that we will definitely be doing again.

I started by taking the train to Milan to meet up with Michelle, and we continued directly to Slovenia for the first weekend. Then we headed back to Italy to get on Royal Caribbean International’s 11 night Greek Isles & Turkey cruise aboard The Splendour of the Seas ship.


The ship tendered in the Bay of Kotor

There were eight ports of call for the cruise:

  • Venice, Italy
  • Kotor, Montenegro
  • Athens, Greece (Port of Piraeus, which has free wifi!)
  • Kusadasi, Turkey (Excursion to Ephesus, the 2nd largest city of the Roman Empire)
  • Bodrum, Turkey
  • Santorini, Greece
  • Mykonos, Greece
  • Split, Croatia

The great thing about these ports is that almost all of them are relatively easy to just walk off the boat and find your way around the city. In Venice, there is the People Mover (1€) which connects the port to the Piazzale Roma, which is just across Constitution Bridge from Santa Lucia train station. It was a bit of a walk (about 25 minutes) to get from the port in Piraeus to the train station that brings you into Athens and directly to the Acropolis, but 1.40€ for the metro and being able to wander around the city on your own is how we travel. The only place we actually booked an excursion for was Ephesus, which was a 25 minute drive from the port in Kusadasi. You can easily get there by bus or taxi as well, but we figured we should try at least one excursion to see what they were like.


The Parthenon at the Acropolis in Athens

The villages on the island of Santorini are all up at the top, so you have to either walk up the footpath, ride a donkey (5€) or take the cable car (4€).  We took the cable car up and walked down, which actually took forever because my shoes were slippery on the marble steps and because the donkeys were everywhere! Some stand in your way and it can be difficult to get past them, especially if you’re afraid of getting kicked or accidentally stepping/falling in something… Most ships tender in Mykonos, but we actually docked further away from the town at the port which is about a 20 minute walk along a narrow road with no sidewalk. There were even spots along the way that had no barrier between you and the cliff so if you don’t like walking less than a foot away from falling to your death and being passed by huge buses going a bit too fast, it might be better to just wait for a local bus or rent a scooter or car to visit the island.

Mykonos

Everything else went pretty smoothly until I tried to return home, which I think is proof that I just should stay on vacation forever. The train between Milan and Chambéry is only four hours, but we got held up at the last stop in Italy because of passport checks (the concept of the Schengen area is a bit pointless these days…) and some man who had neither a ticket nor a passport was throwing a fit. As soon as we got across the border in France, we had to get our passports out again for the French police and then the train stopped in Modane because of “technical problems” and we all had to get off and wait for another train to arrive to finish the journey. When the new train arrived, we discovered it was the TGV from Paris heading to Milan (the opposite of our train) and everyone on that train had been instructed to get off and switch trains as well! It was a bit ridiculous – and of course the order of cars were reversed so we all had to dodge tons of people walking to the other end of the platform instead of directly across – and I still do not understand why we were told our original train had a problem when it took off just fine from Modane to head back to Italy. Luckily Chambéry is the next stop after Modane and I was only an hour late getting home, but I was thoroughly annoyed by the phantom problem with the train.

Venice

I have already uploaded examples of real language use to the Realia section. I will work this week on adding more travel tips and advice, especially for train travel in Italy and cruising out of Venice.