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January 18th 2009
Published: January 18th 2009
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Fiona and meFiona and meFiona and me

last night out
So the time has come: tomorrow I'm leaving Perpignan for good, with a whole load of mixed feelings!

I've been back here for two weeks following the Christmas holidays, in order to sit the January exams. The first week was more or less exam-packed, leaving little time for anything else, but the second week has been much more of a whirlwind of packing, doing lots of 'last...' things and generally tying up loose ends and saying goodbyes. Oh and another exam, just for good measure. And as sod's law would predict, we've found some gems tucked away in this small city, which we wish we'd dscovered earlier. One such place is the appropriately named Cosy Club. After months of whishing we could find a nice little place for a drink and a chat, we finally found it - in the last week. It is a bar with lovely sofas, each sectioned off from the others which gives you your own little space, jazz music and lovely wine, accompanied by complimentary sweets! We've been twice in a week. We also had a last meal out at a great Indian restaurant, the only one in Perpignan, it would seem, where the food was perfect and the service was just wonderful. So you can imagine that the last week was full of 'wow' and 'why didn't we fnd this place sooner?'

It was also something of a race to make sure we had all the primary research we needed for our projects, and to get the plans in to Sheffield. That, along with the immense task of sorting, chucking and packing four months' worth of stuff which we've all accumulated whilst being here. Fitting the contents of your life into a suitcase and rucksack weighing no more than 15 and 9 kilos respectively is no mean feat, and I've had to chuck away an enourmous load of stuff. It seems such a waste, but there isn't much of a choice.There's a distinct lack of charity shops in order to donate stuff, no student bookshop to sell on books, and although I went along to the cash express shop with the intention of getting rid of my heater, I got a bit intimidated by the gangs of hoodies with hordes of stereo equipment, and with the man taking about half an hour with each potential seller, I couldn't face it. Consequently, my personal contribution to the country's landfill quota coupled with the numerous flights I'm taking this year means my carbon footprint is going to look like Bigfoot's been running amok. However, I've left the heater in a cupboard for some future resident to find on a cold day, which I suppose is something.

Now, finally, my room is close to being empty, apart from those things that you can never pack until the last minute. It's a strange feeling, to be leaving for good, after the oh-so-cliched ups and downs that I've had here over the past few months. The best way to describe it is like the experiences you might get over a long period of time compressed into just a few months. I've made new friends who will be friends for life, I've explored new cities, ancient castles and surrounding countryside, I've spent many a happy afternoon in a cafe, and lots of wonderful evenings out in Perpignan or in with my friends. You couldn't exactly say that Perpignan has a lively nightlife, its range of bars and clubs is hardly extensive, and I still do not like Boca Boca, but I've got some very good memories, of drinking cider in the Irish pub, of dancing in Tio's, and of just lying on Fiona's bed watching countless films and eating chocolate.

There are quite a few things I will not miss: the crazy French working hours, the lack of facilities at the uni, the poor quality of teaching (excepting a couple of good classes), the dog poo everywhere, Jean-Claude in the flat upstairs with his constant berating, and noise, and various family members making far too much noise early on a weekend morning. It's funny to think that, not very long ago, I imagined myself living in France permanently in a few years' time. After these four months, I couldn't imagine ever wanting to. That's not to say I've had a bad time, or that I won't be a frequent visitor to France, but my romanticised view of it wasn't quite the reality. I loved the idea of living on a quaint little street with narrow pavements, until I realised that it's actually impossible to walk down those pavements, because they're too narrow, too uneven, and covered in dog poo. I love Britain in a way that I never used to, I have an attachement to my native country that I never knew I had. France has so much to recommend it, but it is just so exasperatingly, incomprehensibly French! That sounds stupid and pretty obvious, I know, but that's the only way I can explain it. I love it from a distance, and I even appreciate bits of it up close, but as a permanent home, it's just too much.

This is it then, I'm going home. In a few weeks I'll be starting this whole daunting process all over again in Oviedo, Spain. But for now, all that remains is to say: Au revoir, Perpignan, and thank you for the experiences.


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