Ah Erasmus. The name itself sounds like some sort of mad hybrid between ‘Europe’ and ‘mass’. At first I thought that the word was conjured up by some bureaucrat in Brussels whose task it was to make displacement sound sexy, but as it turns out ‘Erasmus’ actually derives from the ancient Greek ‘erasmios’ which means ‘beloved’. Who knew? Not me. Who cared? Nobody.
In fact Erasmus has been going on for feckin’ ages. There was even an Italian lad from the 3rd century who was so good at going on Erasmus that they made him patron saint of sailing, obtaining the sweet title of Saint Erasmus of Formia. He’s also the patron saint of abdominal pain – which seems entirely appropriate considering the amount of damage I have done to my innards so far due to the ‘demon drink’ as well as the famously rich French cuisine. But that’s enough history for now, what am I a student or summit?
For most of us Erasmus conjures up images of smart, tanned, sexy young people lounging around a sun-soaked university campus or exotic city sporting berets and reciting verses of Baudelaire, all while quaffing glass after glass of cheap red plonk and eating copious amounts of baguettes stuffed with well-aged, potent Camembert.
Yes yes, like some feckbag boy-king from Game of Thrones, I was expecting to arrive in a city not dissimilar to that of Westeros’s King’s Landings; all sandstone, sea and sunshine while some amply-chested servant girl awaited to hand-feed me grapes and salty pork. After that I would retire to my chambers on a bed made from the finest French linens and silk, where I would be lulled to sleep by the tranquil sounds of the ocean.
The reality, you may be shocked to hear, is somewhat different.
Upon looking at a map, I realised I would be nowhere near the sea. And instead of a sun-kissed capital city, I got the quiet, tranquil, calm, unassuming yet undeniably beautiful town of Metz (heard of it before? Me neither). Situated in the North east of France, the town is steeped in history, having been occupied on more than one occasion by the Germans, and also serving as an important garrison town during the Second World War. It’s a lovely town. For a weekend visit.
Instead of being lulled to sleep by oceanic waves, our campus is actually situated on a kind of mad island with a motorway running through it. Yes there is a full-on six lane dual carriageway running through the campus right outside our dorm rooms, and it’s always busy. Day and night. That’s how I get lulled to sleep; by an eighteen-wheeler hightailing it for Paris.
Oh and rather than quaffing ‘des verres du vin’ and lounging around cafes, my fellow Erasmus students and I have been flocking to the local Irish Pub (imaginatively named ‘Irish Pub’) at almost every opportunity. This ‘jolie’ establishment does an entirely noble job of replicating the traditional old public house, síbín-vibe back in Eire; a few rugby balls here, a signpost for Kilkenny there, a bodhrán nailed to a wall. Thankfully ‘Irish Pub’ shows every Six Nations and Champions League match. They also serve up a fairly decent pint of Guinness, thusly serving as a true haven during our ‘petit séjour’ en France.
In terms of food, the first couple of weeks were spent exploring the town’s many eateries. Namely the two McDonalds and Subways that Metz boasts. Meanwhile back on campus, there are two canteens for our pleasure. Here one can sample the finest French cuisine; whether it be mystery-meat on a stick, powdered smash and dodgy fish, or lukewarm overcooked pasta accompanied by lukewarm overcooked veg there really is something for everyone. And all for €3:20 you really can’t complain (well, I still can obviously). But more on that another time.
Anywho, I think I hear a fire-drill so I best be off (no sign of a fire though). I’ll leave you with a running total of typically French items consumed so far:
Baguette tally: 127
Fromage consumed: 6KG
Crêpe Count: 3
Amount of times spent speaking in French only to give up and resort to English: countless
Until next time it’s à bientôt.