All berets, back streets and frogs' legs
John Laurenson from Fairlie, left his hometown to live in Perigueux, France, to attend the Ecole Hoteliere du Perigord, a hospitality-based school.
Ralph Waldo Emmerson once famously wrote "There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed."
And although the iPhone that I am furiously tapping away on is far from the typewriters of old, I shall endeavour to bleed all the blood my heart has to give.
I lost my heart recently. Not my physical heart, obviously, even I couldn't lose that, (try telling mum that), but I lost the passion for writing.
I started this blog as a record of my adventures here in France, as something that I could look back on in years to come. It was also an easy way for me to keep friends and family updated on the day to day goings on.
But as you know, I haven't written anything in a long time. I could say that I haven't written in a while because I have been busy, which isn't all together untrue, but it isn't the main reason.
I have reached the part of the trip where the novelty is starting to wear off. Not just for me, but for everyone.
Things have started getting tough, but we all knew this wasn't going to be easy, and I love a good challenge.
My french is improving day by day, but is still shocking. I am the luckiest kid in the world to have such a supportive family who are always ready to help and to just share a laugh when I am down.
One of the hardest things I have found is not being able to communicate on a highly verbal level and to make people laugh. A lot of miming and stilted french seems to do the trick, and most of my days here are spent laughing with friends or family.
The most important thing I have learned so far is this: laughter speaks no language. To be dropped head first into this strange foreign culture and to try and teach yourself to swim is amazingly difficult, but to have such an amazing family and group of friends has made it the most worthwhile time of my life so far.
To be able to laugh with my brothers late at night across the table, or to grin alongside my father on the way home from rugby practice makes life so much easier, so a big thanks to my family.
Now that's out of the way, and my creative juices are thoroughly flowing, on with the show.
My holiday started on a solemn note, with two passings in my extended host family within a few days of each other. It was a difficult and emotional time for my family and I am amazed at the way the have pulled together and got stuck into life. I am surrounded by some truly marvellous people.
Through the holidays I visited three castles and three caves with the family. We all piled into the minivan with the picnic basket full to the brim with bread, cheese and sausage.
Every french stereotype you have ever heard is absolutely true. I found a man in a beret smoking a cigarette in the back streets of Paris. I tried to take a photo but he just waved the frogs legs at me and did that awkward blocked nose french laugh that sounds like hoh- hoh-hoh.
The castles were amazing. Coming to France has been like stepping back in time, apart from all the ridiculous little smart cars you see scooting around like a dog on its backside. I miss the good ol' Hilux. France has made me realise how young New Zealand is, and how little history we have still standing. I stood at the top of a castle that was built in medieval times, and the oldest thing I have ever stood on in New Zealand is a woolshed. And although pretending to throw my little brother off the side while screaming "freedom" was frowned upon by my host parents, I had a great time soaking in all the history.
The Timaru Herald