Une Semaine Fantastique
Trip Start Jan 20, 2008
22Trip End Jun 05, 2008
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I'm backtracking a little because I feel so much better about my French now that I returned to Rennes. It's weird how a week of 'normal' thinking can change how I think in my second language. I've dreamt in French the last two nights and, outside of my host family; I'm speaking and understanding a lot better than I went on break. More than likely, it is because I'm well rested after a long week of English. Now, I'm just sad that I only have a month left to speak French most of time. I know that I will have the occasion to speak when I get home but it won't be the same. I'm silly to worry all the time about what my host family thinks about my French and I'm close enough to where I don't worry about it. I'm enjoying myself nonetheless and I am excited for this next month.
Alright, time for some vacation spill. It has been an absolutely wonderful last two weeks. Minus a sort of financial breakdown in London, I thoroughly enjoyed my time with my parents and then in Dublin and London. I'll start in order.
Friday morning, I woke up super early because I was way too excited that, in a mere few hours, I would be seeing my parents. I went to class and found it hard to concentrate but it was a very interesting class and a good distraction. I headed to the gare and called my dad. He said that they were outside by the fountain. As soon as I saw them wave in my direction, I seriously had to fight the urge to just run. I kind of won but ran a little at the end when I wrapped my arms around my mom. I started crying because I was so happy to see them (which they thought was silly) and yeah...it was the start of a great time.
We rented a car for the week, just by the gare, and it turned out to be extremely handy. It was fun to see Rennes by car, especially since I've spent more time in a bus than anything else. The bad thing is that I only know bus routes and trying to figure out what direction to head in was rather tricky. But we managed.
Friday and Saturday, we stayed in Rennes for the day. My parents saw my campus, met a bunch of my classmates, met my director and saw a little bit of Rennes on Friday. We had a wonderful dinner that night with my host parents. We ate quiche, salad and a huge platter of cheese. What was fun was that the dinner lasted around three hours. We had the aperitif with crackers, our main course, cheese and then strawberries and cream for dessert. It was SO good. I was the last one to finish each course as well because I translated the entire time. It was good practice and I think that I did pretty well with it. It's harder than you'd think.
Saturday, we slept in a little and headed to the marché around 11. We parked the car and walked around. Dad bought some Fleur du Sel and they had the amazing galette saucisse fromage. They loved it. I did too. After about a half an hour, it started to rain. We headed off to the Crêperie St. Anne and had a bottle of cider and split a dessert crêpe. Have I mentioned that we ate really well? After that, we did a little shopping for my sister, avoided the rain, walked around Rennes when it cleared up and headed to the supermarket to buy supplies and food for our dinner that night. We made my host parents smoked salmon and pea pasta with salad and apple crisp for dinner. It was really good. That dinner also lasted about three hours.
Sunday, all five of us headed north for a day at the Normandy Landing Beaches. It was such a wonderful day. I had no idea what to expect when we got there, but all the stories came together and I saw everything that I had heard about. It was really cool that Jacques knows a lot about WWII because he filled us in on a lot of tiny details. Those were a little hard to translate, but with what we knew already, it wasn't too bad. The American Cemetery was really moving. Jacques told me that this is where he first went to America. I didn't understand at first, but I didn't know that the French government actually gave the US the land for the cemetery and is considered American soil. There was a small museum before we headed out into the cemetery. The memorial was beautiful and then, all of the sudden, there was nothing but white crosses and trees. It was funny...my parents and I were just in awe at all the crosses overlooking Omaha beach where as my host parents, who have been a few times before, were talking about the garden work and the flowers. It was just different to see two completely different reactions happening at the same time.
After the cemetery, we headed to Pointe du Hoc. This was impressive. My dad and I described as standing in a piece of swiss cheese. All over the cliffs, the remains of the German bunkers were scattered around by tons of craters from the bombs. Some were completely destroyed and others were somewhat standing. Looking down the cliffs, I just couldn't imagine how hard it was for the soldiers to climb up on top of being shot at. It was...wow. That is all I can say. We did luck out on the weather, had a lovely picnic next to Juno Beach (I think) and spent a good amount of time walking around. We didn't make it to the museum, but Jacques told us that you could easily spend a whole day in the museum because there is so much information. I learned a lot about the beaches from Jacques and my Dad, but I am looking forward to returning, hopefully, and going to the museum.
That night, we ate dinner with my host family. We had galette saucisse, galette complete and crêpes. My parents are amazed that I don't weigh a thousands pounds after all the food we ate. It is a lot, but I've managed...somehow. It was SO good. I can't wait to bring galettes back to the states. Meaning, I'm bringing back flour noir to make them for my friends and family. Get ready for some good eats.
Monday, we headed north to Mont St. Michel. It was a beautiful day and perfect for driving up and down the coast. We spend most of the morning at Mont St. Michel, went into the Abbey and then we headed to Cancale for lunch. We bought bread and picnic items and started our search for a good picnic spot. We found ourselves at Pointe du Grouin but there were so many people that we decided to eat elsewhere. That elsewhere ended up being the parking lot. It was a nice spot on some grass but it was definitely in a parking lot...so it wasn't the most picturesque spot. Oh well. I introduced my parents to Petit Breton, a soft cheese that is a little less strong than Camembert but it still carries the smell. We ate the entire wheel that day. After lunch, we headed out along the coast into St. Malo. There we bought ice cream and walked around the outer wall of the city. This was the same city that I visited in February. The weather was just as good but much warmer. It was a good walk but after seeing all the bunkers and forts from France, we weren't sure that we wanted to tell my host family that Whidbey Island has some forts...because they just have nothing on the forts in France. That is okay. Back on track, after St. Malo, we drove over a bridge to Dinard, another port city that is well known for its rich vacation homes. Boy, is that a true statement. We found that Dinard is very welcoming for old British couples; there was English everywhere and a lot of English restaurants on top of the traditional touristy restaurants. We decided to keep trudging along and went down to Dinan. This was a neat city. I'm really glad that we went, even if we didn't spent a lot of time there. It still has its original medieval houses in the inner city where you could walk underneath the houses and not get wet from the rain. We had a fantastic dinner at an Italian restaurant. We weren't too terribly hungry but we cleaned our plates AND we ate dessert. My mom and I both had the café gourmande: an espresso, a tiny scoop of rhum raisin ice cream, a little crème brûlée and a little portion of panna cotta. It was SO tasty. My dad chose the panna cotta, which is always a good choice but he said that we chose well. After dinner, we headed back to the house and went to sleep.
Tuesday, we headed south to the Brocéliande forest. We were pretty excited. I've wanted to go for a while but the only way to really see it is by car. So, we grabbed lunch at the grocery store and headed off. It was a pretty day, the rain was nowhere to be seen and the wind wasn't too bad. We battled with the French map, as we did most of the week, and found ourselves at the forest. It really is only about a 45-minute drive from Rennes. The Brocéliande forest or Paimpoint forest is known as the forest where the legend of King Arthur and Merlin took place. We, accidentally, drove through the entire forest while we were looking for the right turn off point but found ourselves in a good town to start our day in the woods. We ate lunch at a picnic table next to a walk that we had been told to take. My dad stayed by the car and my mom and I headed off. On the walk, we saw the Golden Oak, the lake of the fairies, and the Valley of No Return. We had to turn around about a half an hour in because the mud was pretty heavy so we climbed up some rocks and found ourselves looking down over the valley. It was beautiful. We were also right next to Merlin's Chair where a group of students were listening to their guide tell tales about Merlin. It was pretty cool to listen too. After the view, we headed down the side of the hill and through some fields back to the car. It was a good walk.
After we met up with my Dad, we drove back to the start of the forest and found Merlin's Tomb, which was very well kept and we found the Fountain of Youth. It was pretty fun to see. I wish that my older sister could have seen the forest because she loves the stories of Merlin and King Arthur a lot, more than I do. But, I'm glad that we went and took some pictures for her. After we finished our tour of the forest, we started to head back to Rennes for dinner with m host family. As soon as we turned onto the highway to head back to Rennes, we got stuck in traffic. At first, I thought it was just normal, end of the workday traffic, but after about a half an hour of waiting and creeping forward, we realized that there was an accident. Apparently, a cargo truck had caught on fire and had burned pretty heavily. As we drove past the truck, we started smelling the smoke and then, mixed with the smoke, the smell of cooked animal. Turns out that the truck was full of pigs...and all the pigs perished in the accident. It was a terrible, but funny story to tell my host parents when we got back since that was what made us late for dinner. Oh the stories we accumulate.
For dinner, my host mom made Tartiflette. It is a traditional dish that comes from the mountains of France but it is amazing. It's a lot like scalloped potatoes but you make it with crème fraîche and a very special type of cheese. I can't remember the name. I hadn't actually eaten it before but my tummy was very happy that night. It is a meal that I would like to have again and would like to repeat at home.
Wednesday was our last day in Brittany. We decided to head down to Carnac to see the megalithic ruins and some of the southern coast. We saw a lot more ruins that I had seen with my group and we went all the way down to the tip of the coast of Presque'Île where many French go camping. It was another beautiful day. We had another picnic near the ruins at the central visitor station and had a good time walking around. The city of Carnac is really pretty too. I always enjoy seeing the little towns around big touristy spots. After Carnac, we drove along the coast and then decided we had had enough and headed back to Rennes. We got back without in problems and walked around centre ville. We parked the car at my campus, and my parents experienced Rennes' metro, we went to St. Anne and had dinner at the Crêperie St. Anne. Delicious as usual. After dinner, we went back to the house and packed.
Thursday, we said our goodbyes and thanks to my host parents and left for the train station. We caught our train at 9 and headed to Paris. That was a fun day. We had a long lunch at a café just next to the Gare du Nord, where our hotel was located, and had some trouble grabbing the attention of our server...but it worked out. After lunch, my mom and I set out on a second mission to find a tack shop. We had tried before with my Dad, but the road where we thought there was a tack shop didn't exist. So my dad took a break while we looked. After about 45 minutes of walking down the shopping district street, we found the store. It was a very nice tack shop, my mom bought some brushes, took her picture in front for Ariat and a horst magazine (I can't remember the name) and we suddenly found ourselves walking towards the Arc de Triomphe. Woops. We didn't realize how far we had walked until then. Almost 4 miles I'd say. We laughed a lot and hopped on the metro to meet my dad at Montmartre. There, we walked around Sacre Coeur, saw my favorite view of Paris, and ate the Breton cake that I had bought the day before. Kouign Amann, a buttery, flakey delight with lots of sugar and butter, did I mention butter? That is when you know you are in Brittany. When you add butter to everything. We bought some goodies for our family, went to a monoprix for chocolate and mustard and headed out to dinner. We had a lovely last dinner together and it was in Paris.
The next morning, we got up rather early, got dressed and had to say our goodbyes. It was such a wonderful week and I was so happy to see my parents. I felt like a basket case because I started to tear up when I said goodbye to my parents. But hey, I love them and it was more than amazing to see them. They told me I only had six weeks until I got home, that I was going to make it through finals and that I wasn't to worry. Plus, I was getting ready to go to Ireland, so I had nothing to complain about. That made me laugh and feel better. I know that my parents made it home safely, they didn't suffer too badly from jet lag and that they enjoyed themselves quite a bit. I'm so glad they came and that they were able to see where I've been living. Brittany really is a beautiful part of France. I would say it's the prettiest and has the most character, which is probably why it's a popular vacation spot for all French and foreigners in the summer.
Well, that was a lot of information. I hope it all made sense and that you enjoyed reading about the adventures of the Roberts family. We enjoyed ourselves more than it shows.
I am going to try to get my second week posted in the near future. Vacation ends today and I foresee lots of writing but not leisurely writing. Yay for papers!!
All my love,