May 5, 2010

Spain! Part 2

Posted in travel, Uncategorized tagged , , , , , , , at 9:20 am by Fat Girl Dancing

Tuesday we tried to be up and out of the hostel by 9:30am, but with five women it was closer to 10am by the time we’d all finished breakfast and were ready to go. The original plan was to hit the beach just two blocks from the hostel in the morning and the further beach in the afternoon, but it was still fairly cool that morning so we went shopping instead!

Spain doesn’t have the restrictions on sales like France does, so there were some great bargains to be found. We went to some of our favorite French stores (H&M and Pimkie). I bought a Hello Kitty shirt-dress at H&M for only 10 euro. At Pimkie I was delighted to find a skirt I’d had my eye on back in France was marked down 40% here in Spain!

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Melanie’s new look

We finished shopping for souvenirs in the old section of town and walked back to the hostel for lunch. I had bought a microwavable potato tortilla from the grocery store the day before, and it turned out to be quite delicious and very filling! I had to share it with everyone else, because I couldn’t finish it all on my own.

Fed and shopped out, we were finally ready to hit the beaches! We started at the close beach, which was really the “surfer’s beach” because it was directly on the ocean and had very large waves. We spent a few hours there and then walked to the other beach — this one is actually in a bay, so the waves are much more calm. Melanie and I braved the cold April waters and went for a little swim! I love playing in the waves!

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We spent the last, dwindling hours of sunlight playing cards before walking back to the hostel to get cleaned up for dinner. As we were once again walking across town, we managed to catch the last rays of the sun before they disappeared behind the water.

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The hostel had recommended a Pintxo bar to us for dinner, but we’d had trouble finding it the last two nights. Finally I asked for directions (in Spanish!) and was able to understand the answer well enough to lead the group to the bar. The menu was all in Spanish, and everyone immediately demanded a translation, which was a bit overwhelming, but fortunately there was one employee who spoke English well enough to translate for all of us. It was only at the end of the evening that we saw a French translation of the menu hidden behind the bar! If we’d seen that earlier, it would have been much simpler ^_^

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Scallops (wrapped in ham — beurk!)

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Duck

We tried lots and lots of tiny dishes, including a superyummy risotto. It was a fun way to try lots of foods and get a very filling dinner. Once again we tried to find some kind of non-sketchy nightlife, but had no success with it, and went back home too early ūüė¶

Wednesday was our last day in Spain! The day began warm and just kept getting hotter. We ate breakfast outside on the terrace, packed our belongings and checked out of the hostel. They very kindly allowed us to keep our luggage in a private room since we didn’t need to leave the city until 5pm. We did some more sightseeing, wandering around the city, up hills, and around the bay.

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And of course we needed a Cheetos break.

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Alicia, Karin, and Melanie nom some Cheetos

We walked towards the opposite side of the bay to see a sculpture that some members of the group were interested in, but as we hiked further and it got hotter, I could feel myself wilting. I knew if I continued the walk without water or rest (we were pushing ourselves because two members of the group had an earlier train to catch), I would dehydrate or get sick. When we passed a little cafe on the beach, I told the others to go ahead and catch up with me on the way back. Melanie decided to hang back too. We had drinks (I had a sangria!) and played cards while listening to Spanish conversation and watching the beautiful blue ocean.

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Back at the hostel, we said goodbye to two of our group and the rest of us changed into our swimsuits and went back to the surfer’s beach for the last time. Melanie and I tried to go swimming again, but the waves were definitely much bigger here than the ones at the bay! It was scary, but exhilarating.

We showered (the hostel was SO GREAT, letting us shower even though we were already checked out. Seriously. Olga’s Place in San Sebastian. Best hostel evar.), stopped to stock up on Cheetos, and headed back towards the train and to France. In the border city of Hendaye I grabbed a slice of gateau basque. You can’t come all the way to Basque Country and not have gateau basque!!

It was a great vacation with great friends, and I’m glad I got to go and have such fun times!

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May 1, 2010

Spain!

Posted in travel, Uncategorized tagged , , , , , , , , at 9:13 am by Fat Girl Dancing

This week, for three days, in order to somewhat salvage our vacation, my friends and I headed south to the warm and sunny beaches of San Sebastian, Spain.

I had been to San Sebastian once before, two years ago, on the fourth of July, for about 6 hours. I was looking forward to spending more time in the city and really exploring it. Once again I was the only Spanish speaker in the group, and I was looking forward to blowing the dust off my Spanish brain and getting some use out of it again. Living and breathing French for the last 7 months, plus not studying Spanish for 10 months had made me VERY rusty.

We met bright and early at the train station at 7:30 on Monday morning, and we were off! I tried to read a little of Crepusculo, my copy of Twilight in Spanish to help orient me, but we were all too excited to do more than chat. Once we got off the train in Hendaye, the border town in France, I took charge and got everyone to the Spanish train that would take us to San Sebastian. My first attempts to speak Spanish — to the ticket agent — didn’t go so smoothly. I was able to say I wanted a ticket to San Sebastian, but when he asked me if I wanted one way or round trip, I couldn’t remember how to say the word “today!” (as in, “just for today”) It wasn’t until we were on the train that I remembered it. Fortunately I had my French-Spanish dictionary, which came in very handy.

Once we were in San Sebastian I discovered we had bad directions from the station to the hostel. The group bugged me to ask someone on the street, which I did awkwardly (“Oh yeah, ‘z’ is pronounced like ‘s’!”), but she had no idea, so we went back to the station where the woman at the desk spoke English and had a map. Very helpful.

The hostel was about a 20-minute walk from the station, but it was a GREAT hostel. Only 14 euros a night for our room, and we had a balcony with a view of the ocean!

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View from our balcony

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I totally climbed that mountain

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Sangria!

The first thing we did was celebrate being in Spain with a bottle of Sangria we’d bought in France. Then we decided to climb a mountain. We’d gotten a map from the front desk of the hostel, and the woman there had marked interesting places and attractions for us. One place she’d marked was a mountain very nearby the hostel.

No kidding, this was a fucking mountain. Straight up climb, great picturesque scenery, but I was sloooooooowwww to climb, while all the others just kind of hopped up. My body just does not like gravity.  It took me a long time to get to the top, but the view was so worth it.

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Then we climbed back down the mountain because we were STARVING. Down is much easier than up. It was too late for lunch in most places, but one restaurant was willing to serve us bocadillos. I had a queso tortilla bocadillo that was AMAZINGLY delicious.

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YUM

We did some grocery shopping for breakfast and lunches for the next few days, and I bought CHEETOS. This became the Cheetos vacation. There are no Cheetos in France. I remembered from my last trip that there were Cheetos in Spain. I wanted Cheetos. Everyone thought I was nuts until they too tasted the Cheezy goodness. Then we were all going nuts for Cheetos, stopping in alimentaciones wherever we found them for MOAR CHEETOS.

We came home and passed out. It started as just having a bit of a lie down and turned into a three-hour nap. So much for going shopping! We headed back out to the other side of town just as all the stores were closing.

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But I found a Sanrio store!!

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This paella was so good, I wanted to eat it forever. And ever.

We passed a gelato place, and I had been named decision-maker for the evening, so i said, “DECISION MAKER SAYS GELATO.” Fortunately they agreed with me. The place was so good and cheap, we went back every day!

We wandered around forever, trying to find some famous Spanish nightlife, but everything was either really seedy or empty. We settled for a drink along the quai and then went back to the hostel for the night.

January 21, 2010

Loving life

Posted in la vie bordelaise tagged , , , , , , at 6:42 pm by Fat Girl Dancing

The most beautiful spiderweb

Within the last few weeks, I have really begun to love my life here in France.¬† Not so much the job, though there are still the occasional rewarding moments, generally I just try and get through it and get out.¬† But I love living in Bordeaux and being in France and meeting new people and the friends I’ve made.

For several months now I’ve been going to a language exchange group on Wednesday nights.¬† French people will come to sit at the English table with native English speakers and non-native French speakers will sit at the French table with native French speakers and have casual conversations to practice in a fun environment.¬† There is also a Spanish table and sometimes an Italian table.¬† Generally I sit at the English table, talking with French people who want to practice their English.¬† I have made some really great connections through this group, and it’s something I’ve come to look forward to on Wednesday nights.¬† Last night I sat at the French table for the first time to practice my French, and I was pleased that I could follow most of the spoken conversation and I was able to express myself fairly well (though still making some grammatical faults).¬† My French is definitely better than it was when I left the US.¬† It’s not where I’d like it to be (fluent), but the fact that I can see marked improvement is heartening.

I’m also enjoying spending time with the other English assistants (although that doesn’t really help me practice my French!)¬† Last weekend my friend Wes came from La Rochelle and brought one of his friends from Niort.¬† We had a good weekend of sight-seeing, and I think his friend from Niort will be coming back to visit again!

One of the British assistants had an impromptu tea yesterday afternoon that was absolutely lovely.

Tea time in Bordeaux

We had a mint tea made with freshly brewed mint leaves.  I really regretted that I could only stay an hour because I had to go down to a southern suburb for my tutoring job.

Tonight my roommate and I had some other assistants over for a small potluck to watch the week’s episodes of American Idol.¬† I made a baked macaroni and cheese, another assistant made chocolate chip banana bread, someone else made bruschetta, and my roommate bought Kinder Pingui.¬† There is too much good food in my life right now!

A lot of things in France are hard.¬† It hasn’t been an easy road to get to where I am now.¬† But I can honestly say: I’m in a good place, I’m happy, and I feel very blessed to have been given this opportunity!

January 3, 2010

Happy New Year!!

Posted in travel tagged , , , , , , at 5:41 pm by Fat Girl Dancing

Happy 2010!¬† I’ve now completed three and a half months of living abroad.¬† It’s been very trying sometimes, but I’ve really enjoyed it.

I spent the New Year’s weekend with my good friends from Ohio who are also assistants.¬† We met in Angers (where none of us live) because David had studied there last year and knew of some parties and a place to stay.

I left  Bordeaux on the morning of the 31st, and as the train was crossing over the Garonne, I saw a beautiful rainbow hanging over the city. It has to be a sign of better things to come.

David’s friend picked us up in downtown Angers and drove us out to his house for the party.¬† We spent the evening with his friends and his (American) girlfriend, talking, drinking and eating.¬† Apparently it’s a tradition for the reveillon to eat and drink as much as possible.¬† We had raclette for dinner, and they kept trying to force more and more cheese on me!¬† “Eat, eat!” I was told.¬† “It’s the New Year!”¬† (I was only able to eat potatoes and cheese for the raclette, as everything else offered was pork.¬† But I did try cavier earlier at the party, and it was pretty good!)

Much merriment and festivating was had, and at midnight we all went outside to watch neighbors shoot of fireworks.  The French sang the Marseilles and David and Wes sang the Star-Spangled Banner.

David wanted to stay up and watch the ball drop in New York at 6am, even though he’d been traveling since the 30th and awake for nearly 40 hours.¬† We tried, but we just couldn’t last.¬† I fell asleep around 5-ish and woke up briefly to hear Ryan Seacrest say it was now 2010 in the US.

Friday and Saturday we explored the city of Angers.¬† David loved living here and was happy to show us all his old haunts (even though it was hard to find many of them open on the national holiday of New Year’s Day).¬†¬†¬† We went bowling, and I played miserably, not even breaking 50!¬† I think the lane was at a slant…

Cointreau is the official liquer of Angers, since it’s produced there, and it was offered in lots of drinks.¬† I had a great (decaf) coffee drink with Cointreau and whipped creme!

Cafe Angevin

All the partying and tourism is just too much for poor David!

Oh, David!

Friday night David’s former host family had left us more raclette, but since I would just be having potatoes and cheese again, we ate a little of it and then picked up a few pizzas and spent the evening watching a movie.

We had nutella crepes for breakfast on Saturday.  Wes had to leave, but David and I got changed and ready to go out clubbing with another friend of his.  We had some good conversations and I had a GREAT tuna and shrimp panini at his favorite panini shop.

We went to a few clubs and did a lot of dancing, before I started to get a terrible headache around 2am and had to cut the evening short.¬† Despite that, I had a great time in Angers, and I’m glad I got to ring in the New Year in France with my friends!!

Angers

Back to teaching tomorrow…I hope I can remember how!

December 25, 2009

Happy Western Holiday of Your Choice!

Posted in la vie bordelaise tagged , , , , , , , at 5:12 am by Fat Girl Dancing

Today is Christmas, a day with important meaning for many people, but usually just a day of rest for me!¬† My normal tradition involves going to see a new release movie in the theatres and then eating sushi or Chinese food with friends, but here in France, NOTHING is open on Christmas Day; no movies, no restaurants.¬† I’m surprised to hear that the tramway is running.

The parents of another assistant are coming into town today, so my roommate and I are going over to her apartment for a Christmas dinner of raclette.¬† I took the plunge yesterday and baked my first batch of cupcakes here in France, so we’ll have those for dessert.¬† I absolutely love to make cupcakes from scratch, and at home I’ve experimented with a variety of different delicious flavors.¬† Here I’ve been so overwhelmed with the fact that 1) they don’t even understand the concept of a cupcake in this country; 2) the ingredients are hard to substitute (I accidentally used baking powder instead of yeast when trying to make rolls for Thanksgiving last month); and 3) the measurements are hard to convert.¬† With those three obstacles, I’ve been avoiding making cupcakes, even though it’s something that makes me happy.

After plans to travel over Christmas fell through, however, I decided to spend my free time experimenting with baking.¬† I used a nice, simple vanilla cupcake recipe and spiced it up for the holidays with a little nutmeg.¬† I bought a hand-crank mixer, and I have to say if I’m going to make any more cupcakes, I need to invest in a real electric mixer.¬† My hands just can’t take any more of that!

But the results were so worth it!

Vanilla nutmeg cupcakes

Vanilla nutmeg cupcakes

Now that I know it can be done, I hope to make a lot more interesting varieties and bring these treats in to share with my teachers!  I must introduce France to the cupcake!

December 13, 2009

Visiting a French urgent care (how else will I know what they look like?)

Posted in la vie bordelaise, travailler tagged , , , , , , , , at 7:22 am by Fat Girl Dancing

Friday was starting out to be a good day.¬† I finished school three hours early because two of my classes were on a ski trip.¬† I was practically skipping as I left at 11:30am.¬† “Happy Hannukah to me!” I said to myself.¬† “What a great present.¬† I get to start the weekend early!”

I walked home from the Place de la Victoire instead of taking the tramway because it was a nice day and the tram was crowded.  I stopped for a salmon panini for lunch at a panini/crepe cart.  It was absolutely delicious, and I munched it happily as I walked through the busy, bustling streets of Bordeaux.

Panini cart

When I got home, I found a notice that the postman had tried to deliver a package from my parents.¬† It had some things I really wanted, including special granola and my birthday present from two years ago, so I really wanted to pick it up the same day, and not wait for him to try and redeliver it.¬† I looked up directions for La Poste package depot and found that it wasn’t terribly far from my new apartment — just at the end of the tram line and down a few streets.¬† I wrote out directions and set off on my bike.

The only time I have fallen off my bike is when trying to cross over the tram tracks.¬† They’re too deep, and my bike just kind of skids and then falls over.¬† Unfortunately, on this ride I reached a point where there was no sidewalk and the rode and the tram tracks merged — I was on the road, but also on the tramline for awhile.¬† When they split, I tried to move off the tram track and back on to the road, but again, my bike would not cross the tracks.¬† I went down hard, right into the road, and slammed my head on the pavement.¬† I was very lucky the oncoming car stopped in time.

People came from everywhere.  The driver got out of his car, a woman passing by helped me get out of the road, a man from the patisserie across the street came running out.  He went and got my napkins to put on my face, for I was bleeding quite badly from my brow.  Once everyone was sure I was all right, nothing was broken, and not going to pass out, they went on their way.

I continued on to the package depot.¬† I wasn’t going through all that and not getting my stupid package!¬† I walked my bike to the next tram stop, holding the napkin to my profusely bleeding brow, and rode the tram to the end of the line.¬† I rode my bike carefully and cautiously — my knees protesting the whole way, they were pretty scraped up too — to the package depot.

When I got there, the man at the reception said “You didn’t call ahead?”¬† But then he seemed to take a look at me, bleeding, limping, shook up, and said he would go look for my package.¬† I thanked him.

The very important package!

I rode my bike back to the tram stop and rode the tram home.¬† I cleaned out my wounds as best I could with just soap and water, and then went down to the supermarch√© to try and find something like neosporin.¬† There was nothing like that there, so I tried the pharmacy.¬† The pharmacist took one look at me and said I needed stitches.¬† A nice older lady offered to lead me to the urgent care.¬† She took great care in making sure I didn’t injure myself further under her watch, not letting me step off into oncoming traffic or in front of a tram.

I waited at the Urgent Care for about an hour.¬† I still don’t have my medical card, so they made it clear to me that I’d have to pay and then be reimbursed later.¬† When I was called back, a student nurse had my lie on a bed and she disinfected the wound.¬† Then I waited another 20 minutes or so for the doctor to come and sew 4 stitches into my brow.

All stitched up

I went back to the pharmacy to fill the orders the doctor had given me.  The pharmacist was very nice, and asked if I was feeling better and commiserated with me about how terrible the tram rails were for biking.

Once I was home, I had no time to sit around feeling sorry for myself! I was hosting a Hannukah party that night!  I immediately began peeling potatoes.  It was my first time making latkes.  The first two rounds were a success, but after that there were oil problems, and someone else had to step in and finish the batch.

Shredding potatoes - notice the Hello Kitty bandaid!

Latkes!

I had a great evening sharing my holiday with my friends, and they were even good sports and played a round of dreidel for m&m’s.

It wasn’t exactly how I planned for my day to go, but I find that in France, nothing is ever as simple as you plan it to be, and you have to learn to relax and just go with whatever comes up.¬† Or with whatever comes crashing down!

December 9, 2009

Homeless in France

Posted in la vie bordelaise, planning tagged , , , , , , , , , at 6:52 am by Fat Girl Dancing

It’s been a busy month so far.¬† I’ve been settling into my temporary home here with another assistant, trying to maintain a balance between living out of my suitcases and unpacking everything when I know I’ll just have to repack it again.¬† Fortunately I’m able to stay here until at least the beginning of February, so I’ve got some time.¬† I’ve been keeping up with the apartment search, but it’s so much more difficult here than it is in the States!

I’m primarily searching for roommates, and everyone I apply to has dozens of applicants, so they’re free to pick whom they choose…and it’s not me.¬† If I were to try for a small studio, I’d most likely find it not furnished — not even with a fridge or a stove! — and I’d need a guarantor, someone here in France willing to put up their last three months paystubs and credit to vouch for me.

I went to change my address, because I still haven’t received my very important CARTE VITALE, and found it was 34 euro just to change my address with the post!¬† That is one area where the USA definitely wins.¬† So much for socialism!

France is hard.¬† I’m not going to lie, in the last few weeks, there were times when I thought about how much easier it would be to give up and just go home.¬† Yesterday I bought a ticket to see Christophe Ma√© in concert in June 2010 in La Rochelle, and I’ve got a ticket to see the Mozart musical in April.¬† I can’t leave, I have concert tickets!

Christophe and Mozart!

Last week I visited the Christmas Market in downtown Bordeaux with a few assistants.¬† We went Tuesday and Wednesday night.¬† It’s a beautiful village marketplace set up on the town square with lights and craft shops and HOT SPICED WINE.¬† It was wonderful the first night, but it started pouring the second night and kind of put and end to the whole evening.¬† I still haven’t properly shopped through the whole market, since we really just took a fast browse through each store.

Vin chaud

Last Friday I went out to dinner with some French people to the Quebec Music Cafe.¬† It was way down in Pessac, so I got a ride with someone, which was very nice.¬† It’s so cool seeing Bordeaux from a car, I see parts of the city I never notice because I’m always on pedestrian or tram streets.¬† You must go look at their menu, I loved it.¬† I wanted to eat everything.¬† I ended up with the “Menu Bistro” which gave me a burger, a poutine, a beer, and a crumble dessert.¬† I had the three-cheese cheeseburger, the classic poutine, maple syrup beer, and the chocolate-pear crumble.¬† It was all SOOO GOOD.

Quebec Cafe

OM NOM NOM

One of the guys sitting next to me was excited to try and practice his English, and kept speaking English to me, and then speaking English to the other French people around him.¬† Eventually one of the women said to him, “She’s here to improve her French, so speak French!”¬† I didn’t mind him speaking a little English, but I thought it was weird that he would speak English to everyone else.

It’s been quite warm here the last few days — in the low 60s and upper 50s, but we’re about due for a cold snap, in the 40s!¬† Oh no! ūüė¶

Holidays in Bordeaux

Holidays in Bordeaux

December 2, 2009

Let me explain…

Posted in la vie bordelaise, travailler, travel, Uncategorized tagged , , , , , , , , , , at 7:26 am by Fat Girl Dancing

No, there is too much.  Let me sum up.

I’ve not abandoned this blog!¬† I just got behind and then stressed about catching up and then life went CRAZYGONUTS.

Here’s your November update in a nutshell, and then we can move on to December ^_^

  • Things started getting awkward with my host family when I returned from the Toussaint vacation
  • I came right back to my first bus strike!¬† I was late and missed my first class, then it took me two hours to get home.
  • I went on my first outing with OnVaSortir, a socializing website for meeting French people.¬† We went out for caf√©s.¬† It was good to get out and meet real French people, but very exhausting to try and keep up with the conversation for several hours!
  • I BOUGHT A BIKE!!¬† I love my bike.
  • Riding on the streets of Bordeaux is terrifying.
  • I started hanging out more with the other English assistants, which I’ve really enjoyed.
  • I got my hair redyed and trimmed, and it wasn’t a disaster!
  • I spent a beautiful Saturday biking all over Bordeaux and along the river, and then came upon a Pro-choice rally and joined it.
  • I saw “New Moon” in French, and it was still hysterically funny.
  • I picked up a tutoring gig (starts today, actually!)
  • I went out to a bar with some French people, and a French guy bought me a drink!
  • I went to a potluck dinner with other assistants.
  • Things went from awkward to REALLY BAD with my host family really fast ūüė¶
  • I Skyped with my parents on Thanksgiving and watched the Macy’s parade from their kitchen via the internets.¬† Then I called back around midnight my time to “sit” at the dinner table with everyone.
  • I went to La Rochelle for Thanksgiving weekend with my friends Wes and David.¬† We made a great feast and had a lot of laughs.
  • I moved out of my host family’s house and into a temporary situation with another assistant.¬† I’m currently looking for a permanent place to live.
  • And we end November with another transportation strike!¬† Ahhh, France.

French bike!

Banana creme pie

Banana creme pie

Thanksgiving - French style

Banana creme pie - YUM!Thanksgiving - French style

November 15, 2009

Toussaint vacances part 2

Posted in travel tagged , , , , , at 5:25 am by Fat Girl Dancing

I’ve been so tired this week, so my blogging has slacked. *kicks self in the butt* Get back to it!

You may remember I went on vacation what now feels like a million years ago. The first post is here. The second post is the one you’re reading now ūüėģ It’s all meta and shit!

Part II

When David and I woke up on Friday, his roommates were already gone, having left on an early train for Paris where they were spending the next four days. David made us a Spanish-style omelette (tortilla) for breakfast.

1030_davidomeletteAfter showering and getting dressed, we set off to explore the town of Vitré more thoroughly.

By the time we got to town it was nearly 2pm, so we sat at a Creperie and had dessert crepes. We like to eat dessert before our meals. I had chocolate and banana, of course, and David had caramel and butter.

Then it was exploring time! We started with the castle. We each bought a ticket to the museum that would allow us inside to explore the castle and would also allow us free entry to four other museums in the area. I was hoping to get to see Madame de Sevign√©’s house, since I did a report on her a few years ago, but it was just too far away and there wasn’t enough time.

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David in the chateau

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Weird statue-thing

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Where's David?

Mostly the castle was a museum for different paintings and tapestries, but it was still interesting to walk through. There was one turret that was swarming with flies crawling all over the windows — it was seriously creeping me out. Then there was a death room: dead insects, dead animals and even a dead baby skeleton. That was when the tour was over. WEIRD, Vitr√©.

We walked around to find the other museum that was close that we could get into when our friend Wes texted us that he’d gotten his pay advance and he could come up Sunday maybe. We called him and convinced him that he needed to come up tomorrow because it was Halloween and he should spend as much time as possible with us.

The other museum turned out to be a disappointment. It was a tiny catholic church with gorgeous stained glass, but they didn’t allow photography and the rest of the “museum” part was catholic relics from the 20th century.

We walked around the town some more….there was a lot of walking. We decided to finally have a late lunch — it was nearing 5pm by this point. We went into a bar and ordered steak hach√© with fries — the first time I’d had fries since Paris. The bartender made a point to tell us he only served us the food because we were Americans, normally he didn’t serve food at that time.

After eating, we walked through the local park.

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Butterflies

I climbed trees.

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Lots of low trees - great for climbing!

And then we walked to the grocery to get fixin’s for dinner before they closed at 7:30. We spent a looooong time in the store (it’s like a Meijer) because David kept remembering things he needed. We were going to make tacos, but they only had fajita seasonings. So we bought it.

We got home, and I cooked everything. It felt nice; it was my first time cooking in France.

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Taco salad in France

Our little taco salads were actually quite delicious!

David wanted to go out dancing that night at a club that didn’t even open until midnight, so I took a nap about 10pm. He woke me at 1am, and we went to the club. It was small but nice, and we drank and danced and talked with French people in the smoking area outside while he smoked. We stayed until nearly 4am and then staggered home, where we watched an episode of 30 Rock and then I passed out from exhaustion.

We slept until nearly noon the next day and then showered fast, ran into town, grabbed food for lunch from the market in town and arrived at the train station just as Wes’s train was pulling in.

We walked him back to David’s apartment and had lunch. We took a late train into Rennes and explored a little more of this big town (but not as big as Bordeaux ;-p). David bought a Brittany (Bretagne) flag he’d been wanting from a stall at an open-air market and I bought a great pair of earrings. We went back to that same bar we’d had trouble finding Thursday night and had caf√©s.

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David and Wes

We kept seeing little kids in costumes wandering around, and I remembered that in France kids don’t trick-or-treat from door-to-door but from shop-to-shop! They would go into any candy store or patisserie or grocery store and beg for treats. It was adorable. I tried to get pictures but couldn’t without looking stalkerish.

We decided Wes needed to try gallettes, so we sat down at a gallette place for dinner. I had the same type as Thursday, but it was just as good!

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Halloween light display

Vitré at night was just gorgeous.

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Vitré at night

The boys changed their clothes to get ready to go out to the club, but I hadn’t really brought any “club wear” since I was trying to pack lightly, so I caught up on some things on the internet.

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Wes and me

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Me

We stayed for maybe an hour and a half before David saw some of his students! He felt uncomfortable being in a party-type situation around them, so we left.

We came back, watched some more 30 Rock, and fell ASLEEP.

November 7, 2009

Toussaint vacances – Part One

Posted in travel tagged , , , , , , , at 7:07 am by Fat Girl Dancing

My vacation was so AMAZINGLY AWESOME it cannot be contained in one post. I have an idea it might be that way for all my vacations here.

I left Bordeaux early on Wednesday morning, October 28. I stopped to buy half a dozen Cannelés as a thank-you gift for my couchsurfing host.

Normally I love riding on trains, so I didn’t mind that the train from Bordeaux to Nantes was four hours. I had movies, books, music, and a travel pillow. Oh, and a screaming baby two rows behind me. The child screamed without ceasing for THREE HOURS of the trip. I was about to throw the kid off the train myself.

I was so happy to be off the train and in Nantes right on time (normally French trains are very punctual). I left the train station and went across the street to the tram stop to look at a map. I had vague plans for my day: I wanted to see the castle and the Jules Verne museum, and of course I wanted to see downtown Nantes! I studied the map for a few minutes and then promptly began walking the wrong way. Oops ^^;; Bad moment for Direction Man. I took the tram back the two stops to the castle.

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Chateau Nantes

The castle was really impressive — not as big as other castles in France, but the first one I’ve seen on this visit to France! I did the self-guided tour and took lots of pictures which can all be seen on my Flickr

I took the tram to the stop for the Jules Verne museum and then walked up a GIANT HILL to get to the museum. I was mostly exploring it to see if my dad might like it when he comes to visit at the end of my stay in France, but it ended up being pretty cool and mostly about astronomy, which I love.

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Musée Jules Verne

I still had time to kill, so I took the tram back to downtown Nantes and wandered in and out of the shops for awhile. They had a long pedestrian-only shopping street with the same stores as Bordeaux, so I was a little disappointed that the commercialism layout was the same as my own town.

A little before 8pm I made my way by tram to my host’s apartment. I got a little turned around, but thanks to my GPS and GoogleMaps App I found it! The other couchsurfer from Bordeaux was already there, and both she and the host were very nice. The host made us (vegetarian!) dinner of lentils and rice that was delicious, and we played a weird game that she’d invented. She gave up her bed to the two of us surfers, so I slept comfortably and soundly!

I woke up early, tried not to disturb the other two who were still sleeping, took a quick shower, got dressed and left for the train station. I had two more trains to ride today before I would be in Vitré. They were both fairly uneventful, though I did finish one of my books.

The last train pulled into Vitré (a small town in the Brittany region) right on time, and as soon as I stepped off I saw my friend David holding a welcome sign (and a baguette)!

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Welcome to Vitré!

I was so happy to see him! I hadn’t seen him since we’d parted ways in Paris in September! His German roommate had come along too, so the three of us walked back through the town to their apartment. I met his other roommate, from Spain. I was too nervous to speak much Spanish to him yet — all this intensive French has erased a lot of my Spanish.

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Cidre

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Chicken curry

The boys put together a great apero and lunch spread — wine, cheese, bread and olives first and then chicken curry. It was my first time having chicken curry, and it was actually pretty good! Not too spicy.

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Downtown Vitré

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Downtown Vitré

After lunch David and I walked back downtown to show me the castle and the shops. Vitr√© is an absolutely gorgeous little town. Definitely in the northern part of France…I noticed immediately the lack of palm trees (and I already missed them) and the different styles of architecture.

We walked back to his apartment (I cannot adequately express to you what a hike it was from his apartment to downtown and vice versa….up a major hill each way, and a good 15-20 walk. We DEFINITELY exercised, which is good, because we definitely ATE) and hung out talking until his roommates were ready to go into Rennes — the major town about 45 minutes away by car. His roommate from Germany had driven (wouldn’t that have been easier? Someone build a bridge) so we piled into his car. It was definitely weird being in a car and on a highway. As we were coming into Rennes, David and I started pretending that we were coming into Dayton:
“Look, we’re just leaving Oakwood.”

“I know, can you see the Crowne Plaza up ahead?”

“Oh yeah! And look, there’s the Denny’s right there.”

“Yup.” We’re weird.

We wandered around downtown Rennes for a bit before deciding to have a traditional Brittany meal of gallettes for dinner. I had a gallette with spinach, crème fraiche and a fried egg. And of course, cidre. We had a lot of cidre. It was all really good!

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Gallette and cidre

After eating, his roommates left to go to their heavy metal concert and David and I continued wandering around looking for cool bars. He texted a friend of his to find a fun bar, and we spent nearly an hour walking AROUND it, asking strangers on the street, getting close to it but never finding it until finally we stumbled upon it. It was nice with good techno music. We stayed there for awhile and met his friend. Then we went wandering and found another bar, had more drinks. I was freezing, and David kindly lent me his coat, since I’d decided not to pack my heavy coat and just had a hoodie.

We were about to sit at yet another place with his friends when his roommates texted him that the concert was over and they were coming to pick us up. Which of course said to us that it was the perfect time to get paninis. David had to repeat his order about 20 times, to the amusement of the other French people in line, but we finally got our order…mmmmm, tuna panini! We ate them as we rode back to Vitr√©.

My first two awesome days of vacation…I miss them already! All this stupid work is getting in the way of my having fun ;-p

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