So my La Toussaint vacation is officially over and it’s back to school tomorrow. After Paris, I took the Eurostar via the Chunnel to London and then a train from London to Manchester. I have to say, I really enjoyed traveling on the trains. It’s a little more comfortable than a plane and the TGV and Eurostar are super fast and it’s just so much more laid back than flying.
I loved spending the week with Grams in Manchester and it was fun to be there in time for her birthday! We of course did a little shopping and a lot of relaxing and since it costs me 5.50 euros to do my laundry, I brought it all to England so we had a big laundry day.
Things of note:
-People in England are just really friendly. The guy I was sitting next to on the train offered me his power cord because I was reading on my iPad and it was about to die. I had a great conversation with the taxi driver who took me from the train station to Grams’ house. Even when you’re in stores, the way salespeople or cashiers talk to you is just very friendly. Maybe I’ll move to England next 🙂
-I forced Grams to go to Starbucks while we were out shopping to get a Pumpkin Spice Latte! So good! We also spoke to an older gentleman who spends his days in this particular Starbucks and he started showing me pictures and emails from his Chinese fiancee that he met 3 months ago and who could not have been older than 20…then asked if I was married yet…
-English TV is now basically American TV. I remember when I was little, there were no American shows on TV in England except Friends. Now there’s still a lot of Friends but everything on the E! channel plays in England and I think the only English show we watched the whole week was Law and Order: SVU UK…so that is basically American.
So Bordeaux ended up not working out (we're trying to go next weekend when we have a long weekend for Armistice day) but we took a day trip to Rennes which is a city about an hour north of Nantes. It is the capital of the region of Brittany and my French friends said when you go there you can really understand that Nantes isn't actually apart of Brittany (I think I mentioned in an earlier post that it used to be the capital but then the region Pays de la Loire was created and Nantes is the capital of this region). There are traces of the Breton culture in Nantes; for example, my school is right on the border of Nantes and a city called St. Herblain and so the sign says "entering Nantes" but underneath it says Naoned which is the Breton word for Nantes. I also read an article in the newspaper that there is a small group of people who meet weekly to learn the Breton language and my students have told me that Nantes being apart of Brittany is still a contested issue.
Anyways, instead of taking the train, we decided to do Covoiturage, which is car sharing, since it's way cheaper and our French friends said it was the best way to get there. Basically drivers sign up with this website and put down where they're driving/making stops and passengers can book rides through the website. There was four of us going so we figured it would be pretty safe. We met the woman who was driving us at a tram stop and she was super nice. It was a great way to practice our French and we learned a bit about some cultural/historical things in France. THEN she told us she had to stop at her mother-in-law's to pick up some chestnuts…I'm pretty sure we all thought she said she was going to Rennes to pick up the chestnuts and then going to drive to Normandie to meet up with her kids and her parents. But we ended up stopping in the middle of no where in the countryside in a city called Derval at her mother-in-law's farmhouse! Her mother-in-law didn't know we were coming and when we came inside she said something like "invasion of the young people!" She was really nice and offered us coffee and cookies and it was a fun but weird experience! In moments like these, our motto has become "just go with the flow".
So Rennes apparently wasn’t bombed during the war as much as other cities such as Nantes were (side note: Anna and I were commenting about how different it is here compared to the US because there is so much history in European cities and the war had such an effect on these cities) so a lot of the buildings are still standing from the Middle Ages and look like this.
Not all of them look like this because there was a big fire in Rennes in the 18th century so part of the city still looks like it’s from back then and part of it looks new with those streets in a grid. Nantes is sort of similar in that there is a Medieval part of town and then a newer part. And I think all of the signs we saw were in French and Breton, so there was definitely a difference between being in actual Brittany and being in Nantes. We saw the Cathedrale and the Parc Thabor and the Parlement of Brittany. And had crepes, which the region of Brittany is known for! We did so much walking and we had to get up early to get there that by the end of the day we were definitely ready to go home and go to bed! I loved Rennes but it felt a bit too small to actually live there but I’m so happy I can say I’ve officially been to the region of Bretagne 🙂
We spent Halloween with our French friends which included shopping for dinner together and then getting dressed up. While we were in the grocery store, Anna and I realized how French our French friends Josephine and Romane really are; they spent FOREVER looking at what kind of wine to buy and then there was debate over what kind of cheese and sausage to buy and of course a discussion about how many baguettes to buy! The French really do love their food but we appreciated their expertise because everything was delicious! And it turns out the French really like to dress up scarily/intensely. I was almost a hedgehog and my French friends suggested I be a dead hedgehog. I went with my default costume of a cowgirl…despite their suggestions, I was not a dead cowgirl.
Yesterday we went to the mall to see Le Chamoh! So the people of Nantes really enjoy mechanical animals and the Camel was in town for about a week. I do have to say it was pretty entertaining and unique!
Today Anna and I went to the art museum because it’s free on the first Sunday of the month but there was only a temporary exhibition since the actual museum is closed for renovations. Hopefully next weekend will be spent tasting wine in Bordeaux!