I’m back in Dallas!! I officially finished teaching almost two weeks ago and said good bye to some of my favorite students (and some of my not so favorite) and my teacher colleagues. Saying good bye to them was difficult because they were so nice and welcoming when I arrived and I learned a lot in their classes but as a going away present they got me some earrings and a USB stick with over 100 French songs divided into categories such as “Songs every French person knows”, “Disney songs in French”, and songs that they chose to put on. It was so sweet and such a nice way to remember my time in Nantes.
So my original intention was to catch up on the last two weeks but I can’t even remember what all happened, and I feel like we were so busy going out and trying to do nantais things while we still could. And I want to use this post to just kind of process the whole TAPIF experience.
I guess to start, for the first time ever, I would rather not be in Dallas right now. When I graduated from Lehigh I obviously wished I had more time there and didn’t have to leave but once I got to Dallas I was ok but even now that I’m in Dallas I want to be back in Nantes. However, I know that even if I were to go back to Nantes right now it wouldn’t be the same…I was in love with Nantes and my life there but so much of it was the other assistants who were there too. It was a once in a lifetime experience and now I have to move on.
There is so much I miss such as the French attitude and how they say hello to everyone…flying into Atlanta was just overwhelming with so much Deep Southern-ness around and English all at one time. However, the longer I’m home, the more the little conveniences of being in the US become apparent. At the airport I had a two hour layover and was debating whether I should buy wifi on my iPad while I was there and then I realized I can turn my data back on and use the 4G! Also, I went grocery shopping today and it was so weird to not have to think about how much/how heavy the stuff I was buying was because I had a car! Side note: I bought wine today and couldn’t believe that the cheapest wine was 8$! I’m used to buying 2 euro wine!
This experience has also changed me, hopefully forever, just in how I approach culture and everyday life and especially food. On my Delta flight back we were served a baguette roll thing and it was just horrible! And later they gave us a calzone and again, I could just taste the processed-ness in it all! I miss having to eat fruit within the two days you buy it before it molds and the locally-sourced food products. I’ve already picked up wine for the week because I can’t imagine not having wine with dinner every night.
I also just can’t believe how lucky I am to have been placed in Nantes and right in the center on top of that! It was so great to meet so many nice French people and Anglophones who have the same interest in French that I do.
Nantes is such an amazing, quirky city. At times, it feels French, but most of the time it doesn’t because a lot of the architecture is modern and was built after the bombings during WWII. In general, the city has a really strong and unique sense of culture…what other city has a giant mechanical elephant, along with other mechanical animals, that you can ride around? Or a bar at the top of a business sky scraper called “The Nest” with a giant swan and eggs to sit on and an observation deck where you can spot the fried eggs painted on the roofs of the surrounding buildings? Or an old, iconic biscuit factory turned into a cultural center and night club? Nantes has such a sense for re-purposing things and creating a unique identity. It also has a strong connection to Bretagne and the Breton culture which surfaces every once and a while. With that being said, I definitely have a list of favorite places (which seem to be mainly bars):
Our favorite bar located in Bouffay where the drinks are cheap and it’s pretty quiet during the week but busy on the weekends. We got to the point where we knew all three bartenders and I’d like to say we actually became friends with them! The last two nights we went there it was pretty quiet so the bartenders who were on duty actually came and sat with us. Of course we got lots of free shots out of them. One of the last nights the adorable one named Benjamin was working and he made us these flaming rum shots that we had to drink through a straw. Then he took a bunch of pics with us behind the bar and said “this is your bar!” I’m pretty sure we could not have been happier…Knowing them so well though made it feel like we had finally became part of the local life there and also made it even more difficult to leave.
The Irish bar located in Bouffay where we spent most of our early days, along with St. Patty’s of course. All the bartenders are Irish so it’s a good place to go if you want to speak English. They were also really friendly and we would always run into a couple of them while we were out or walking around Nantes.
The bar located at the top of the Tour Bretagne. You walk in and see the giant swan’s head and it’s body goes all the way around the bar. The seats and tables look like eggs with the tops chopped off so you can see the yolk and you can go outside to get a view of Nantes and also spot the painted egg yolks on top of some the roofs of the buildings below.
The Lieu Unique
The factory where LU biscuits used to be made which now houses temporary exhibitions and plays as well as a restaurant and bar.
The bar we went to when we were in Bouffay after all of the other bars closed…they have great gin fizzes!
My favorite cafe! Josephine took us here one of the first afternoons we hung out with her (also where we said goodbye to her:( ) and it’s where Anna and I spent hours applying to grad schools and jobs!
I actually don’t know if that’s its real name but it’s a cute little bar with great wine right next to the opera house.
Le Jardin des Plantes
Where else can you play with goats! And also get eaten by them if you’re Anna!
The Machines de l’ile
The mechanical elephant is definitely a symbol of the city and is actually a really cool attraction.
Chateau des Ducs de Bretagne
In what other city can you find a castle right in the center?
I guess that about sums it up. The experience was really incredible and just so surreal. We worked a minimal amount of hours and had really no other responsibilities except to show up at a certain time, speak English, and have some sort of a plan of what to do with the students. It was really a charmed life in Nantes.