Sunday, I woke up early and took the bus to the usual meeting place. There, I met Valentina. Etienne, the man with whom I cook, picked us up. He took us to his house and we were greeted by Beatrice. Sunday’s cooking lesson? French cuisine!
For the main dish, we made a simple beef with sauce and a side of rice. We then made chocolate mousse, which was super fun. I’ve decided that I like making desserts. This has no practical use for survival, but at least desserts make me happy. That’s all that matters in life, right?
After cooking, we moved into the living room for appetizers, which included a goat cheese appetizer that was absolutely wonderful. It was one of the tastiest things I’ve ever tasted…although I was told it was difficult to make. We then moved into the dining room where we started with the main course (the beef), then to a salad, then to the cheese plate (I found a cheese I adore, but Etienne forgot the name! I’ll have to find out) and then ended with our chocolate mousse. It was a great meal and, above all else, it was pretty easy to make. I think I should be able to cook something like this in America…especially since I have the recipe now!
As we were sitting in the living room drinking coffee (they were drinking coffee – I wasn’t. I still don’t like the taste), Beatrice asked us if we wanted to go to the Carnaval in Nantes. The Carnaval is extremely well-known in France, particularly for places like Nice. Valentina and I looked at each other. Sure. Why not? We seemed to say.
Beatrice is from Nantes and she has been to the Carnaval many times, so she stayed home while Etienne took us. It was his first time at the Carnaval in Nantes, although he has been to other Carnavals. The Carnaval usually takes place in February or April or May and is heavily associated with lent and Easter (it’s almost like the Mardi Gras parade in New Orleans).
I would like to note that it was hot in Nantes. Actually hot. It was probably in the sixties and the sun was out. I was so surprised that it wasn’t raining. Secondly, there were so many people there! My favorite thing was the kids though. They were all dressed up, like Halloween. They had bags full of confetti and threw confetti at each other for hours.
Since Nantes has a lesser known Carnaval, my expectations weren’t very high. I had seen pictures of the Carnaval in Nice and I knew that the parade floats were extravagant. To be honest, the floats here in Nantes certainly weren’t on the same level as the pictures I’ve seen of Nice, but they were close! I was so surprised. The floats were giant masterpieces of mechanics. Many of them moved (one was a giant bird that moved its head and wings). In addition, all of the musical bands were professional and played beautifully.
It was a festive, but long day. When Etienne tried to drop me off at home, there was a ton of traffic in Nantes, which is highly unusually. After about an hour and a half of traffic, I was back home.
One of the highlights of the day? When Beatrice told me that my French has improved dramatically since I first met her. She says that my speech is much more fluid and less hesitant. And one of the highlights of the week? I’ve received several of these comments this week from my French friends this week. Have I really improved that much? I still feel like it’s all the same. I can’t tell. I have no idea what I’m saying in any language!