I didn’t go to school today. Don’t worry. I didn’t skip school. There was no school today! Today is a holiday to celebrate the end of World War II. I don’t have school tomorrow either. It’s a religious holiday tomorrow.
Yes, I had two weeks of vacation. I had one class Monday, regular classes on Tuesday, no school Wednesday and Thursday, then one class on Friday, then the weekend. Yes, I know that this is crazy. But what can I say? Vacation, like I said in another blog, is very important in France.
What did I do on my day off? Well, I went to see the elephant of Nantes. It’s one of the top things to do in Nantes and it would be silly to have spent my whole time here without ever stopping by to see the elephant.
Kacy, my super traveling companion, and I headed out in the rain of Nantes to the center of town (making sure to watch the times of the tram, since it is a holiday, the trams don’t run often at all). Once in the center of town, we crossed onto the island. Here is where Les Machines de l’île can be found. I think that the best description can be found on their website: “Les Machines de l’île is an unprecedented artistic project. Born from the imaginations of François Delarozière and Pierre Orefice, it is a blend of the invented worlds of Jules Verne, the mechanical universe of Leonardo da Vinci, and the industrial history of Nantes, on the exceptional site of the former shipyards.”
We first headed to the museum, where it was like stepping into another world. It’s like I stepped into one of Jules Verne’s stories or Hollywood. It was very unreal. There were giant pods that hoisted people up to the ceiling. There was a giant bird that flew across the ceiling, controlled by two puppeteers/engineers. There was a caterpillar, an ant…and all of it was combined with tropical plants.
Then, we went to the workshop where we got to see them working on new projects. It reminded me of the woodshop that we had in middle school, except it was a million times bigger and the projects were much more elaborate than the wooden toy car I made in fifth grade.
Finally, it was time to ride the elephant. We entered the elephant with a million little kids (who also had today off of school) and their parents. I must admit. It’s not every day you ride on a three-story, wooden, mechanical elephant. It was very exciting. The tail moved, the head swayed from side to side, the truck moved in a realistic manner and even sprayed water! There was even a realistic elephant sound it made.
At the beginning, there was a man who said something about going to the top of the elephant. I understood that, but what I didn’t understand was that he meant we HAD to go to the top of the elephant for safety information. He said in English that we had to go up to the top and we were like, oh. Okay. So, we went up top and he gave the safety information talk. Except, for every sentence he said, he translated it to us in English. I felt quite embarrassed because we understood the directions, we understood everything…we just missed one part.
After the safety talk (don’t run), we were off! At the pace of a snail! We were going so slow, it didn’t even feel like we were moving. In fact, we only managed to go about one fourth of the perimeter of the building in a half-hour. But, I can say that I rode a massive mechanical elephant instead of going to school today. I’d say that was a pretty good use of my day.
Of course, I COULD have been studying for my phonetics test on Tuesday or my two performances (one for theatre, one for the annual cabaret they host at IRFFLE). I COULD have been studying for my finals. I COULD have been working on my Honors project for WVU. I COULD have been preparing for the end of the semester.
But today was the day of the elephant. And did I mention that I have tomorrow off too? Oh yeah. Life in France is good. There is always time to work. There is always time to play. There is always time to see an elephant, to imagine, to create…and, for me, that is time enough.