My weekend was interesting, to say the least! Okay, my weekend was mostly devoted to my final week of classes and my upcoming finals, but I did get a few study breaks. On Saturday, I took a walk to the Jardin des Plantes in Nantes with a friend for a nice break.
It was a beautiful garden, but I was quite surprised to find a rooster! This is the second garden in France that I found a rooster roaming about (the first time was in Toulouse). But I was even more surprised to find a herd of goats…in a pen…that you could walk into…that no one was supervising. Free petting of goats? Oh yeah! Count me in!
I jumped inside and got to pet all sorts of goats. I love animals and this was a real joy, especially since I have adored petting zoos since I was a little girl. At this garden, they even had baby goats. However, one goat started to eat my jacket…and I couldn’t get it out of its teeth. Eventually, I managed to get my jacket away from the hungry goat. I guess I should be honored that he thought I looked tasty… Yum! Look at that American! I wonder if she tastes like a cheeseburger…
Today, I took a huge break from studying to spend my entire day with Etienne and Beatrice, the couple with whom I cook. Unfortunately, Valentina (the other exchange student) was unable to make it today. So, it was just the two of them and me…off on an adventure to the north!
We entered Brittany (in French: Bretagne), a region up in the northwest. Our first stop was Carnac, about an hour away from Nantes. In Carnac, I got to see something super cool. I got to see something older than the Roman ruins. I was able to see stone formations and dolmens. What am I talking about? I’m talking about formations like Stonehenge, unexplained massive rocks that are arranged in a specific manner. The rock formations that we visited were in perfect lines. It was stunning. Why were they placed there? What purpose did they serve? It’s a complete mystery!
From Carnac, we went to Auray, where a famous American stayed for a bit during 1776. Are you American? If so, this year should be very important to you. Declaration of Independence ring any bells? Following the declaration was the war of Independence…and that’s where Benjamin Franklin comes in. He came to France to ask the French for help…and, apparently, he stayed in Auray for a short while. Who knew?
In Auray, I had a typical meal from Brittany, which involves crepes. I had a crepe made from black flour.* For dessert, I had a sugar lemon crepe, which is even more delicious than it sounds. It was so good. I was so happy that I got to try real crepes…in Brittany! And I had apple juice (we tried to get non-alcoholic cider, so it would be a more traditional meal with cider, but they didn’t have any. Apple juice works just as well!).
We then went to the Gulf of Morbihan and I got to look at a ton of islands from the pier. It is a very interesting area.
Then, we went to Vannes. I saw a church there. I also got to see the ramparts of the city under which was a huge outdoor garden exposition. They had different types of plants and garden equipment. Beatrice went off to watch a tomato planting demonstration while Etienne and I walked around to see the other expositions. He would point to a flower and tell me the name in French…nine times out of ten it was the same word in English! Although, I still don’t know what a majority of the plants…in English or in French! Plants are a mystery to me. I can memorize verbs, but the different between a Japanese azalea and a Chinese azalea? I have no clue.
We then went to Rochefort-en-Terre, which is a super, super small town. It said that it was one of the most beautiful towns in France and I was like, yeah right. No really. It was. There was something quite charming about the town, which is too small for a modern car to fit through the old streets. There are vines growing over buildings, children playing near a wishing well.** It’s a charming city. Etienne and Beatrice sat down at a café for ice cream and I watched a donkey pull a wagon for children to take rides.
Our final stop was to Guérande. Here, I was able to see a unique system. In the high tide, they bring the water in, then trap it into these huge squares of soil. Then, they let the water sit there, they let the sun evaporate the water. All that is left, after that, is salt, which is then collected and sold. Pretty cool, huh? I’d never seen anything like it before.
We took the long drive back to Nantes and, when I arrived home, it was nine o’clock at night…eleven hours since I had left! This might be the first time in my life that I have gone with speaking French for eleven hours straight, non-stop. I didn’t speak English. I didn’t read English. I just had solid French. It was super intense, super fun.
This may have been my last meeting with Etienne and Beatrice though. I am so grateful to have met them and to have participated in this project. Yes, we were supposed to meet three times…but we actually meet many more times! We did so much more than cook. We talked, we shared viewpoints, we shared languages, cultures…I’m so thankful for the time I spent with them. I wrote them a thank you card to the best of my ability in French, but no language can capture my true gratefulness. I had the opportunity to experience French culture unlike any textbook. But beyond that? I got to spend my time with two fantastic individuals.
*Just looked this up on Google…apparently “blé noir” in French – which I translated literally as black flour – is buckwheat? I’m not sure exactly. No one is fact checking this blog, are you? If so, I cannot be held accountable for the numerous errors.
**The children were picking who was going to be “it” for tag. They put their feet into a circle and basically did “bubble gum, bubble gum” (only kids my age will probably understand this – it’s a rhyme to eliminate and choose someone for a game). I have no idea what they were actually saying, but a little boy would point to the feet and it worked the same way as the American version. I was pretty stunned. I guess some childhood games are the same.