Wednesday, February 16, 2011

St. Malo & Mont St. Michel

Here's a quick update about our field trip last weekend!
It was supposed to rain all day, but we lucked out and had fantastic weather. Blue skies, sunny, nice temperature. First we went to St. Malo, which is an adorable town on the English Channel. It's surrounded by an old wall so we started by walking around the ramparts, and then wandered around the beach and climbed on the rocks. It was so beautiful! I would love to go back there for a vacation.
Then I got a nice leisurely lunch with my two friends. We picked the restaurant because we could smell garlic from the outside, and it turned out to be a great choice. We had bruschetta and salmon risotto. After that we just sat around in the sunshine near the palm trees until we got picked up by the bus. Such a nice change of pace. It was just a cute, small town with lots of fun places to eat. And lots of pirate themed things to buy because apparently there's some random pirate history for the town. That random building out in the water is Chateaubriand's tomb. Anyways, like I said I would love to come back here for a week of vacation or something. Rent a house and hang out on the beach and wander the streets. Also, during the summer season I guess there are a lot of ferries that go to England, so I'll just have to go there for the second week of my fantasy vacation!

Next we went to Mont St. Michel. This was a lot more touristy. We also passed something called Alligator Bay on the way, which apparently just has a lot of crocodiles and alligators to look at. We were all pretty sad that wasn't on the itinerary. When we got there, we booked it up to the top right away to get our tickets to see the abbey. Our chaperone was our grammar teacher who is kind of intense and scary but we like her anyways. She was insane and practically ran up to the top through all the hills and stairs. It was a struggle for the rest of us. Then we all wandered through the church and abbey and stuff at our leisure. It was alright, but we were getting tired and as sad as it is, cathedrals all start to look the same after a while. A lot of the stained glass windows had Celtic designs though, so that was interesting. We had a lot of time to kill after that, so I walked around the whole thing with my friends on the sand/mud/clay. RIP our boots. Whatever we were walking on seems to have permeated the leather. There were random spots of quicksand too which was weird. Then we got some hazelnut coffee to kill the time we had until the bus left. Once our bus driver finally woke up and let us on the bus, we headed home. We got a nice nap in on the drive. Afterwards, I went out for Chinese with 7 of my friends. It was great because we got to the restaurant early enough that we got the private party room off to the side, so we could be as loud as we wanted! It was great to have the day away. I'm totally ready for winter break, which is next weekend. Until then, I'll be working on projects and starting to get ready for the upcoming midterms. And possibly starting the papers that we got assigned for April. But who knows.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Guacamole and 60s decor

Just a short update about some fun things I've been doing, and what's coming up!

1. L'Art-scène: This is one of the little bars we like. It has live music on Thursdays, so last week a big group of us went to hear some Brazillian music!

 2. I found a place that sold donuts which was a big victory. Obviously, I get fun French pastries for the most part, but someone had been talking about donuts and by some miracle I found this one about 30 minutes later! There's a great patisserie/boulangerie (bakery) that's only a 2 minute walk from my school and apartment, so we go there for baguettes, sandwiches, and of course, random pastries. I'm trying to sample them all. I'm a big fan of the tartine chocolat and the mini raspberry tarts. Every Sunday, my host mom said she'll get me a new little traditional cake or pastry to try, so that's awesome for me! Anyways, about the donut, not the most flattering picture but it's still great. Behind me is Place Royale with the fountain all lit up at night! Also featured is my awesome new purple coat!

 3. We made guacamole! On Fridays since we only have one class, we go grocery shopping, have a big lunch, and then lounge around watching a movie or something. I've been craving Mexican food (and have yet to make it to the burrito place around here), and guacamole is about the only thing I can make without a recipe, so I split the ingredients with 2 friends and we made a giant bowl! Avocados, red pepper (no spicy peppers here, sadly), onion, tomato, lemon, salt, pepper, and some tortilla chips that we found in the foreign food section of the grocery store. It was sooo good and we watched The Nightmare Before Christmas while we ate it.

 4. Saturday night a group of us went to Burger House, which is owned by this really nice guy from Olympia, Washington, who moved here 4 years ago. It was so so nice to have a real burger! They were a good price too, so I will definitely be going back. Right around the corner from Burger House is La Maison, which is this bizarre/awesome bar that's decorated like a house from the 60s. Here's a picture of my friend in the kitchen, and then the black and white room is the bedroom, so we had our friends take an awkward picture lounging on one of the 'beds'. We had a great time, and later in the night we managed to get a picture in the bathtub in the bathroom! The next day, we went to La Folle Journee, which is this giant classical music festival in Nantes. We got free tickets from our school to one concert, so I went to a Brahms one with my friends. After that we grabbed lunch, and then went to the art museum because on the first Sunday of the months, museums are free here! It was small but a pretty building, and we saw one of the paintings from our art history class. Overall it was a good weekend, even though I was feeling sick again. This weekend we have a fieldtrip one day, so next update will have those pics hopefully!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Happy Blizzard/Groundhog Day!

This is a post about random boring things going on here, dedicated to Caitlyn. Enjoy.

I had Art History for the first time this 8:30am. I live around the corner and it was still rough getting here. There's two sessions and the other one is later in the day, so there were only 6 people in our class. It was basically the people that live close-by to the school. I would feel like a jerk if I bumped someone else down to the early class that lives far away. It was actually nice having a small class because none of us seem to know what we're doing so there's no pressure if we say something stupid. The prof is also really nice, and she prints out the notes ahead of time for us so we don't have to frantically write as she talks. She also walked in wearing a beret which was so stereotypical of the French art prof, so naturally we loved it. Today we learned about something something David, who was from the Neoclassical movement and had a tumor on his left cheek. That pretty much covers it. Since our prof was sick last week, we have 4 extra short classes to make up, which kind of sucks, but it's better than some of my other classes.

We're going to the RU (Restaurant universitaire) for lunch today, which is 3 euros for university students. You get a whole meal with sides and a dessert, so that's pretty nice. It's just a bit of a walk. There are 2 on the actual campus but I'm never on campus around lunchtime. The one we go to is by the hospital for the medical students, I assume.

After lunch I'm planning on sitting around the center, writing a cover letter, doing a little homework, and probably playing some Sims until my next class. Today I only have class 8:30-9:45 and then 16:45-17:45 but the grandkid is at my house all day so I'd rather stay here. I have to go to some conference on Poland tonight for my grammar class...sounds thrilling? It's at least 2 hours so it could be pretty rough.

Enjoy the blizzard! It's finally starting to warm up a tiny bit...high of 53 this weekend!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011


This weekend, I went to a fest-noz with a few friends, which is a tradtionnal Breton festival with live music and dancing. It's got a lot of Celtic influence so it was sort of like Celtic line dancing. My friend's host mom drove us to it, and it was a gym full of all sorts of people dancing for the night. We danced for about 3 hours, so we did a good job. I was pretty proud of how quickly I picked up the moves. I guess all of that showchoir was worth it....right. We'll probably go to one or two more this semester! It was a nice change of pace and fun to do something sort of bizarre for a night. It was probably the only exercise other than walking that I'll ever get here.

The next day we went to the Museum of Natural History, which is literally a block away from my apartment. It's so strange to have such an impressive building right in the middle of a bunch of apartment buildings. The ground level had fossils and gems, things like that. Then there was a big staircase with walls lined with different types of wood. Upstairs was a two level room with zoology stuff. Part of the floor was glass so you could see the whale skeleton from downstairs. It was only 2 euros for us, so it was a good way to spend Sunday since nothing else is open. This upcoming Sunday is the first one of the month, so museums are free. We'll probably go to the Musee des Beaux Arts.


Yesterday after class, my friend Alex and I braved the cold and took a quick walk around Nantes. We've been exploring for a few weeks now, but we never remember to take pictures, so we hit up all the spots we wanted pictures of. This is le Château des ducs de Bretagne, complete with a moat! You can walk around the courtyard (middle picture) and all around the outside of the chateau, and then there's a museum inside that I haven't been to yet. I'm a big fan of the ducks that are always in the moat. When it's warmer I'd like to walk around the moat.

Just around the corner from the chateau is the Cathédrale Saint-Pierre-et-Saint-Paul de Nantes. It has a lot of modern stained glass from the 70's which is interesting. Last time I stopped here there was a man giving a free tour, so we tagged along for a little after he insisted. It's pretty big inside and more impressive than the other random churches hidden around the town.

We were freezing because it's humid here, so the cold permeates every layer you have on, so we just went back to school. Place Graslin with the Opera House is right by our school and my apartment, and then Place Royale is near the shopping and on the way to the tram and bars, so I pretty much go through these two squares every time I leave the building!