Monday, March 2, 2009

Better than Nutella

When I was planning my trip to France I expected many things. I had made plans to visit the Louvre and Le Musee D'orsay. I wanted to go to the Eiffel Tower and the Arc de Triomphe. After two nights in Paris I would go to my friend, Amy's host family's house in Rennes, France and visit with said friend. I knew before I went that traveling by myself would probably be stressful, exhausting and a bit overwhelming.
And for the most part, I was right. I visited those places. I saw those people. I felt those emotions.
While my experience is documented in a few hundred of pictures, I have condensed most of that town to 70 pictures. 60 of which are in this album.

What I did not expect was to feel fully confident in Paris and then to have some of the most renewing days in Rennes.
When I arrived in Rennes Amy and I sat catching up while I ate my lunch. A wonderful older gentleman encouraged us to keep our cheer because not enough people have it. I was grateful that someone, someone who doesn't even know us, was able to feel what I was feeling just by walking by. After my sandwich, Amy showed me around town a bit. We walked through a beautiful garden where spring was alive and well. I got a better feel for where Amy is spending this entire section of her life. Nine months is a long time to live in a completely new place and I am so grateful that I was given a taste of it. Back at Elizabeth and Michel's (sp?) house I met their wonderful puppy dogs (one of which is named after the awesome bear in the Bare Necessities) <3 and got settled. Then Elizabeth came to tell us it was dinner time.
I can not even explain to you this dinner. To be honest, I don't even remember what all I ate. All I know is by the end I was completely full- I didn't even think I could have dessert, but then I tried one bite and it was like 10,000 Lindoor truffles in this delicious cold cake and - mmmm. After dinner, but before dessert there was cheese and wine... and dinner itself was-- perfect. I'm not sure how long we were there eating, but as I found out from Amy, dinner usually last about 2 hours. She told me her one friend had stayed in France over Christmas and for the holiday the family ate for 6 hours. The greatest part about eating at Amy's house was the conversation. It was, obviously, in french, and Amy translated for me when it got complex, but it was lovely to listen to. Both Michel and Elizabeth have wonderful syntax so they just sound nice when they talk- completely different from each other, but equally nice. Plus it's nice to consistently be engaged. As soon as I start zoning I am completely out of the conversation, which is usually interesting so you don't want to zone anyways. I can't just half-listen. I love it. We talked for a bit more and then Amy and I retired to her room, catching up more and eventually sleeping.
Oh. I can't remember when we went running. I think it was that afternoon. We ran along this canal that was everything that you would want France to look like- stunning. We ran back along these fields. I had to walk a bit just to appreciate the beauty. I didn't have my camera so we took plenty of mental pictures.

The next morning Elizabeth and Michel had put out breakfast for us- bread, 4 different, delicious fruit jams, nutella, cereal, milk, tea, coffee... Basically I was completely spoiled for 3 days. Amy had class so we went to school and got lunch. Then I went to the library and studied while she went to class. While sitting in the library I met a nice boy named Damien who was from Rennes and looked more like a -- well, not a Damien. He borrowed my pen. After classes Amy and I explored new parts of Rennes and I had my first french crepe... nutella, of course. Loved it.
At night we returned home to another amazing dinner. After dinner we watched Lancelot. Amy had a phone interview with a summer camp so for about a half hour just Michel, Elizabeth and I watched Lancelot in french. I understood most of it, and what I didn't, I made up... so occasionally I laughed when they didn't, but overall we were on the same page.

The title of the photo album on facebook comes from one of Michel's comments during the movie. He's hilarious and likes to occasionally throw an english phrase in conversation. Sometimes he'll say bye to you in english or -- just all sorts of times. Sometimes I would get thrown, and respond in french and then realize the world was backwards, haha. Well, during Lancelot he was occasionally dropping them in and at one point Lancelot threw Quenivere (sp?) on his horse and said, "C'mon baby... Twist and Shout"... wait. What? Awesome. You have to meet this guy, essentially Amy lives with the greatest people in France...
And the thing is, Amy deserves to live with the greatest people in France. She's someone who will actually appreciate them and get the most out of the experience. I, am just blessed that I was able, for a few days, step into this family. It's sort of hard to explain. London is great. There is so much for me to learn from the city, but I live in a tiny room in an 12? story dorm building... I'm not even sure. I'm on the 6th, which is actually the 7th floor and after that I don't really count. There are lovely people, but when I go back to Ohio, we'll only keep in casual contact, and only a couple of us at that. I guess, now that I think of it, there is enormous benefit to not becoming a part of a family- you never have to leave it.

On day 3 Amy skipped grammar and we took a train to St. Malo, a beautiful walled-town on the sea. It was completely destroyed in the war because of how important the port was, but it had been rebuilt. Amy's host parents told us how it had been chilly in Rennes that afternoon, but on the ocean we were able to take off our coats as we looked at sea shells. We picked out our favorite ones and even found some beach glass which reminded us of our good friend, Faith. I don't know if it was the beauty of the day or the smell of the sea, but I just couldn't imagine wanting to be anywhere else. Since being overseas there have been quite a few times I have had a bit of trouble being as comfortable with people as I would like. Sitting with Amy on the sea, I felt true to myself and true to my surroundings, but I wasn't zoning Amy out, or needing to zone out. Rather, I was truly enjoying her company. After a bit we decided we were hungry and ate the best sandwiches I have ever had. It's not even an exagerration. There was sausage and chicken and "salade" and... I don't know. I don't know what it was made of, but if I could only have one sandwich for the rest of my life, I think it might be this one... If I had to make it every time, then it'd be PB&J, but if this woman made it... I just wish I remembered the name. We wondered a bit, saw a lot of oysters and watched the tide come in.

When we arrived home Elizabeth and Michel were at a friend's home and had made a huge, delicious stack of crepes for us. Did I mention how awesome these people were? Amy and I ate until I could hardly move. Then we took the dogs for a short walk and returned for more conversation. We planned the rest of our life. We're making a band. We comprised the guest list for the first concert, made mostly of runners or ex-runners, but with a few exceptions. The funny thing about listing people with someone who actually knows the people is that sometimes you're actually left missing them less. It's as if because you're with someone else you're able to conjure up more of them than when you're by yourself... or maybe I'm just crazy. Either way, we like Hope people :)

The next morning Michel and Elizabeth went to Michel's mom's and Amy and I went for a run. We went to the grocery store and I bought delicious French chocolate that didn't even make it through Monday. Amy took me to the train station and I returned to Paris.

While in Paris I visited the Sacre Coeur and nearly cried. I watched the people outside and felt wonderfully calm. I walked through France's red light district and took a picture of The Moulin Rouge, which had a long line of well-dressed people in front of it. I returned to the hostel, checked some emails, wrote a bit and then went to bed. The next morning I woke up earlier than I should've and made my way to the airport....

The entire time, I kept 2 seashells in my coat pocket. I think they'll stay there for a bit.

No comments: