Thursday, September 20, 2012

Ben... voilà quoi*

*Well... there you have it

This post is more than a year tardy in being posted, but my poor mother can finally rest assured that I am about to recount (what I can remember of) my final week in France, 2011. This will be my last blog entry regarding that magical year, and I intend to begin writing about my current escapades as soon as I finish this one. I'm also going to switch my blog to my Gmail account rather than my Hotmail, as this website is now run by Google, which means I'll be starting the blog from scratch with a new web address.

Alors, what do I remember about that last week... So we got back from Matthieu's house in the country on Sunday, which left me with seven days to soak up all that I could of French life. Monday during the day, I have no idea what I did. Laundry? Groceries? Something depressing. But Monday evening I spent an excellent evening chez Laura and Douce. He cooked up something spectacular, like duck and French beans, if I recall correctly. Mmmm.

The following day I think I did a little tour en ville on my bike. There were parts of the city I had yet to explore, such as the old quarter across the river, La Doutre. The cobblestone streets add a little extra bounce to a bike ride, but it was so fun to peek down these tall, narrow streets and to give a sideways glance into an open window to check out the interior decoration, or just to see how fancy it was inside (tacky of me, I know). I got such enjoyment out of the little details - an elegant iron balcony here, a colourful window box there, or a beautiful wooden doorway that I absolutely longed to enter. Someone once told me that there was a sort of cupboard carved into a stone wall in this neighbourhood that hid a small statue. I never did discover it, but it was exciting to know it existed somewhere. Later, j'ai rétrouvé (I met up with) my friends at a sweet little café called Le Dos de le Cuillère (the back of the spoon). It's probably no larger than your front entryway, and holds only a handful of tiny tables. The woman who runs it is very sweet, and you feel very much like you are sitting down in someone's kitchen for afternoon tea. I have no recollection of what we ate or drank, but it was delicious. Oh and in fact that night, I think, is when I participated in the University of Notre Dame students' scavenger hunt. They adopted me as an honourary "Fighting Irish[wo]man." We ran around the city like lunatics, jumping into a fountain (and being promptly chased away by security), eating a chocolate panini, stopping at certain bars... in short, completing a list that would resume all the fondest memories of that group. I think my team was far from winning, but that was quite beside the point.

Wednesday.... I might have done more exploring... I think that's the day I went to the Lac de Maine, a nearby lake that sits right on the Maine River and which is surrounded by bike/running trails. I decided to bike the whole thing, and came across a section of the water that was protected by enormous trees that bent all the way over so that their branches touched the surface of the water. I had to stop - drifting around this lagoon was an entire flock of swans. I was so bouleversée (moved). A message to all little girls: Disney exists in real life! Now, I can't remember which night this was, but at some point that week I had a sleepover with Matthieu and Adrien. Anyhow, let's just say it was Wednesday. I couldn't stand being on my own that close to the end, and I'd say we were all in need of some mutual comfort. It was lovely. We snuggled together in our PJs to watch a movie and chitchat and listen to music and enjoy each other's company.

Le lendemain (the next day) I couldn't really tell you what I did either. I remember two things: first, we finally met up at a little English-speaking café run by an Irish expat, that we'd been meaning to try out the whole year. That was great fun. Then that evening, (ah, il y a des souvenirs qui reviennent [oh it's starting to come back to me]), Matthieu, Adrien, Héloïse, and I had an apéro of dried sausage and wine, followed by a dinner that also included Laura and Douce at our favourite crêperie, La Crémaillère. Could we get more French? Life is tough, I know. That night we rounded up even more troops for some festivities at Soft Bar. Hélo and I practised our best pouty faces (dear goodness, why do we ever bring our cameras out at night?)


It was a night full of hilarity. 

Oof, still so much to tell. I'll try to be brief. Friday was every bit the adventure. The day began at a swanky new café next to the theatre, where the boys and I lounged in the sun and took our time, just because we could. This was followed by our meeting up with Héloïse, who joined us for the making of a music video. Having chosen "The Time" by the Black Eyed Peas ("I'm having the time of my life, and I owe it all to you etc."), we set about doing ridiculous dances across the city that would then be strung together as a video montage. My favourite part would have to be when we started walking down the endless steps in front of the cathedral, only to be joined by a large crowd of students following behind. Accidental back-up dancers! Once finished, we went back to the school (I think with the intention of going home, but Matthieu had a different idea). Perhaps you remember the photo I posted of the oldest building on the school campus, called the Palais. It has a sort of bell tower on top that I had heard was accessible under certain conditions. Today, the conditions were perfect; due to construction on the second floor, an expansive piece of scaffolding provided the ideal ladder for reaching the upper balcony. From there, we had only to crawl through a hole carved into one of the locked doors, climb a set of steep and narrow steps, and voilà, there we were in the attic. It was thick with ancient cobwebs strung between the wooden support beams, and we had to tread carefully on rickety planks that marked the safe areas to walk. We found the final ladder that led us up to the roof. The hatch was opened and up! up! up! into the tower for a whole new perspective of the city. This secret and forbidden part of the school tempted me all year, taunted me with its nearness and mocked me with its inaccessibility. And yet, there I was, overlooking all that was so familiar at ground level. What an adrenaline rush.

(You can see Matthieu and me in this photo!)

Finally, my last weekend in Angers. Saturday, Matthieu, Adrien, Matt, and I went to a park by the lake for a picnic. It was awfully romantic - sitting on the lawn underneath weeping willows and eating our baguettes. That night, we had a goodbye supper at the Bloret's. Maëlle's family had been so good to us throughout our stay, treating us like their own. 

On Sunday, I got on the train. My friends all came over to help collect my numerous belongings (human-sized duffle/suitcase - oversized and overweight, regular suitcase - overweight, carry-on suitcase, backpack, purse). Luckily they brought two cars, or I never would have gotten it all to the station. The tears began as I said goodbye to my host family, but it wasn't until I had to jump unceremoniously onto the train and close the door on my friends that the floodgates opened wide. I was beside myself, and it took some serious self-control to put my bags away and take my seat. Those trains can be unfeelingly punctual when all you want to do is linger on the platform. Upset to the point of hyperventilation, and utterly exhausted, I eventually feel asleep in my seat. When I arrived in Paris, I had a heck of a time getting all my stupid things off the bloody train. Thankfully, my friend Jason was there to help me. We stopped for drink and a chat (which included some guy coming up to Jason and asking, "Are you a celebrity?"... "Um, no..."), and then he saw me to a taxi. I spent that night in Chatou, at Anne-Marie and Jean-Pierre's (so comforting to see them before I left), and then caught my plane the next day.

So, there you have it. One adventure ends and the next has just begun. In the mean time, I've written an honour's thesis, graduated university, and come back to Angers. I will inform you au plus tôt (asap) as to the new link to my blog. Thank you all for reading, and à bientôt!