We have a sort of motto with our host dad, Jean (John). Almost our version of “yolo”. Sometimes when there is a little left over red wine after dinner, he suggests we save it for breakfast, pourquoi pas (why not?). When the toilet stopped flushing, he told us we’d have to pee in the garden, pourquoi pas? Or when Carina would (notoriously) mix two random foods together, Jean would look at her, then us and say, pourquoi pas? And so on. I felt that it was a fitting title because this blog includes a recap of a lot of school induced drinking, the weirdest Thanksgiving of my life, and transportation mishaps; a lot of things abroad adventure, might as well smile about it. Pourquoi pas, why not?
On Friday November 16th, some of our group got out of class early to go on a field trip together to the local Cointreau distillery. Our noisy, American group clambered onto bus 2 and headed out to take our tour.
The orange-y tasting liquor originated and is produced in Angers (but is now world famous.
We learned a lot about the production and advertising techniques and once we were well informed, it was time to taste it! We were sat down in a fancy room with glasses and macaroons and instructed to sip the clear, room temperature liquid. Yup, orange-y like the peels we had smelled earlier in the day and strong. The next step was to add ice and watch it turn a foggy opaque color and get a lot sweeter. Finally, we were given Cointreaufizzes; more cups of iced cointreau, bowls of spices and fruit to add to it and recipe suggestions.
This is the part when they open the gift shop. So naturally buying bottles of cointreau sounded like a fantastic idea to all of us! Pourquoi pas?
The following day was another excursion, this time with others from our classes and such. For once, we got to sleep in and have a leisurely morning getting ready. Our host dad drove us into town and Maddy and I walked through the market, got some snacks and headed to the bus. I had been on this excursion before in September but I’ll briefly describe it again/copy and paste. First we toured the Troglodyte sites, their homes and farms (if interested, read the “In France” section: http://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Habitat_troglodytique). It was interesting to learn about how these people used to live in caves and why, while seeing first hand their bedrooms and farming equipment!
This tour was followed by a tour of a winery, where we had a classy tasting of three different local wines.
This time, I bought two bottles and two glasses. And finally, an underground dinner in a cave restaurant! Here we got another more wine and bottomless bread that we could watch them roll, bake and serve! The meal consisted of local mushrooms. Les champignons. And more mushrooms. Mushy mushrooms, chopped up mushrooms, full size mushrooms, brown mushrooms, and other mushrooms. Dad, and others that know the smell of sautéed mushrooms is enough to make me gag, I’d like you to know that I tasted some again! I’m really trying here. As I stated last time I wrote about this “I was under the influence of peer pressure, wine and my adventurous Europe spirit.” I’m sorry to report that even the second time I didn’t enjoy it one bit and proceeded to consume only bread and the wonderful, mushroom free white beans provided. I had been looking forward to these beans since September and was not let down. There were several more courses as usual and I was stuffed and happy. Good conversation was had and overall this second trip with my closer friends, exploring the historical sites, was more enjoyable than the first time.
Was weird. So perhaps “Tanksgiving” (as the French call it) is a better way to describe this year’s November holiday. My study abroad organization – AHA, and the Notre Dame program organized a meal and celebration for American students and their host families. Our director is organized and asked the Fall students to bring canned pumpkin pie filling from America because if you ask the French for anything pumpkin, they’ll look at you like you ordered canned grandma. So, for those that brought filling, it was time to bake pies. Many got burnt in host family ovens but the pies were cute nonetheless.
For several weeks there had been coloring supplies in our office and each finished picture got hung in L’Université dining hall where we had dinner.
Dinner. Interesting. So we gathered with our families and found our assigned seating (I was with my roommates, host parents and another family) and awaited the meal.
First there were a few speeches and prayers in different languages and a sentimental slide show of pictures. Now, this may have been organized for Americans to celebrate an American holiday, but the cooks were still French. So we had our courses as usual beginning with champagne. Except that I didn’t have a champagne glass for some reason. We asked twice and eventually it came. Course number one was a platter of French canapés. These were tasty, but also mysterious, itty bitty and not a typical Thanksgiving food.
The second course was Pumpkin soup with soggy croutons. Picky me doesn’t like pumpkin things (which upsets people, I know) and so it was amusing to watch the French taste the soup and not be sure what to make of it. My host mom however straight up admitted to finding it “bizarre”. The following course was a bit more like my home thanksgiving including mashed potatoes and vegetables. There was also cranberry sauce but only enough for us each to have less than a spoon full. And turkey. Each table got two trays of turkey. Except ours. Which meant we were short turkey and I didn’t get any. Thanksgiving with no turkey?! I was continuing to get more homesick.
I was having a great time laughing and chatting with the girls around me, but it just didn’t feel right. But before you feel too sorry for me, someone did find me a piece of turkey and I cleaned up my attitude, after all, I’m in France. This is the only Thanksgiving I will ever have like this and I’ll remember it forever. Ok, maybe the second glass of wine and lemon meringue pie helped in this change of heart. I do really appreciate all the hard work that went into this dinner and it wasn’t as miserable as I make it out to be considering some Americans didn’t get to celebrate at all. I was fed and in good company and all I had to do to earn that was color a paper turkey. After dessert the Notre Dame students provided some dance and song entertainment as well as one of our professors playing her ukulele.
At the end of the night I got to go home and Skype my whole family which made the whole day a million times better. The conversation ended with promise of my favorite, missed dishes for Christmas.
And I forgot to mention earlier that day, I had had class, which was very very weird. But for lunch I finally tired a Nutella Panini! Pourquoi pas?! And yes, it was as deliciously disgusting as you’d think.
Thanksgiving started off several days of fun. On Friday I went with my roommate and some friends for the second time to Le Foire St. Martin (a fair – food and rides) on the river side. The rides were really overpriced but we did a few and they were exhilarating! It was fun to do something new as a way to hang out in town!
Saturday was busy because after sleeping in, I only had a few hours to do homework and prepare for the evening. Carina and I were meeting up with Erin (Ireland team together again!) to go to Moscow Theater Ballet’s production of Swan Lake! Erin doesn’t have a cell phone and we had a big miscommunication resulting in Erin staying home and missing the show. This was tragic as she had paid for her ticket and we missed her company! But the show was phenomenal. The theater was strangely set up and not top notch, but we had decent seats.
After the show, Carina and I bustled out because we were trying to get to another event. The lobby cleared out almost instantly and we were left to figure out how to get to the next part of town since busses had stopped. While on the phone with the taxi a man came up and asked if we needed a ride. He led us through the empty building, through doors, past the back of the bleachers, down halls and making us more and more uncomfortable. The only reason I continued to follow was the radio on his belt and what looked like a name/title on his shirt. Finally, and still alive, we reached a back room where there was a security guard. The man we’d followed handed us the phone number for the taxi. What?! We have that! From here there was more wandering around and more miscommunications and more misunderstandings and overall a lot of wasted time and frustration. Eventually we got the taxi ordered and were sent to stand outside at the edge of the property. It was deserted. And very cold and very very windy. Every little noise made us jump and look around. We weren’t even sure if we were standing in the right place. Time was ticking and so were our hearts. We were probably overwhelmingly relieved when our cab showed up and we were on our way.
After so much ordeal, we arrived at the Fest Noz. This was for class credit for me and several other students and just for fun for others. A Fest Noz is a typical Breton festival with music, dance and crepes (I wrote a paper on it if you really want to know more). It was a relief to see the other AHA folks and be inside. Since we were so late, I didn’t get to learn and dance much, but the steps were quite simple and the patterns not too complex. The people were nice and helpful and the traditional and cheerful atmosphere was contagious.
To top it off….we left in time to catch the last bus. When the bus came, it had a different number on it so we didn’t get on. Well, no other busses came. After our professor had called enough taxis to get us all to our various destinations, I jokingly recommended we hitchhike (it had been successful before, right?). Well one of my friends, playing along with the joke, stuck her thumb out and whadaya know? Someone stopped and took her, the professor and two other students into town! The rest of us still took taxis but I was rather stunned that the joke worked after the rest of the transportation issues we’d had that day!
I don’t even remember what I did that Sunday. Most likely rested and did homework in my pajamas with my roommate. Pourqoui pas?
So maybe the moral of all that is to seize the day or carpe diem! Ya know, something inspirational like that.