The miraculous two week respite plopped beautifully at the end of October that the French call Toussaint Break, is finally here. And let me tell you, it feels SOOO good to be on break. For starters, I can get ten hours of sleep every night. And catch up on all the writing I have to do. And the reading. And the running. I might as well call it, Tara ‘s Catch Up Breather Break.
But really, comme la vie est belle. Despite starting off practically every day unceremoniously wet and overcast, Rennes has pulled through with some crisp, sunny, quintessentially fall days. Although the bipolar weather has me thinking of Atlanta, the break has afforded me time to get to better know this wonderful city of Rennes and spend more time with my host family.
The first day of break (Saturday) I started off baking a brownie and Oreo bear-shaped cake for my youngest host sister’s birthday. After the celebratory
birthday lunch, my afternoon was spent weathering a flash storm in a cozy tea shop with I.C and S.V then stepping out into the sunshine to relax
in Thabor (where we ran into my host mom, youngest host sister/birthday girl and host dog, en promenade). After wandering around Thabor reveling in
the general no-schoolness, S.V and I met up with R.M in Centreville. Feeling a bit peckish, comme d’habitude, we marveled at the giant brioches on sale
(B.O.G.O) and then bought a baguette Viennoise (with chocolate chips) to snack on instead. Armed with food, we continued our favorite pastime, wandering. We weaved in and out of stores, and around and through various squares until some girl on Ruth’s street
stopped us, flyer-ing eagerly. According to her, we looked just like the kind of girls who shopped at some French store we had never heard of, and quelle coincidence there were some girls selling said style of clothes in an apartment further down the street. It’s a good thing my friends are more
adventurous then I am because up the dimly lit stairs and in the small two room apartment were racks of cute, name-brand clothing
all being sold for less than 10€ each. We left victorious, each of us with purchases in hand, and in my head I thought, “Good job
Tara. Look at the nice hat and tank top that following Seth Godin’s advice got you!”
Congratulating ourselves on our luck, S.V and I left R.M to meet up with some other friends to watch a soccer game at the local
stadium. The atmosphere was fantastic- the French do not take their football lightly. Even better, a couple of my friends had come with
their host siblings. Double win: watching soccer (it has been too long since I’ve been to a game) and meeting more French people! After the game between the local team Stade Rennais, and the bottom of the table team (Valencia), resulted in an upsetting tie, we spilled onto the lively, thronging streets dodging gallette saucisse vendors and consumers left and right. We soon realized that the overstuffed buses were no
longer taking passengers, so my friends and I walked to Republic. There, forgoing the previous plan of Mediterranean food for a
closer option, we got a late dinner (which for me consisted of unevenly salted French fries) at Quick, a classic fast food
American diner with a French touch. S.V and I headed home before the others so we could be sure to catch our bus. Fun fact: there is
an app showing bus arrival times in Rennes where you can specify which line, what direction and where you want to pick it up– how neat is that?
The next few days were a conglomeration of rainy-days-in, sorties and a decent mix of French and English. On Sunday, I watched my first French movie in a movie theater with my host parents and host sister G. French movie theaters have super plush seats, entrances at the top and very bottom, and no steps on the outer sides of the mass of chairs, unlike in the U.S. Ads also come between every movie preview and aren’t just PSAs about being quiet like in AMC theaters back home. Some of the previews showed movies that seemed pretty good or at least entertaining, like one entitled Fonzy, about a man with 500+ legal children… The movie we went to see was called Neuf Mois Ferme and focused on a high-performing, law-abiding judge who one day finds out she is pregnant and through a little effort, learns that the father is an accused criminal. After the majority of the plot is quickly covered
within the first few scenes, what follows is a simple comedic tale that culminates cleverly in the tying of all loose ends. All’s well that ends well!
On Monday, I discovered a beautiful little park minutes from my house on a run during one of the sunny respite
periods. After lunch, I met up with A.N, D.G and G.O in St. Anne and we walked around new areas of Rennes
before settling down for a bit in a diner in Colombier, where I learned how to play Hearts. Next to Colombier was a big mall and at
a neat shop in the mall where one of my friends stopped to buy a yoga mat, I got Christmas gifts for Mom and Dad (2 done, 3 to go!). The mall was really big and when we came out, we were in a different place from before, that turned out to be close to this really cool skatepark. It was interesting to see the various tricks people did, the small amount of girls not just watching and the large amount of people actually using the park. We stayed there for
a while, admiring the impressive skaters, skateboarders, bikers and scooter-ers (these aren’t the Razor scooters of my childhood by a
Wednesday was my host sister G’s birthday. We celebrated in typical French fashion, with lots of food: a salted caramel crêpe, a cheese and potato gallette, a pear and chocolate tart and even the newly beloved brownie and oreos recipe made an appearance. My host sister and her friends and I spent a large portion of the night dancing off all the food to the tune of a motley mix of French and American music. Une vraie soirée!
Saturday started off with a lovely bout of standardized testing. I undertook the ACT, the last of three in my month of tests and if all goes well the last college-related standardized test I’ll have to take. Fingers crossed! Post-test, I went into town with A.N and S.V to shop for care packages/birthday/xmas gifts (basically we decided shopping was in order). I got some more gifts for my friends and a ring for myself (Merry early Christmas self!). To top off my long but exciting day, dessert was homemade waffles, eaten with a spoon and powdered sugar (not confectioners’ sugar; the name simply differentiates between it and sugar cubes).
My host family all seem to have birthdays around the same time and on Sunday, we celebrated the birthday of my host mother’s mom with all of her side of the family. My host-dog Lucky and I were duly introduced to all 9 new acquaintances over the 4 course meal that spanned almost the whole afternoon. We started before noon with aperitif (where I tried an interesting chicken sausage-type thing called un boudin blanc) , and after the entrée and the cheese course (favorite part), finally dessert (apple pie, strawberry tart and once more, the new favorite brownies) ended at 5pm. How very French, dontcha think?
Nevertheless, it was a nice, albeit extremely filling end to an amazing first week of break. Tomorrow I leave bright and early for the Loire Valley with my classmates and teachers. Fingers crossed for better weather than the classic persistent downpour that has featured prominently in the first half of Toussaint Break thus far. Rain or shine, les châteaux here we come!