Happy 2014! All week I’ve resolutely avoided writing the date because a small part of me refuses to believe that half of my year abroad is already over. I feel like I spent most of December counting down to Christmas break and my two weeks of freedom and family, then suddenly, I’m back at my place in front of the space heater in the school’s common room, seeking solace from rainy Rennes and reveling in the return of salted butter to my life.
As much as I love the holidays back home, I’d missed the long French celebratory lunches with endless aperitifs, bubbly drinks, and decadent desserts. I couldn’t wait for all that to start again…and I didn’t have to.The day I came back, jet-lagged, gross from all the traveling and really in no mental state to do much more than smile, nod and sleep, my host family and I celebrated Three Kings Day. After we did some belated Christmas present exchanging, where I introduced them all to Eos (#americanisation) and received some very French Yves Rocher products, we got down to the most important part of any celebration- the food. However, I was so sleep-addled that all I remember was the giant almond (Frangipane) Galette des Rois, aka Kings Cake, for dessert.
On the 5 or 6th of January, to commemorate the three kings/wise men and Epiphany, the Galette des Rois is sliced and served with each diner getting the piece assigned to them by the youngest member of the party who is randomly calling out names from underneath the table. This is to ensure no one cheats in the game of who has the fève. Literally translated as fava bean, the fève is a charm placed somewhere inside the cake and per tradition, the person(s) who find the fève in their slice are king/queen for the day and also traditionally buy the next galette whereupon the whole shebang recommences. As I proceeded to get back into French time and stay awake in class and fall asleep at night, these slices of cake were definitely the highlight of my week. I ate Galette des Rois four different times and in two different forms (brioche and frangipane). I’d say that’s a pretty accurate representation of my life here in Rennes. All the food, all the time…
I attempted to avoid adding to what my friends and I jokingly refer to as the France 15 (in reference to what is known as the Freshman 15 where first year college students away for the first time from home and three healthy meals a day often gain weight due to the changes in their diet) by spending at least one entire afternoon braving the throngs of Rennais out in the street for the Soldes. Previously unbeknownst to me, every year all over France, for a month starting in January, there are ridiculous sales everywhere. With sometimes as much as 70% off, acquiring the French fashions is actually within my means for a whole month. Unfortunately, for the first few days, it’s like Black Friday every day, which made for an amusing and exhausting experience.
From shopping, I squished myself into a bus and joined a few of my classmates at the retirement home, where we split up amongst the tables and joined the residents for a relaxing game of dominoes. It was kind of hilarious and good fun but it reminded me of how much I miss my grandmothers….
I’ve cemented these images of Three Kings Day, crazy sale day shopping sprees and learning how to play dominoes in my mind, hoping that sheer willpower will keep them there forever, amongst all my other wonderful memories of living in Rennes. Sitting in the loft bedroom that I’ve come to call my own, I keep trying to wrap my mind around the fact that somehow while I was eating and sleeping and breathing French, first semester slipped on by. But I won’t mourn the passing of half of my year too much (*cue instinctive hyperventilation cuz oh my god it’s half gone*) because after all, I have all of that and more ahead of me.
Here’s to 2014 and all the weird stories, new foods and fun French times to come. On y go y’all!