You can tell you’re settling into a new home when you begin to stop spending money and enjoy the budget entertainment that native inhabitants partake of everyday. That is what I did this week. Not that I everything I did was free, but what I paid for went a long way.
On Thursday a chunk of the group planned to meet at a particular tram stop for bowling. Unfortunately the bowling alley was closed, which is where the improv began. The French student leading the group took us downtown instead, for billiards. I don’t play pool but I watched the other students play while enjoying two hours of good conversation. After everyone played a few games we walked to a rather remote creperie that had agreed to seat our whole group for a good price. I had a great ham, egg and cheese crepe (a “complete”) and for dessert we all raved over our beurre sucre crepes (plain crepe topped with butter and sugar). We headed home just in time to catch one of the last trams of the night.
On Friday I walked home with my friend Meyanna because we were determined to figure out how close we live to each other. Since we were heading to Mont St. Michel this weekend we wanted to buy a picnic lunch in order to avoid the touristy prices. On top of my sandwich, cashews and apples for lunch I decided to treat myself to a snack I have been waiting for since I arrived: the cheapest package of cookies in the store and a jar of generic brand Nutella. When I got home from Meyanna’s house I spent the evening watching TV shows online and enjoying a few of my cookies with the Nutella (or un-nutella). Talk about a good evening in!
Saturday morning started off shaky when I almost missed the bus to Mont St. Michel but it got much better when the towering abbey-on-a-hill came into view. In that moment I was able to check off something on my life’s to-do list, always a good feeling. I stopped feeling quite so awe-struck when the hundreds of stairs up to the abbey loomed before me but we all managed to survive them. The inside of the abbey was one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen (a common descriptor in France). It is ridiculous to imagine any stone building so large actually being built, but when you consider the fact that this one is an island about half the day it is just that much more impressive.
While the tacky souvenier shops were tempting on the descent, I had forgotten my wallet that morning (something I highly recommend for travellers on a budget). While Saturday that was disappointing, when I looked at my pictures and everyone else’s pictures today I realized it was a good thing.
We moved on from Mont St. Michel to St. Malo, a small and mostly medieval town about an hour away. We walked along the ramparts and then stopped to enjoy our picnic lunch while watching the seagulls pose for the pictures of almost every tourist that passed. We climbed the rocks on the beach and looked for seashells then headed back inside the walls to casually search for ice cream. We decided to end the day with a long dinner at our favorite creperie in the heart of Bouffay when we got back to Nantes.
Sundays are always difficult in France. I usually have nothing to do but very few shops and restaurants are open. This Sunday I made my first daytime visit to the Jardin des Plantes (local gardens) with my picnic from the only open bakery. I brought along my Lonely Planet France guidebook and my notebook in order to plan some weekend trips. I enjoyed several quiet hours between four benches (shade became difficult to hold onto as the sun shifted) interrupted only twice by two different chatty French people.
A weekend is never complete without a meander through the Bouffay district (an old part of the city known for its plethora of restaurants). This Sunday in Bouffay I treated myself to a bunch of old postcards (it was hard not to buy all of them) and the most divine pear ice cream.