Tuesday, March 24

Ma Famille en France


WARNING: This is a long post - I have so much to say as I am the only Verrill in France now – after having a week of fam time!

Mom, Dad, and Gracie flew to Nice the morning of Friday (the 13th). I joined them in the afternoon after class. We rented an apartment, which was so chic and cute, and up a HUGE hill. But it was nice to have our own space and able to cook our own food and keep things in the kitchen. That night our good family friends, the Peterson’s, well Kate and Joyce, came to meet us for cheese and wine before dinner. We then walked downtown and found an easy pizza place for a last minute dinner. The next morning we met Joyce and Kate again at an incredible market where we bought fresh strawberries, clementines, and dried fruit. We found an outdoor café for some salads for lunch, as the weather was so beautiful. Then we walked all around Old Nice, went to a gelato place with 96 flavors including Nutella, Cactus, Avacado, Tomato Basil, and every fruit you can imagine. When we parted with the P’s, we went home to take a nap. They were exhausted from traveling/jet lag, and I was just lazy. That night we had bought some fresh pasta, pesto from the market, and some fresh bread to cook for dinner at the apartment. Sunday morning we woke up early and headed up in an elevator to the highest point in Nice. It had an absolutely incredible view of the harbor, the beaches, and you could see all the way to Cannes! It was castle ruins and a cute park at the top, which was nice to walk around in. We walked down and had an incredible seafood lunch at an outdoor restaurant near the flower market. From the top we could see a lot of commotion by the boardwalk, so we went to check it out and found it to be the end of a very popular, week-long bike race from Paris to Nice. We were able to watch the end of it – which was amazing, and the bikers were so incredibly fast! For dinner we ended up just eating whatever because we hadn’t planned exactly for everything to be closed that Sunday. Monday was our last morning – so we decided to just get a quick croissant and sit in the sun and people watch, which proved to be perfectly entertaining.

Monday afternoon we flew to Rennes, and to our surprise my host mom showed up at the airport to pick us up, it was awkward to say the least, but her intentions were sweet. She took us back to our house, where the fam could see where I live and meet my host sister Lucile. They went back to take showers and I met them in town for a typical Bretagne meal of galettes, crepes, and kir. Afterwards, my friends Helen, and Lindsay came into town to go out with me and Gracie, which was fun (pic of Gracie and I in front of the Opera at night). Tuesday afternoon after class I met the fam for lunch, with my friends Ally, Helen, Mimi, and Lindsay. I was so happy that my family got to meet my friends here. We all got sandwiches and went to a beautiful park in Rennes for a big picnic. I then showed the fam around Rennes, brought them to my pastry shop, and after coffee I sent them on their way to Paris.

Tuesday was St. Patrick ’s Day and as it turns out, Rennes loves St. Patrick’s Day! It was an absolutely beautiful day, and it my class Wednesday morning was cancelled so we were ready to celebrate properly. We bought some Leffe, our favorite new beer, and headed to the big Irish pub, O’Connell’s, in town. It was a huge scene, and really fun to see everyone in Rennes out and about. We got free hats and glasses, and went back towards St. Anne, where all the bars are. It was still really warm out so we sat outside and people watched for the rest of the night before catching the last metro home.

Wednesday after classes I caught the train to Paris. When I arrived I went straight to the hotel to meet the fam. We took showers and went out to a SLAMMIN’ meal in the Latin Quarter. I had braised beef and vegetables, a true St. Patty’s Day meal, and Gracie and I shared a chestnut sundae, which sounds weird, but was super good. Thursday we didn’t do too much because they had done SO much the day before. So we just did the Champs D’Elysee, shopping, quick lunch, and walked around our area. That night we walked to a restaurant I had heard of from a friend on CIEE, Claire (from Belfast, Maine!), and Lindsay, Julia and I tried to go last time, but it was closed. It’s called The Chartier, and I highly recommend it. The food isn’t STELLAR but it’s all about the experience. It was an old building, and while we waited almost 45 minutes for a table, it was a cool crowd, and a very cool atmosphere. Friday we woke up early to do Pere Lachaise Cemetery (where Edith Piaf (in picture to the right bottom, and Dad's cool Jim Morrison pic above), Oscar Wilde, Chopin, and Jim Morrison are buried … to name a few). It was a bit creepy and extremely crowded, but worth checking it out. We had lunch in the Jewish quarter (smoked salmon on a bagel, complete with baklava for dessert) and headed home. On the way home we decided to stop at the Louvre where we checked out the basement real quick which we thought would be more creepy and ancient then it was. After our long day we took naps before heading to a quick early din at our new favorite café on Rue du Rivoli, called the Imperial Café, with incredible salads and pasta. Saturday (the fam’s last day in France :( ) we went to a photo exhibit for Robert Frank (American photographer) at the Tulerie Garden Gallery. The view from the gallery was really cool – you could see so much. We grabbed sandwiches and ate them in the Luxemburg Gardens, along with the rest of Paris, and we were able to see the Senate building. We walked home, and stopped at Angelina’s on the way home. It is a cute, fancy restaurant, close to our hotel, that is famous for their hot chocolate. It literally tastes like a melted chocolate bar, it’s unreal (it also helps that it use to be one of Chanel’s favorite restaurant’s as the Ritz, one of her former residences, is around the corner). Again, nap and dinner around the corner at another close café.

Sunday they left around 5 AM but I was lucky enough to be able to have the room until 4 in the afternoon. I slept in, read Harry Potter for a while in bed, and met Julia for a late lunch. We had cheeseburgers – which were perfect. Next stop, the Louvre. We saw the Mona Lisa, and I was able to go throughout the rooms that talk about the history of the Louvre which I had wanted to do this week. After the museum closed we walked all around the 2nd, near the Pompidou, and grabbed a cup of coffee. I grabbed my bag at the hotel and took the 9 PM train home. It was such a great, relaxing day, not to mention a perfect way to end yet another fantastic stay in Paris.

Some highlights:
- Mariage Frere tea store in Paris is incredible, their tea is amazing and they have legit every flavor, not to mention intense, knowledgeable employees.
- The Chanel original boutique on Rue de Cambon, wow. I wanted literally everything in the store.
- Listening to mom and dad try and speak French, very cute and I was very impressed with both of them.
- Oscar Wilde’s grave, very cool, huge, and was actually given to the cemetery by someone who admired his work, not family. The grave was covered in lipstick marks from people who had visited and clearly were in love with his work.
- Constantly imagining the Louvre as a palace. It is so gigantic, we continued to wonder, how would you get a message from one end to the other?
- Drinking lots of red wine and eating lots of good food with the fam – yay France!

Monday, March 2

Hogwarts in France

Things are starting to get back into a rhythm after vacation and I have been trying to get back into exploring Rennes. Last week my friend Lindsay and I went shopping and she discovered the most amazing pastry shop on a tiny street by the major’s building in Rennes, it was unreal. I also went tried a new bar on Friday night, it was a tapas bar! But the tapas didn’t even compare to what we had in Seville. The most exciting thing was that on Saturday, our program (CIEE) took us on a trip to St. Malo, Cancale, and Mont Saint Michel, very close to one another on the ocean about an hour north. One of our monitors (university students who led us during orientation) lives in St. Malo, and was very excited to show us around. There was a huge wall that went all around the small city, which was rich with history from WWII and battles between the French and the English. Next we went to Cancale, which I had already visited with Lindsay and her host family. We were there for just about an hour to have a small picnic and look around. I tried oysters for the first time!! If you are going to eat oysters in France, you are supposed to eat them in Cancale, as that is pretty much all it is known for. When you are at a fancy restaurant in Paris, sometimes you will see signs that say “Cancale Oysters” but eating them there was much more of an experience. Then, we went to Mont Saint Michel. It is literally a island with a HUGE abbey on top, and very small shops, hotels and restaurants all around it. It was build in the 7th century, and still houses monks and nuns. They are famous for a restaurant called “la Mere Poulard”, which serves fancy foods, but notably known for their omelets. The omelets go for 30 euro! It is very expensive and touristy, but apparently the best. When we pulled up I literally felt like I was Harry Potter coming back to Hogwarts, it’s beautiful. Because it was an island, and then they built a road for people to visit, everything is crammed onto one piece of land, and it is very steep with lots of stairs. I only got to go about a quarter of the way up, but one of our directors stayed with me and we walked along the beach and he told me a lot about Mont Saint Michel. It was a really long day, and I slept on the bus every time (surprise, surprise), but it was beautiful. I also talked to my friend Caitlin today, from home, and we just planned our spring break! So I will be off to Venice, Rome, and somewhere in the south of Italy in April – very excited. My fam comes in 10 days!