Here is my last post here in France! I can't believe the semester is over already. I have such an incredible time in Rennes and it is extremely surreal that everything is ending. Since my last post I have been to Loire Valley with my program, I went to my family's summer house in Pornic (about 2 hours from Rennes), went to a soccer game Rennes vs. Caen (Normandy), and turned 21!
The weekend trip to the Loire was so fun. We began by going to two chateaus when we arrived in Loire - the chateau Angers, and later in the afternoon, Villandry. It was cloudy the whole time, but it didn't rain which was good. Angers was cool, very medieval, and had this special building for tapestries depicting the Apocolypse from the 13th century (pic on the left)! Next we went to Villandry (pic on the right). We didn't go inside the chateau, as it was extremely small, but the gardens were unreal. They only have nine gardners, but they literally work all the time to keep everything perfect. That night we all went out to dinner, all 40 of us, at a great place in Tours, where we stayed. Some friends and I went out a bit afterwords to check out the city. Sunday, we began at Chenonceau, which was my favorite. The gardens were amazing, and the chateau itself was so well preserved and was used as a hospital during WWII. It was built over the water, so it looked like a beautiful bridge but didn't completely cross the river (pic on the left). It was very secluded and peaceful. We had lunch at a delicious restaurant right by the chateau afterwords, which was really fun. We continued on our way to the last chateau, Amboise, where Da Vinci's tomb is (on the right, not THAT interesting). We were all very tired by this point so on our way home, pretty much everyone passed out. Overall, my favorite chateau was Chenonceau, and the gardens at Villandry. It is just impossible to believe that someone actually lived in these castles!
We had two three day weekends because May 1st is Labor Day and May 8th is a national holiday. They take Labor Day VERY seriously. No one worked, even the public transportation wasn't working. It was the perfect excuse to sleep in too late and do nothing. The next morning my host mom and I drove to Nantes to pick up her mother (who is 95!) from her retirement home and drove to their summer house in Pornic. We met her son and his family there too. The first day we got there and had lunch. Afterwords we walked downtown for ice cream and they showed me downtown. It was very beautiful and reminded me so much of New England and home. That night we had a big dinner before reading to my host mom's grandkids. The next morning was so beautiful. We played outside and went to the market in the morning to shop for lunch (my host mom and her daughter-in-law below at the market). The market was big and busy and we bought oysters and other shellfish fresh for lunch. In the afternoon I did some reading and played outside with the grandkids and talked to my host mom's mother. She is so sharp for her age, and so adorable. She was telling me all about WWII and when she was living in France. Her husband was imprisoned in Germany for 5 years and she had to raise her four kids on her own, while working. She is an incredible lady. I also taught Paolo, the 7 year old, some hand games, and he showed me his English skills, aka singing Jingle Bells, which he was psyched about. We got back home around 9:30 pm and had a quick dinner before bed.
Two things about soccer. One, the weekend of my birthday was the big French Cup for soccer and Rennes was in the finals. So they set up a HUGE screen in town and there were 13,000 people crammed into this small square to watch the game. It was ridiculous. We tried to watch the game there but ended up getting overwhelmed and going to a bar where there was a big TV outdoors (crazy amount of people outside, with Brittany flag outside). Rennes ended up losing, but the other team was from Brittany as well so most people were satisfied. Two, Lindsay and I went to a soccer game the following Wednesday! We found out that I get in free with one companion, so we got tickets for the Rennes v. Caen game. We were so close to the field, and it was fun to see people get so excited for the game. Watching professional soccer is so fun, they are so organized and play with finesse.
Last, but not least, I turned 21! I had a great birthday weekend. We went to the soccer game saturday night then spent a couple hours in our favorite bar with all my friends until midnight, when everyone sung happy birthday to me in French. The morning of my actual birthday we had a huge brunch at Lindsay's. It was incredible. It was an AMERICAN brunch, complete with pancakes, french toast, eggs, bacon, fruit salad and of course mimosas. Saturday morning we had gone shopping for all the ingrediants, (me on the left at the market) so everything was super fresh. The fruit salad had kiwis, strawberries, bananas, peaches, and apples in it, and our french toast was made with incredible fresh bread. Lindsay made amazing cheesy scrambled eggs, and we also had some of the jam my host mom makes from scratch. Lindsay, Helen and I took a nap afterwords and woke up in time for a shower and dinner. They came over for a huge dinner chez moi. My host mom had made a big dinner for 10 of us! It was me, Helen, Lindsay, my host family, my host sister's boyfriend, and my host mom's son's family. They all gave me gifts, which was adorable and the Paolo sang me happy birthday in English (complete with adorable french accent). They also bought me a huge delicious strawberry cake. All in all, it was a great and relaxing day.
We have been having some last events as a group as well. We had a cocktail party with all the host families, and the other night everyone from CIREFE, so everyone who is learning English at the university, went to a discotechque which was really funI am hopefully going to do a little bit of traveling before I go home, but this is my last post before I go home, which will be bittersweet. This has been an incredible semester and I am going to try my hardest to live it up in Rennes this week before I go home!