I'm back from an incredible week on the beautiful island, L'île de Ré. We did so much and it was a great opportunity to meet my future host sisters: Clautilde Robalo and Marie Michelle Guisnet. They're really nice, but it seemed at first that they only wanted to talk with each other because they're both French. In the end though, we all became good friends and I'm excited to live with their families later in the year. So here's the story...
Day 1: August 29~
The four of us (Marie-Armelle, Clautilde, Marie Michelle, and me) were in the car for 7 hours en route to L'île de Ré, but it passed by quickly by sleeping, talking, and finding Waldo. We were expecting lots of traffic near Paris, but there was none so we reached the city of Blois early. We stopped there to visit some of Marie-Armelle's friends. They were super nice and had a lot of wooden ducks in their house. We ate a yummy tart before going on a little tour of the Loire Valley city to visit a gorgeous castle. We didn't go inside, but the outside was super pretty. We arrived at the island in the evening and explored the house. It's so cute with pictures of boats everywhere :) We went for a walk in the evening on the gorgeous port. It was so beautiful at night with all the stars in the sky and music from the restaurants by the water. I kept thinking that France is the most romantic place in the world.
Day 2: August 30~
My friends back home are starting school today. I'm not so jealous of them. In the morning the girls and I hit the market :) It blew my mind. So amazing. There's not many places like that in America. It completely embodied the French life: people bustling everywhere with baguettes over their shoulders, children screaming for little French candies, tons of cheese stalls, tons of little pastries stalls, and seafood. We saw live eels for sale! Ick. I was the tourist again, taking pictures of everything. After that we went to the supermarket and bought a ton of stuff. I feel like anything I eat here is going to be good because it's French ;) Later after a huge lunch with lots of cheese we biked to the BEACH. It was way farther than I thought, but the bike route went past beautiful scenery. The water was really warm and felt so good. We swam for a long time and then sprawled out on the beach. Lots of women were topless :P Later in the evening, Marie-Armelle's friends, Jean-Pierre and Hèlene, came over to stay with us for a couple nights. They were a little "special" as they often say here in France, but decently nice. We ate so much yogurt and Nutella and jam and bread and cheese here, it's ridiculous. French Nutella is soooo much better than American Nutella.
Day 3: August 31~
I completely lost my appetite for breakfast because Hèlene's cigarette box was next to me the whole time. In France they put a nasty image of a cancerous lung on the box to encourage people not to smoke (not like that really works) and it certainty grossed me out! The girls and I went to the market again and I bought some postcards, tourist style. I love walking around with all the French people and baguettes :) Then later... we went clam hunting. Yeah, that's right. We waddled in the mud when the tide was really far off and collected clams for dinner. We walked past rows of oyster harvesters and finally got to an area where orange clams clung to the rocks. I found a ton. It rained a bit and my clothes got muddy, but it was super fun. We were exhausted by then so we chilled back at the house and I read more of Harry Potter (in French of course... I'm almost done!) Then later we rode our bikes to an amazingly beautiful town called Saint-Martin and en route saw donkeys! They were so cute, but really lazy and didn't even lift their heads up. Saint-Martin has so many boats, cobblestone alleys, shops, and food places. There's a huge gelato place and a waffle shop :D We shopped around for a long time before we biked back at sunset. It was like a dream sequence. SO many people ride their bikes here and there's no electrical wires in sight! (They're tastefully buried underground) It's like the island is detached from the rest of the world. I love it. We ate the clams for dinner and Hèlene made a chocolate mousse with alcohol in it :P Good, but the alcohol was a bit overwhelming. We played a game called Taboo in the evening where you have to guess a certain word with hints from the other person... in French, naturally. I was so proud when I got one right. Marie-Michelle kept swearing in English and it was really funny because to them it didn't really mean anything. I admit, I've gotten into a habit of swearing in French... particularity Merde. Look it up. Overall it was a great day– clam hunting and donkey petting.
Day 4: September 1~
How is it September already? Crazy. I'm going to start school soon and I'm quite nervous, but I'm still here in paradise so it's all good :) Today in the morning we had crêpes with Nutella for breafast. Yummmmm... And I bought a pretty scarf at the market. Later we drove to a different beach that was farther away than the first. We brought boards for surfing but there were hardly any waves. Still it was really fun to swim in the sea again. So much fun indeed that we swam out farther than we had expected.. And we saw nudists! At first it was like "Oh my gosh look, a nudist (hahaha)"... then "Another nudist!"... then "Look! Another! Another! Eight nudists!" Then we realized that we had swam out accidentally to the side of the beach reserved for nudists. It was super funny and slightly awkward. For dinner, we had pizza. I requested pepperoni and they looked at me like I was crazy. That word doesn't exist here but we bought pepperoni pizza anyway. Hèlene made an amazing citron tart for dessert. There's dessert after every meal. Fruits, yogurt, cake, tart, etc. I haven't gained any weight yet and I hope it stays that way!
Day 5: September 2~
Today we went for a picnic by the beach. It was amazing. Then later we searched the muddy sands for little shelled creatures that I can't remember the name of. We poured salt over tiny holes in the sand to make then come out, but none were home :P It was still fun to splash each other with mud like little kids. Later, we went back to the same beach as yesterday and again accidentally went over the nudist side. That night we went for another walk around the square and it was magnificent as always. I was more confident with the language this time and had a blast talking with the girls under the stars.
Day 6: September 3~
It was the last night on l'île de Ré :( And it rained. Figures. We went to the market and the girls bought a bunch of patisseries and souvenirs for their families. I bought a ring and some more postcards. We bought Marie-Armelle a present too: a box with a picture of a donkey on it, filled with delicious caramels :) Later we biked to Saint-Martin for the last time and walked around. The girls bought waffles with Nutella. It was cold, windy, and rainy by the time we got home to drink some hot chocolate before going to mass. Yep, I went to church for the first time in my life! It was a beautiful church with lots of elderly people. I tried to understand what was going on and what people were saying, but in the end I just spaced out and admired the beautiful ceiling and statues. It was a good experience :) But I think the best part of the whole trip was that last evening. We were playing Taboo when suddenly we heard music outside. The girls and I walked to the square and saw that a big concert was going on! Right there in the middle of all the restaurants and boats! It was incredibly fun. The music was a variety of French songs and popular American songs by artists like the Black Eyed Peas, Shakira, Maroon 5, etc. We danced and danced and danced. Really danced. Everyone was dancing! We didn't care about how we looked. It didn't matter. It was just so much fun. There was a huge konga line later :D I love konga lines. We went to bed absolutely exhausted that night... and had to get up super early the next day. To go back home :( and start school.
Day 7: September 4~
We got up early and bought baguettes from the market. Then we cleaned the house and finished packing :( Then to the car and off we went. We drove for three house before stopping at the castle Chenensaux. Aaaahhhh it was soooo gorgeous! Magnificent! I took about a hundred pictures there. We walked around and listened to an audio guide on iPod touches. I listened to it in English and then decided to listen to the kids version because it was funnier and less boring. I love castles, but there were so many people there it made it less medieval and more tourist attraction-y. We had our picnic there (baguette sandwiches of course :) We drove for three more hours and arrived back in Cambrai in the evening. It started to pour like mad right as we entered Cambrai. Movie moment.
All in all it was a fantastic trip and I really liked meeting my future host sisters. I took a thousand pictures in seven days. :D I start school tomorrow!!! Wish me luck. A bientôt :)