The Last Hour

Hi!

I leave Rennes in one hour exactly.

Please know that there is an enormous post coming up soon about the South of France, Normandy, and my last few days in Renns–I had just finished it, but do to my stupid computer the draft got deleted, so instead you’re getting this pathetic announcement saying that I don’t have time to write you a blog post tonight because I have to say goodbye to ~75 loved ones and go back stateside.

Until then.

Bisous,

~Isabelle

The Last Month.

Due to our friends the APs, I haven’t blogged since that time I told you all I was going to eventually blog. So, after 10,000 final quizzes, tests, and a sprinkle of standardized testing, I make my triumphant and bittersweet return to this blog.

Not to alarm anyone, but it’s one of the last times I’ll be writing here– there will be a post when I get home, of course, but with only four days left to my year abroad, which this blog was meant to document, there won’t be a ton left to recount. Except, of course, all of my disgusting emotions which might not interest you all as much as, say, the French Riviera and the beaches of Normandy.

So, let’s start there instead.

The South of France: One week in Nice independent traveling, one week next to Marseille with the school.

The main thing you should know about this two week vacation was that it was an actual vacation.

Istanbul and Budapest were amazing adventures where we went far away from France and packed each day with action.

In Nice, we ate ice cream and read on the beach. And it was just what I needed.

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this is next to Nice’s giant boulevard, the Promenade des Anglais. Tragically, the beach was rock, not sand, but the sun was still shining. FUN FACT: The Mediterranean’s incredible clear turquoise color is  a result of a lack of plankton!

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On our first night, we climbed up a hill where there used to be a chateau and there is now a fantastic panorama view of the city. Naturally, someone was having their wedding party up there. We quietly gushed about the bride’s dress while we strolled…

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ImageThe south of France is known for its cosmetics: the perfume capital of France (and the world? I don’t know about that, but maybe…?) is Grasse, and the soap from Marseille is very well known.

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ImageWe visited the MAMAC, The museum of modern and contemporary art of Nice.  One of the heavily featured artists was Ben, who uses words in his art, and his art can actually be seen all over the city– on bus stops, for instance, you can see little plaques done by him.

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My traveling buddy, Rachel, and I agreed we needed some rest. And so, Nice was relaxed. We slept in, walked around a kilometer to the main square to get diablos (sort of like shirley temples) and hot chocolates, before traversing the antique store quarter of town to get to the spectacular Promenade des Anglais (that would be the turquoise-y coast lined with palm trees).  We would get Italian food in the old town, and wander around and window shop.

In addition to the MAMAC, we also saw the Marc Chagall and Matisse museums while there. However, we didn’t spend too much time arting– more time exploring and sleeping.

We even took a day trip to Monaco (like France’s Las Vegas.)  It was beautiful, but sort of artificial and certainly over priced. But hey, check out this cool car we found!

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Monaco Day 2014 also included an aquarium visit, because we just couldn’t help ourselves.

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Week two was spent with the school, doing all sorts of super fun activities and day trips: we visited the town of Arles, known for its incredibly preserved sites from the antiquity as well as  base for Van Gogh; we took a beautiful hike in the Calanques before visiting Aix-En-Provence (a super nice city, essentially), we visited the Museum of the History of Marseille as well as the Museum of Mediterranean Cultures (the MUCEM- Built last year! Marseille was put on a list of “cultural capitals” in Europe, as it’s the doorway from North Africa into France, as well a hub for workers and immigrants coming from all over– a real melting pot. thus, they made a museum dedicated to culture, and it’s a fantastic building.), we visited the hospital where Van Gogh spent some time as well as a traditional Provencal market, and finally, we spent a day at our resort just doing activities.

We stayed a gorgeous sea-side hotel, called Vacanciel, located in the scenic little town of Carry-le-Rouet, next to Marseille. It was literally right on the Mediterranean- we could fall asleep listening to waves and everything. I shared a room with two of my best friends, Ruth and Sophie, and a good time was had by all.  Their food was excellent, and the resort offered a whole plethora of activities–swimming in the ocean or the pool, tennis, rock climbing, a ropes course (!!!!!!!), archery, kayaking, hiking, and volleyball. There was dancing every night in an amphitheater, too. So, we stayed active (sort of?)!

I think what I appreciated the most about this particular school trip was the fact that it wasn’t too packed–when I list all the stuff we did, it sounds like we were crazy active for 5 days, but in reality it was quite laid back.  We always came back early in the evening so we could have time to relax at the hotel; we didn’t have to get up too screamingly early, and all of our visits were libre–we didn’t have to stay as a group, and we could wander as we pleased as long as we were back at the buses on time.  Also, the fact that we took our independent travel before seeing the school was nice because we could come back together as a whole again and feel more united as  a grade coming back to Rennes. Everyone was starting to get sentimental: with only 2 weeks left, how could we not?

1023 1032 beautiful beach fun DC crew noms hiking! hiking2~ in the process macaroons! Marseille more sud nice me picnic!! ropes course~ stilllll hiking. swimming! zumba rock climbing valleys.

(most of these photos, with the exception of the top two, were taken my beautiful and fabulous friend from North Carolina, Ilona.  She’s a fantastic photographer and I’m infinitely grateful to her for capturing some of these moments!)

Well, we came back to Rennes just in time to meet the French AP (je ne l’aimais pas trop).  Then, after a rather light 3 days, we took a weekend trip to Normandy. The weather was beautiful, and it proved to be a much more reflective trip than the south of France. Yes, it was our last trip with the school, but the nature of the visit was very somber– we walked along beaches where 70 years ago (exactly 70 years, actually), thousands of soldiers died in some of the bloodiest battles in recent history.  We visited the Pointe du Hoc, where rangers had to scale a sheer cliff face to destroy German artillery guns–the whole place is covered in giant holes, that, after a few seconds, you realize were made by bombs.  The squadron went in with 225 rangers, and after 3 days, came out with 90.

We visited the Memorial de Caen, the Pointe du Hoc, Courseulles-Sur-Mer (one of the beaches where the invasion took place), the Tapisserie de Bayeux and the Cathedral of Bayeux, and finally, the American and German cemeteries, which were without a doubt the most moving part of our visit.  The American cemetery is built above Omaha Beach, where some of the worst fighting took place; there are approximately 9100 soldiers there.  The German cemetery was half the size of the American cemetery, but with twice as many people–more like 21500 soldiers. It was also much simpler, more discrete, and more somber; the dates of birth were also on the head stones, so you could see the age of the soldiers.

I’ll stop describing and let you compare the two for yourself from the pictures. The white crosses are the American cemetery, the black ones are the German cemetery.

 

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Pointe du Hoc

 

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Cathedral de Bayeux

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(last three photos taken by Ilona S.)

American Cemetery at Colleville (Omaha Beach)

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Omaha beach

081 084    German cemetery germancemetery2

(last two photos taken by Ilona S.)

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Surprise! We’ve jumped forward one week and I’m currently home in Washington D.C.  The above post is what I managed to salvage from when  my computer deleted the draft I had intended to publish. I know it’s sort of lame, but it’s all I’ve got…

Before I launch into an emotional reflection on my year, I feel I should finally post the long awaited photos I took at the market on my last Saturday in Rennes.

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This market was probably my favorite aspect about Rennes as a city. Open from 7 AM to 1 PM every Saturday rain or shine, it is interwoven into the daily life of most of its inhabitants; instead of safeway, people come here to buy local and to buy fresh.  My favorite thing to buy there was always the olives.

After going to the market for the last time, I picknicked in town with Abby and Ruth before heading home to start packing (booooooooo).  APs and classes being over, there were only a few things left to do- pack, attend a barbecue, and say goodbye.  On Sunday, my host family took me for one last day out in Morbihan, where we spent the morning and afternoon playing water sports together– catamaran sailing, water skiing (not my strong point…), kayaking, tubing, and paddle boarding were enjoyed by the four of us.

Monday, we had our final assembly. The chorus sang, and emotional poems were recited. Around 65% of the student body and teachers were crying.  We then received our diplomas at our final lunch at a local high school.

That evening, there was a barbecue for all the host families and students at school.  All the students were assigned tasks-set up, cooking, clean up, greeting, etc.  It poured all day, but in true Bretagne style, the sun came out just before the barbecue was to begin– Quelle chance.

Then came Tuesday–our final day.  I spent it frantically packing, shoving papers in French into folders, and making a clothesline filled with photos for my host family.  I took a final run along the river that’s just next to my house–the water was completely placid, like a mirror, and little dust particles were suspended in the hazy evening light.

At our final dinner together, my host family toasted me.  When we arrived at dessert they made me close my eyes; they had bought a beautiful heart shaped chocolate cake.  They also gave me a few little presents- a shirt, some Breton magnets and cookies, and a lovely card. I spent some time staring at the light fixture above the dining room table in the least conspicuous way possible, and then went to get their presents. I had framed a small photo of Manon and myself, and I’d printed out a bunch of photos of us together during the year and hung them up on a cord with little laundry clips.  My family had also ordered them wind chimes for their garden, as they adore gardening, and that way every time they heard the chimes they could think of me.

The buses to Paris left from school at 1 AM, so my host family took me down around midnight so we could have time to say goodbye. We drove through Rennes for the last time, over the river, passing by République (the metro/bus center of town) one last time. Its lights twinkled as late night wanderers boarded the final buses of the night to head home.

Once I arrived at school, what was probably one of the most emotionally traumatizing experiences I had ever witnessed unfolded during a simple hour long period. 350 French men, women, and children, all crying together with a bunch of baggage-laden American teenagers, could be spotted huddling together by two giant buses by the side of the road. I think we thoroughly bewildered the neighbors. My host family and I bisous’d about 50 times, but neither of us could budge, until at last I had to stop torturing us both so I told them to go get some shut eye, and then I turned and got on the bus. It was pretty horrible.

The first half hour of the bus ride was spent in darkness and silence, before, tears all spent, in our true style, we cheered ourselves up. In our final hours together, we sang Ingrid Michaelson songs and told stories and laughed and made jokes and carried on like we weren’t all going to have to suffer a second wave of terrible au revoirs.

Getting to Charles de Gaulle airport caused major déjà vu for everyone—from our sleep deprived arrival to the terminal in the rain back in September to this disheveled appearance at 6 AM in late May.
“Hey, this is where Taken began!”
“Is there a plaque?”
A grueling, yet blurred four hours then ensued—we paid the price of the English Royalty’s Jewels in overweight bag fees, we hugged our American teachers goodbye, and then, before heading off to security, we said goodbye to our Resident Director. And with that final goodbye, the program had ended. We were no longer students at School Year Abroad. We were just 65 rag tag teenagers traveling together. I felt like I’d been thrust into a weird limbo, caught in between two homes and two families and two schools, a feeling only increased by the giant line at security and the fog of fatigue that seemed to make my eye lids feel like lead.

I remember feeling very odd at takeoff on the plane. We had spent 264 days (that’s 6336 hours, if you do the math) in France, culminating in that one moment, the moment when we were to return home. As the wheels went up and France fell away behind me, I struggled to grasp the magnitude of it all—that we had started at hour 0, and one by one, hour by hour, day by day, and month by month, we had slowly built up and up and up. I remember when it felt like the days were just swelling, tumbling and crashing one over the other, a rush of new knowledge and sights and sounds and tastes overwhelming all of us until we were practically beaten down…but somehow, bizarrely and miraculously, there was a change, a moment when it felt more like the days were slipping through our fingers like sand and we just couldn’t stop the flow. Once that feeling set it, even before, we had squeezed the days of everything they had to offer. The sounds of the jet engines rumbling and the feeling of the pits of our stomachs dropping away was the feeling of 264 shriveled, absorbed, juiced days being sealed shut. The page turned on a 9 month chapter in our lives.

The flight itself, naturally, was a blur of music, laughter, sleep, and weird airplane food. I had a four hour layover at JFK airport in New York, which I spent dashing around saying goodbyes to everyone, with not enough time to explain how each individual had made my year there and that we WOULD see each other again; there was just enough time for a tight hug goodbye and the firm command to keep in touch. I feel there should have been a movie made out of that afternoon—65 underage travelers, unchaperoned in one of America’s most frequented airports, sprinting around like mad people to try and give final bisoux to new friends. It’s a testament to our newfound maturity that we all made it to our flights on time.

Naturally, saying goodbye to my friends was a reminder that we all still had some tears left after all, but once I had two feet in the United States all I really wanted to do was to get home to my family in Washington. I kept thinking about the feeling of my bed when I would first lie down in it after 9 months, freshly showered, with crisp white sheets and fluffy pillows. I’m actually sitting here now. It’s pretty great. I thought about how my house would smell—it has a different smell than usual in the summer, something faint and musty that I have never been able to put my finger on. And with all the summer insects in DC, I could almost hear my neighborhood humming and buzzing from the plane, welcoming me home. And, to my immense satisfaction, all of those things that I hadn’t experienced in so long had stayed true.   My bed is fantastic and my house feels alive, and it’s the warmest welcome possible when your family and even your home greets you after 9 months.

Despite the fact that my suitcases remain unpacked even six days since my arrival, that time used to catch up on missed episodes of House of Cards and Sherlock, I am starting to emerge out of my denial that this experience is over. Although saying goodbye hurt, my year has come full circle. I have had the blessing of seeing 65 teenagers transform together; I’ve even transformed a bit myself.

I think that, ultimately, anybody our age can take a year abroad. Is it not true that in the young lives of most humans, there comes a time to “fly the coop” and gain a bit of independence? For most people I suppose that’s leaving for college, or getting a first job or apartment, but for me I think it was the decision to come here. Of course, I was still sheltered logistically, it’s not like we all had to fend for ourselves on the streets of Rennes, but I think thrusting yourself into such a new situation for such a long period of time brings a lot of ‘emotional independence,’ if you will. I see that there is an average of only about 60 kids at each SYA school; proportional to the amount of juniors and seniors who know about it, there are not a lot of kids who choose to do this program. I know I almost didn’t come because it felt ridiculous to leave my school for a year when I was only 15, because next to no one does that, right? I couldn’t wrap my head around the idea of leaving home for 9 months at that point in my high school career, of choosing now to make my initial flight from the coop, and then the awkward moment when I would return to it for another year before college.   I think a lot of kids are put off by that same fear. But every student found here, I think, that there is that bit of instinct in every person that kicks in once they actually get off the plane, the little part that was prepared to fly the coop in a few years time is already present and it does come out. The first couple of weeks are pretty tough, it’s all new faces and places and there’s that small little issue of communication and self expression in a language that is not your own, but that’s where instinct kicks in. That’s where every student forces him or herself to recenter, to find or create a network of support, and above all, to be self supporting. I had a lot of “feelings talks” with friends, I drank a lot of tea and ate a lot of dark chocolate, and I wrote a lot in my journal. Other kids sang or ran or painted; everyone had their own little comfort bubble that they fell back on. But as the weeks progressed, I noticed there was a little less reliance on these comforts. There were less people having break downs in the girls’ bathroom and there were less late night phone calls.   As the days went by, old insecurities seemed to be left behind; mine were buried under boxing gloves and plane tickets to Istanbul. We began to laugh at jokes made in increasingly flowery and fluid French, and we explored Europe freely and with ease.

And as we grew as individuals, we grew closer and closer to each other. I came to France leaving behind my family, but somehow upon my return I left behind two—My wonderful French family of 4, and my spirited American family of 64. I start to feel empty after a while, doing these overarching reflections on my year abroad, because there is just too much to say, but to these two families, for the laughter, knowledge, and love, merci mille fois.

Of course, with all this talk of instinct I’ve sort of created an image of myself with a spear in a jungle, fighting for my life, all on my own. Obviously, this is not the case.   I came into this year with the strongest support base anyone could have, and that is my family. I can go on and on about emotional independence, but that doesn’t change the feeling of joy upon receiving a much anticipated letter in my mailbox, a funny email after a long day, or much awaited advice on a long skype call. Despite that tiny gap created by the Atlantic Ocean, they helped me every step of the way—and that too deserves a merci mille fois.

And finally, to all of you who took the time to read about my adventures, to look at my grainy pictures and excuse my unbelievably late posts, merci mille fois. If ever you have any questions or comments about SYA or Bretagne or the name of my old boxing club, PLEASE do not hesitate to shoot me an email—as you can see, I enjoy talking about my time abroad….

As for what I’ll do with this blog, I think I’ll just leave it here on the internet. Maybe some day a whimsical highschooler will see it and decide that they want to gallivant around Europe and converse in French, and they’ll hop on a plane, and they’ll see that SYA is more than just an exploration of Rennes and Bretagne and France. It’s an exploration of yourself, an exploration of how to make new friends while living outside of your comfort zone, and an exploration of how to express yourself without all the right words. It has been the adventure of my life time, but given that I am only 16, that doesn’t say much. But if I’ve loved my year in France this much, I guess it means that this will not be the last adventure I’ll take.

Merci pour avoir lu mes lettres, et pour être resté avec moi pendant cette expérience. Même si je suis chez moi maintenant, ce n’est pas ma dernière aventure…donc, à la prochaine !

Gros bisous à tous et à toutes,

~Isabelle C.

“How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.” ~A.A. Milne

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There’s not a lot of time left. 13 days, exactly.

I’m not going to lie–I will find it hard to get a real update in these final two weeks minus one day; there’s a lot going on right now.  We just got back from our two weeks in paradise (paradise being Nice and a small resort next to Marseille) and this weekend we head out to Normandy on our final trip as a school.  Yesterday was the 5 hour long, relatively grueling French AP.  Tomorrow is a full day of school. It is now almost midnight. My bed is calling me, but I felt the need to let all of you know that I am still alive, that I recognize how little time I have left and the importance of recording some of my thoughts about the impending departure.

There are two things that I will leave with you all for tonight:
1) these are some of the bitterest and sweetest days I’ve ever felt.
2) I honestly don’t know how or when we got here.

Today, I sang at my elderly home for the last time. They gave us the address of the home so we can still write them letters, and they thanked us and gave us bisous for all the times we’ve come. They said it gave them a lot of pleasure to have met us, and that we had made wonderful progress in our French. I hadn’t realized that it was our last session together, and for a few minutes leaving them behind felt to be almost an injustice.

Bisous,

~Isabelle

of course, pictures and details of the French Riviera and an elaboration of sappy emotions will be spewed onto this blog at some point in the near future. I’ll try for tomorrow!

Easter Chocolate, American Soliders, and more Old People

Once again, a very literal title.

So, the question–how do these three things go together? Naturally, the answer involves a very busy and sugary week.

Tuesday night, after nearly 3 months of research, our history class gave a presentation with 4 other local high schools on WWI.  As this year is marks the 100 year anniversary of the start of the war, there was a national project proposed in November by the president of France–public high schools around the country prepared presentations to commemorate the start of the war.  The project with Rennes’ high schools was coordinated by SYA’s own history teacher, Gilbert Nicolas.  He teaches at the Université Rennes 2, so there were 14 university students who worked with us.   SYA, naturally, researched the Americans in France during WWI; hence “American Soldiers” in the title of this post. part one of the puzzle completed!

In any case, the presentation went splendidly; Monsieur Nicolas had obtained some magnificent high definition photos from Paris to accompany our text, which covered such areas as war propaganda and training for American soldiers. We all received compliments on our French 🙂

So, Old People?

As I have already gushed about numerous times on this blog, I adore my Maison de Retraite where I sing every week.  This past Wednesday, however, we did something a little different: my friend Olivia and I talked to the head of SYA’s resident choir (which is entirely student-run!!) as well as the animatrice at the retirement home, and, after a few weeks of negotiations over song choice, a troop of energetic American teenagers found themselves warming up in the halls of the Maison to perform.  They sang Cerf Volant (a French song) and Build Me Up Buttercup (not a French song), which were complete with harmonies and dynamics and passion, in addition to a few classics that they just belted out beautifully because they’re all musical miracles, like Let It Be, Hallelujah, and You Are My Sunshine.* Mixed in between these guys, the animatrice handed out lyrics to the French classics we sing every week with them, like La Vie en Rose, Fleur de Paris, La Maladie d’Amour, Rien de Rien, etc. It was evident that the residents were pleased; they smiled and clapped along, and at the end, gave me and the 3 other girls who go each week a box of cookies a piece to thank us. We’ve been invited to a resident’s 107th birthday party next week as well.

(pictures and maybe even videos hopefully to come!!!)

I don’t want to be mushy, but it was truly rewarding to see how much the residents enjoyed having the choir.  I was proud of myself to have helped organize, and I feel like we’ve really been accepted into their community.  It’s not necessarily a given that a group of 80 year olds would remember the names of 4 American teenager who they see for only one hour each week, but lately, every time we’ve entered the room they’ve greeted us by name and asked after our weeks.  I’m going to miss them; I’ve counted, and there are only two reunions together left.

Which leads into my next topic, Easter weekend (the chocolate part comes in here).

We had a 3 day weekend, as Easter Monday is a holiday here; this will have been the second to last weekend we have with our host families.** Naturally, my family whisked me away to Paimpol again, which was lovely.  We had dinner with cousins, dessert the next day with uncles and aunts, and that night we had the apératif with the neighbor.  Today was boating with cousins, with an apératif on their boat.  You may be noticing a connection between gathering together with family/friends and food…

In any case, I was happy to have been isolated from Rennes for the weekend.  Since we have so little time left together, it was important to be cut off from my American friends  for a bit so  could really concentrate on my host family. This was also my last chance to see Paimpol, so having three days let me cherish it just a little more. I’ll miss my seaside walks; some of the best moments with my host family were found there, and their cottage has become a symbol of escape and relaxation during a hectic and noisy 9 months.

And now, there are only 3 days between me and yet another two week vacation. The academic calendar, in effect, has gone to pieces– when we return from this vacation, APs will tear into our final two weeks, interrupting classes and pulling our focus elsewhere; we will have two weekends left in France, and one of them is dedicated to a Normandy trip. I can’t say I’m done yet, because I’m not, but we’re getting close.  We’ve started our final units in some of my classes.  I have one Saturday left to visit the market and take the pictures I promised you all in my third blog post.  I have two piano lessons, two last dates with the elderly  folk; boxing has been long abandoned, as my ankle was twisted, so I’ve already had to hang up my gloves.  Slowly, I am pulling my roots out of Rennes where I so firmly planted them upon my arrival, withdrawing quietly from the communities I worked so hard to enter into.  And just when the flowers started to arrive.

I’ve even had to start to pull up my roots with my French family.  Yesterday, I had to say goodbye to our extended family in Paimpol, Francois and Manuel (the cousin of my host Dad).  They took us out on their boat, and then, on land, I gave them hasty bisous and told them in shaky French that it had been wonderful getting to know them, and they told me that we had shared some lovely moments together.  The all-to-brief conversation took me off guard–I stammered a few “Merci Beaucoup”s, oddly, as that was the only thing that I could think clearly, and then I was in the car driving home again.

The goodbyes have begun.

Bisous,

~Isabelle

p.s. I never really explained how chocolate came into the picture, did I…well, Easter chocolate is practically a commodity here–every artisan chocolatier (and there are a lot of those) whips up these special chocolates–eggs, bunny sculptures, etc.  Of course we have that in America, but trust me when I say it’s especially done up here.  My host mom got me a giant cornet filled with different flavors of broken chocolate slabs.  She told me to “budget myself—try and make it last the week!” I’d like to say she was joking, but she was totally serious.

le chocoalte du paques

on aime bien le chocolat; Yann, en particulier, ne pouvait pas attendre pour goûter son cadeau sucré.

*Let It Go from Frozen was on the table for a few tense seconds before, in hushed whispers, we all agreed no one could hit those notes at the end; we sang Let It Be instead….

**But Isabelle, don’t you leave in late May?? Well, yes, I do, but we have  one week of independent travel followed by one week next to Marseilles with the school; the weekend after our return is an overnight to Normandy. Which leaves us with 1 weekend with our host families. Mon Dieu.

Il n’y a rien comme la mer.

After a long week filled with tests and presentations and other little demons like that, I got to  escape to Paimpol with my host family for a relaxing weekend.

I don’t remember if Paimpol has already been discussed on this blog; in case it hasn’t, here’s what you need to know:

– It’s a tiny, adorable old town located on the coast in the Côtes d’Armor

– Its commerce was fishing, and I believe there are still fishers there today

– My host dad is from there!

– We actually go to this teesny weensy commune next door to Paimpol, called Ploubazlanec*

– Ploubazlanec is adorable, too

– My host parents maintain a very nice garden that they are dedicated to

– There is no internet, EXCEPT if you stretch your mobile device outside of a window located in the upstairs bathroom, which I have (shamefully) done before. A few times for homework purposes, but occasionally due to cabin fever….

– It reminds me of the wonderful island of Nantucket 🙂

– There are some stunning landscapes, with rock beaches and drop away cliffs and hidden little groves of green grass where wild flowers spring up (sort of like a fairy tale)

–  When it’s warm, my host family likes to use fishing as a “pretext” to go have lunch–complete with pâté and red wine– on their boat and pass the afternoon sun bathing : my kind of afternoon

– The owner of L’Oreal** cosmetics has a house there

– It’s beautiful in spring.

In any case, I was so exhausted Friday night I practically fell asleep at the dinner table. So, I went to bed at 11:00…and the next time I opened my eyes, it was 11:00. as in 12 hours later….woah…

Amusingly, but also disturbingly, the dream I had during this 12 hour time period reflects how much I got into my art history project last week. Our big second semester project was a giant research on an artist of our choice– we had to do a 7 minute introduction to their style and evolution, a short paragraph on their influences and any important movements they were a part of, a 45 minute presentation including a comparison of two of their works of art that elaborates on themes, style, evolution, etc, and finally, a 2-3 page paper done with another student that discusses the link between the students’ two artists. Of course, all in French. and the 45 minute presentation is a double grade D: In any case, my artist was Edward Hopper, and during the week leading up to my presentation last Thursday, I researched and compiled a power point of his paintings like a mad woman. The presentation went pretty well, and I felt very satisfied to have spoken comprehensibly and composedly in French for 45 minutes in front of my class (!!!).  However, my dream Friday night proved to me the project was not quite in my past:
I dreamed that I was in a big, white house, high up off the ground. The house was wooden.  The only furnishing in the room was a lamp, sending out strikingly stark light onto the naked white walls.  There was a big rectangular window showing me an image of the outside world: a deserted countryside that someone had been cultivating. It was eery– almost abandoned– but I didn’t feel scared or anything like that, just alone in a house in late afternoon.  The weirdest part was how familiar it felt. It didn’t feel very modern, it was sort of like stepping foot into a limbo (maybe that was the dream feeling?).  In any case, after that it got sort of weird– me and these muppet-like creatures had to prepare to go to war and our battle plans were drawn up in the attic, I kid you not***– but when I woke up, I figured out what had happened when explaining the dream to my host family.

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(“House by the Railroad” 1925, Edward Hopper, huile sur toile)

Yep.

I dreamed myself into the house from “House by the Railroad,” the painting that truly marked the transition to the fully mature Hopper, considered one of his masterpieces and greatest embodiments of his style and subject choice.

I guess I must have been on the second floor, judging from the light on the windows and how high up I felt in my dream.

 

Well, besides that odd interlude, my weekend in Paimpol was wonderful. We took long 2 hour walks each day, bought tea and chocolates and crepes from local artisans in town, checked out some vintage shops and art galleries, and spent hours by the sea.

 

There is nothing, absolutely nothing, as rejuvenating as being by the sea, in the sea, even just being in sea air. Cut off from the internet, homework finished for once in my life, a total of 22.5 hours of sleep put behind me over the course of two days, and I feel renewed. Hardly a word of English spoken, just French for two and a half days with my host family.  The sky was gray, but it made the whole place feel nostalgic, like in an Edward Hopper landscape–my host sister and I sat on top of a barren rock looking out over the sea as the tide came in on Sunday afternoon, with strong gusts of wind buffeting the spring flowers and trees around us, and it was one of those moments that I tried to capture in my head so I could step back into later.  I think the ocean has that sort of effect on me in general.

There have been tons of little moments like that so far this year–the kind I want to step back into– and I don’t think I’ll ever be able to share them all. Some are just going to have to be for me, and only for me.  It’s selfish, and I’ve tried with this blog to share as many as I can, but there’s something undeniably special about having some moments that only belong to yourself.  I recommend, for all those out there who need some time to reflect and relax and revive, to go away alone in nature for a bit like the romantic poets did, and capture some moments that belong only to you and that you alone can go back to. There are always some things that are out of control in our lives, but it helps keep reality glued together if you give yourself those little moments to take a firm grasp on, like a rock by the sea with a sister on a Sunday. 

Of course, my reality has been more like a surreality for the last 7 months and 1 day (happy belated 7th month france-a-versary to me; it was yesterday!);my little moments of clear-reality sometimes become transcendent. I don’t have any euphoric revelation or epiphany story to reveal, but it’s just so thrilling to know that those moments are NOT dreams, that they’re really happening, that my surreality is my actual reality and that dreams can come true.

^I reread that paragraph, decided it made very little sense and was very existential, to the point of cliche-ness, but I’m going to leave it in because in a convoluted and it’s-11-at night-sort-of-way, it makes sense in my head.

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Longuivy de la Mer, a little commune that is technically a part of Ploubazlanec.

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J’aime fort ma sœur française 🙂

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La mer me manquait.

Bisous,

~Isabelle

* check it out! next vacation! http://www.ploubazlanec.fr/

**I don’t think that’s how one spells l’Oreal…je m’en fiche

***there is no explanation I can think of that would explain whatever trippy ideas my subconscious wanted me to experience there…