Tuesday, March 22, 2011

my weekend getaway to brest!

ok team – my apologies for the week-long silence!! i spent last week attending classes and preparing for my weekend getaway to brest. thursday was st. paddy’s day, and my irish had a wonderful day of drunken patriotism (except shane, he was just patriotic). i didn’t go out with them, however, because i had to get up SUPER early on friday! and that is where this blog post begins.....
friday, 18 march 2011
i woke up at 5am, having gotten a good 6 hours of sleep (huzzah!). i was meeting andrea at the bus stop at 5:55am, because she had an early morning train to catch as well! the first bus runs at 6:03, and our trains were at 6:43. i packed up my little backpack with a change of clothes and my toiletries and closed down my room for the weekend. it’s a strangely nice feeling, being so productive and active that early in the morning. andi came out to the stop and we got on the first bus – which had several people on it! surprising. thanks to the absense of traffic, we made it to the train station in record time – around 6:18am. i had gone to the station on thursday to print my tickets out, so all we had to do was get our tickets stamped in the little machine and head out to the platform! andrea was headed to paris, to meet her boyfriend at the airport! he came all the way from seattle to visit her for a week.. precious. as it turned out, we were on the same train!! because i had to switch trains several times, my first leg was in the paris direction. so that was nice, we got to chill on the train together for a while. i had to get off at the first stop, though, so we parted ways around 7:30. i had two more legs of my journey, and nagivated both changes without problems. as i was speeding through the french region called “bretagne” (also known as ‘brittany’), the beautiful landscape really struck me. i kept having the sensation that the ground had lights underneath it – the fields were honestly glowing green. very pretty.
i arrived in brest around 11:30am, and asked the information desk where the nearest tourism centre was. the guy pointed me in the right direction, and i set off. after a little round-a-bout way of getting there, i finally arrived and procured the map/bus plan i was searching for. once i had those in hand, i called my hosts for the weekend. i had found a couple who lives just outside of the city centre – their names are trifine and jean-fred. it was jean-fred’s number that i had, so i called him and he told me to come over whenever! so i hopped on a bus (for the only time during the whole weekend) and went to the stop where he was going to meet me. sure enough, i got off the bus and there he was! he drove us back to their little flat, where i put down my bag and we chatted for a while. i was SUPER tired, so i actually ended up taking a nap for a little while. haha! around 3pm, trifine came home for her break, so i finally got to meet her. she works in a fish-n-chips place down by the port, and the poor girl works doubles nearly every day. 9am-3pm and 6pm-midnight. yeeeesh. so she was exhausted, but we did get to chat for a while before jean-fred and i went in to town to check out the art museum. it was very small, but had some pretty decent works! after the museum, we walked around the town for a long time, just so i could see and admire all the new architecture. i also noticed that all of the signs had information in french, and then another language that i honestly could not identify. it looked like a combination of german, old english, and gaelic. i asked jean-fred, and he told me that it is a language called 'breton' - spoken in olden times in the region (bretagne, if you'd forgotten). as it turns out, until 1960, it was ILLEGAL for breton to be spoken or taught! talk about the french sense of pride in their language.. but there has been a revival in the last few decades, and now at least all the signs are in french AND breton. anyway, there is a small fort, sort of like the one in angers.. but the big difference is that brest is a port town. so there is a huge harbor, with tons of boats and shipping docks and all manners of maritime madness. we even saw a circus (literally, i saw camels and an elephant). he gave me a tour of the docks, which are famous for the insane amount of very detailed and artistic graffiti. it was super cool. around 7pm, we went to a local creperie for dinner.. you can’t go wrong with a good creperie. except i gave up meat for lent, so i just had an omelette. :)
at 8:30, we went back up into the town to meet claire, another couchsurfer i had found during my hunt for a host. she couldn’t house me, but she did invite us to go to this little concert in a local bar! it was really fun, and i had a great time getting to know her and her friends. plus, the band was decent, which is a plus. we stayed until about 11:30, and then headed home. trifine got home around 12:15, and we talked very briefly before i excused myself and went to bed.
saturday, 19 march 2011
they had a spare room, with a futon and a desk/computer, etc, so i had lots of privacy for the weekend. the futon was better than sleeping on the floor, but only marginally. the mattress was pretty non-existant, and it was laid out on top of wooden slats. but, i did have this huge duvet comforter and some big pillows, so it was grand. :) i slept well (and for a long time) and woke up feeling ready for another long, touristy day! except jean-fred slept in (because he thought i was still asleep, since i’d shut my door when i left the room), so i had a lovely morning sitting on the sunny spot on the couch, reading the tales of beedle the bard in french. around noon, he woke up and was surprised to see me. that was funny. but he rebounded and ran out to the local bakery to get some breakfast. he came back with a baguette and two pains au chocolat – good man. we had lots of various jams and butters and whatnot to put on the bread, and the pain au chocolat was one of the best ones i’ve eaten. i love french breakfasts. after we finished, i went and got dressed and we headed out for the day.
saturday was a gorgeous day – clear skies and about 60 degrees. our first stop was a 25 minute drive due west, to the pointe st. mathieu. it’s this gorgeous old abbey that now has a big lighthouse attached to it, perched on the top of these steep cliffs that fall right into the atlantic. it is the most western point of france (excluding little islands off the coast)! i really loved walking along the cliff-paths and looking down to the water. it was so clear, you could seriously see straight to the oceanfloor. i learned lots of new vocabulary from jean-fred, and took some awesome pictures (which will be on facebook soon!). we walked through the abbey as well, and then took our time getting back to brest. we made some stops along the way to check out other lookout points, and i took some pretty pictures of the landscape.
once we made it back to town, i popped by an ATM and then we continued on our little tour. he drove me by the stadium where we would be seeing the football match later on, and then took me to this gorgeous botanical garden. thanks to the lovely weather, there were loads of people walking around with their kids or their dogs, just soaking up the sunshine. we walked around for an hour, and then made our way back to the centre of town. we stopped by a bakery and i got the very last tarte aux frambroises (score!) – it was hidden from the shop attendant’s view, so when she said “we have no more.” i said “but there’s one that’s hiding!” and she looked, laughed, and got it for me. it was worth it, because those things are so delicious. anyway, after my snack, it was time to head to the stadium for the match. we had to park kind of far away and then walk back up to the stadium. we got in and chose our seats, underneath the cover in the “avid supporters” section. i had just picked the cheapest seats available, but it turns out they were the best!! the fans of the brest team are CRAZY and hilarious, so i had just as much fun watching them as i did watching the match! it was surreal to finally see a football match in person – after all the times i’ve watched them on tv, actually being there was a dream come true! i didn’t have much emotional investment in the teams, so i was really just happy to be there at all. the brest squad was facing the team from lille, all the way from the north of france, right next to belgium. lille are actually on the top of the bracket in the french league right now, so it was a fun match. brest lost, but i still saw some good goals and learned some awesome fan chants. i left very satisfied! jean-fred and i walked back to the car, drove home, and made some pasta for dinner. trifine got home early (at 11:30) and everyone was in bed by midnight. long but awesome day!!
sunday, 20 march 2011
i woke up around 9am to say thanks and goodbye to trifine before she headed off to work, and then sat reading on the couch for a few minutes before jean-fred emerged. we had a small breakfast, and then i packed up my stuff. at 10am, we got in the car and went to this really neat area of brest called ‘rue st. malo’. it is the only street in the whole city that has been preserved in its pre-war state. in world war 2, the city of brest was pretty much demolished by bombings. but the rue st. malo is tucked down into a little gorge, so it escaped the worst of the attacks. it is completely cobblestoned, with this huge stone wall and these beautiful old stone houses lining the little street. it’s only about 200 feet long but it’s quite charming. jean-fred said that there was an association that raised money to preserve the little street, and now there is a little party every sunday afternoon with food and music.. so cute. after that, we went back to the port to check out this big music/comic book fair that jean-fred had heard about on the radio. it was a one euro entrance fee to browse through probably 20,000 records and nearly as many comic books. i had a fun time looking through all the vinyl, jean-fred found some good deals. around 11:30, we went to meet claire at one of the open-air markets downtown. she had some friends with her, and we ended up sitting outside a café sipping on drinks and talking for about an hour. well.. the talked. i just did my best to listen and keep up! once we all finished our drinks, we walked around the market for a few minutes before i had to head to the train station. i said goodbye to claire and then jean-fred drove me over to the station. he even walked me inside and made sure i made it on the train! such a great host.. :)
the train ride home was awesome. i stayed on the train for about 2/3 of the journey, and then my ticket said i was to transfer to an “autocar”. which is a fancy word for bus. so i took a regional bus for the last hour and twenty minutes, which was actually fantastic. i got to see the back roads of my loire valley region, which is stunning. plus, the bus practically dropped me off at my door! win!
all in all, my trip was lovely. i was proud of myself for going all alone, and even prouder of the fact that i spoke english for probably 6 minutes total the whole weekend. plus, it was lovely to see a part of france i would have otherwise missed. i was definitely happy to get back to school and see all my friends, though!! i can’t even think about what it’s going to be like when we all move back to our corners of the world.. ugh. depression.
this week of school is going to be the week of preparation, because i have two big presentations next week. lots of stuff to do! but there are only like 4 weeks of school left, so i’m almost done. CRAZY.
we have two groups of visitors this week – andrea’s boyfriend and claire’s mom/sister! yay visitors. :)
ok, back to the homework that i’m avoiding... :)
xxx jill

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