Sun and sand (sort of)

Trip Start Sep 04, 2006
Trip End Dec 24, 2006

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Flag of France  ,
Monday, September 18, 2006

This past weekend, the host family of another student on the program, Diana, invited me to go with them to their beach house in La Baule, about 45 minutes away (the family, the Paumiers, is friends with the Bodets, my family). It was cold! When we got there, they built a fire in the fireplace - that's the first time I've ever been to someone's beach house and had them build a fire. They had wanted to go ride bikes to see some sights, but they heard it was going to rain, so instead Mme Paumier drove Diana and me to see them. That's the area where they harvest Breton sea salt by building these swamps that trap the seawater, and then go through this long process of harvesting it as the water evaporates. It was really pretty cool to see the swamps.

Also, because this past weekend was a festival that all of Europe holds to celebrate its culture and heritage (by holding special events and making all the sights free to enter), there was a fair-type thing at the center that had the salt exhibition - an exhibition of various French products by their producers, who had samples there for you to taste and of course plenty there to sell. I sampled some champagne, some Beaufort cheese, and a clove of garlic soaked in vinegar, which was surprisingly good (and not very strong). We also walked around the town of Guerandes (which is the town where they harvest the salt), which is walled with ramparts and such like Concarneau (see a few entries ago). Mme Paumier gave me a jar of sea salt to take home, which was very nice of her. It finally warmed up a bit, so we went to the beach with their son, Yves-Antoine, and his cousins and friends and spent about 4 hours playing volleyball. True to my usual form, I was terrible and was afraid the rest of the team would hate me, but it was fun. We had a very French dinner Saturday night (they had another couple over for dinner) including hors d'oeuvres and apertifs in the living room beforehand, an appetizer (some sort of meaty pate with onion jelly), a main course (sausages, both regular and chipotlada, accompanied by couscous and a stew of vegetables), a cheese course, and a fruit tart, all accompagnied by a delicious bottle of Burgundy red wine and followed by espresso in the living room. I went to mass with them in La Baule, which was good, and then afterwards to the market to watch a French person in action buying the daily fresh ingredients for the meal. All in all, it was a good weekend.

Plus, the Bodets took me Sunday afternoon to meet M. Bodet's parents, who also live in Nantes and are incredibly nice. They all expressed delight at my comprehension abilities when after about 5 minutes of a spirited discussion of the Pope's address the other day, they asked if I knew what they were talking about and I answered, "The Pope - his discourse on faith and reason in Germany." It's interesting to hear the political and religious discussions French people regularly get into.
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