little sarah Big World

Category: France

More Adventurous

Hangover: Round 2 (Electric Boogaloo)

Last night was the institut-sponsored “spectacle,” where students from the institute (where I study) sang, danced, recited poetry, played music, etc. for each other and also the general publique tourangelle. Down at the guingette. And guess what, friends? I totally performed! I totally Bached-out with my you-know-what out! AND did some jazz improv with some of the other students for “Fly Me to the Moon” (Frank Sinatra). And I was nervous! But I did it anyway!

Then afterward we all danced to “Groove It,” by Earth Wind & Fire. And the sky was like this:

I’ve been riding a consistent wave of self-confidence here, feeling more adventurous and independent than I’ve felt in a while. Last weekend I went on a 15-mile bike ride all by myself, and though I didn’t know it it to begin with, nothing could have possibly made me happier. Renting a bike here turned out to be a good choice.

It was a gorgeous day, and I was wrapped-up in a sweet solitude, making plans for the future, thinking my thoughts, enjoying just being by myself. This is from my journal that day:

“…I could not be more content. Happiness is a bubble of light and air in my chest, it is radiating out from me, filling me up, warming my spirit…Glad I came alone. I had wished for company, and then hesitated this morning, because of the overcast sky. But the ride was beautiful–miles and miles of gray clouds rolling heavily above neat rows of gnarled and bright-green vineyards, soft straw-colored pastures…”

Once Upon a Sunday…

Three little Americans went out to a café.

One ordered red wine–too small! One ordered white wine–too little! One ordered a belgian beer, and it was Just Right.

The little Americans wanted to go see a French Film, but they had poor time-management and were Too Late. That’s okay, thought little Sarah, I can roll with the punches. Instead they did other fun things!

One little American had ice-cream:

One little American had meringue:

And the third little American had enough, after missing two movies because of sauntering and miscommunication and spending the whole day just idling, sitting around on park benches and drinking wine in cafés and I mean, yes, it was pleasant and the company was fine, but didn’t we have a PLAN? Didn’t we have a series of enjoyable, leisurely accomplishments by which to structure an otherwise nebulous day?

And the third little American wondered, for the umpteenth time, Is there something wrong with me that I can’t just relax and go with the flow like the other little Americans?

Then a voice from deep down inside her said, “No, little sarah. You are fine just the way you are. It is a Big World and you can do whatever you want.”

So she said goodbye to the other little Americans and went off on her own to do what she liked best: She took pictures of things that interested her.

She practiced the viola until her whole body vibrated with music and energy, she ate dinner and spoke French with her petite famille, and she wrote down her thoughts to share with all the world.

And later, she did see that French Film. All by her little self.


Yann Tiersen is a Trickster

How to See Yann Tiersen in Concert Without Knowing It (In 10 Easy Steps!):

1- Go to an outdoor concert/festival in a foreign country.

2- But first stop at a bar/café to drink a glass of wine and wind up drinking two glasses of wine, plus some gross beer given to you by the new French friends you will make (Alex and Pauline), the friends who have just watched “Bowling for Columbine” that very morning and want to know if all Americans carry guns and keep making little pistols with their hands and going “Pam! Pow!” They are maybe a little drunk.

3- Arrive SUPER early to the concert after Chase’s host mom convinces you that in France, people arrive on time, and that you will be late and sorry if you don’t leave RIGHT NOW! Hurry, hurry! Dépêchez-vous! Allez-y!

…and then you have loads of time to kill.

4- Keep drinking wine. What else are you supposed to do? The concert doesn’t start for almost 2 hours. Eat a crêpe, then, why not?

5- Wow, those 5 glasses of wine sure are going straight through you! You should probably visit the toilettes, where friendly French people will explain about using a plastic cup to scoop sawdust out of an oil drum which you then pour on top of your “pi-pi,” because it’s “très biologique.” Fun!

6- Notice that none of the bands are being introduced nor are they introducing themselves, with the exception of Beat Drunx, and that’s only because they have to represent (“When I say ‘Beat,’ you say ‘Drunx’! Beat! [silence] Beat! [silence]”).

7- Oh, well! Because the band that’s playing right now is REALLY awesome. Oh, man, that dude is just SHREDDING it on the violin! Ooh, and now the guitar! Is that 7/8 time that I detect? It is! Cool! Ooh, and now a song in 5/4 time–awesome! Man, the crowd is really digging this guy, this group. Hey! The violin again! Dude, he is WAILING!

8- Get distracted by the crowd of people dancing outside the bathrooms. Dance a little, yourself, why not?

9- Stick around for The Inspector Cluzo, a rock/funk group that you will later realize is the French version of Tenacious D (and, oh, you will feel proud for drawing that parallel). It’s now almost 2am and you have had at least 6 glasses of wine and 2 crêpes. But, wait! What? Why are they taking down the stage after T.I.C.? And the other stage, too?! But…did we…did we MISS something?

10- Realize that step 7 WAS, in fact, Yann Tiersen.

…And that is how I spent my Friday night (and why I was so hung-over yesterday).

~The End~

There’s Got to Be a Morning After

This morning:

hungover, drinking hot chocolate and watching Futurama in French

Why, Chase? Why oh why did I let you buy me that 6th cup of wine? Why did we think it would be a good idea to eat nothing but crêpes with nutella all night?

I’m not going to beat myself up too much about it. After the hot chocolate, I went back to bed for another hour, and that seems to have helped. I just need to remember that getting up early to run/explore the city/eat pastries makes me happier and is more satisfying than staying up late to drink, and that the two are often mutually exclusive.

TODAY IS MY HALFWAY POINT HERE, GUYS! That means I’ve been here two weeks and I have two weeks left. Wow. It is not enough time, let me tell you, and I am sad to have wasted even a bit of it on a lousy hangover this morning. I feel like there is so much to do and see and experience here, and I spend so much time blogging and running and playing viola. But I try to find the balance between keeping up with the things that are essential to me and making the most of my limited time in this lovely place.

Lots of students here want to jet-set all over, to see as much of France/Europe/The World as possible before it’s time to go home. But I’ve played that game before, and it was too much for me. Too frantic. I don’t want to spend all of my time traveling when I’ve already traveled so far just to arrive HERE. I don’t want to pack my days with as many museums/spectacles/concerts as possible (though last night was fun). I don’t want to go out to eat for every meal, either.

I find the greatest joy in the little routines that I’ve developed, and in the small pleasures of every day life. Like how my cheap little treats from the pâtisserie near the post office come wrapped up like little gifts:

Or sitting outside in the courtyard, eating quiche and pastry, and posting to my blog:

I like going for runs in the botanical gardens, where there are peacocks and wallabies and flowerbeds and greenhouses. I like running into Bernard (mon père) around town, out for his daily stroll or running some errands. I like dinner together with the family, especially when Bernard uses his fork to point out a landmark or give directions on the map on the china cabinet, without ever rising from his seat, or when Colette tells us that we bring her such joy, that taking in international students allows her to travel the world.

I like going to the movies by myself, or with friends. I like riding my rental bike around and getting to know the city better. I like treating myself to Lebanese food after successfully haggling with the guy at the bike store and then changing my train ticket, all in French.

I like who I am here, I like the life I have here, and though I know that it is temporal, that it is fleeting, I am enjoying it. I know that I will be able to take a part of it back with me, that I will not regress. I will progress. I will go easy on myself while continuing to grow. Always grow.

From yesterday’s journal entry:

“I’ve felt something opening up inside of me for some months now–ever since I dropped out of music school–but here, in France, on my own, it’s begun to truly blossom and take shape…the truth is that I cannot go back to self-hate and punishment and anxiety all the time. The truth is that I accept myself, and I trust the part of me that knows what I want and–more importantly–what I DON’T want. I refuse to continue to live up to others’ expectations of me, whether implied or explicit, at my own expense. I just can’t anymore.

I realized last night that I was lost to myself for some years–caught up in relationships that could not fulfill me. And though I mourn the loss of all that time, I refuse to go back there. I refuse to lose any more of my time or myself. I resolve to grow, to know and love myself better and better. To do everything in my power to create the life that I want for myself.

And I am contented with that.”

Dim, Damp, Cold, Curious

Voilà: The wine caves in Vouvray

(Are we still scrolling over the pictures to see the words, friends? I sure hope so!)

Also, I nearly forgot to mention: Last week littlesarahBigWorld hit an all-time high number of views–91 in one day. So thank you.

The Unexpected

This was Château Chenonceau:

Just because I do touristy things doesn’t mean I have to take touristy pictures.

Do I Contradict Myself?

Very well then I contradict myself. (I am large, I contain multitudes).   [–Walt Whitman, “Song of Myself”]

So, yeah, I did some more touristy things today. Went to a château, took a tour of some wine caves…SOMETIMES YOU HAVE TO DO TOURISTY THINGS EVEN AFTER COMPLAINING ABOUT THEM PUBLICLY. Sheesh. Here’s a preview:

Yup, cheesy poses and everything. (The idea here was that I was tired from working so hard all day in the kitchen. Of course.)

But let’s not get into that right now. I’d rather tell you about how the house-mates and I spontaneously decided to go to the little English-flavoured (see what I did there?) bar down the street after dinner.

Elizabeth, Dorie, Me, Mie

The waiter was super attendant (probably the first time he’s had four young foreign girls in there) and brought us lots of freebies. Like this meat-dip (for lack of a better word) with bread:

…and this drink with four black bendy-straws in it (pamplemousse + rosé):

…aaaaand these glow-stick bracelets. Which he bestowed upon us as a parting gift:

I think he wanted us to come back soon.

I think I will.

(Also: When I suggested that we go out for drinks–yes, of course, it was I who suggested it–Elizabeth said that I was like the older sister, and that she’d always wanted an older sister. I didn’t even feel old about her sentiment, just flattered. She also said the other night that she thinks I’d make a good teacher, that I seem like a teacher. It’s nice going out with my house-mates–somewhere between chaperoning and just hanging out. It’s nice going for long runs through botanical gardens. It’s nice practicing every night. It’s nice here. I like it.)

I kind of don’t want to go home…

Best Tourist

This is how I spent my Sunday:

-woke up early-ish (9:30), drank coffee and ate cookies, checked my e-mail and blog (so many readers lately!!!)

-went for a long, slow run–down to the big park across the Cher river (Le Bergeonnerie), around the lake, and then back–while listening to Bach’s cello suites (Yo Yo Ma), Feist, and Dr. Dog

-got ready and then grabbed a quick-ish 5€ lunch at “Place du Monstre” (Place de la Gran Marché)

-met up with my house-mate Elizabeth and a friend of hers at the Musée des Beaux Arts. First Sunday of the month is free!

[The art wasn’t necessarily my cup of tea–I’m more of a modern girl–but the museum itself is really beautiful, as well as the surrounding grounds/garden]

-browsed the flea market, bought something small for someone special, as well as a book in French (Vol de Nuit by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry)

-rested at a nearby café/patisserie with tea and pain au chocolate (¡viva la merienda!), admired my purchases, and wrote in my journal

-after that, I headed over to Studio Cinémas, where they show movies in version originale (not dubbed)–to see Minuit à Pairs (Midnight in Paris), the most recent Woody Allen film. It was fanciful, beautiful, and funny. I love Woody Allen films. Get over it.

And to finish the day off: dinner with la famille followed by an amazing practice session (more bach cello suites *smile*) and then a bit of blogging.

This is what I’ve been talking about. This is what I  like to do abroad–the same things I would do at home, for the most part.

This is how I travel.

Better Tourist

I guess the thing is just that I like traveling, but not necessarily touring, you know? I mean, the tour with Will was interesting and exciting and fun…but it was also intense and exhausting and stressful. I think sometimes people get these romantic ideas in their heads about just what it is that I do on my various over-seas and domestic adventures, but not all of it’s true.

I mean, I traveled a LOT while living in Spain–Germany, France (thrice!), Northern Spain, Eastern Spain, Southern Spain–and I did a lot of “tours,” where I was changing cities at least every other day (the one with Will, plus a France/Spain train trip with Whitney, plus a road trip with my dad and cousin Judy), but my favorite months were November and May–the months where I didn’t go anywhere and didn’t have any visitors. The months where I spent Saturday mornings in my room, drinking coffee and working on my blog, or eating take-out with Laura in the park.

I love going new places, trying new things, meeting new people–but on my own terms. Turns out, I’d rather move to a foreign country than just visit. Or at least stay for a few weeks (like I’m doing now).

But Life can’t always be like that, and you have to take advantages of the opportunities that come your way (I believe). So a good second best is to imagine what it would be like to live in a new city–walk around, check things out, maybe eat something…which is exactly what Liz and I did in Saint Malo, where we went after Mont Saint-Michel.

The entire city center is surrounded by a tall stone wall with archways here and there for entry. The best part is that you can walk ON TOP of the giant wall for its entire circumference. How cool is that? So you’ve just seen outside the wall, and here’s inside:

Then all around the wall, at least on the beachy parts, there was also a wall of wooden pillars. Like this:

Other cool things included a 10-foot (or maybe 12? It’s probably measured in meters, anyway) diving platform attached to a sea-water pool built out of stone right into the ocean’s edge. So awesome. Also a public napping spot, with hammocks.

And, as promised, a photo of Liz with her long-awaited crêpe…which a bird pooped on while we were walking along. Right in the middle and everything. So we got new crêpes, and they were better—made right in front of us from the thin batter instead of pre-made and re-heated.

All in all, a better tourist experience–more relaxed, more casual. More crêpes.

Bad Tourist

As much as I love to travel, I am not a very good tourist. Probably because I don’t like large groupings of people or being told what to do/having things expected of me, as in “Oh, you’re going to the Loire Valley? You HAVE to go visit Mont Saint-Michel!”

So I did, and there were busloads of tourist followed by two hours to kill on a small tidal island with nothing to do but eat and shop. I did a little bit of each, begrudgingly. Then we went on a tour of the abbey with our professor M. Dufresne, which was actually probably the best part, but by that point I was tired from the 4-hour bus-ride and dehydrated from two hours standing in the sun.

I don’t think I would go again, and I probably wouldn’t recommend it, but here are the pictures anyway, so you can see what you’re (not) missing. It is beautiful–don’t get me wrong–just…touristy. Very touristy. And that’s not really my cup of tea.

Liz, in one of the super narrow stairways

surrounding landscape

boys in plaid taking photos of sunlight

See what I mean? SO many people, and the crowding was made that much worse by the fact that there is only one entrance/main walkway, so you basically get funneled into the city and up a steep hill. It reminded me of that place in Paris from Amelie where you have to go up the stairs and young African men try to tie bracelets on your wrist.

I should say, though, that I don’t hate all touristy things. I loved the Eiffel Tower and Ellis Island. I’m trying to think of some more examples right now, but I can’t. Disneyland? Except that childhood obesity bums me out.

My favorite part of Mont Saint-Michel? The lunch that Bernard (mon père français) made me, which inluded 5 sandwiches (white bread with butter and ham), 2 brownies, 2 bananas, and a hand-written note. Something genuine, something unique. That’s all I’m really looking for.