Sunday, June 6, 2010

Last Blog Entry from France

Why yes that is a two-story mechanical elephant! Spent yesterday in Nantes for one last petite excursion before I left France. Went with now-former CIDEF classmate and still fellow American, Jess from Michigan who came up with the idea in the first place. She hear about this thing from AHA and we told ourselves that it was just bizarre enough that we had to see it for ourselves. It is a part of a machine museum, in translation called, Machine Island, where engineers have the funnest job in the world just creating and building big toys like this for adults and kids to enjoy. This is the most popular attraction as the rest of the machines are usually hold just one person and are just on display for the most part.

Not a bad last day out. Besides, how many people can claim to have ridden a mechanical elephant in France?

Today, I'm packing up my suitcases completely, going to mass the St. Maurice's Cathedral (host family found out my love of organ music), and I am leaving on a 5:30AM train tomorrow for Paris where I will take a plane to London and begin the second part of my time in Europe.

Wasn't it the beginning of February yesterday?

But there is no way that it was just February. I don't feel like the same person who first came to France. She was "fresh off the boat" (or plane) so to speak with no clue of where she really was and what sort of people she was going to meet. A dreamy sense came over me as the plane began to touch down at Charles De Gaulle. I look back and wonder how it was I didn't manage to get lost in that huge airport and actually grab a train for Angers at the minute it left. I wonder how on earth Monsieur was able to understand by hesitant, nervous, and badly pronounced French, saying who I was and, oh, head's up, I'm passing Le Mans but I have no clue what that means (means btw that I was an hour away via TGV) and, um, can you pick me up, complete stranger who I don't know.

Still, it happened. It all really happened and I got through it all- no- I succeeded through it all. This place feels like a different sort of home to me in the definition of a place where I keep my heart. Four months and over fifty blogs later, this is not the Elizabeth who began writing about her wishes, problems, and thoughts on France in late winter. It is the middle of spring and this Elizabeth, who also responds to Elizabet, is writing to you now. I can't imagine how to better express how happy I am that I came here. I can only say that, well, then, maybe you should try something like it as well. The most dangerous thing you can do is to walk out your front door as J.R.R. Tolkien once wrote. But it is worth it.

Speaking of changes, I have one last kind of fun list on this France entry to share specifically some things (mainly preferences of food and drinks) that have changed. Some may be relateable. Others? Well, just trust that my judgment is working soundly enough.

Things that will never be the same for me:

Coffee: I thought I knew strong coffee. I know better now. Thank you Italian influence on the rest of the continent to show me what a real wake up is like. I’m currently looking at a stovetop espresso maker on the Internet. Jessica introduced me to hers and I think I’m in love.

Bread: Here is yet another thing that the French just do well. Adkins dieters better beware France. They love their carbs but they have every reason to do so. A baguette is so cheap but so delicious with a dream-inspired crunchy texture on the outside and soft and spongy white goodness on the inside.

Dessert: Presque obligatoire, one must always end a meal with a little something sweet. Here, it never has to be a big thing— just good. From something simple as fresh strawberries with a touch of whipped cream to deck-out cakes, the French accept it all. Before, dessert for me had to be something like cake, ice cream, some sort of candy or any like it but not now. Now, a good dessert is something sweet, simple, and just plain bon.

Cheese: France has more than enough types of cheeses to have a different cheese for every day of the year— no joke and enough said.

Cereal: Thank you again Jessica for introducing me to Weetabix. I’m not sure how to classify this crazy British creation. It is like cereal but sometimes with the consistency of oatmeal? I don’t know. I just love it and I must find it back at home somehow.

Wine: I can confidently say now that I “know” French wine or at least how the classification system here works and how to spot a decent bottle that I’ve never tried before. The problem though? That’s only when I’m in France. The French sell and label wines in different ways than the Americans. First, a cheap wine doesn’t mean a bad wine. Now if you buy a Euro fifty wine, that might be really bad, but just about anything around three Euros should be fine. There are rouges, blancs, and ros├ęs…and champagne (a whole other category on its own). Champagne only comes from the region of Champagne in France. Everything else is sparkling wine. That isn’t a bad thing to drink it, but just don’t dare call it champagne. Other wines are also categorized by region simply enough despite the color. A Bordeaux is not always a rouge in other words. However, the grand majority of French rouge wine comes from this region so chances are if you’ve got a Bordeaux, it is a rouge. From what I understand, the Americans categorize their wines differently. I’ll have to go down the liquor section when I get back to survey the new system have to learn and probably hit the Internet/library.

Beer: I finally had beer for the first time here within about a week and after I got over the surrealism of walking into a bar with the knowledge that I was “legal.” It was a Kronenbourg, a standard brand in France. It isn’t all that bad and it is about the cheapest thing to get. So, okay, beer has been made accessible to me for the first time, I’ve got a ways to go on my exploration. England couldn’t be too bad of a place to continue on to.

Cocktails: I had no clue that America is basically THE country for a good cocktail and that we invented them. The breakdown seems to be (in French eyes so there's the disclaimer) that France (and, okay, Italy) can claim a good wine. Germany, Ireland, and the UK are beer cultures. Russia may claim anything that is too hard for anyone but a Russian to swallow. HOWEVER, a good cocktail is always found with the Americans.


  1. We have so enjoyed your blog, Elizabet! We are glad that you took that first, very brave step to walk out our front door to find a part of yourself in France. What a wonderful, life-changing experience you have had. You have put as much of yourself into this adventure as anyone could have. Now on to England...and then home. I imagine that you will not find us the same as when you left, as well. Your travels have impacted more than yourself...what a wonderful thing!

  2. Kristie ClaytonSunday, June 06, 2010

    When you started your journey in France your life changed. Now you made great improvement in your French skills. Now you can do it again in England, too. I do like it,+ I love you!

  3. Elizabet,
    I feel as Mom does: you will return to find many things at home 'changed'. The main difference will of course be your own perspective, and I always appreciate expanded perspectives, even if the trip there might be hard. In your case, the 'hard' part was your courage and persistence to get there and take advantage of as much as you could. Perspective is everything. Experience is priceless. Looking forward to a London perspective!

  4. Dearest Liz,
    I am so happy we got to know each other better. I am so gratefull that we have such a wonderful tribe. And one more cousin that is a friend!
    Do make a list of things that seem strange to you when you arrive back in the states. Reverse culture shock is also a very valuable experience.
    Have fun in England. I am curious to find out what ales you....;-)
    Love, Jessica


Angers, France

Angers, France

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For this moment in time, I'll just share a quote from Nelson Mandela. I think it sums up what I'm experiencing right now. "If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart."