The past two days have been… hectic, to say the least. After a whopping 19 hours of traveling, I finally arrived at my destination of Nantes, France. Leaving the muggy, sweat-inducing climate of Baltimore, Maryland, I felt instantly refreshed by the cool, breezy air. However, this wasn’t the only noticeable change in the atmosphere. From the moment I stepped off the train in this Western city, I heard no English, save that of my fellow Americans also traveling with IES (Institute for the International Education of Students).
It’s no surprise then that when my host mom greeted me at the IES center, she rambled off several sentences in French, interspersed with questions before making sure I understood anything she was saying. Luckily, I did and was somewhat comforted by this head-first immersion into the language since the goal of my stay here is to reach fluency. While I was able to keep up with the questions and comments of Hélène, my host mother, I was a bit slower to understand the ins and outs of her home.
A self-proclaimed Nantaise, Hélène has always lived in Nantes but only moved to an apartment in the city a few years ago. She graciously showed me into each room, finally leading me into the bedroom I would call mine for the next three months. When opening the window (air conditioning is rarely used here since the weather is so cool), she explained to me that I could close “les volets” if I wanted to. I looked at her blankly. I knew that wasn’t the word for curtains but all I saw were curtains. She extended her arm out through the window as I extended my arm out for a French-English dictionary. As she pulled back white boards across the open window, I found the translation: shutters. The windows here were much more romantic than my Plexiglas, blackout-shaded ones back home. Not to mention, the apartment is on the ground floor so I can lay in bed with my window open people-watching as the adults go to work and children go to school in the morning.
As I, exhausted from my day’s travel, trudged over to the bathroom and closed the door behind me, I discovered something else out of the ordinary: No toilet. I saw a shower, a sink, towels, but no toilet. Such is the set-up of most French homes. The toilet, I had learned was in its own separate room next door.
This was definitely something I would have to get used to as, this morning I went into the shower and sink room again to use the bathroom, only to laugh at my defeated image in the mirror.
After the long day I had encountered, Hélène set up a traditional apéritif of some fresh French bread and a delicious dip with creamy cheese. She then made dinner which consisted of a galette with salad greens on the side. Hélène told me that galettes, similar to a crêpe, are very popular in this region. Thus, I’m assuming that I’ll have many more galettes in the months to come. However, filled with cheese, ham, egg, and butter, I’m not complaining.