This break was much anticipated, even though finishing midterms week would mean the program was already halfway through…and my semester abroad come to a close. Sadly, I’m currently writing this blog post from my return train from Nantes to Paris. This very keystroke was typed as my OuiGo 7622 train left from Gare de Nantes at 11h40.
Throwback to 5-6 weeks before, I was similarly taking a train (OuiTGV) from Nantes to Paris to begin my fall break travels with some friends from the IES Abroad Nantes program. Let’s just say that I didn’t learn from my last train experience from Paris, because everyone with me was running late to the train station. After class finished on Friday at 11h30, I had been packing up my suitcase for our 14h02 train before meeting up at Anna N.’s host family’s house with Kira P. and Juju (Juliana B.) to have a quick lunch of leftover mac & cheese (from Anna’s date with a French boy). I was already running late to her house. After unpacking some of the extra weight at Anna’s house, we quickly ran from ligne 3 to ligne 1 because Clare H. and Kyle H. Were already waiting in the station for us to arrive. En route, Jenny texted the “Fall Break” group chat, saying that she might not make the train. I checked Find my Friends and Jenny was, in fact, at her house (15 mins before the train was scheduled to depart). I called Jenny, and apparently her foot had cramped on the way down the stairs… there was no way she’d make the train if she took the ligne 3 to ligne 1, so she had to call an Uber. Her driver was a grandma…referred to as OG G-Ma from now on. This is important for later. Tracking Jenny on Find my Friends was the one of the many anxiety-inducing 15 minutes of my stay in France (particularly caused by her). She was scheduled to arrive 2 minutes before the train left, which was definitely cutting the timing close. OG G-Ma was hauling a** because Jenny’s face was flying through Nantes on Find my Friends. After Jenny had explained her situation, OG G-Ma gave Jenny her word that they would make her train at any cost necessary (i.e. speeding through Nantes). Unfortunately they got stuck at a long red light. OG G-Ma put the Uber in park and started unloading Jenny’s suitcase from the car, yelling at Jenny to run the rest of the way to the train station because doing so would be faster than waiting for the red light. 14h00. I’m waiting inside the train with Kyle, 90% Jenny wouldn’t make the train anymore… but then, there was Jenny running up the stairs with her suitcase flying right behind her. When JB sings “she’s a runner, she’s a track star,” he doesn’t know but he’s talking about Jenny running for the 14h02 train.
After the train fiasco, everyone arrived in Paris without any further complications. Kyle, Clare, Jenny, and I were staying at Generator (a hostel by Sacré Cœur) for the three nights before heading to the south of France. This was my first hostel experience, and I was genuinely impressed by the quality and cleanliness of the accommodation. We had a private room and bathroom with two bunk beds, costing only 27 euros per person. On the roof of the hostel, there was a bar with some panoramic views of Sacré Cœur and the Eiffel Tower. Not only was there a bar and restaurant for the guests, but there was even a Halloween party planned for the weekend during our stay (although we didn’t go because of our 6h00 train the next morning). The first evening, we had mediocre burgers on the Champs d’Élysée before walking around l’Arc de Triomphe and watching the Eiffel Tower lights twice (two hours of watching the lights because they go off at the beginning of each hour). A 2-hour photoshoot and 15-minute Instagram live later, we ended the night with a rainy walk back to take the metro to the hostel. The next day, I left early to have breakfast with my high school friend, Ally, who was studying and playing volleyball at La Sorbonne during her year abroad from Cal Berkeley. Catching up with Ally was definitely an experience and a half because both of us had been President and Vice President of the French Club, and now we were eating breakfast from the 2018 national winner for the best croissants (La Maison d’Isabelle). After breakfast and walking around La Sorbonne, I took the 50-minute metro ride(s) back to Sacré Cœur to meet my friends for the best kebab ever (GEMÜSE, Berliner Kebap). There was an hour-long wait to order, which worked out perfectly for me. After lunch, my friends wanted to visit Notre Dame and Saint-Chapelle, but I had plans to meet up with Matthew, a guy, I’d matched with on Bumble BFF to practice talking in French at a brasserie. I had the only beer I’ve ever liked at some brasserie (who’s name I can’t think of) with Matthew, from Paris. After an hour or so of talking solely in French, I was definitely feeling more confident… at IES Abroad it’s sort of difficult to fully immerse yourself in the French language and culture when you study with other American students, so Bumble BFF turned out to be a good way to meet French people like Matthew. After drinks, I said au revoir and merci to Matthew before rejoining my friends for dinner on the Champs d’Élyées for another mediocre dinner (but pizza this time). The next morning, we visited Saint-Chapelle because apparently you needed a reservation, and when my friends had tried the day before, they were unable to book one. This ancient church is probably my favorite…the stained glass recount the story of the Bible from start to finish with an almost poetic design to the layout of the panes. I think Kyle, Clare, and I walked through each stain glass window with Jenny for almost an hour, explaining each Bible story from our memory of Sunday school lessons. Following the visit to Saint-Chapelle and a very good lunch with our other friends at La Petite Périgourdine, we had booked a visit to Le Château de Versailles. Let’s just say, that Jenny and I wasted most of the afternoon in the mirror room taking pictures of each other. After eating overpriced macarons (30 euros for 6) that were covered in gravel because they fell on the ground, everyone returned home to get some sleep before an early morning train the next day. To be continued…
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<p>My name is Micah Doctolero and I'm studying in Nantes, France during the Fall 2021 semester. I'm a first-generation college student studying French and Management Information Systems (MIS) at Santa Clara University. Exploring the outdoors, whether the beach or the mountains is one of my favorite pastimes back home in California. I'm a 20-year old with a knack for discovering new places and meeting new people!</p>