The first weekend with my host family, my host parents took me to their beach house at Quiberon. I wasn’t sure what exactly to expect, but I was definitely nervous about speaking French the whole weekend and having to hang out with my host siblings in a social context. The past couple of weekends I’d been hanging out with the other IES Abroad students, so this weekend was going to be my first complete immersion in a French family. Charlotte, my host mom, had told me that family friends—one with another IES Abroad student, would also have dinner with us Friday night when we arrived. That was the extent of my knowledge of the weekend plans.
Having nothing but my backpack—my suitcases would have definitely been too extra to pack for a weekend, I packed light. This was definitely the move because of the beach weather we’d have the whole weekend. I brought 2 swim trunks, 2 button-down shirts, and flip flops. We packed up the Telsa with the expected drama of a French family leaving for vacation, including a lot of yelling up and down from one floor to another. Barnabé, à la voiture! Pétronille, es-tu prêt? I’ve learned to be punctual with the French to avoid the yelling and drama…truly unnerving at first. I was already waiting downstairs with my backpack. The three of us kids got in the back of the Tesla and my host mom, up front, left for the hospital to pick up my host dad from work. The 2 hour drive north in the direction of the Golfe de Morbihan passed quicker than I had anticipated. After getting off the freeway but before driving down the peninsula to Quiberon, we passed a shabby-looking Chinese buffet restaurant. As we passed by the restaurant, my host dad explained that they eat at for the buffet almost every time they go to the beach house—which is almost, if not, every weekend. That says a lot about this restaurant because I have never once seen my host family go out to eat at a restaurant.
Throughout the drive from Nantes to Quiberon, my host mom repeatedly told me how the beach house was like a cottage…so I was expecting a small, cozy house when we arrived. One moment we were cruising through the downtown, the next we moment were doing some light off-roading through a forest of eucalyptus trees. Then, we were backing up through a gate. We were home. From the front, the house looks like a modern but modest two-story beach house with white stucco walls and black trim outlining the glass doors. My first impressions of the house were 1) This “small” house is bigger than my house in California and 2) The modern, beach style is exactly my type. I immediately recognized the open driftwood and rope staircase from the family pictures they had emailed me before during the summer but obviously without the Christmas tree. Barnabé was going to be my roommate for the weekend—or I was going to be his roommate, so we took our bags up to his bedroom. There were pictures of him without his wavy, long hair in the bedroom. We looked at them for a while and talked about how much he’s matured in the past year. While we were upstairs, the front door opened and what sounded like a party ensued downstairs. I'd soon figure out that Cousin's (the host family of Clare) and another family were going to be staying the weekend in the so-called cottage with us. Altogether there were 11 of us saying under the same roof, so yeah...a 5 bedroom beach house isn’t necessarily my idea of a countryside cottage, but ça marche.
This is how day (or night) one in Quiberon happened…For dinner, the adults had planned a wine and cheese night, but Clare and I were way too hungry to sip wine on an empty stomach and eat finger food. Luckily we also got counted as children (perks of not quite being an adult yet), so we got invited to the kid’s table to have homemade croque monsieur, made by Marguerite (Clare’s host sister). After a lot of passing different cheeses around the table and 4 to 5 glasses of later, we took the party upstairs. Clare was sleeping in the den with the 3 other girls, ranging from 12 to 15 years old—definitely not the gang of girls a 21 year old is used to hanging out with. Anyways, Barnabé and I opened the invitation to the boy’s club for Clare to come to our bedroom for an Elite watch party. We watched about 1 episode of season 2 before we got tired and had to sleep.
This is how Saturday happened…I woke up before Barnabé, so I snuck off to use the bathroom before the rest of the house woke up. When I returned, I think I might have woken him up, but we briefly recaped the episode we had watched the night before. He went downstairs, but I waited until Clare woke up to head downstairs so we could face the French together. The sun shining brightly, and the French had already gathered around the table on the deck in the back. We found our seats among the French and broke bread— literally broke bread with our hands and passed the baguette around the table. A rather classic French breakfast of every type of the bread was served with some coffee and tea. Afterwards, we had a slow start to the morning that began with a rather intense game of darts. My first attempts ended with a manhunt for the darts in the bushes, but after that I slowly improved my game. The kids and the dads went for a walk around the peninsula while the moms went shopping for lunch. We walked through a small forest of fern and evergreen trees that opened up to a field of berry bushes. As we made our way through the bushes we picked the black berries and ate them until our hands turned blue. In the middle of the field was an old tower, which we climbed to get a 360 degree view of the Golfe de Morbihan and la Côte Sauvage. From the tower, we headed towards la Côte Sauvage and descended the cliffs towards the raging waves below. After taking some pictures, we headed back to the house for a delicious chicken and ham lunch. Once again, we squeezed around the table and passed one dish after another. I think I’ve concluded that lunch oftentimes more a more important meal for the French than dinner because, I swear, we ate better at lunch than we had at any French dinner. After lunch, the dads lefts with scuba gear to go spearfishing at the south end of the peninsula. Barnabé was busy doing homework, and the other girls were doing something else…so Clare and I took some bikes and left for a tour of the island, which had a rocky start to say the least. We decided to take a path we had discovered, which led us up an off-road climb through the grass that was way too hard for the cruiser bikes. I think we biked around 4 to 5 miles along the coast, feeling the sun against our backs and a salty west breeze in our faces. As we biked to the beach where the other girls were swimming, we caught a glimpse of the dads with their orange boat and bouys floating between the rocks as we passed by. When we arrived at the beach, the moms were lying out on the sand with the bikes resting against each other in the distance—an idyllic European scene if ever I’ve seen one. Anyways, the water was cold, every time the other girls yelled shark I swam faster to shore… because I don’t mess with those or jellyfish (my first week in France I got stung by one). We road back home after the beach and got ready for dinner, which turned out to be quite the party. Walking downstairs, the sight of already drunk parents was definitely a fun experience. The lights were turned off, except for some colorful LED party lights. The music was at max volume, and the parents with glasses of wine in one hand were passing a speaker around in the other. After grabbing a beer from the dads and a glass of wine from the moms, Clare and I were ready to dance with the parents. One of the girls was like, “Si tu donnes une verre aux parents, ils sont comme ça… et drunk.” Needless to say, the party was fun and the dancing moved outside where the kids were queuing the playlist of songs. The dancing started with the classic circle and later dissolved to become a human grind chain where the parents were passing the kids over their heads… Clare and I needed another drink. Before dinner, there was a pull-up competition between the boys on one of the supporting beams in the house, although I don’t remember who won between Barnabé and myself. After a sausage party of a dinner, the dads— already an innumerable amount of drinks past drunk, asked Clare and I to play a midnight round of darts. The game was so chaotic. Half of the time they forgot we were playing and skipped over our turns. We obviously ended up losing and had to get down on one knee give une bise to the winner to acknowledge our defeat.
This is how Sunday happened… Waking up for breakfast and another round of darts was beginning to feel like a dream. The sun was shining brightly through the window, and the scent of a warm baguette drifted from the terrace below. After another day of a carbohydrate-heavy breakfast, Barnabé and I got dressed in wetsuits, loaded the bikes with surf boards, and headed off to the point for a surf break. To say the least, I was Brice de Nice—and I couldn’t surf. For those who don’t know the reference, there’s this French movie where this guy from Nice talks big about his surf game but can’t surf when there’s real waves. While I thoroughly enjoy surfing, my style of waves are the large barreling double-overhead waves that competitive surfers like. I’m used to the long meter high waves of Southern California…the fun-sized waves. When we arrived there were two things I was thinking about: 1) Mon dieu how do I get out of this and 2) how do I not look stupid trying to paddle out past the first two breaks? My arms and shoulders have never been more tired in my life. The current was very strong, and the beach was in a cove of rocks (dangerous if you get too close). For like 30 mins, I was trying to paddle against the current to get away from the rocks. On a positive note, the water was crystal clear and warm enough not to need a wetsuit or booties. The dads were doing a Tour de Quiberon on bikes and came by to get us for lunch, which was bacon hamburgers (a nice change from the typical French food we’d been eating). After lunch, I went surfing again with my host dad and brother. Needless to say, I wasn’t performing any better than before, but at least the waves weren’t very good—I didn’t feel as embarrassed because there was hardly anything catchable. From the beach, we took the truck to the landfill where we conducted the weekly boys dumpster-diving by sneaking into the recycling facility and looking for anything from old phones to HDMI cords to saucepans. I found a French adapter for my MacBook which was lowkey a much needed find because my US wall adapter only has one outlet. Much of the end of the evening consisted of cleaning the house before heading back down to Nantes.
Honestly spending a weekend with the host family, no matter how awkward you might feel at the beginning, is the best way to quickly connect with them. At home, I’d eat dinner with them and maybe watch a movie in the living room or do my homework next to Pétronille or Barnabé, but sleeping and playing with your host family makes you closer with them on a whole other level. If there’s anything I regret about my host family experience, it’s declining other invitations to weekends with the d’Hauthuille family.
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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>