Finishing Finals & A Visit to France

Morning Love (16/12/13)

So finals suck, but on the positive side, I’ve rediscovered my love for mornings. I’ve had to wake up so many times early in the morning in order to go to exams, but frankly, I LOVE having early morning exams. I love mornings. It is my thing. Hashtag, rediscovery of self. Hahaha.

Finis! (17/12/13)

Today: the last day of doom! YAY! So, after my last exam, I talked with my fellow botanist about the test we just took. Then, I went home and chilled a bit before I headed to her place to help her out a bit by cleaning her apartment. Yes, I volunteered to clean her place. It was rather fun, to be honest. The best part was her flatmate walking in looking confused and asking me if she was in the right apartment.

Always Learning (18/12/13)

Today was pretty terrible. The rain was just pouring because of the storm running by. I was planning to clean my apartment, but it was too cold for me to go home. So, I didn’t get to. Good thing because my flatmate told me that when she came home today, she was “literally a puddle”. I love my Italian flatmate; she’s awesome.

Before the rain storm started, I went to have brunch with my Brazilian friend. It was awesome. I got to learn something new I didn’t expect. We had ordered a big meal, so he couldn’t finish his soda. I tried drinking a little, but I really don’t like the carbonation. So, he taught me something someone else had taught him years ago. Apparently to reduce carbonation, you can just add sugar to the drink. Funny thing is we tried it with salt later on and it worked too, but who in the world would add salt to a drink?

France: Nantes, not Paris (19/12/13)

With finals done and over with, I left to fly to France to visit my lovely friend who was studying there. My flight was at 7am. It was pretty terrible, considering I didn’t sleep so I could leave the house at 4:30am and get to the airport on time.

I arrived in Nantes in good time. My friend’s friend picked me up from the airport because my friend had a final that day. It was lovely, but oh my transportation tickets are tiny! Anyways, I was brought to their study abroad center. It’s run by a French staff and all 40-something American students are required to speak in only French while they are at the centre, so I didn’t really understand most of what was going on except when people spoke to me in English.

Some deliciousness found at French bakeries in Nantes.

My friend and I walked down the street to pick up a baguette for lunch after she was done with her final. The bakery (boulangerie) was beautiful. Everything was so prettily made and so gorgeously presented. It was quite interesting as well since the stereotype of French people walking up and down streets with GIANT baguettes is generally true in Nantes, as people constantly flowed in and out of the bakery. We had delicious ham and I was introduced to the wonders of French cheese; I had Comté cheese and it was amazing.

The Christmas market in Plaza Royale during the day (top) and during the night (bottom).

After lunch and all that jazz, we went to the Christmas market in Plaza Royale. It was amazing being in a Christmas market. It’s like a farmer’s market/artist’s market but fifty times better. Not only do the artists make great things, but the set-up is beautiful. The booths all match and are all strategically organized in the plaza to allow customer flow. Not to mention, there is delicious food such as churros (chichis in French) and cotton candy (barbe à papa), my FAVORITES. Some things being sold there included scarves, jewelry, nail stamps, wooden games and puzzles, things made of botanic ivory (Phytelephas aequatorialis), and candles that looked like desserts.

Left: my cup of tea. Right: pictures of some parts of the place.

After a lovely introduction to the Christmas market in Plaza Royale, my friend and I went to have tea with her friends at La Cigale. It was beautiful inside and out, not to mention tea time was absolutely splendid. The sugar packets were cute, mostly due to the cute print of their “mascot” on it. Also, a “Pause Chocolat Celaya de Chez Valrhona” was ordered. I had a bit and boy was it scruptious! I’ve never really been fond of chocolate in America because everything is overly sweet, but this chocolate cake was delicious. It wasn’t too sweet, it was just lightly sweet with that cocoa kick. I wonder if it’s a European thing, but it’s gorgeous! Afterwards, the girls began to bid their goodbyes as one by one, they went their separate ways in life.

After some more browsing at the Christmas market, my friend and I had galettes for dinner. I had one of salmon and spinach. It was delicious. Then, I also had cloudy apple juice and a beurre-sucre (butter-sugar) crêpe. SO good. Back at her host family’s house, we stayed up late and watched Home Alone before going to bed at 1:30am. I forgot how good that movie was.

The Wonders of Nantes (20/12/13)

We started the day nice and late at 11am. So instead of having a full breakfast, we had a couple munchies before heading to the study abroad centre. There we fed on the leftovers people had left, as food had to be had before everyone left the centre permanently. I discovered the wonders that are speculoos cookies and the speculoos spread”. It was wonderful. It was also interesting to find out that the typical yogurt flavours in France are grapefruit, prune and pear. What?! Also, there was a bag of salad out and about labeled “mâche”. The girls contemplated it, knowing it translates to “mash” directly, but not really sure what to make of it. My friend and I later found out, as I googled it, that it is a type of lettuce also known as corn salad or lamb’s lettuce (Valerianella locusta) – or rapunzel!

The mechanical elephant at Les Machines de l’îl.

Then, the most scientific part of Nantes that I fell in love with: Les Machines de l’îl. We didn’t go in and pay extra money to ride the mechanical elephant or see the other mechanical creatures, but just watching the mechanical elephant move and blink was amazing. There were pictures in the gift shop of various mechanical creatures also created, such as spiders and fish and all sorts of other critters. Amazing, ingenious!

The other Christmas market (L’autre Marche). Bottom left: a book transform into a hedgehog. Bottom middle: some button-bottle openers. Right: a ‘floating faucet’.

Then, to the Christmas market again to do some serious shopping. This time, we also paid a visit to the Christmas market across the tram rails as well and found some more interesting things. One of my favorites was a display someone had set up of a “floating faucet” and then a bottle opener-pin that one artist was selling.

The Château des Bretagne

The Château des Bretagne was our last stop before dinner for the night. The chateau was wonderful, again despite not going inside. It was just breathtaking to see an actual moat around the castle, which has been converted into an area you can walk in with grass and benches. The courtyard was quite interesting as well as I got to see, first hand, something I had learned about in class several years ago: espalier, training woody plants to grow in a 2D form. It was awesome!

The main Christmas Market at Plaza Royale. Top left: dessert-shaped candles. Top right: a giant gingerbread cookie. Bottom left: a wooden puzzle that secures a bottle of wine. Bottom middle: some fancy geometric lights. Bottom right: chocolates.

Then, we dropped by the Christmas market again to meet up with one of her friends and have some delicious churros (chichis)! Oh My GoSH. These churros were so good. I thought American churros were good with the cinnamon sugar coating and its soft deliciousness. No, these churros were better. They are they made FRESH – not factory made and kept heated, thus they have uneven shapes – AND they had this perfect crunchy outside and soft inside. Though, to be honest I do prefer to have cinnamon sugar rather than JUST sugar. It was the best decision ever made, before we had a homemade dinner with her host family.

Dinner was a delicious baked dish with lots of vegetables that her host mom had made. The four of us finished a whole casserole dish of it, three servings each. It was scrumptious. Though, sitting with a French family not knowing a spot of French is slightly awkward.

Some pictures I took of Les Anneaux.

After dinner, my friend and I took a walk to see Les Anneaux, a series of 18 rings in red, blue and green, by Daniel Buren and Patrick Bouchain. They’re laid out by the two artists to face towards the river to link “the great maritime and naval past of the town and today’s great architectural and urban projects.

Returning to Dublin (21/12/13)

The morning of my return to Dublin, I had a small breakfast of rice and wheat (riz et blé) cereal and fruit cake. The cereal was had with milk, which my friend had pointed out how interesting it is that in Europe UHT (ultra-high-temperature processed) milk is a thing, so the milk can last without being refrigerate for a longer period of time. I sort of with Americans did that more often. After I finished packing and bidding farewell to the lovely attic room that was my home for a few days, we left for the airport.

While we were waiting for the bus at the end of the tram line, we met 2 Irishmen and a Spaniard also going to the airport. The Irishmen were going to Dublin as well, flying home for the holidays since they study in France for their degrees. Upon getting to the airport, I was so freaked out and in such a rush, I forgot to get my boarding pass stamped before boarding, as is required by non-EU citizens for Ryanair. After a period of stressing out and frustration – since I didn’t understand the language and I was being rather hormonal – I got my boarding pass stamped and I made it to the plane, as it was delayed due to bad weather. Upon landing in Dublin, the whole plane cheered. It was odd.

My lovely flatmate picked me up from the airport and helped me out a bit before we went our separate ways in city centre so she could do some Christmas shopping before she left for home.

It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas (22/12/13)

For a short day fun, my Brazilian friend, my Italian flatmate and I took a trip up to Blanchardstown Centre to have some delicious Auntie Anne’s pretzels and do some Christmas shopping before she left for Italy. It was wonderful. I love that Auntie Anne’s pretzels exist in Dublin.

Nutella glasses: It’s a thing.

Things I Learned “today”

  • No such thing as ‘family size’. Chips/crisps are typically sold in small snack-sized bags if sold in bulk. There’s never just a LARGE bag of crisps – as far as I’ve seen.
  • Insomnia coffee shops give a 50% discount to students if you show them your student ID card, at least that’s how it worked when I went out for some after my last final.
  • Nutella glasses are a thing. So Nutella comes in these cute little jars that look like glass tumblers. After you’re done with your Nutella, Europeans will wash off those jars and use them for just that. It’s amazing. According to my Italian flatmate, they are VERY durable – as they are the only surviving glasses in her household (or something like that).
  • Ecraser (French) means “to run over, smash, or squash”. It’s my friend’s favorite word she picked up on while she was studying in France this semester.
  • Saltine crackers are also known as “Italian crackers”. They’re typically VERY cheap back in America, but they’re €4 or €5 in Dublin.

Word/Phrase of the Day

  • Shattered = extremely tired

2 thoughts on “Finishing Finals & A Visit to France

  1. Ah, so that’s what saltines are called in Ireland! I found some (Jacob’s brand) once, they were Mediterranean flavor or something like that. And I had no idea people actually use Nutella jars for tumblers–I believe they’re durable, since I dropped mine on the floor once and it was fine! The Christmas Market sounds fantastic. Enjoyed reading about your adventures there.

  2. Pingback: The Glories of Fall (October) | Diverse Shades of Green

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