It's been several days since I've posted, so you'll have to excuse me for the lengthy update coming your way. This past weekend we took the train to Nantes to spend the weekend with Anna. We had a marvelous time. It was so great to see Anna in her home here in France that she loves so very much. As a parent, it's a fabulous thing to see your child making their way in the world on their own. We started our time in Nantes with a walking tour of the riverfront area with Anna and her friend Kira, whom she met through her study abroad program with IES. The Japanese gardens on the small island of the Île de Versailles were exceptional.
Eventually we said our goodbyes to Kira and made our way back to our hotel where Anna and Priscilla relaxed while I did a photowalk throughout Nantes. As I walked about Nantes I was amazed at how pedestrian friendly it is. Most of the downtown streets are either pedestrian only or only allow limited vehicle traffic, at low speeds. Consequently you can walk all around downtown Nantes in a completely relaxed manner. In many ways Nantes reminds Priscilla and me of Oslo, Norway, another super friendly city for pedestrians.
For dinner that night Anna picked out a traditional French brasserie, La Cigale, which is located on the beautiful plaza in front of the opera house. We had a wonderful dinner, topped off with yummy desserts. It's a great help having a French speaker at the table when ordering at a French restaurant.
On Saturday, Priscilla and I were on our own, as Anna was on a day trip to Saint-Malo and Mont Saint-Michel with her IES cohort. We were surprised to see the huge market right next to the tram stop (the tram system is called TAN). The market is one of those that sells practically everything. After walking through the market, we caught the TAN out to see the Jardin des Plantes. We were super impressed with the Jardin des Plantes. It is beautifully taken care of and is laid out in a thoughtful manner.
After the Jardin des Plantes, Priscilla and I made our way to one of Anna's favorite coffeeshops for a light lunch. We chose to sit outdoors at the sidewalk tables because, well, isn't that what you do in France! Soon we saw a crowd approaching at the far end of the street. The shop owner said that they were anti-vax protesters. Not feeling like being in close contact with a large crowd of anti-vaxxers, we decided to move indoors. I did step out to capture a photograph of the protesters, who were peaceful, albeit a bit noisy.
After lunch we made our way to the other end of Nantes to visit the Jules Verne museum, which sits way up on a hill overlooking the port of Nantes. On our return trip from the museum we opted to take advantage of the TAN to lighten the walking load. For dinner that night we chose a close-in restaurant recommended by the front desk at our hotel, the Bistro 7. Their website didn't offer online reservations, so I had to call them. Soon after the man answered from the restaurant, I knew we were in for an adventure in French. He didn't speak a lick of English. Google Translate came to the rescue. We ended our conversation with me being not quite 100% sure we actually had a reservation for 7:30 that night. Regardless, when the time came we set out for our restaurant. Once there we realized that nobody there spoke any English, so with the help of Google Translate we figured out the menu and made our order. We were definitely treated to a traditional French bistro meal in a locals-only environment. We had a great time.
On Sunday we met up with Anna and started our day with a visit to the Château des Ducs Bretagne, an impressive castle that dates from the 15th century. The views of Nantes from the ramparts were beautiful.
After finding some lunch, we returned to the hotel. Anna and Priscilla had some R&R and I went out on another photowalk of the area around our hotel. When out walking, I enjoy heading down alleys and dead ends. That's where I often find some of the most interesting subjects to photograph.
The definite highlight of our time in Nantes was the dinner Sunday night with Anna and her host family. We had a delightful evening with Cedrick, Florence and their family. Anna loves her host family. We were amazed at how comfortable Anna was in speaking French and engaging with the family. The conversation was free flowing all night, sometimes in English, sometimes in French. At one point, Anna was trying to explain something to me and she looked right at me and started rattling something off in French. When she saw the puzzled look in my eyes she caught herself and we all had a good laugh. We took it as a great sign that it was becoming natural for Anna to speak French. Before dinner we enjoyed figs from their backyard along with cheeses. Dinner was a traditional French shepherd pie called a Hachis Parmentier. Then came the cheese course. Dessert was fresh pears with ice cream, topped with chocolate sauce and almond slivers. At night's end, we enjoyed chestnuts roasted in the fireplace in their living room. It was a truly magical evening. Cédric mentioned that this is the first time they've gotten to meet the family of an IES student they are hosting. Anna is the third they've hosted.
The next day, Monday, Priscilla and I made our way back to Paris in time to greet our niece, Maddie, on her return from her trip to Switzerland. Maddie had one more day with us in Paris before heading back to Minnesota on Wednesday. Maddie and Priscilla got some gift shopping in on Tuesday. We also took Maddie on the obligatory walk on the Coulée Verte, one of the stars of the 12th arrondissement.
Lunch Tuesday was at a brasserie near our flat we've been wanting to try, Le Square Trousseau. I think we've found our new neighborhood bistro. The service was excellent and the food delicious. I had escargot for the very first time. Our waiter was a bit concerned I might be put off by the little squiggly buggers, but he needn't have worried. I absolutely loved them! Maddie tried one too and immediately became a fan.
This morning we had an early wakeup to get some tasty treats from Blé Sucré on the table for Maddie's last breakfast in Paris. We bade her farewell when her Uber ride arrived at 9 a.m. I think today will be a quiet one around here for Priscilla and me. I'll probably get out for a walk, but otherwise it'll be low-key around here.
It just dawned on me that we are at the halfway point of our time here in Paris...four weeks in with four weeks to go. The time is going by so quickly.