Thursday, July 21, 2011

and I'm off!

My apartment is all clean, my plants are watered, and I'm all packed -- all of this AN HOUR before my train leaves. Even enough time to take a picture of my bag and blog about it. Dedication, I tell you.

Somehow I fit my life into this 40 liter bag for the next 2 weeks, including my sleeping bag and jungle speed. Two very important things to have whilst on the camino.

To you Kansans who haven't yet been introduced to the fun that is jungle speed, invite yourself over to play with Lindsay or Erika sometime soon. It is F.U.N.

I'm excited to go! A little nervous as to what the 2 weeks will look like and the impending blisters, but mostly excited!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

in the top 3

Without any hints, Lindsay guessed correctly what one of my absolute favorite parts of the trip was. Good job, Linds! It must be because she just officially became a teacher. So smart. Woot. 

So what was it?!?! Standing in the room where Victor Hugo finished writing Les Misérables

Hugo was exiled on the island by Napoleon III (he called Napoleon a traitor to France... oops) and lived there for almost 15 years. He had started writing Les Misérables when he lived in Paris, but finished the work in Guernsey. 

But his house was really interesting. He designed and decorated the whole thing himself. He said, "I missed my vocation: I was born to be an interior decorator". There were tons of cleverly made pieces of furniture, decorations, mirror placement, etc. 

For example: a chandelier he made using spools of thread for the candle holders

And although it was "cool" in the "wow, Victor liked DIY projects!", I didn't so much care for his decorating style. Too dark.  

Until I saw this:

3000 books. 3000 OLD and COOL books! Makes you want to throw out your kindle or ipad, doesn't it? :)

The view from his balcony was also pretty spectacular. Our tour guide thought that one of the reasons Hugo purchased this house (people had said it was haunted prior to his arrival) was because on a clear day, you can see the cost of France from atop this balcony.

And here it is... where he wrote the masterpiece of Les Misérables. It looks like a big room, but what looks like a door in between the windows is actually just a mirror. 

In the corner you can see a dark piece of wood and that was his desk -- there was one on each side, and it was just a simple desk that he could fold up or down. 

This is at the very top of the house; lots of light. 

The back:

He ate some sort of oats, a raw egg, and drank cold coffee for breakfast every day. Gross. 

It was incredible to think that such a chef d'oeuvre was created there. 30 different film adaptations have been made of his book. 

Guess what book I'm taking along with me to Spain? Part 1 of the 1200 page novel. :) 

Monday, July 18, 2011


It's a beautiful island. B.E.A.U.T.I.F.U.L.

The island isn't actually that far from Rennes. We had to take a bus from Rennes to St. Malo (1.5 hours) and then a 2 hour ferry ride to St. Peter Port, Guernsey. Riding on the ferry was a blast. Well, on the way there it was. On the way back the sea was a bit more agitated and we were swaying to and fro quite a lot. I haven't been on many ferry rides in my life, but whew -- turbulence on a boat, when you're completely surrounded by water is much more terrifying than turbulence on an airplane. For me, anyway. Seriously, at times, you could hardly stand up and walk straight as we were dipping to the left and the right so much. But we survived!

We stayed at such a cool campground. The family that owns the campground have been running it for over 40 years and they were so sweet and kind. We rented these "hire tents" (as we don't have our own) and it was like staying in a little hotel. We each had our own little compartment to sleep in!

They even came equipped with a kitchen!

This was our field. It was so calm and peaceful. Do you see the two people by the blue tent? That's Pete and Jane, who became our buddies during the week. They were Londoners and were the "real campers".

We even convinced Jane to play 2 games of bananagrams with us one night. True friend. :)

St Peter Port is the main city on the island. Look at what side of the street the cars are driving on! We had to look both ways multiple times before crossing!

There were INCREDIBLE flowers everywhere! Everywhere. They were so beautiful.

This is the home of our campsite owners.

Ahhh yes, a John Deere tractor even on the little island. 

Halle is waiting on the wrong right side of the road for our bus.

On Saturday, we decided to go hiking on some cliffs on the south part of the island. It was rainy and overcast,  but we were rewarded with an incredible view of the sea!

Check it out. Doesn't that water just make you want to dive in!?!

On Sunday morning, before we embarked on the ferry home, we had "cream tea" -- well, I substituted the tea for a latte. Yummy homemade scones with "cream and jam". The cream of course coming from our dear Guernsey cows.

Amidst the visiting of quaint little cities, hiking on the coast, and avoiding being hit by buses, we also had lots of time to read. Ahhhhh, one of the greatest parts of vacation.

I took along The Book Thief and LOVED it. I had heard so much about it, and was not at all disappointed. I highly recommend it.

I also recommend our campsite... if you ever decide to visit the island, John and Peggy will be more than helpful in accommodating you!

And one of my favorite parts of the week I'll tell you about tomorrow. Oooooh, soooo suspenseful am I!

Sunday, July 17, 2011

soooo many stories!

Guernsey was a blast. Oh man do I have stories to tell! It was such a cool island to spend a week on. For now, just a few pictures.

Guernsey milk cows...

Only Guernsey milk is allowed on the island, and their ice cream, as you can imagine, was YUMMY. Incredibly creamy.

One quick story from today.

Our ferry was 4 hours late getting into St Malo (northern France, an hour by car from Rennes) and so we missed the last bus and train connection. We had no idea what we were going to do or how to get home. Amazingly (and thankfully) there were about 15 other passengers who were in the same predicament as us, and who were trying to catch the later train from Rennes to Paris. Looong story short, the 15 of us walked down to the bottom of the ship to get our luggage and as soon as we docked, we were hurried off the boat, went through customs and jumped into taxis they had waiting for us. The ferry company PAID for us to get a taxi back to Rennes!

Do you know how much it cost to ride in a taxi for an hour!?!?

Look at this taxi meter. That's exactly 218.10 dollars!

What a way to end our holiday! A free taxi ride in a niiiiiiice car almost all the way to our front doorstep, and for FREE! :)

It's good to be home.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

cool choir concert in cathdral

Check out that alliteration. Sweet. Last night I went with Halle and Tereza to a children's choir concert in the cathedral downtown. Not just any choir concert -- 700 children. Different choirs from all over this region of France came together this week and performed several times in Rennes, last night being the grand finale. It was really really cool. You can imagine how beautiful it was with the acoustics in an old cathedral. The harmonious sounds floated around the room, filling every ounce of space and wrapping around each individual; giving one the impression that the music was not only filling the building, but penetrating the human soul as well.

The scaffolding added a modern touch to the rustic 12th century cathedral.

I'd never seen so many people in a cathedral in France.

The individual choirs performed 2 songs each, and then the whole ensemble of 700 children would sing a couple songs in between.

"The sound washed over me and invaded my soul with delight. Mmmmm." said Halle when asked what she thought of the concert.

The very last song performed by everyone was the Hallelujah Chorus. Oh man. Talk about incredible -- the sound resonated everywhere! And the sopranos hit their high notes beautifully! Speaking of hitting the high notes, Halle and I did not. But we couldn't help but sing along (somewhat quietly) whilst Tereza raised a quizzical eyebrow, seemingly saying, "oh girls, let the professionals sing". :)

It was the last song, so there was of course an encore, and they sang the Hallelujah Chorus again.

Random side note -- did you know that "encore" literally means "again" in French? Interestingly enough it is not what French say when they want the performers to come back and do one last piece. They might use the Latin "bis" or just start clapping in unison.

Anyway. It was a cool concert.

And here's a very bad quality video of a little boy singing Ave Maria

Friday, July 8, 2011

one of the reasons I love this city

I was walking around downtown yesterday with a friend when I happened upon this group of very joyous and entertaining musicians. They were so funny! They had so much joy and were obviously loving playing in the street for people.  

Oh yes, that is indeed a red sequined jacket. This was the leader of the group.

His eyebrows moved up and down when he played and it reminded me of the puppet show in Sound of Music! Remember the guy who was playing the tuba? And his bushy eyebrows that moved?! This guy was just like that.

It's not an uncommon sight to see street musicians performing, but typically it's just a few people playing; not a whole group. There's a guy who plays the accordion sometimes, and I loooooove that too! Rennes's got talent.

Oh, and to go along with our red-themed pictures, lookey here! If you want to come over for a snack and have a cherry tomato, you're more than welcome to!

Thursday, July 7, 2011

our 4th of July

Halle and I wanted to celebrate the 4th of July in style. We had lots of great ideas and laughed a ton thinking of everything we could do with French people. Bean bag toss? Pin the hat on Uncle Sam? 3-legged races? A teaching session on how to properly fold the American flag? Relay race including marching (instead of running) and American flags? Hahaha. Oh man. We had a lot of good laughs. In the end, we both concluded that kickball was the way to go. We had a cool American flag cake (we couldn't find blueberries so we opted for blue m&ms, and something strange happened with the homemade whipped cream...). Halle brilliantly thought of bringing watermelon. Good idea Halle.

We did what we could... This picture does not really give one the desire to partake of it... but it was actually good. Just not so much aesthetically pleasing. :) And it was not yellow-ish. Haha.

And this was one of the most hilarious moments...

I have no pictures of the kickball game, but it was fun. Bases made out of cardboard, and a big red rubber ball. :)

It was a fun 4th of July.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

post for my mama

Here are "today" pictures of my growing things, Mom. :)


oh, and the curtains that I hemmed up. I made sure to take the picture of where I sewed in a straight line. :)

Now it's your turn to show me pictures of all of your potatoes and your newly painted porch!! Go Mom go! 

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Wednesday was a big day for Rennes

I'm not going to tell you every time I eat a tomato, but... today a second one was ready! And since there were people here for lunch, I divided the little fruit into 4 equal pieces for all to enjoy. Happy to report that all 3 partakers enjoyed it. I mean, I was starring them down as they ate, as if daring them to say anything but wonderful, encouraging, kind and flattering things. As Andrew would say, "hey-ho!!"

Sometime last week, I heard about this "city-wide sidewalk sale" that was going to take place on Wednesday of this week and I was pumped! A giant sidewalk sale!?!? Saweeeet. But helas, I was somewhat mistaken, and thus greatly disappointed. It was indeed city-wide, but not so much of a sidewalk sale. I was expecting stores to put tables out with all of their sale items, used stuff, etc; a sidewalk sale! But it was not so much that but was more these random stands of mostly cheap-o clothes, shoes, underwear, bags, etc.

The biggest score for me was finding a couple places that were selling used English books (I found 5 books for 2 euros!) and then finding some fabric 50% off! Woot. Hello soon to be new pillows on my couch. I have big sewing plans. Aunt Florene, get your phone ready! :)

The festivities were concluded with a HUGE concert that night. There were a loooot of people.

It was... a unique experience. I don't especially love huge crowds of crazy drunken people (especially as the night went on), but it was fun to hear live music and to experience it all with Joanna!

Yesterday I talked to my youngest sister on the phone and after telling her how yummy my second tomato was (I'm kind of proud of the fact that they are actually eatable...) she asked in a rather mocking tone, "are your plants still alive too?" Gasp. She of little faith. So I would like to say to all of you doubters out there, that while my thumb may not be very green, all of my plants and flowers are blooming beautifully, especially the brightly colored geraniums on my balcony!