France Pt. II
When I first moved to Germany, my goal was to go to as many countries as possible.
One might ask, “What determines if you’ve been to a country?”
I’m sure everybody has different answers to this, ranging from simply setting foot in a certain country (even if it’s just the airport) to really spending time and exploring different parts of the country.
My personal guideline was that visiting a certain country had to be intentional, with a minimum one night stay, and it couldn’t just be that I was driving through, or at a layover for my final destination.
Ex. We drove through Austria to get to Slovenia. DOESN’T COUNT.
Ex. 2. I’ve stopped in Iceland, Canada, Netherlands, Turkey, and many other countries I can’t think of off the top of my head, as a layover for my final destination. DOESN’T COUNT.
This trip to the Brittany region of France, however, proved that my goal to visit as many countries as possible, just to lengthen my list, was pretty faulty. How can you say you’ve been to France, if you’ve only visited Paris? How can you even say that you know America if you’ve only been to 5 different states? Is the point of travel to add another check mark next to a new country or is it to experience a new place, and learn about the culture and people, regardless of WHERE exactly it may be?
I think that travel is a constant work in progress. You can be well traveled, but there is ALWAYS somewhere new to go. Traveling isn’t a check list. It’s a way of living life.
Back to Brittany.
One thing I can say for sure is that it was COMPLETELY different from Paris. We flew into Nantes Airport, and drove up north to the coast. It was a region of charming towns, beautiful stone houses, roses that grew wild, and most importantly, SEAFOOD! People owned horses, donkeys, and chickens in their backyards. Life moved slower, and people were happy.
I think what I enjoyed most about this trip was noticing the little things. My friend Christine and I went on several walks, where we just talked and wandered around. We explored Dinan, Cancale, and Mont Saint-Michel.
On Saturday, we drove west to Pointe du Grouin, the scenic, rocky coast that sticks out and protects the entrance into the bay of Mont Saint-Michel. Although it seemed to be a popular spot, we were a little more adventurous and climbed the rocky cliffs down to the water, and did some exploring where tourists were scarce. There’s something about going off the beaten track that gives you a sense of child-like adventure.
Afterwards, we decided to have lunch in a nearby town called Cancale. After doing some research, I had learned that they were famous for their seafood and oysters. In the center of Cancale is an oyster market called Marché aux Huitres (which literally translates to oyster market). It was literally just that. A market where they sold oysters, that they had caught from their oyster farm literally a couple hundred feet away. People would buy these oysters by the dozen, and go sit by the water to eat their oysters, drink their wine (it was BYOW), and chuck the oyster shells on the ground or back into the ocean. It was such a neat experience, and the oysters were DELICIOUS! Did I mention you could get a dozen for like 4-7 euros?! What the heck! I had never seen oysters that cheap in my life. When I first saw that pricing, I thought it was PER oyster…but nope. It was definitely sold by the dozen.
That night, while Christine and I went for a walk, the boys whipped up a fabulous seafood dinner, complete with veggies, bread, and wine. We are probably the luckiest wives in the world 😉
Sunday was a little cloudy and rainy, but we started off the day by visiting the Brittany American Cemetery, in honor of Memorial Day weekend. I had never visited an American cemetery abroad, and had imagined it to be a small run down cemetery with overgrown weeds. But it was quite the opposite, with beautifully kept grounds, and a chapel overlooking the graves. It was a moving experience to walk around and read off the names of the soldiers that had died in France during the war. On some of the graves, it read:
Here rests in honored glory
A comrade in arms known but to God.
I felt a great sadness wash over me, as I FELT the true meaning of Memorial Day for the first time in my life. It is a day of silence and remembrance for the brave soldiers that died fighting for America and her freedom. It was definitely a very special way to honor those who have died for our country.
The rest of the day consisted of walking to and visiting Mont Saint Michel: the island city. As I walked through the narrow streets of this tiny island commune, I couldn’t help but be in awe of this amazing place that humans had built over the course of more than 1,000 years, beginning in the 8th century AD. It’s an interesting concept – with the high tide, you can’t walk to the city, and it served as protection for the abbey as well as a prison. As grand as it was, I was sad to see it had become such a tourist trap, with gift shops and cafés in every corner of the city.
Overall, France part 2 was a great trip! I wasn’t very familiar with the area, so everything we did and saw was a pleasant surprise. I wish I could leave it at that, but this is a 2-post series (after realizing how many freaking words I already have in this post… We are currently at 990). The next post is titled “What Happens When You Miss Your Flight” just to give you a TINY sneak peak.
To be continued…