So, once again, I can happily say that it's the end of an awesome weekend! Friday was my 16th birthday and after school (which was quite uneventful) I went in to Angers with Guillaume. First we met with my host mom at the bank to set up an account. I'll finally have an ATM card so I can get cash whenever. (Don't worry Mom and Dad, we set a maximum withdrawal per month, I'll tell you about it later.) Then after Guillaume and I went and hung out in the town. It started with me buying a duck panini and Fanta (Frenchyness!) and paying with a hundred-euro note. The cashier was kind of pissed but I genuinely did not have anything smaller! Anyway, Guillaume and I sat and ate on a fountain. In this square there is also an amazing carousel. It's not just stupid horses, it's rocket ships and dinosaur skeletons and aeroplanes! And they move around on the carousel. And the rocket ship "blasts off" and go up through the top so the kid can get a better view of Angers. I swear, if only I was 2 feet shorter... Anyway, afterwards we met up with a girl from our class, Louise, and the three of us got some drinks. Then Gabe, Erin and Elise (all AFSers) joined us and we walked around and talked and had a good time. After a while Guillaume and I took the bus back to lil' Mûrs-Erigné and we had my birthday dinner. But that's not important: what's important is dessert. For my birthday dinner, I got 3 cakes! (I guess one could argue that this was because there were 7 people (me, my family, and Mathilde and Nikolas, a cousin and her boyfriend who often come over for meals) but I like to think that there were three cakes for me!) Anyway, the first one was a gateau Breton and possibly my favorite. The two main ingredients of this cake are butter and sugar, then a crust and a little flour and it comes out as this amazingly delicious, rich, buttery, sugary piece of perfection. With vanilla sauce on top. The second cake was a tarte aux pommes, the French apple pie. This is a special one because it's make with the apples in first and then on top a crust, like American apple pie, but at some point during the cooking process, it's flipped over so that it's a crust with apples in it. It's so good! The third cake was a chocolate cake on graham cracker crust, from a local bakery. Always delicious! So that was my first (but hopefully not last) birthday away from home and it was pretty good. I do miss my mom's chocolate cake though...
Yesterday (Saturday), there was an annual street market/carnival in Brissac, about 10 minutes from Mûrs-Erigné. It's this really nice little French village with the tiny cobblestone streets and the fancy latticework on all the houses, but yesterday morning all the streets were packed with vendors selling everything from clothes to sausages to mops to birds, anything you could think of! There were also some classical carnival games like shooting the balloons with the cap gun and bumper cars and stuff but it was more a market. There were tons of stands from local delis and farmers with all sorts of local cheeses and literally dozens of different sausages made from all sorts of animals. Some of the stands had samples and I got to taste some of the sausages and cheeses. They were amazing! To me at least, but to everyone else they were probably just normal. We also bought a chicken! François is building a chicken coop in the corner of the yard and we bought the first chicken from a farmer hippie guy with dreads all the way down his back. He put the chicken in a cardboard box and for a good five minutes the poor thing was freaking out. Once we got it back to the house and into the garden it was fine. For now it's locked in the garage in a makeshift coop (a pile of hay) until the coop is done, probably in a couple days. Once it's ready to go, we'll get a lot more chickens and have fresh eggs everyday! I can't wait.
Last night, we had a family party, to celebrate Guillaume and my birthdays (I know that's not correct, grammatically, but it's not my fault: I'm starting to forget the mechanics of the English language!). We went bowling in Ponts-de-Cé, a slightly larger village on the other side of the Louet. It was ten-pin, because apparently candlepin doesn't exist in France, although it hardly exists in American anymore. It was surprising how alike it was to bowling at home. Even some of the animations of bowling pins and balls and your score on the TV were the same. I recognized the zombie one for strike and a couple others. Another similarity was my utter lack of skill at bowling but that probably wouldn't change no matter where I go. Anyway, after we went out to a little pizzeria and if you think Otto pizza has some bizarre toppings, go to France! I saw mashed potatoes on one and eggs on another, like Otto, but there were also pizzas with foie gras and grenouille (look it up)! I settled for a relatively normal one with ham, mushrooms, cheese and parsley which was good except for the fact that I had to eat it with my knife and fork. In France, no one eats pizza with their hands at a restaurant unless they want to be automatically labeled as a tourist/American. Another thing was that everyone got their own pizza, except for my host dad who got a calzone, but that's not too uncommon. There are definitely places in America where each person gets their own pizza. After that, we had coups which are miniature ice cream sundaes that come in all sorts of different flavors with different toppings. This I recognized from Switzerland so I got the classic coupe Denmarke; vanilla ice cream topped with chocolate sauce (the polar opposite from Hershey's chocolate sauce, thank God), with whipped cream, shaved almonds and a chocolate straw. It was really good although I didn't even come close to finishing it and it wasn't very big.
Today there was an AFS reunion out in the middle of the country and driving out there I kept seeing old guys with dogs and sticks walking around in the fields, wondering what the heck was going on until François explained to me that hunting season started today. We drove by a hunter on the side of the road and I realized that the sticks were double barrel shotguns, the kinds that the barrels are on hinges and you crack it open and put the shells right in. I still don't understand why you need a shotgun to hunt rabbits in corn fields in the countryside but if that's what they want to do, I'm not going to stop them. Anyway, the AFS reunion was actually a picnic which was nice because I got to hang out with my English-speaking friends who I hadn't seen for a couple weeks and eat delicious French food on a beautiful autumn day. After we ate, we walked to a historic site nearby, a village of "troglodytes". Don't worry, I didn't know what that was before today either. It turns out they're a series of interconnecting tunnels and rooms built into mountainsides or underground, like this one. On the top it looks like a quarry but there are doors and rooms and passages opening everywhere. We wandered around in those for a couple hours and it was pretty cool and kind of scary, stumbling around in pitch blackness in underground caves. Needless to say, there was a lot of hiding around the corner, jumping out at people and screaming and it was pretty awesome! Unfortunately, I didn't bring my camera because I thought it was just a picnic but once some pictures turn up on Facebook I'll steal them and post them here.
So, all in all, my weekend was pretty awesome. I do admit that I miss the fall in Maine with all the leaves changing color and the mountain hike and that weird crisp air where you can almost taste the snow, but I'm sure I'll get some of that here too in the next month or two. Maybe not the snow thing because I found out (I don't know if I told you this or not yet) that here it doesn't always snow. Sometimes there's a little but some years it's just rain, so that should be interesting. Especially with my from Maine where freak snow storms and 0° Fahrenheit is nothing special.
Bonne nuit et à bientôt,