Day 3: Mont St. Michel/Nantes
Benedictine monks were really smart: they started building a monastery in the 11th century on a beautiful island, and continued to expand it throughout the following centuries, thus preventing the scenic spot from descending into the inevitable resort town. It’s still mobbed by tourists, but at least they come for the history instead of the beaches (it helps that there is an extremely dangerous tide that cars have been swallowed in before.)
Once we were on the island we had to run the gauntlet or touristy gift shops, overtly profit-oriented “museums,” cafés, and actually functioning churches to get to the monastery itself. Luckily for me the audio tour focused more on the Gothic architecture and how the monks used to live instead of dry dates and facts. (Although the phrase “you can feel the shadows of past monks walking among you” was used way too many times.) Authentic nuns and monks still live there, and they were in the middle of Mass (which was not for tourist benefit since cameras were prohibited) when we arrived. I took a lot of photos of high ceilings and stained-glass windows, read every French sign I encountered, and imagined the monks looking out the window while translating and transcribing sacred documents.
We spent the rest of our day driving to Nantes, home of Yves, one of my dad’s business acquaintances who was kind enough to host us for a night. This was not your typical French home: there was a century old water tower literally in their backyard, in which there was a wine cellar of close to 1000 bottles. They really rolled out the red carpet for us: lobster (langoustine en Francais, I love that word), nice cheese, 5 bottles of good wine. I swear the meal lasted close to 3 hours. My translating services were called upon again, since Genevieve, the woman of the house, did not speak English fluently and my mom knows very little French. Their son, Christophe, was almost exactly my age, but I don’t think he spoke more than 5 words to me the whole evening. (Either he is shy or intimidated by my awe-inspiring American beauty ;) since I speak French and he speaks English.) Nonetheless, Yves gave insightful comparisons between American and French culture, humbly pointing out the French tendency for stubbornness, arrogance, and weak economies. I went to bed slightly drunk and full of good food and company
French skills: pretty good, at the beginning of our visit Yves kidnapped me and drove me from his office to his home so we could speak French, and I think I held my own. He said my accent was very good and he couldn’t believe I’d only been studying for 4 years.
Drink Count: 5-6. I was tipsy before the main course but Yves kept putting different wines in front of me and saying “you just have to taste this.” For the last hour I was doing my best “I’m not drunk” impression, although I could still walk just fine. I had the best champagne I’ve ever had, white wine, red wine, Sauterne, and a shitload of Pelligrino to keep myself from getting drunker.