Friday, May 9, 2014

La belle vie

So I lied... been a little longer than 2 weeks since my last post but like promised I came back.  BOY do I have a lot of blog to write and photos to post.... There will most definitely be two parts to this one ladies and gents.

Quick flashback: last time I blogged I had just moved all my stuff to my third host family and was packing up and getting ready to go to île de Ré with my second host sis Louise and her friends.  REWIND TO THEN (...already 3 weeks ago....)

So the Friday of the beginning of vacation, April 18th, I went with all my luggage for Île de Ré to the Dervilles house.  Despite our train being scheduled to leave the Saturday morning at 7:30am, Louise and her friends and I made the oh so very (un)wise decision to go out Friday night anyway.  It was vacation and you only live once as they say.  That resulted in me getting a solid 2 hours of sleep after an enjoyable night, and also meant that half of us who were on the train to La Rochelle were either total zombies or sleeping.  The train journey-ing took up all morning and most of the afternoon, by which time we'd arrived in La Rochelle.  We still had 2 hours left of bussing before FINALLY arriving in the town of St. Clement-des-Baleines where the Dervilles have their house.

Location of where we were in relation to France (wow thank you Google for this astounding non-pixelated photo)
A google maps screenshot closeup! Northwest of the island: St. Clement-des-Baleines

The always smiling half asleep troop of warriors waiting for our bus at La Rochelle
The house/island/town was INCREDIBLE.  I had to pinch myself (and didn't stop the entire vacation) when I saw the incredibly beautiful towns and countryside of Île de Ré, and the gorgeous buildings and French architecture.  The fact that the Dervilles own a house there is a dream. It felt like a cliché French movie not somewhere I'd actually get to live for almost 2 weeks! 

Île de Ré in itself is a very cool place.  The island is about 44km in perimeter.  The biggest city on the island is St. Martin which was about an hour's bike ride from us.  There are roads for cars and most certainly vehicles that get driven, but 80% of all travel on the island happens on bikes.  There are full bike racks everywhere and folks on bikes everywhere.  All the buildings are these classic white structures with bits of colour here and there to liven things up.  There were lots of open fields but also areas with trees so the landscape was varied.  And of course, the ocean: only a 5 minute walk from our house.  

Just after arriving we got to some serious business.  The last time anyone had been there was October and the yard needed tending to, groceries (for 12 teenagers) needed to be bought and the house overall needed waking up.  We started a little cleaning and then decided to go get our groceries.  The nearest supermarket was in Ars-en-Ré which was about a 3km bike ride from our house.  Everyone had rented bikes for the entire week and the 12 of us set off with huge packs in the hopes of managing to get all we need and bring it all back in one piece.  1 hour, over 300 euro, and 1 stolen shopping cart later we were making our way back along the bike path.  Total catastrophe: we had the cart attached to the back of Hector's bike, and Louise and Seb were on either side holding it steady with one hand and trying to steer their bikes with the other.  Then we were all hungry and started nibbling on the baguettes we'd bought, and in a quick moment of confusion BOOM down goes the cart with all our groceries.  Like I said: total catastrophe.  Luckily I was mostly out of it because I was the lucky one with a flat bike tire, so I arrived huffing and puffing late to the scene to see our food for the next week scattered across the ground.  But don't fret readers we sorted it out and we eventually made it home.  The shopping cart hung out in the backyard the entire week and became our symbol and mascot.  

The next morning was Easter Sunday and we all got up early to bike 3 minutes to the church at St. Clement.  It was PACKED with people and we didn't even manage to get seats for the service.  It was pretty cool, all the fashionable French people on vacation were dressed up in their spring pastel colours for Easter Sunday.  We all agreed after leaving the mass that we spent more time people watching than paying attention to what was going on.. (woops!)  The church itself was lovely and small but was the perfect piece of the St. Clement puzzle.

The weather the first few days was amazing.  We'd wake up in the morning, have an easy breakfast squished around the table, then go get into our bathing suits and all set up in the yard where we'd bask in the glory of the April sun.  Some mornings we went to the beach, sometimes there would often be a few people gone to Ars to get a few groceries and the rest of us waited for their return while soaking up the sun.  One morning we went to the morning market in Ars which was nothing less than wonderful.  Everything was so colorful and the smells and sounds of the Ars market were the perfect thing to come across first thing in the morning.  Man I love French markets.  They sure do know how to do it right.  Some vendors were selling fresh morning baguettes and pastries, others sold homemade Île de Ré caramels and honey, and then there were the classic meat, cheese and wine stands.  

One day we biked out to St. Martin in the morning, had delicious baguette sandwiches from the boulangerie while we hung out at the port, and just after we'd finished a walk around the town it started raining cats and dogs. But we toughed it out for the bike ride home all the same singing songs by ABBA and Queen, and saying bonjour to everyone we passed in an attempt to keep spirits high.  
(apologies in advance for the jumbled order of photos)

Chillin' at St. Martin

Phillipine, Maxime & I

Clara and Josephine riding into the yard completely SOAKED after coming back from St. Martin

Louise (not my host sis another one!) riding in, also soaking wet, still singing her heart out
We roasted marshmallows! See below: Max eating marshmallows like a classy Frenchman.

La folie

that's my host sister that is

The troop biking to St. Martin!

I spy Tintin

Still standing strong after an hour exposed to the pouring rain

marshmallow roasting in style always


Jo and Clara... just DRENCHED

Always having fun

Siobhan - Louise - Louise

Barbecuing dinner in the yard

Walks to the beach

mid-walk to beach


Max killin' it as always

The best host sister and without doubt one of my best friends on exchange.

Because when 12 teenagers are alone together for 5 days there will OBVIOUSLY be nonstop snapchatting.

evening walks with jo

I don't know how I could possibly fit all the stories and jokes and from that week with those awesome kids into this post.  We finished the week by naming ourselves La Brigade and having about 50 more inside jokes than when we started.  A lot of people have asked me since vacation ended if I regretted choosing this vacation over the Eurotour with all the exchange students but I can honestly say that I don't regret my decision at all.  Although I definitely would've loved the Eurotour experience, I feel so lucky to have gotten to grow close with a bunch of awesome French kids and the Île de Ré experience was one that I never would have had the chance to do otherwise.  It was sad for Louise and I when we had to say bye to all her friends as they rushed to catch buses and taxis to return to the Nord after our 5 days of folie, but we still had another week of fabulous times with the family so................ STAY TUNED FOR PART 2

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