I have been living in France for a whole month! It seems crazy that so much time has passed and how much I have already learned about France and the French culture. There are so many things that I love about France, but since I already mentioned some of them in my earlier posts, I am going to focus on some of the things that are have been a bit harder to get used to.
- French showers (or lack of). Apparently the French don’t like to shower, which might explain some of the funky smells on the tram. My bathroom at my host families house has a bathtub with a handheld shower head. The problem is that there is nowhere to attach the shower head to on the wall and there is no shower curtain. After some failed (and freezing) attempts to shower, I gave up and just decided to take baths.
- Coffee. The French love their coffee, which for me was great news! However, I quickly found out that French coffee is not the same as coffee in the US. Most of the time the French drink espresso which in French is “café”. This caused some confusion during my first few weeks when I went to order what I thought was a regular coffee and ended up being served a shot of espresso. Also, French coffee is rarely ever served to-go or on ice. Most coffee’s are served hot and are meant to be enjoyed sitting outside and chatting with friends. Which is actually a really cool idea to take time and enjoy your daily cup of coffee watching the world go by. However, it doesn’t quite fit with my regular American routine of drinking iced coffee while on my way to class.
- The French Military. Every so often I will be walking down the street in Montpellier and come across a group of French soldiers. The problem I have is that the French military carry machine guns everywhere they go. It is very unnerving to be casually strolling down a street and having five French soldiers pass you armed with huge guns.
This weekend I decided that I wanted to travel somewhere close by for the day so me and one of my friends from my program hopped on a bus to a town called Aigues-Mortes on Saturday. Aigues-Mortes is a small town on the Mediterranean that is built inside of huge walls which make it look like a castle. It was a gorgeous day and the bus ride to the town was only an hour and took us through beautiful beach towns were we saw wild flamingoes (no I am not joking) and wild horses! Apparently southern French beaches are known for having wild pink flamingoes and wild horses- who knew!
After exploring Aigues-Mortes and walking along the top of the city walls, we sat down for lunch in a busy square. I decided I had to try something new for lunch and ordered escargot as an appetizer. The waiter brings out my plate and which has a bowl of snails in their shells and some garlic dip. It was a very interesting taste and not something I would order again but it made for a great picture!
The rest of the lunch was amazing and ended up lasting two hours (in typical French style). During lunch, however, the square we were sitting in was overtaken by a parade of men chanting to drums and carrying a creepy clown made of hay. We were so confused as to what in the world these old guys were doing with a clown and with flowers in their jacket pockets. After a lot of searching, we found out that we happened to be in Aigues-Mortes during the day of their “carnaval des chasseurs” which translates to “carnival of hunters”. The parade ended (or so we thought) and all of the men went into a restaurant close to where we were eating. After lunch we walked around a little more and ended up running into the parade again. This time the men or the “chasseurs” were followed by many little kids in halloween costumes who were throwing confetti on everyone. After watching the parade go by a second time, we started making our way out of the city and to the bus stop to go back to Montpellier.
Just as we were talking about how crazy this festival was, it got even more crazy. We heard what sounded like gun shots followed by clapping and cheers from just outside the town walls. Of course we followed the sound (because why not) and found the parade had stopped outside of the walls where the men were holding riffles and were shooting at the clown. All of the kids and families watching were cheering and seemed very excited. After the clown was thoroughly destroyed, the parade picked it up and proceeded to throw the pieces into the river. This was by far the weirdest carnival I have ever seen, but it was very entertaining to watch!
Overall, it was a day well spent in Aigues-Mortes with really cool sites (pictures below) and a really interesting carnival. Next up is a weekend trip to Paris, and then my spring break where I will be traveling to Vienna, Austria and Budapest, Hungry. For now though, I am off to actually do some homework for my classes this week. À plus tard! See you later!