I’m sorry I’ve been out of touch. Christmas has turned out to be time-consuming. Since I do so little shopping, I relished the wee bit of shopping I did, making multiple trips to, for instance, the papeteries where I bought cards and the supermarket where I bought candy. That’s how I spent most of last week. Well, that and watching Christmas movies repeatedly and listening to carols while I addressed said cards. I also had a pretty big weekend.
On Friday, I visited Nantes, the whopping third city I’ve been to in France. It’s only 45 minutes away by train but I hadn’t been yet, which is weird considering that I’ve been kind of obsessed with Nantes for over three years, albeit in a very roundabout way.
If you’ve received a mixtape from me in that time then you know that Beirut’s song “Nantes” is a serious contender for the title of My Favorite Song of All Time. In fact, it’s the reason that I listed Nantes as my first choice of region when I applied to come to France.
I can’t listen to it without grinning, skipping to the beat, and waving my fingers in the air as if I’m conducting it. (I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve gotten weird looks for doing so while listening to it in my headphones.) I’m not usually very devoted to celebrity crushes, but no matter how many times I watch this video, I can’t help but clutch at my heart in a feeble attempt to keep it from palpitating wildly over Zach Condon.
Considering it was therefore a lifelong (well, okay, three-year) dream for me to visit Nantes, it’s funny that the long arm of the law was what finally dragged me there. I had a mandatory appointment at the Office of Immigration. My friend Caitlin’s appointment was scheduled within an hour of mine, so we decided to make a day of it.
I was hoping that the city would make me as absurdly happy as the song named after it does. It was a high bar to set, so I wasn’t surprised or terribly upset when it didn’t live up to that standard. It was a pretty nice day nonetheless.
First stop: the castle. Angers’ castle has a more imposing location at the top of a bluff, but Nantes’ gets a lot of badass cred for having an actual moat. In Angers, the moat is filled with flowers. In theory, I prefer the peaceful image of a moat filled with flowers…that just happen to be fertilized with blood shed by enemies past…awkward…
but in practice, when I visit a castle, I wanna see a motherfuckin’ moat.
This being Europe and us being tourists and all, we walked to the cathedral next. The first was unimpressive by European standards. The second, though, was fantastic, 10% because it was gigantic and the stained glass was gorgeous and my art history geek friend was telling me about Gothic and Romanesque columns—and 90% because of an accidental crime scene. Is it just me, or does the juxtaposition of this painting
and this cross that had been taken down for repair
note the hand
make it look like Jesus was crucified about ten minutes ago?
From there we went to the art museum and then had tasty croque monsieurs and éclairs for lunch.
I can tell by looking whether a boulangerie will be any good, and this one was even prettier than most.
This is off-topic, but I wanted to share these amazing potty training chairs that were outside a shop. The pink one said, “Queen of the pop-oooh!”
I wonder how many toddlers have, not knowing any better, used them right there on the street?
We spent the next several long, boring hours in the Office of Immigration. It was an Ellis Island sort of thing, very slightly updated for the 21st century. They just want to make sure you won’t give everyone TB, and if you assure them that you aren’t pregnant with an illegitimate child that you’re planning to pawn off on the French government, they’ll reward you with a stamp in your passport.
Caitlin and I celebrated our temporarily-official status in proper French fashion, drinking hot wine in a bar that looked like it predates the USA.
My first hot wine was merely great, but the second was magical. The bartender who made it shared my belief that there is no such thing as too much cinnamon.
And finally, for dinner we had a Nantes specialty: savory crêpes called gallettes and apple cider. (I would normally have taken a picture of the whole meal, but crêpes aren’t the most photogenic food. They’re just brown squares on the plate when they arrive.)
This is the locally-grown, grown-up version of that Martinelli’s stuff our parents used to give us on special occasions: delicious sparkling apple cider, only better because it’s alcholic!
And that, ladies and gents, was my day in Nantes. Tune in tomorrow for more on what happened in the Office of Immigration.