06 October 2009


I expected this past weekend to be slow and boring—as I know hardly anyone in Pontivy, and no one my age apart from Victo (my Spanish flatmate) and Susi (the German assistant living in the same building). But it could hardly have been more amazing!
Friday, after running around town a lot, the three of us decided to stay in. We made popcorn, had Breton cider, and watched a movie. Uneventful, but comfortingly normal.
Saturday, a German professor at school invited us to his house in the country Saturday afternoon. The three of us went, Susi being the only one who had met Jens before. Jens lives with his wife and 7-year-old daughter in Baud, a small town about fifteen minutes from Pontivy. We first went on a hike (I have a lot more contact with nature this year than when I lived in Strasbourg), the highlight being a gravel pit lake. Well, you take what you can get in the countryside around here. Then we settled in for coffee and homemade apple cake. It was about 6:00 when we finished visiting, and seeing our interest in board games, Jens asked if we would like to stay longer and play one.
The longer we stayed, the more generous the offers became. After playing till almost 8:00, Jens asked—or rather his adorable daughter begged—us to stay for dinner. We were enjoying ourselves so much, we figured why not! While pasta cooked and sauce simmered, Léna gave us a violin concert:

We drank quince wine for l’apéritif. Not only is it a fruit I have never even tasted before, but Jens’s German father made it!

After dinner—and this is when it really got ludicrous—Jens told us he thought we could drive ourselves home in their second car, and then use it the next day for any trip we might want to take. Afternoon visit, nice; coffee and cake, lovely; the board game, homey; dinner, exceptional…but borrowing the car?! I suppose he could have been too tired to drive us home, but there’s a long leap between being tired and actually offering one’s mode of transport.
Flabbergasted, we said yes.
And yesterday we struck out on the wild curvy roads of France to see the town of Perros-Guirec on the northern coast of Brittany. This region is known for its pink granite, and we were not disappointed: we hiked along a seaside trail to the next town, stumbling over pink boulders.

I have found that Victo and Susi are incredibly companionable, and I’m lucky to have ended up with such great neighbors. Victo is from Valdepeñas, near Jaén, Spain. It’s a town known for its olives, and Victo could practically bathe in all the olive oil her parents sent her this week, including “travel packs” of 5cL (about a tablespoon). She studied Spanish-English translation in school (though I suspect she’s a closet philosopher), and her French is improving rapidly. I find her incredibly well-organized, sociable, and gracious. While Victo is petite, Susi must be six feet tall and lithe. She’s from Berlin, and though her English is near-native, her French is “beginner.” She lives in a studio on the first floor, so I don’t know her as well, but I enjoy her sense of humor and her affinity for nature.

Fortunate I am. :)

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