A little bit painful

Please forgive all grammar and spelling errors in this post, I’m typing it up on my phone.

In the spirit of full disclosure, this week was no fun at all. Actually, in an even fuller disclosure, this week was 75% downright miserable.

Now, 25% isn’t half bad. And the over-abundant lilacs I stole from school to fill my apartment nearly made the week a fifty/fifty. I had flowers, and good food, I am physically in good health, I didn’t fail out of school, I still have my necessary documents to come home to America. 

But, last Sunday evening, on the train from Paris to Angers, a train I have taken no fewer than ten times, someone managed to open my backpack, which was three feet above my head, and steal my laptop.

It could have been so much worse, I was lucky enough that I always keep my wallet, passport, and phone on me. But losing your laptop is just no fun at all. PSA, people, put a password on your computer and all electronic devices. In some stupid move of pride, I have never locked anything I own. I said that I nothing to hide. Well, that’s officially idiotic.

My computer held enough unlocked personal information on both David and I that our identities are very nicely in jeopardy now. Fun times in France.

Thankfully, I had a phone with WiFi so I could immediately start changing passwords and alerting people; thankfully, I have David who put his free time into protecting us as much as possible; thankfully, we have a bank contactable through Skype who has helped us as much as possible; and thankfully, we are part of America where you can put alerts on your social security cards.

Unfortunately, David was out of country this week, making the problem all the more upsetting to deal with. Facing the days alone is just one way to make the problem more fun. Unfortunately, I go to school with lots of young adults, who feel the best way to respond is with all their worst-case scenario stories of cousin’s-sister’s-daughters, and friends-of-friends-of-friends who got robbed at gunpoint in darkest Australia. Not so helpful. Or reassuring, funny enough.

I know I still have so much to be grateful for, but being alone in France and completely concerned about what you just got yourself and husband into has made for one disgusting week.

My dad told me something I appreciated though; when I was beating myself up over the stupidity of not locking my computer and keeping personal information acessable, he said that if this is the stupidest thing I ever do, I’ll be lucky. Maybe that wouldn’t help everyone, but it actually did make me feel slightly better. We are going to get through this, and it will eventually just be “that one horrible time we were abroad.”

David comes home on Sunday though, so hopefully the light will break through the clouds soon. But until then, I have a French police report to file and lots of new numbers to juggle. Laptops are expensive, folks.

Also, until this is just “that one horrible memory”, lots of prayers would be appreciated. 

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Moms are the best.

It’s hard to pin down exact dates about when it happened. Officially, Nancy became my mother-in-law on the 10th of October last year, but maybe it was in July of 2014 when David and I got engaged, I was certainly made a part of the family then. Or perhaps it was even before that. I was twelve when I met Nancy. I thought she was the prettiest and nicest mom at the home school group. Even back then, she always made time to say hello and talk to me. I was too precocious for my own good, but she never made me feel like an annoying kid. Which is impressive, because I was an annoying kid.

Maybe it was when David and I were dating in high school that I adopted her as another mom. She would let me come over just to hang out and chat with her even when David wasn’t there. Maybe it was when I broke up with David, and she would invite me over for family dinners and told me she still loved me and was praying for me (side note: David was at college at this time, I would not have gone over for dinners when he was there!). Maybe it was when Hallie moved into my parents’ house and was semi-adopted by my family and the lines between Raneys and Kazanjians was getting fuzzy. Maybe it was when David and I started dating again, and Nancy was almost as happy as I was!

No matter when it happened, I love Nancy dearly, and I hope she doesn’t mind that she is far past mother-in-law status in my mind. I think of her as my other mom, and love her just as much.

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My Aunt Susie re-entered my life when I was a freshman in college. I was at the big fat Armenian wedding of one of my cousins in Los Angeles, and hadn’t seen her or my Uncle Greg in years. To be honest, I was probably about 10 when I last saw her. But she sat down next to me, gave me the biggest hug, and I instantly knew we would be good friends. During the reception, my aunt and uncle were kind enough to invite me to go visit them in Hawaii, and teased me that everyone says they will come and never do. They laughed about how they would even help with the plane ticket and nobody takes them up on the offer. I replied that I hoped they meant their offer, because I would be there far sooner than they could imagine. Six months later, I was fed up with the world, and my uncle and I spontaneously bought my ticket.

I was nervous on that flight; it was my first solo trip without a sister on the other side. I suddenly realized that I bought a trip for two weeks with two people (who, yes, were family) I hadn’t spent more than a half-day with in over eight years! Silly Christianne. It took maybe a half hour before my aunt and I were chatting away. My Aunt Susie is one of my favorite people to talk to, I can open my mouth and talk about anything and I know she will listen carefully, give some of the best advice, and always pray for me and the outcome of whatever the situation is. I know she will also provide the best snacks, stop at any time for coffee, support my great and all consuming love of craft projects, is up for a good prank on the unsuspecting John Kazanjians of the world, and I know she always, always will have a hug and a spare bedroom for me when I need it. She and my uncle have taught me to speak candidly about what is wrong, and not shy away from asking for help when I need it, she has taught me that birthdays make you the princess, dietary restrictions do not mean eating bland food, and husbands should bring their wives coffee in bed. She has shown me what ultimate faith in God looks like, and given me multiple examples of how God gives everything we need and even many of the things we ask for.

I love you, Auntie.

 

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I cannot leave out the woman who biologically is my mother. And yet, she is the hardest one to honor here. Out of three women in this post, she is probably the only one I have fought with, and massively disagreed with—and certainly the only one who punished me. Always for good reason. I owe the fact that I am not a little snot to her, and it was not an easy job. Little Christianne and high school Christianne were nearly hell-bent on remaining a little snot.

Why is it so hard to put into words how much I love and respect my mother? Why is it so hard articulating how much she has done for me?

Michelle Kazanjian has never given up on me. She has prayed for me every day since she and my father decided to have another baby, since she learned I was squirming away inside her, since I came into the world, since I began stumbling through life. She has squared off against me in the toddler battles, taught me to love reading, clapped and cheered when I played at being an actress, guided me through that horrible stage of life called adolescences, supported me through bouts of depression.

She has never stopped loving me, even when seeing my flaws, even when I have committed my worst sins. It is because her that I cannot doubt the unending love and mercy of my Father in heaven.

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These three women are so special to me, and I miss them so much. I am sorry I can’t be present today to hug all of you. Please be aware that writing this post has made me slightly teary, and I will probably cry during our reunion.

 

 

 

I miss my stuff.

I miss all you lovely people as well.

As time passes here in France, I find myself happier and happier living here, but man, I miss all of my belongings. I am really into the minimalist lifestyle. And getting rid of all the things you don’t need/love, but currently I am living without many of the things I love. Now, this is entirely a first world problem, but I miss normal things, like ovens and couches, and completely Christianne things, like my makeup mirror and the pearls from my Aunt. And my matching dinner plates. And glass cups.

Man, I miss glass cups.

France is becoming a new home though, the three month mark seems to be a true turning point. I understand a lot more; I went to the Cointreau Musée today and understood 75% of what the guide had to say! And she spoke ridiculously fast, as the French are wont to do! To be honest, I was lucky enough that my favorite French grad student (and my conversation teacher) was the CIDEF person in charge of the exchange students, and she helped me out if I didn’t quite catch something.

However, the one thing keeping me from firmly proclaiming my love for a total French life is the missing objects.

I’m a little horrified at myself, because I have shouted the merits of throwing out half of your belongings for years. I am the mean person people call when they need a kick in the pants to clear out their basements and dark kitchen cupboards, but now I am sitting sadly over THINGS.

Can I plead a break? Or am I only forgiven if I miss sentimentally valuable things?

 

Paris is my favorite

I am officially a cliché.

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Full disclosure, my favorite days of vacation are typically planned within an inch of life. I am the least serendipitous person in existence, and this day was no exception.

However, all those who wax eloquent about how schedules kill dreams are wrong.

David and I woke up early and were out the door and walking by 9am. If I have any advice for traveling in major European cities, it would have to be to forego the long lie-ins. Wake up and go. If you have a magical idea of a picture in front of the Eiffel Tower, or seeing the Mona Lisa without having to elbow German and Chinese tourists in the gut, wake up and run. Go all morning: from 8am until around 10am, life is super quiet at all open-air monuments and parks. 10am until 11am is the perfect time to go shopping or to the museums (all the stores have just opened).

Stop for a cappuccino and pastry when things get crowded around 11am, go back out when everyone stops for lunch around noon. Museums, libraries, all places where you can’t eat lunch will  drain out. Avoid the monuments and parks (primo picnic areas). Eat lunch at 1pm or 2pm, as lunch spots clear out and museums fill back up. After lunch, go home for that nap you need because you were up at 7am trying to look pretty for a day in Paris.

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Back to business, David and I woke up, walked twenty minutes through a sunny, waking up Paris, grabbed coffee and still-warm croissant, and beat the hipsters to “le Mur je t’aime.”

It’s mostly just a wall in a park, blue tile, painted with “I love you” in hundreds of languages. Instagram bait at its best.

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This is David’s “please don’t take my picture” face.

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This is my “please don’t take my picture” face. Enjoy.

After our morning croissant (I love saying that. Yes, thanks, I am aware it makes me sound like a brat.),  we split up. David rambled through Paris for some groceries and read a book–I went shopping.

We are one the world’s most careful budget, however, I have been saving and saving my monthly allowance and it finally paid off.

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This is Diptyque. A French parfumerie and candle store. Their branding is simple and classy, there scents are pure and strong. They are basically blogger/instagram/pinterest catnip. They reeled me into the fan club back when I was 15, but my wallet has never stood for a $60 candle. However, the prices are lower in France, since they don’t have to pay duty fees. The store was roughly the size of a small bedroom in America, but I spent nearly an hour and a half smelling every single product.

The salesgirl was so sweet to me, letting me pull everything off shelves as I narrowed down my choices. She and I also chatted for 20 minutes or so, and she complimented my French. This endeared her to me for life.

Basically, I spent my morning on wish-fulfillment. I can’t say that 40euro is a normal price for a candle. I can’t even say that my candle is better than any other (far cheaper) candle. However, I am thrilled to own a Diptyque candle. Finally 🙂

After Diptyque, I wandered in and out of homegoods stores and expensive purse stores, and floated around and felt classy.

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David and I met for macarons, picked up lunch at a boulangerie (a bakery, and the best deal on lunch I’ve found in Paris. We got two large sandwiches, two drinks, a small quiche, and house-made chocolate for 20euro. Take that, Panera!), and then we ate in a park.

It was a beautiful day, and I felt very French.

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In an instagram-perfect life, I would have only bought the pastel-pretty macarons. But those are the weird flavors! Carmel and chocolate are duller brown, but that’s okay by me 🙂

Our day finished at the Fondation Louis Vuitton (that is the correct spelling), a beautiful and rather modern art museum recommended by Regina and Peter.

The current exhibits were all part of a exploration of China, politically, emotionally. Perhaps not the most interesting to David and I, but we did really love exploring the upper floors of the museum; basically rooftop terraces underneath a glass and steel covering designed like sails around a ship, with lovely cutaways, allowing the observers to look all the way down to the ground floor fountains.

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Absolutely in love with every flowering tree I see. Spring is my favorite season.

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After our wander, we went back to the apartment. Watched TV, read the blogs (me), read the political happenings (him).

The day ending with a long dinner at a tiny café near our AirBnB, we drank imported American IPAs and ate burgers. We must have looked like horrible American stereotypes who spend thousands to come to Europe, but really still want to be in America.

However, it was Easter, we were missing home, and that night, we did rather want a piece of America.

The burger was fantastic.

 

 

 

I’m going to ramble about Paris now.

My school in France is Catholic. A grand thing on many levels: one, there is a chapel on campus, two, we get a long weekend for Easter!

David and I had seriously considered going to Switzerland for Easter, but as the time approached for tickets, I began feeling very overwhelmed. With all the influx of newness in Europe, I really was craving something familiar. Not to sound like a snot, but Paris is familiar. Or at least, a heck of a lot more familiar than Switzerland! I had already spent time in Paris with Ani last spring, I had already become familiar with the metro system, the best parks, and I knew the layout of the city. Plus, I know the language!

So we switched planning gears, found a minuscule AirBnB, and off we went to Paris.

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Our AirBnB was even tinier than we thought, but made great by the simple capacity for WiFi. We had WiFi! This was so exciting. To browse the Internet on a couch, without shoes on, not having to buy a coffee for the password. I even was online for so long that I watched TV. Oh Netflix, the David Raney family misses you.

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We arrived on Good Friday, and were able to find both Stations of the Cross and Good Friday service at a church only ten minutes walk away. We went to Stations in the afternoon, and service in the evening. It sounds silly to say that service in Paris was different than service at Christ the King in Ann Arbor, because all things in France are different than their American counterparts—but service in Paris was beyond different than service at Christ the King.

To begin, service began at 7pm. It was solemn and beautiful, there were probably close to 30 men serving, and they all chanted in Latin. The mass here is typically in Latin, and the French, more modern services are usually early in the morning and not as well attended.

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Anyway, we made it though to the gospel without any hitch, but then we all rose. The gospel was probably very beautiful, the congregation probably really loved it. But I grew up with Michelle Kazanjian. All 12 pages of the gospel were sung in Latin, with a chorus of monks singing all the parts of the “crowd”.

Catholics understand this part, but I’ll explain for any others. On Good Friday, the crucifixion of Jesus is read from the Gospel of John. Instead of one person reading, it is split up into a narrator, a reader, a chorus, and Jesus. Jesus is read by the priest, the narrator takes all the description, the reader had Pontius Pilate, Peter, anyone not Jesus, and the chorus is any group more than one who speaks. In this circumstance, a whole lot of “crucify him.”

That was my basic hardship, the chorus of monks, who took the “crucify him” to a whole new level. The sang it over and over, at different pitches and different lengths, for a good thirty seconds. To me, after a day of fasting, and the knowledge that we still had seven pages to go through, it struck me as a little humorous. I am a bad Christian.

Never let Fr. Ed attend Latin masses in France, he would get far too many ideas.

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The service did progress, and I have certainly realized how much harder it is to engage here. Perhaps if I was more familiar with the Latin Mass to begin with, it would be easier, but there is very little “audience participation” necessary in the Latin Mass. Much of the music is sung solely by the choir and many of the prayers are sung quietly or silently by the priest, Mass has definitely been one of top things on our “yay America!” list

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I have more, however, it isn’t written down, just swarming around my head. So I’ll post what I have, and write more on the Saturday, Sunday, and Monday later. It was a truly lovely weekend, and I have so many happy pictures and details. So settle in for a lot of dreamy thoughts on macarons and impressionist artistry.

 

In which I show up…again.

Missed last week. My mama and baby sister came to visit, and I had a terrible cold. We ate yummy food, curled up to watch movies, and Tasha grated half a finger nail off. Good times.

The week has been rather long. We are coming up on a two-week spring break, but it isn’t quite here yet. The sheer enormity of everything in French is starting to get to me – So many verbs! So many tenses for those verbs! So many words I don’t know! It can be very frustrating to forget the word for “spoon” and then launch into a detailed description of what it isn’t, until the waitress finally guesses what the frazzled American needs. Me: “it isn’t a fork, or a….(Christianne forgets the word for knife here)…euh, yes, it isn’t a fork, you use it for soup, or….euh, ice cream (Christianne mimes eating with spoon here, and subsequently looks even stupider. If possible).”

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School is not terribly hard, per se, but there is just so much of it! Monday and Wednesday are both eight hours, Tuesday is nine, Thursday and Friday are simpler, with just two and three hours of class, but by the time I have arrived to Thursday, it’s hard not to view any more class as just painful. Being homeschooled, then part of a twice a week high school group, then in college where I have typically scheduled classes for only two or three days of the week (leaving time to work, I promise I do not just sleep until noon and watch TV all day), this whole school every day thing is a bit of a nasty shock. I have utmost respect for all my friends and relations who did this for middle, high school, or college. However, I would like to go back to my easy life now.

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The view out of one of the windows in our studio. The other one is boring and normal, this one makes me feel French.

Cooking and keeping house has been an interesting conundrum. Our studio apartment is rather bare to put it mildly, and as a female who takes great comfort and joy in things like matching throw pillows and the china from her grandmother, the bare walls and two grey mugs in the cupboard do not inspire. I have definitely become far more crafty than I considered myself capable of – I’ve turned free newspapers into long strings of paper cranes and ripped and braided an old skirt into a rather passable Easter basket – but I miss the ease of crafting in America. We do not have an oven, leaving me simple one or two pot meals. I have stretched and grown tremendously; poaching eggs, cooking curries, several kinds of pasta, stirfrys, fajitas, hot fudge sauce, warm bean salads, and one truly fantastical variation of tuna salad. All of which sound piddly, but it’s been quite tasty.

As a girl who needs the smell of chocolate chip cookies in the oven when life is sad, I am looking forward to my forthcoming American kitchen.

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The first ten. Don’t be fooled into thinking this is it, there are nearly one hundred of their friends on an opposite wall.

 

There are so many other wonderful parts of France. And I feel rather guilty for every little quibble I have.

I am so lucky to be here. I am so blessed to have David with me. I am so grateful for the money and the grades and all my professors at school who are rooting for me. I am so glad to have family and friends back home with the kind of relationships that are worth missing.

I am grateful for the creativity to turn a little garret into something closer to home and for lavender candles. I am grateful for every croissant and every verb conjugation that gets a little easier. I am thankful for long weekends in Paris and growing confidence in conversational French. I am grateful for the warm days and the blossoming trees in March.

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I am also grateful to be halfway to coming home.

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This is my daddy. He and I are the only ones who know the proper way to love someone is to hold your cheeks together and smile.

In which I go a-marketing

To begin: flowers. They exist here, as I’ve said before, and now I have proof!

The flowers aren’t quite bursting yet, and I have a feeling that the purple flower bed was planted all pretty—but the budding trees are really budding trees! And they have been budding since the second week of February, a level of perfection Michigan should hope to achieve. Aspire to, really.

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Have I ever mentioned my long-standing dream of living in Hawaii? They have flowers all the time. That is truly how to live your life. They even have snow a fair amount of the year up on the volcanoes, so David wouldn’t suffer a lack of winter—he is not convinced, but he got married so young. I have plenty of time to work on him.

Maybe we should come back to France.

Last Saturday morning, I finally pulled myself out of the house with enough time to see the weekly open-air market. My Monday-Thursday school schedule requires me to be up and out by 8:30am, and 7:30am on Friday. Once Saturday rolls around, I feel heavily uninspired to roll anywhere but deeper into the covers. Also, David makes breakfast. So basically, on Saturdays, I am the princess.

The difference this Saturday was a lack of David. He was in England for the last 12 days (its been awful, thanks for asking) to keep his French visitor visa under the legal limit. The boarder limits are 90 days in a 180 day period for US citizens, but my semester runs closer to 120 days. With my two week spring break (!) and a few trips on his own, David will just be squeaking by.

It’s been awfully quiet without him; Saturday morning stretched long and lonely ahead of me, and it was just the kick in the pants I needed to get moving usefully before 10am.

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The day was cold and rainy, common French February weather, but the market was populated nevertheless. It actually lifted my spirits and made me feel very at home. I shopped for most of my produce at the Grand Rapids farmers market, and I have always loved the Ann Arbor market, so it was good to wander with the veggies again.

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I made friends with the local Tevye, and he let me take lots of pictures and sold me a very moldy, delicious goat cheese—one of the regional specialties. While I was leaning and contorting over his cheese case and stacks of eggs, a woman nearby got very interested in my transition into French culture, and we had a rather pleasant 10 minute chat. For all those French stereotypes of cold, distant French citizens, the citizens of Angers are incredibly sociable, and very patient with my broken French. I am very blessed.

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My next stop was the mushroom stand. I felt almost giddy. Mushrooms are the yummiest, lend themselves very well to meatless cooking, and typically too expensive. Plus, at our regular super market, only the white buttons are available. The mushroom man looked at my dazed face strangely, but handed over my prize.

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The time has come for my sad confession: I have a new obsession with radishes, not to eat, just to look at. I almost bought some, just to put on my table for decoration. But the little bundles were so adorable! And colorful! And spring-like!

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Dear Aunt Janice, thank you for your offer of your Jade plant. But if you value it, I would not recommend putting any flora or fauna into my care. I do not have a green thumb (Russ, David, and Joe are all sniggering into their sleeves and rolling their eyes at this understatement). I have managed to kill both an aloe plant and a Norfolk pine—both given with the assurances that they were unkillable, even for me. The aloe lasted four months, the pine only two. I follow the instructions, and yet…

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I didn’t take my own advice though, and bought a little plant for my table. It is gone now. I swear, I don’t know what happened: twenty-four hours in, it gave up the ghost. It was a very colorful twenty-four hours though! The next week, as it expired and I tried to save it was a little more dour.

The one problem with open-air markets in early March is really, really cold fingers. As I was walking home, I smelled sausages grilling, and it would’ve been cruel and unusual punishment to not stop. I basically got the French version of the breakfast burrito, with sausage, cheese, onions, and spicy mustard wrapped in a galette ( a non-sweet crêpe). Cold fingers closing on the warm packet was worth the 5€ alone.

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Then it sprung a leak and got all over my shoes, pants, and favorite white scarf. That was slightly annoying, but my mustard shoes served as a great reminder of my market day for the rest of the week!

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Apparently, I was in the mood for round, brownish colored foodstuffs.

 

In which we see châteaux

In France, there is a deep-seated distrust of plurals. The letter “S” at the end of a noun is very, very seldom pronounced. For example, “le café” (guess the meaning of that one, monolingual geniuses) is pronounced virtually identically to “les cafés”. Oh French. There is a point to this paragraph, bear with me. Since the French do not like the letter “S” at the end of a word, it stands to reason that they would have lots of irregular plurals where the “S” is replaced altogether, by “X”—they don’t pronounce that either. “Le Château” is pronounced virtually identically to “Les Châteaux”. The one difference is heard in the pronunciation of the article (“le” vs “les”). Real helpful, given that it comes first and takes less than a second to come and go. The takeaway: I very rarely know if my conversational partners are talking about single objects or plural objects AND David and I visited multiple, dramatically large buildings once inhabited by kings, their mistresses, their queens, and their artists.

Do I know how to start a blog post or what?

This is the morning sun rising next to my school. My school is hidden behind the tree is the far right. I enjoyed that sunrise, which was good, because the darn thing hid for most of the rest of the day.

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The first château was by far our favorite. David was won over instantly when he found out the extensive grounds included a small hedge maze.

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He called for a race to the middle, and then was minorly annoyed that I didn’t even try due to my picture taking.

This is Château Chenonceau, also called “Le château des Dames” (“the Ladies’ château”). It was the home of Diane de Poitier, favorite of King Henri II. She lived here quite happily (who wouldn’t?) until the king died and his wife, Catherine de’ Medici…euh…traded Diane a much smaller, dingier château for Chenonceau. Between the two of them, the château was expanded from simply overlooking the river Cher to actually spanning it with a three-story gallery built over on a bridge.

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Take note, America. All three châteaux were filled with fresh flowers and fires burning in the hearths. This means the whole place was filled with the beautiful aromas of wood smoke and greenery. I think the Smithsonian could benefit from some tweaks along these lines.

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The most common type of Christianne pictures. This is what happen when you are the official photographer.

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How French is it to have official coins stamped not just with the queen, but the mistress as well?

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One of the best parts of the châteaux was that each one had it’s own chapel, typically with lovely stained glass.

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Lower gallery. I was seized with a burning desire for a black and white tiled kitchen.

And the kitchen. Which was insane. Insane ridiculous and insane beautiful. Beautiful was the enormous fireplaces, views of the river rushing by, and the ridiculous amount of copper pots, pans, and cake molds.

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Insane ridiculous was the full-scale butcher shop set up five feet from the bread oven.

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David had me half convinced it was also used for medieval torture purposes as well.

My one, true picture of the day. Enjoy. Every now and again, I force David to take my picture. Just to prove this is not The Official David Raney Fan Page.

If there was a club, dibs on president. The man deserved parades and flags and I will happily set that in motion.

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We then went to Le Clos Lucé, home and the death place of Leonardo Da Vinci. It was ridiculously cold here, and my two pictures came out blurry. Sorry, family. I think this would have been a much better summer visit, as the house itself was rather normal-sized, and the real attraction being a dormant-for-winter garden. The garden was set up along a stream, with larger-than-life Da Vinci machines set up along the banks to interact with. There was an Archimedes screw, paddle boat, hovercrafts, and many of the plants had signs with the Da Vinci drawings next to them. And there were peacocks, just strutting around. It would have been very picturesque. If it wasn’t cold, cloudy, and mostly dead.

Moving on!

Le Château Chambord, home of the kings of France pre-Versailles. This château was wickedly large. The kind of large that makes you glad more than half of it is closed off to the public, because you just couldn’t see it all.

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The terrace is open though, and it covers nearly the entire available roof. It is open to the public, and it was so beautiful. The stone work all around, mixing with those stunning windows that still stop me in my tracks. Every time.

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This is David’s “Oh yes, I need a château” look.

The green moss mixing with the bleached stones was incredibly easy to photograph, I have far too many pictures of it! The inside of the château was nice, but very bare. To refurbish the entire place would be far too expensive. Also, by the end of the day, we were elbowing a fair amount of other tourist groups for the best shots in the semi-darkness of stone rooms—translation, I don’t have many pictures of the inside.

I do have these gems though.

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My man was far too inspired by this excursion. The entire bus ride back to Angers, I was subjected to the David Raney plan for our future home. I fear we will have so many secret passageways, turrets, and meat-smoking fireplaces that the children will have a heck of a time trying to find a glass of water at night! On another level, I get it, because for the first time, David found a home built to his size!

 

In which we take our first excursion.

My dear sister said Mont Saint Michel was an important, not-to-be missed French experience; so when a day trip was offered through my school program (henceforth to always be called by the acronym ‘CIDEF’), with bus travel to Mont Saint Michel and the nearby Saint-Malo, David and I jumped at the chance. Well, that’s a lie; I jumped while David lifted a bemused eyebrow. He was excited though, in his special David way.

Buses rank as pretty low on the fun times scale, especially when you are 6’5”, so God bless the man for coming at all. We boarded one of the two charter buses commissioned for tourist duty at 7:30am on a Sunday morning. Just us and all the hung-over youth who round out CIDEF.

Side note, I do not understand the many people in this program who find it perfectly plausible to be out all night, sleep an hour, and start again. Every Friday morning finds at least two out of the 20 in my class who stumble in at 8:00am, cursing the daylight. Ah young folks, so charming. Other side note, there are lots of other students who drink the normal amount and sleep the normal amount, but I digress.

We traveled until the sun rose, arriving at Saint-Malo close to 10:30. The excursion wasn’t super organized, which was fine by us. Saint-Malo is an island that was part the medieval fortress systems, and surrounded by a stone wall that is perfectly open to people climbing up and down at any point. There are a few opening onto the beaches, and many smaller lookouts to clamber about. David took great pleasure in the sheer medieval aspect.

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During WW2, 80% of Saint-Malo was destroyed by American and British bombs, and the difference in pre-war stone work and the restoration was really interesting to see.

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We were so, so happy to be on the beach again, with sand and a saltwater breeze. The tide pools were especially amazing, making us wish it was slightly warmer and we could justify rolling up our pants legs and exploring a little more.

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After a few hours in Saint-Malo, really, all that is needed to walk the entire perimeter of the town and poke around some—we boarded our friend the bus for another hour to Mont Saint-Michel.

Mont Saint-Michel is named for Saint Michael the Archangel, and is one of the only places in the world where he is said to have appeared. The legend says that St. Michael appeared to a bishop named St Aubert and instructed him to build a church on the mountain and dedicate it to him. The fun, Catholic part is that, apparently, St. Aubert ignored him fastidiously until St. Michael burned a hole in his skull with his finger.

It is a very unique piece of land. At high tide, it is cut off from the mainland of France and becomes an island. Sadly, while we were there, it was low tide, and simply a peninsula. Before the visitation, the island was very rural, but in the years since, the abbey and monastery has been built and a (very) small town winds around the base, climbing up the very steps of the abbey.

Mont-Saint-Michel is proof that building codes are a modern idea. Buildings are stacked upon buildings, with tiny staircases to the next street up, no more than a foot in diameter, shoehorned between.

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The cathedral at the top was incredible. After the tiny streets and walkways below, stepping opening the doors into the enormous space of the church was startling. And the space seemed to open up as you went on: huge halls for guests, and knights, and the religious life (all separate), chapels, crypts, storerooms. And that’s just what was open to the public, there were several doors in each room locked or sectioned off. That didn’t stop David from rattling each handle though!

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Ah yes, and David found his perfect fireplace.

The windowpanes especially delighted me; each one was an intricate puzzle, neatly welded into beautiful designs. And each window, the hundreds that must cover the building, is done in the same careful way. Many different patterns, but each one made up of tiny pieces. I couldn’t even imagine how much time it must have taken.

Also, for Regina’s benefit, I was so excited to stumble onto the window which, I think, was the inspiration for the beautiful candle you made David and me for Christmas!C2

 

The gardens were also a special place for me, life is already becoming green here in France, and wandering through the huge open spaces felt so peaceful—scattered with the beautiful excitement of spotting flowers!

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Oh course, because I mentioned flowers, none of the pictures I have of the gardens actually HAVE flowers. Use your imagination.

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David pointed out that I don’t have enough pictures of what Saint-Malo and Mont Saint-Michel look like as a whole. Sorry about that. Newbie blogger, remember? This weekend, we are going off to fulfill David’s childhood dream of seeing legitimate castles. I will be better, K?