It’s good that I split my blog for Les Sables because this last weekend was pretty tame. I went out with my American co-worker and her neighbor (Alexis) Friday night, worked basically a full shift on Saturday, worked more on Sunday and then went to a movie Sunday night with Alexis and my American co-worker. There is a good selection of VOST (original version with French subtitles) movies to choose from in Poitiers and typically one or two a week offered in Civray, so we’re able to keep up on what the French believe is the best of American cinema!
Les Sables d’Olonne
I’d found a bakery on Saturday night in Les Sables, but on Sunday, I realized my breakfast plan was a bad one when the line was out the door! And sold out of breakfast pastries! After buying a high-fiber cookie instead, I checked out the local market. The markets are lovely with fresh food of all sorts, flowers and even clothing (at this one). Fortunately, I had better luck on Monday and found a bakery with pain au chocolat, a café and great view for 2 Euro.
I guess I speak my few sentences well enough that I am able to get a table and ask for a menu without them realizing that I don’t speak French fluently. I sometimes have to fess up when I don’t understand though. After one of these oops moments at lunch, I was happy that my waiter told me I speak French well! This was after I ordered a steak, cooked medium-rare with the roquefort and a glass of Muscadet using a complete sentence! I’m really trying to ensure that I don’t just grunt random words and instead use connecting words, such as “avec” (with). Later, I tried a Vendée salad, which was good, but I prefer my chèvre salads! Eating local specialties is usually, but not ALWAYS, best. This one had local ham, cheese, apples, mushrooms and, buried under the lettuce, cherry tomatoes (which I did not eat). Despite disliking mushrooms for most of my life, I find I do like some of the varieties here, in moderation.
One odd thing that I noticed more in this town than in other parts of France were French people using random English. A woman returned to the table – “Ready?” to her spouse. A French daughter, “Yes, please,” to more water, but the rest all in French. The other ironic thing that has happened to me in several places in France is that I’ll get through my whole meal in French, but when they run my card and I don’t need a pin (signature required), they know I’m foreign and switch to English! A bit late for that!
This specifically occurred this weekend after I tried an almost-local specialty, crêpes. They originated in the Brittany (Breton) region, but Les Sables is close enough that they were everywhere, and not the usual poor quality ones offered in French tourist towns (thanks to Rita for telling me to skip them). “Bounty” flavored items appeared to be a big thing here, which is chocolate and coconut. I had bounty sorbet and the below bounty crêpe. You had the choice to get the traditional buckwheat as well, but for this, I went with the suggested flour cake.
Since I’d “hit the wall” on Saturday (“become exhausted” for non-Americans), I thought I’d make a second trip to the Vendée Globe village on Sunday and see the rest. Unfortunately, it was even more crowded! I did get a few quick pics of a news segment live and a pic of the sailors – most are French, but there’s one American! “So crowded I can barely move” isn’t my scene though, so I left after a short time again.
I spent the rest of the weekend enjoying the less crowded areas of Les Sables d’Olonne, although the crowds died down significantly on Monday – it seems that not all French people bridge to the holiday! I enjoyed a savory “crêpe,” which is called a galette, and had this one made the traditional way with buckwheat. I also came upon an old cemetery, with lovely grave markers, which seemed perfect on this celebration of the dead (Nov 1 is a day of remembrance in much of the world). The gentleman at the cemetery was able to communicate that I could not show names in photos out of respect for the families, so the names have been blacked out.
Most of my four day weekend involved hours spent walking or sitting on the beach to relax and soak up the sun. Parfait ! (aka Perfect!) I fell in love with France all over again and have a new goal to own a small flat in Les Sables d’Olonne someday – it was just the right mix of laid back and social for me.
Halloween in France
I wasn’t expecting any sort of Halloween festivities in France since I’d seen nothing about it, so I was pleasantly surprised when I was eating my dinner and children entered in costumes to trick-or-treat at the businesses along the boardwalk. There weren’t a lot of them, but it was still cute.
I was walking down the boardwalk, smiling at the adorable little children, when I noticed what appeared to be an abandoned white shopping bag near some bushes. I was rather surprised when an enormous spider came skittering out. I had a good laugh, along with the young couple operating the spider, when I saw what it was. I took a seat slightly further down the boardwalk and enjoyed laughing at the spider scaring a few other people too before continuing on my way.
I guess I must have looked particularly happy during my time in Les Sables because it was here that I went on my first French “date,” but more about that in my next post on Tuesday!