De Bretagne en Normandie!

My correspondent’s family took me to their vacation house in Porspoder. The town was beautiful beyond my ability to describe it. The idyllic image of the sporadic gabled houses surrounding the cluster of sailboats at anchor carried an air of simple sophistication and tranquility. Many of the buildings were vacant. A very popular spot for summer residences, the town felt significantly smaller on a slow weekend like this. There were few people about the stores and restaurants, giving the town a sleepy peace. This was aided by the weather which, though grey, only aided the appeal of the town as a whole. And the view over the ocean was not to be missed. A large island on the horizon and the intimidating surf served as a backdrop to the harbor, which emptied and filled daily with the tide. At times the boats could be seen standing on the mud. Some comfortably on rounded bottoms and others propped precariously on their keel. A few fell at worrisome angles, their sails more towards the shore than the sky. And we were able to enjoy this view from the deck of a coffee shop at the center of the main road which ran along the water. The surrounding land was also beautiful. We enjoyed two walks around the fields on the coast and the presqu’île, which offered not only beautiful views but also simple yet enthralling landscapes and no shortage of bracing winds. At the end of my stay I was sad to leave, but I was grateful for the opportunity to get acquainted with the town.


Saturday morning I had slept in till 12. Loan had woken me up and told me we would leave in about an hour to go do laser tag. As we drove through the pastures and landscape, we finally got to brest and waited for our other friends to come. We waited for about 30 min, then got inside the laser tag building. We started to play immediately and we were all surprised to see the black light show how dirty our clothes were. The game was very intense and competitive. Everybody running all over the place, shooting everything the could see. We played for about 20 min and the game ended. I ended up getting first place while Benjie second. After this we went shopping. Everybody ended up buying at least one item. Then we split up for a bit, went to get some food, and met up again for dinner. It was really a fun night being with all of our correspondants and our fellow urban people and it was such a great weekend.


This past weekend my host family took the three hour drive down to Nantes. This city is located next to the Loire River in the Upper Brittany region of western France, and it has a long history as a port and industrial center. We arrived on Saturday morning and immediately started visiting the attractions within the city center.
We first walked to an old shopping center known as Le Passage Pommeraye. In this building, Tifenn (my correspondent) and I were immediately struck by the immaculate hallway which was built in the 1840’s and lay before us in perfect condition. As we entered, we gazed at the vast collection of shops and boutiques which lined either side of the main corridor. We only stayed for around 15 mins, but the whole experience prepared me for the beauty of Nantes which I would see during the remainder of the weekend.
Next we went to Basilique Saint-Nicolas, an incredibly large and intricately designed cathedral. We spent around an hour in this location to try and appreciate the many statues and art pieces within the cathedral, yet I still think we could have spent more time gazing at the massive building.
On Sunday morning, Tifenn’s mom took us to two markets. The first was a small outdoor market which contained a handful of tents and showcased pastries, cheese, and wine. Here, I bought a bag of classic French cookies – called canelé – which made my (already full) stomach feel as though it was about to explode. Next, we went to an indoor market which had EVERYTHING. Our jaws dropped as we saw booths displaying everything from rotisserie chickens with their heads still attached (to show the freshness) to steaming hot Vietnamese dumplings to fresh oysters and clams. Damn.
During the majority of the day on Sunday Tifenn and I then spent 4 hours at the Art Museum of Nantes looking at the floor length paintings and detailed stone carvings. (By the end of this visit we were both ready to scarf down a Kouignamann and take a nap!)
The last stop we took was at the Jardin des plantes de Nantes. I did not know that they were taking me to this park, and once we walked through the gate my I was immediately hit by a wave of sweet smelling flowers and hungry goats (it was a very nice way to end the trip).
– Dillon Case

This morning we said goodbye to our host families in Brest and headed to Mont Saint-Michel. After a two and a half hour drive we arrived in Normandy. The abbey is on an island which overlooks the ocean. The street which leads up to the abbey is lined with cute little shops filled with lots of souvenirs and restaurants where we ate delicious crepes. We took a tour of the abbey, and walked up many flights of stairs. I was surprised by how large the abbey was— we walked through so many rooms! The views from the top of the abbey were magnificent. We then had some time to walk around the island. We bought some souvenirs and spent the afternoon exploring the hidden alleyways behind the main street.

We checked in to our hotel and ate dinner in a restaurant nearby. For dinner, we had “Mère Poulard” omelettes, a specialty to Mont Saint-Michel. So far, our visit to Normandy has been spectacular and visiting Mont Saint-Michel has been truly special.


Aventures à Brest!

Hello from Brest!

It’s been around two days since we arrived in France. We landed in Brest at around 5 PM on Saturday night, where the French correspondents excitedly greeted us. We then had all of Sunday free with our families. On Sunday afternoon, we met up with a bunch of the families hosting Urban students and went into town to go bowling, where I lost miserably! One of my favorite things about staying in a French family is the food. For breakfast, we had croissants, baguettes, brioche, fresh squeezed orange juice, and, of course, an espresso. For lunch, we had roasted chicken and fries with chocolate fondue for desert, and for dinner we had carbonara pasta. As the jet lag began to set in, we went to bed early to prepare for all of the plans we had the following day!


We arrived in Quimper early Monday morning, eager to explore one of the villages that remained intact during World War II! It was really cold and rained on and off throughout our visit. In our tour of Quimper, we learned about the cathedral (and it’s fables), the history of medieval houses, the village’s history, and an indoor market. There weren’t many people around, which was a stark contrast to mornings in SF. But I appreciated the tranquility and history Quimper had to offer. After our tour, we got coffee at the (only open) shop. For lunch, we ate at Crêperie Sucrée et Salée and each student had one savory and sweet crepe. For my savory one, I had a ham and cheese crêpe topped with creamed mushrooms. For my sweet one, my crêpe had carmelized apples topped with caramel. Les deux étaient délicieux! After enjoying a wonderful lunch and morning, we hopped on the bus to our next village, Locronan.


After visiting the town of Quimper we visited another small village named Locronan. We did not stay here for very long but had a small visit for about 30 minutes. We were allowed to break off into groups and explore Locronan. It is a very old town and all of the buildings are made of stone and it is lined with cobblestone streets. There are small boutiques as well as restaurants and homes. The streets are very deserted and our group were some of the only people exploring the town. Many students visited the chocolate/ sweets shop that had many local specialties such as the Kouignette, a small version of the Kouign Amann which is a pastry that is from Brittany. We also visited a church that had many staples of French churches we visited such as lots of stain glass many sculptures, and seating down the middle with larger walkways on either side. Students walked down the cobblestone streets and into various shops and interested establishments. After a short period of time it began to rain and it was time to go back to the bus to Brest.



Today was our first day visiting classes with our Sainte-Anne students. Most of us left our houses before it was light outside, and arrived before the first class at 8 AM. We went to a room on campus where the principal of the school gave us a very warm welcome to the school. Our correspondents then presented information to us about the city of Brest, the French educational system, and the types of classes at Saints-Anne. In France, high school (or lyceé) is three years, so even though our correspondents are the age of sophomore, they are in their first year of high school. In addition, students have to declare an area of study for the IB. There were lots of options, including math, economics, and chemistry. This was shocking to me, because I don’t think I would be able to decide on a career path in high school. After this introduction to Saints-Anne and Brest, we got to see some of the students from Saints-Anne who came to Urban 2 years ago which was very fun! Then we went with our correspondents to their classes. I went to classes in economics, math, English literature, and English. The classroom environment at Saints-Anne is very different from Urban. The students sit in lines of desks, and write down every word the teacher says. There were no discussions and no activities, just the teacher talking. After our first two classes, we all went to lunch at the Self, which is a cafeteria on campus. The line to get in was crazy! The lunch that day was potato’s, a choice of pork or fish, an array of yogurts, cheeses, and fruits, and bread. I have really begun to see how much the French LOVE butter and bread. After lunch, we continued going to class. That afternoon, all of the Urban students and their correspondents joined together to make crépes! It was so much harder than I thought it was going to be. The Saints-Anne students made it look so easy, but fortunately the crépes all tasted the same and we put toppings like Nutella and jam on top. I rode the bus home with my correspondent, and for dinner I had mini Croque Monsieurs and salad. The perfect ending to a very busy day.

Being in Brest has been really fun, and I have enjoyed getting to know my student and the school!

À demain!


Today was our fifth day in Brest, and it started off early; we met at Saint Anne at 8:15 am and headed off to Océanopolis, the biggest and only aquarium in Brest. We arrived slightly early, so we went to Paul, a French chain-patisserie and enjoyed some delicious pastries and coffee. We then went on a tour of the aquarium, stopping to look at everything from jellyfish to some very friendly seals and touching some brightly colored starfish and a sea slug.
After leaving the aquarium, we took the bus back to Saint Anne for lunch, met up with our correspondents, and headed back out into the city of Brest. As a group, we walked to “le telepherique” and took a short gondola ride to Les Ateliers des Capucins, an old factory which is in the process of becoming a commercial center. Inside Les Capucins there was a skate park, a video-game center, a library, a rotating art installation/exhibit, and so much more. We were able to walk around for about an hour exploring Les Capucins and then headed out to Rue St. Malo, the only street which survived the bombing of Brest during WWII. We then stopped at Tour Tanguy, a small museum about the history of Brest and eventually ended the day with some time to shop and explore Brest with our correspondents.


Today we kicked off the day with a cooking class using the trendy new technique, gastronomy hello ‘salt fat heat acid’? All of us slipped on our aprons and got mixing. We made decadent macaroons. We picked chocolate caramel, passion fruit, raspberry, and pistachio as our flavors. First we made the batter and baked the cookies. Then we made the frosting and piped it in. After eating these delicious macaroons, we headed over to st. Anne’s to meet up with our hosts. We grabbed some lunch at the cafeteria, then headed off to class. First was forensics which I thought was cool because I never even thought about a class like that. Afterward I went to English for an intense debate about plastic surgery. After class we headed to a soccer game for the local Brest team! What a beautiful day!– Zelda

Today was the first and only day we went to school for the entirety of the day. Most of us were up at 7am to get to 9am classes. Before class, we all got together and waited for the now-familiar bell to signal the beginning of class. From here, all had different classes. Each student takes ten courses, including P.E. and Technology. Some students from the exchange had the same classes together, so they were together all day. The classes were taught lecture-style, which is very different than Urban. In fact, pretty much everything about the school was different: the size, the classes, the structure, etc. It was very interesting to see the difference between a more traditional French high school and the school we attend everyday. From eating lunch at the massive cafeteria (also known as Self) to calling the teachers “Professor”, nothing could be a farther cry from our high school.