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.


Versailles to Paris!

The chateau of Versailles is an ornate palace decorated with detailed statues, immense pieces of art and covered in gold. This was my second time visiting Versailles and it was still as awe inspiring and impressive as it was the first time. The hallways are filled with statues of gods and busts of important leaders. Each is so perfectly carved that they come to life in the decorated rooms of Versailles. They add to the image of Louis XIV’s power and his overall control over France. Each room’s walls and ceiling were covered in paintings that vividly depicted religious and historical events. The large canvases and bright colors make you feel small in the presence of the king. He had his throne at the end of an expansive and decorated hallway, titled the Hall of Mirrors. Covered on both sides by mirrors, and above an endless mosaic of battles and glory. He would have people approach his decadent throne and once finished leave while continuing to face him and bow. Around each tapestry and covering the gates and fences of Versailles was ornate gold. The ability to use so much to to such unnecessary extent showed, again, the imposing figure of Versailles. The power felt by this massive castle truly reflected the power and control of the kings and the kingdom of France –





At breakfast this morning, I was greeted by a sea of my croissant eating classmates dressed in their fanciest entire. For our last day in France and our second day in Paris, everyone looked absolutely stunning. After breakfast we took the Metro to the Musée Rodin. I was especially excited for this museum because in french 4 we watched a movie, Camille Claudel, about Rodin’s mistress Camille Claudel and their troubling relationship. Having some prior knowledge about Rodin and his muses made our guided tour all the more interesting. We had a wonderful lunch along with ice cream at the museum.

After the museum we made our way to the Eiffel Tower. After forty minutes of free time in the beautiful park surrounding the tower, we began our journey upwards (… in the elevator). The views from the tower were spectacular but my favorite part was by far the somewhat creepy and lifelike mannequins on the very top floor of the tower. On the top floor, there is a display of of Gustave Eiffel’s home along with Gustave and his family depicted with mannequins. After we descended the tower we went to St. Chapelle and Notre Dame. Because today is Good Friday, there was a church service happening when we visited Notre Dame. The church choir and the service made the beautiful chapel even more impressive.

After Notre Dame we finally got to put our fancy outfits to good use! We had our dinner on a boat on the Seine. Not only was the food absolutely amazing, but the views were also incredible. We watched the lights on the Eiffel Tower flicker as the sun set over Paris. It was the perfect ending to an amazing trip.



La belle Normandie ~


Today was the day we departed Brest. After saying goodbye to our corespondents we packed ourselves into a bus on the way to Mont-Saint-Michel. We traveled for 4 hours driving past tranquil country and fields of mustard flowers (those yellow flowers). When we arrived in town we left our suitcases on the bus and started to head for the abbaye on the island. The buses going to the island were so crowded that three stopped before we could all get on. When we finally escaped the confines of the over stuffed buses the spire of Mont-Saint-Michel towered above us. We were given free reign on the island for two hours to get food and browse shops. For my group lunch took longer than expected. Half our food seemed to get lost in the kitchens and when it neared time to rendezvous we raced to the meeting place without a second to spare. I found lunch enjoyable even if the service was slow. Once everyone gathered we entered the abbaye. The architecture was interesting and ancient. Once we had walked through the abbaye we had another two hours to kill in the village before we all had to meet up again. The smaller group I was walked around for a bit trying to find a crêperie. When we settled on one, most ordered crepes while I decided to order ice cream. Everything was delicious. After eating we found a grassy spot tucked out of the way and spent the rest of our time laying in the sun.  We then made our way back to the rest of the group and all of us decided to take a picturesque but windy walk back to the bus and the hotel we would be staying at. Our last activity was diner at the restaurant next to our hotel. There was no menu and we all ate relatively the same meal. We watched the sun set and then headed back to our hotel rooms. 

I am excited for our trip to Normandie tomorrow.

-Hannah Worsley


We woke up at around 7 to eat, getting on the bus at 8. We drove about two hours to Arromanches, where there is a D-day landing museum. Arromanches was the site of the temporary port, an engineering marvel constructed off-site  and dropped into place at Arromanches to create a working port for the soldiers to get vehicles and supplies. After Arromanches (where we had lunch) we went to the military cemetery, where we presented a bouquet on behalf of Urban and then walked around alone to pay our respects and see the cemetery. At the end of this walk, we merged with a larger group of various groups to sing the national anthem (if we so chose). Following the cemetery, we bussed to Bayeux to see the tapestry which tells the story of William the Conqueror, who was a Norman king who was promised the British throne, had it taken from him, and then won the Battle of Hastings for it. The tapestry was most likely made in 1070, and is 230 feet long. Technically, it is an embroidery as opposed to a tapestry, but “Bayeux Embroidery” just doesn’t roll of the tongue as well – Adam


Today we left Mont Saint-Michel at 8am to arrive in Normandy by mid morning. Our first stop was to a D-Day Museum where we watched a short video about the Allies’ organized attack on D-Day to commence the recapturing and liberation of France, as well as Europe. After the video we were given some time to walk around the rest of the exhibits and learn about the many countries and war strategies used; we ended the museum tour with a second video dedicated to the honor and courage of the thousand of soldiers who gave their lives for the war. We were then given about an hour and a half to walk around the petite town around the museum and the beach; I went to a small brunch spot and then looked at the many shops and stores along the main road.

After the museum, we drove another 30 minutes to the enormous cemetery dedicated exclusively to the American troops; it was a moving and unreal experience. There were flowers from the Urban School of San Francisco that we placed underneath a statue of a man rising from the sea; representing the American military rising from the sea to Omaha beach. We had time to look around the endless cemetery, I spent my time looking at the many crosses with a few stars of David in between. I also accidentally ran into a cross with a death date that was the same as my birthday, it was moving to see the name of a man who died exactly 55 years before I was born. We reconvened to watch a memorial ceremony where a group of Americans sang the national anthem together and at the end, we applauded for any servicemen who were in the crowd.

Next, we drove 15 minutes to Pointe d’Hoc cliffs, where a battalion of soldiers captured a critical part of the german front. It was interesting to see the craters in the ground and the remainders of concrete forts. These forts were vast and huge underground, but looked crumbled and ruined on the top.

Finally, we drove to Bayeux where we viewed the longest Tapestry in the world (69meters) that told the story of William the Conquerer’s rise to power. We had audio tapes that translated and told the story while we slowly walked around the corridor; it was interesting and impressive to see a story that has been told for centuries and continues be told.

We dropped our bags off at the hotel and continued to dinner around the corner at a cow themed restaurant. We ate rice and fish stuffed tomatoes, chicken, and coconut cake. After dinner we walked to a château next to our hotel to see an incredible view of Caen under a completely full moon. It was a long and busy day, but all worth it considering the amazing views, historical monuments, and moving memorials that we were able to see.

 -Sarah F-


Last week end “en Bretagne”!

On Saturday, Dani and I slept in and went to the farmer’s market with out correspondent’s mother, where we bought fresh fruits, cheese, meat, and bread. After, we went to the grocery store and gathered some more cooking supplies for dinner and snacks for a small get together we were hosting for the French correspondents and Americans. After coming home and setting up the house, people came and the correspondents and American students made dinner together. On Sunday morning, Dani and I had breakfast and got ready to go see a castle a few minutes away from the family’s home. This castle was small and was surrounded by a garden. We got a tour of the castle and then walked through the garden. After this we came home, relaxed, and ate.



I had a super weekend to end my stay in Finistère. Friday night my exchange student, Ewen, and I went to the Brest vs. Tours Ligue 2 soccer match. Brest (Stade Brestois) scored in the first 20 minutes, only to give up a goal two minutes later. The game ended tied 1-1. Saturday my exchange student and I woke up early to drive to Morlaix, a town on the north coast of Brittany. The town is quaint and is situated on a tidal river about one hour from Brest. We met up with ten other students at a surf shop and strapped up our wetsuits. The group rented stand up paddleboards and a “paddle géant”, which fit twelve. We set out from the beach and paddled to a small rock formation not far from where we started. We strapped the smaller boards to the handles on the larger one and all hopped on. We battled on the giant board and tried to push others in the water. It was in the 70s on saturday, and it felt really good to be in the clear water. We then went to the train station in Morlaix to take the train back to Brest. In Brest, we stopped at a Brasserie for some sodas and ice cream before doing paintball just outside the city. It was scary at first, but we gained confidence every round and advanced more and more on the paintball arena. That night, the French students hosted a dinner party for the Americans where we ate Pasta and talked about our time in Brest. Sunday was much less action-packed than Saturday. We slept in for the first time and played soccer. For my last night in Finistère, my host family took me to a traditional crêperie situated in a 17th century stone house in Le Conquet. We got “Crêpes au blé noir”, which is the traditional way to eat savory crêpes. I ordered a crêpe with Andouille and potatoes, which was super rich and good. We finished the meal with sweet crêpes. As a final hurrah, my host family took me to the Pt. Saint Mathieu, one of the westernmost points in mainland France, to watch the sunset. It was windy and beautiful, and it was the perfect way to close out a perfect stay in Brittany.



Ile d’Ouessant

Sarah Morse (’17) here and I’m reporting on our 5th full day in France. The day started out with our journey to Sainte-Anne, where half of the correspondents attended morning classes with their hosts and the other half attended “L’ecole des Gastronomes”, a cooking class! The first group made sweet items like cake while the second group (which I was in) made three savory dishes: “blinis au sarrasin et crème ciboulette au haddock”, “tartines au beurre de légumes” (toast with butter and vegetables) , and “crème de betterave” (cream and beats). If we learned anything it was that the people in Brittany really like their butter! We then road the telemerik and admired Brest from above.
After returning to Sainte-Anne for lunch, we then visited a tower, which was filled with historic information about Brest, including a wall of all of their mayors and facts about its military background. The rest of the day was filled with exploring Brest, getting “café frappés” and watching the hosts play football (or soccer, not to be confused with American football). I think we all are close to recovering from our jet lag and are looking forward to our final days in Britanny! Au Revoir!
-Sarah Morse

Yesterday, the students of the French Trip traveled to L’île d’Ouessant, a beautiful island off the coast of Brest. We took a two-hour ferry ride across the beautiful water as the sun rose. Very picturesque! A few of us were worried about seasickness, but the teachers came through in a pinch with some anti-nausea pills, and everyone made it through just fine. Students read, talked, and played a few very spirited games of cards.

After a quick van ride up the hill from the ferry docking, we made our way to a beautiful hidden beach, with lots of rocks to relax on, and a massive stone pier jutting out into the water. The entire island is full of beautiful scenery. We ate lunch, played soccer, talked, walked along the water, and relaxed in the sun. Then, the entire group walked out onto the pier and took pictures. Many students had fun modeling for one another, and all our social media feeds were filled with the pictures we took on the pier. The water was a perfect tropical blue but freezing cold. Luckily, the air stayed pretty warm. We’ve been so lucky with the weather so far on this trip, warm and sunny almost every day. Fingers crossed for a beautiful springtime Paris!

After a leisurely meal on the beach (packed by our host families, thanks, host-mom!) it was another van ride into the town, where we spent some time shopping and enjoying ice creams, sodas, and milkshakes at a cafe in the sun. For me, ordering in restaurants is one of the most difficult things to do in French. It’s nice to get the practice, and then have a soda to show for it at the end! After some time spent relaxing in the village, it was time to continue on the tour. Our last stop was a short hike up to an old lighthouse at the top of the island, with beautiful views and soft grass. Ouessant has the softest grass in the world. Some of the students even took turns doing flips and rolling around because of how cushiony it was. As we waited for the vans to take us back down to the ferry, we all agreed we were tired but happy. Yesterday was a lot of beautiful sightseeing and relaxing in the sun. It was so nice to spend a day talking and playing in the sun after our hard work sightseeing all week!

À demain! Parker


Today began again at the local high school, Sainte Anne. For the morning, our group split up, going to classes in all areas of study. The most surprising part of the morning for me was in the chemistry/physics class. The class of 10th graders were studying acids and bases, but they appeared to add each substance without measuring, paying little attention to what was going on. I spoke with one girl, who told me, “My friends and I pay little attention because we already know we do not want to study Science. I will be studying  Literature, and my friends want to study people. So for the Bac, we will do the L (literature) and the ES (economy), but no science.” I suppose this attitude is a hazard of choosing a discipline early: the sophomores must decide their course of study in preparation for the Bac, the french college entrance exam. 

In the afternoon, we left the school for a walking tour of the city of Brest. We walked into midtown as a light drizzle rained down from the sky. The main street was lined with shops, pharmacies and eateries. I had my first French cappuccino, which I’d been craving for days. We then toured the “Abry Sade Carnot,” the underground bomb shelter tunnel, that remained after World War II. During the war, german submarines used the port of Brest as a base, and so the American forces bombed the city to try and attack the Germans. Sadly, the city of Brest became collateral damage – much of the city was completely decimated. The people of Brest had to evacuate, but a small group stayed behind in the underground shelter. Unfortunately, almost all those who stayed behind perished in a fire within the shelter, because they could not make it out in time. The shelter has become a historical place to tour, and contains art and information on the sad Brest history. You can even climb the steps upon which the citizens lost their lives. 

After visiting the Abri Sadi Carnot, we had some free time to visit local shops before going to the city hall to speak with the mayor of Brest. At City Hall, we were greeted by the Mayor, who gave a speech. In his speech, the mayor welcomed us to the city, but he had a political message as well. He spoke of the importance of international relationships to preserve peace, and urged us to continue making these connections. We were presented with gift bags and refreshments, and then we all returned with our hosts to their homes. The day was quite long, but as my jet lag begins to wear off, I find each day less exhausting and I think that this is the first day where I can really appreciate the amazing opportunities presented to us. I finished my day with a plate of spätzle and another chapter of the Brothers Karamazov for my Russian Literature class, because le “grind” n’arrête jamais!




Today we met in front of the Port de la Brasserie, near the school our exchange students go to, to board a private bus to Quimper. Quimper is a small city with a huge range of different architectures. In the same street (“Butcher’s Street”) we found a house for each of the 16th, 17th, 18th, and 19th century. We then took a guided tour of the

Cathédrale Saint-Corentin de Quimper, where again, there was a range of different architecture and art styles, some as recent as the early 90’s, and some as old as the 1500’s. We then had an hour to investigate the surrounding area, where we found a square completely filled with crêperies, and which used to be the square butter was sold. While we all wanted a crêpe, we could not since none opened until noon!

We then took a two hour bus ride to the Bertheaume ropes course. This was an island off the coast, connected by two zip lines, and if you weren’t feeling up to it, a stone walkway. Those who wanted to go on the course got suited up in gear like that of a regular zip line and we went one by one. Once we got to the other side of the island, we had the option of simply walking the rest of the trail to the top of the return zip line or take the Parcour route, one closer to rock climbing. There were even harder routes than the “regular” ones, and one path that went through a crevasse. There wasn’t more than a meter at most of space in between you and the rock as you descended closer and closer to the crashing waves. But everyone made it to the return zip line in the end, and then safely on the bus to the school!
Matthew Townsend

First days in Brest!

Greetings from Brest!
After a long travel day, we arrived in Brest Saturday evening and met up with our homestay families at the airport. We were all happy to see our hosts, take showers, and have real beds to sleep in! On Sunday–after a long night of sleep–we enjoyed a typical weekend day with our host families. Fortunately, it was a beautiful day, so many of us got to see the sprawling countryside and big, blue Atlantic Ocean. Some students even got to go to the beach and surf. Many of us also got to enjoy local delicacies with our families, ranging from galettes (savory crêpes) to fresh seafood to delicious cheese. Even the yogurt here is good, and we were surprised by how many options there are. We had to do our best to go to bed early despite the jet lag on Sunday because today we woke up early for our first day of school at Lycée Sainte-Anne!
The first thing that struck many of us about Saints Anne was the lack of wifi. While it may seem to be a petty observation, it indicates much more about the school. It’s culture is more classic and traditional. They write everything by hand. Teachers are addressed by their last names, prefaced by Monsieur or Madame. The teacher teaches while the student sits and learns. There is much less discussion or opposition than at Urban. Everybody enjoyed seeing education through a different lens, and many of us got to participate in English classes. The lunch at the school’s cafeteria impressed us all, and we were caught by surprise once again when we found out that we had gym class in the afternoon, having never taken one during school at Urban. We had fun playing basketball and soccer and trying out their climbing wall. To wrap up an already great day, we got to learn to make crêpes. At first, we had trouble getting them to cook nicely, but eventually we got the hang of it. They were delicious! We then went home with our host families for a nice dinner and a good night of sleep before another exciting day tomorrow.
Until next time,
Day 1 of going to school in France: I feel exhausted but very satisfied with my day. I began my day with a delicious bowl of French cereal at around 8:00 AM (which largely surpasses American cereal in terms of taste). My host and I live 20 minutes away from St. Anne so I got to have a brisk tour of Brest as we crossed the city to get to class. We crossed the two main streets, which I forgot the name of, and arrived at 8:55 with 5 minutes to spare. It felt a little weird walking into a school full of French students and I will admit I was a little nervous to begin class. After a short intro/program presentation, all the American students were lead by their hosts around the school for a quick tour. The school itself was large, broken up into two parts: lower-school+ middle-school and high school, and felt somewhat empty. Although I did not particularly enjoy the aesthetics of the school, I thought the decorations were funny, particularly a sign that hung above every fire alarm asking students to really think before sounding the alarm. My first class was history, in which we researched the history of the infamous Louvre and looked up the current exhibitions. The French students were very friendly and spent most of their time asking us questions about SF. The teacher was also particularly friendly and we discussed the French elections as well as weed legalization in CA. We had a short break during which we spent most of our time trying to find our correspondents, and after that we headed to our second class Science de la vie et de la terre (biology I think). After that we ate lunch all together in the cafeteria, which was packed. Rule of thumb for cafeteria dining: take as many cheese slices as you can and always protect your fries from french students with bad intentions. After lunch was P.E. where we, the Americans, tried our best to hold our own against the other students in basketball. One notable difference between P.E. in the U.S. and P.E. in France is that students seem to be way more independent and on task than when I used play basketball during P.E.. Finally, we were brought back to the cafeteria where we indulged in the fine art of crepe making. I am somewhat embarrassed to say that crepe making is not for me. We had fun experimenting with different techniques of making crepes and especially eating them! It was a great time!

Ville Lumière

On our last day in Paris, after waking up and eating breakfast we went to see Notre Dame. We got to spend about an hour walking through the cathedral. It was fascinating to see something so magnificent that was built so long ago. Then we bought food and ate at the Tuileries Garden by the Louvre. We had two hours for lunch, so a lot of us ended up napping in the sun after eating our food. I went to buy ice cream and then napped the rest of the time. Afterwards, we went inside the Louvre, and had about an hour to tour the exhibits. There was so much to see and so little time, but my favorite was probably the Greek and Roman statues on display. I also got to see the Mona Lisa up close, which was so cool. After the Louvre we went to dinner, where I got to eat with my brother, a French-studying Urban alum who is also doing a study abroad in Paris right now. After dinner we took a boat down the Seine as the sun set and got to see all the sights of Paris from the top of the boat. Finally, we went on the Eiffel Tower around 10pm and saw the city skyline at night from one of the most iconic buildings in the world. A packed day, sure, but it was absolutely amazing.


Beautiful architecture, rich history, and wonderful food create an atmosphere that makes Paris one of my favorite cities in the world. We saw many sights– Notre Dame de Paris, the Eiffel Tower, the Champs-Elysees. We took a lovely boat tour and saw the city at night. There were gorgeous buildings and groups of young people socializing by the river. Something that always strikes me when I travel is the way that people interact. I noticed this in Lille especially, thanks to our homestay program. Cassandra and I wandered around the city a lot with her friends. She said that I even helped her discover parts of her city that she hadn’t noticed before–I guess this is often true when we have guests, as she did the same for me in SF! I think I’m supposed to be writing this blog post about Paris… but the highlight of this trip for me was making connections in Lille–both with my host family and with Cassandra and her friends. I believe that getting to know new people is the most valuable part of travelling. I mean, in addition to those selfies I took with Debbie and Arnaud… those are pretty important too!


First time in the parisian metro.

First time in the parisian metro.


En route for Notre Dame.

En route for Notre Dame.

In line to get in!

In line to get in!

On top of the Arc de Triomphe.

On top of the Arc de Triomphe.

About to walk down the Champs Elysées.

About to walk down the Champs Elysées.

Taking a stroll in the Jardin des Tuileries.

Taking a stroll in the Jardin des Tuileries.

In the Louvres - In front of "Les noces de Cana"

In the Louvres – In front of “Les noces de Cana” by Veronese.

Trying to see the Mona Lisa.

Trying to see the Mona Lisa.

Last group picture in front of the "Académie Française"

Last group picture in front of the “Académie Française”

Having some tea at Mariage Frères!

Having some tea at Mariage Frères!

Siblings reunited.

Siblings reunited.

Boat tour - people picnicking on the banks of the Seine.

Boat tour – people picnicking on the banks of the Seine.

Bathroom at the Louvres Museum!

Bathroom at the Louvres Museum!

Artsy toilet paper for sale!

Artsy toilet paper for sale!

The Opera Garnier.

The Opera Garnier.

The EU Parliament

Bonjour ma famille, mes amis, tous! (Hello my family, my friends, and all!)

I am currently writing this from seat 84 on the TGV from Brussels, Belgium to Paris, France. Devan is sitting next to me, and we are watching Batman: The Dark Knight Rises. This is the first movie I have watched on this trip that has been in English! In Lille, I watched countless movies with my family in French: Gatsby le Magnifique (The Great Gastby), Cendrillon (Cinderella), Pourquoi J’ai Pas Mangé Mon Père (Why I Didn’t Eat My Father), Taken 1, Taken 2, and La Reine de la Neige (Frozen). No doubt my French has ameliorated throughout this trip. Today was our second day in Brussels. We had an early wake-up call at 6:50. After eating a complimentary breakfast at the hotel, we embarked on our journey to the European Union Parliament. There, we sat in on an informational meeting about the history of the EU. I learned that there are 28 participating member countries, thus totaling 751 individual members that help make decisions about Europe’s future economically, politically, and socially. We all sat in the famous Plenary room where meetings take place Emma Watson gave a riveting speech at the podium here about gender equality. In light of Emma, I asked our guide how many women are in the European Union. The answer? 31%. Not even a third. Can’t wait to be in Paris!

Xoxo, Natalie Sears

Today was our second day in Brussels, Belgium. We started the day with a group breakfast in the lobby of the hotel and then we were out the door by 9 in the morning. The first stop of the day’s adventures was to the Belgian parliament where we were lucky enough to receive a presentation from an employee of the parliament about the European Union, how the decision of which nations can be a part of the Union is decided, and how the laws made by the parliament are created. After this visit it was time for lunch. We were given the freedom to eat where and with whomever we chose, after which we all met up again. We took a tour bus, and we ended up at Little Europe. Little Europe is a collection of models of important locations in each European nation. After we finished there, we hopped into a train and were off to Paris where we had dinner all together then went to the hotel to get a good night’s rest for the next day’s adventures.

-Dustin J Magidson

On Sunday, I went with my host family and Aiden and his host family to Ypres, a city in Belgium. Ypres is famous for being the location of a World War I battle, so we visited the museum dedicated to the battle. We learned about life before the war, the details of the battle, and old military equipment. On Wednesday, our last day in Brussels, we went to the European Parliament and learned about the European Union and how the parliament works. We also got to see where they hold some of the meetings. Next, we saw the Atomium, a huge silver sculpture that was built for the World Fair in Brussels. Nearby, we walked through Mini Europe, a park with miniature buildings and towers for each European country. Finally, we left Brussels by train and headed for Paris. ————— Ben Louie

Early breakfast at the hotel

Early breakfast at the hotel

A group picture en route to the parliament

A group picture en route to the parliament

Students learning about the workings of the EU.

Students learning about the workings of the EU.


Inside the EU Parliament

Inside the EU Parliament

In front of the EU members flags

In front of the EU members flags

A piece of the Berlin wall in front of the Parliament.

A piece of the Berlin wall in front of the Parliament.

At the Atomium - Brussels

At the Atomium – Brussels