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!
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.