Katherine J. is currently a junior at SYA France and a blogger for the Campus Reporter program. She comes to SYA from Providence Day School in North Carolina.
One of the best parts about studying abroad with SYA France is that our calendar follows the same schedule as the French schools. This means that around every seven weeks we get a break. As it happens, I am just coming back from a two-week vacation known as Toussaint break. I spent part of the first week in the Loire Valley with my school where we visited countless castles and quaint villages. This past week, I traveled to La Baule-Escoublac (La Baule) with my host family. La Baule is an ocean-side commune situated on the western coast of France.
When I learned that I was going to be leaving on vacation with my host family, I was thrilled but also super nervous. I knew nothing about the destination we were visiting, and I did not know if I could handle speaking in French 24/7 for an entire week. As it turns out, I had nothing to worry about, and the trip was a complete success. Of course, there were some low points (like when my host dad’s car got a flat tire and we had to spend three hours getting it fixed), but even moments like this only made me feel closer to my host family.
If I were to go into detail about my trip with my host family it would take forever, so instead I am going to describe our first day at La Baule:
The day began at 8am when I heard my alarm clock sound from the other side of my room. I proceeded to get out of bed and started packing my mini-suitcase. I had no idea of the itinerary of this vacation, so I just ended up packing for every possible outcome (swimsuit, tennis shoes, massive winter jacket, etc.).
When it came time to leave, I was running super late, so I scarfed down a couple of pieces of biscote with confiture and headed out to the garage. To my surprise, my host family only packed one medium-sized suitcase for five people! Talk about packing light…
By 9am, we were on our way down to La Baule. Since there are six people in my host family including me, we took two cars. I rode with my host mom and host brothers, Maxime and Thomas, who are ten-year-old twins. In the other car was my host dad and my host brother Arthur, who is my age. The drive lasted two hours, but somehow the time flew by while I was chatting with my host mom and listening to a French radio station called Virgin Radio. Despite the fact that this is a French radio station, it plays a lot of popular English music. My host mom loved the fact that I knew all the words to the Ed Sheeran songs that played.
When we arrived at our apartment in Pornichet, I was pleasantly surprised by the beautiful view of the ocean. The apartment itself was bright white and marine themed complete with a kitchen, TV, and couch. There was a steep winding staircase that led up to the second floor where my brothers and I had our rooms.
After we arrived, my host mom prepared spaghetti for lunch. We then headed out to La Baule to walk on the beach and visit the city. Checking my Fitbit, I realize now that we must have walked at least four miles. This might sound like the most boring activity ever, but it ended up being very enjoyable. It was amazing to see the long coastline curve around in the distance and to breath in the fresh ocean air. It was impossible to get bored while playing with my host brothers on the beach; playing tag and sneak attack tickling each other. It was during this first day that I really bonded with my host brother Maxime, with whom I created a special handshake (basically just a number of dabs and fist bumps.)
After walking on the beach, we stopped by the center street of La Baule and my host parents bought us some treats as our afternoon gout (snack). The street was full of bustling restaurants, high-end retail stores, and patisseries. At the boulangerie, I got an escargots brioche, Maxime and Arthur got cookies, and Thomas got a pain au chocolate. They all tasted like heaven.
As we started eating our treats, we began the long journey back to our cars. When we were halfway there, we stopped by a beachside restaurant and decided to order drinks. My host brothers didn’t stay seated for long, and they soon started asking me to come play with them on the sand. Maxime and Thomas invented a game in which we would stand in front of the oncoming waves, and the first person to move to avoid the water would lose. This game was both fun and a little bit scary since the water was absolutely freezing. My host parents sat and enjoyed their afternoon cafés while looking on pleasantly at my host brothers and I as we shrieked with laughter. By the time we actually began to walk back to our cars, it was almost six o’clock. The sun was low in the sky and reflected luminously off of the serene waters.
That night, we returned back to the apartment and ate galettes while watching Le Quotidien on the TV. When it came time to go to sleep, everyone said bonne nuit and headed upstairs. For the first time in two months, I felt like a true member of the family.
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