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French Summer 2013

Mark’s first trip to his other “birth” country.

Back on Canadian Soil

The flight was a breeze, Mark slept all the way through from Nantes to Ottawa and we landed feeling refreshed. All we had to do once home was to grab one of the gourmet meals I always keep in the...

My French Shopping

Canadian Border Agency officers always seem surprised when I say I don’t have any alcohol to declare, and they hardly believe me when I claim my backpack isn’t full of French food—yet it’s true. But...

Gargoyles and Mascarons

There are plenty of mascarons and gargoyles in Nantes, especially around old neighborhoods like Bouffay, Quai de la Fosse, the Château des Ducs, etc. These little design elements are often overlooked...

More People of Nantes

After a month living at the heure française in my hometown of Nantes, we are getting ready to go back to Canada. And as usual, I can't help wondering if I would be able to "fit in" again in France as...

Mark at the Isle of Nantes

France has carousels to keep kids entertained... and Mark likes them! We took a long walk on the Isle of Nantes. It looked completely different on a quiet hot day, without the crowd of tourists!

The Loire River

It has been unusually hot these past few weeks and everyone is trying to cool off. Weather is usually temperate in Europe and Nantes is not built for the heat—there is no air-con for instance and...

French Treats

France wouldn't be France without its boulangeries and pâtisseries. Bakers are probably the most-loved artisans and everyone love their treats, from simple buttery croissants and pains au chocolat to...

Train Culture in France

North America has a car culture, Europe has a train culture. You can get pretty much anywhere by train although it may not always be easy or cheap. But trains are comfortable, fairly reliable and...

First Time at the Seaside!

I grew up by the seaside and spent all my holidays at the family house close to the Atlantic Coast, a short one-hour drive from Nantes. I can’t remember learning to swim—it came naturally to me, I...

Saint Michel Chef Chef

Saint Michel Chef Chef—no, the second “Chef” is not a typo, this is the actual name of the small village where I spent my summers as a kid, yes, we do shorten the name!—is on the Atlantic Coast...

Bastille Day in Nantes

Bastille Day, the French National Day, is celebrated on the 14 of July, usually with fireworks. It is not a huge display of patriotism like Canada Day—I can't remember spotting any French flags in...

The Tour in Tours

Once we arrived close to the finish line, we spotted different kinds of people. Real Tour fans with their flags (lots of British, a few Spanish, a few Australians) and sometime L’Equipe (the sports...

A Day in Tours

On a whim, we decided to go to Tours to catch the Tour de France (more on that later!). I am possibly the worst backpacker ever in France—my geography is approximate at best, I am only familiar with...

French Urban Fragments

Although I can appreciate nice landscapes, I am still a urban person and I cannot imagine living in the country. I like being surrounded by people, I like the messiness and chaos of cities, the...

July & Nine Months

We are celebrating Mark's nine-month birthday in France this July, and it has definitely been an interesting milestone! After month one, month two, month three, month four, month five, month six and...

A Bird’s Eye View of Nantes

Nantes doesn’t have many viewpoints. In fact, I can only think of one: the Tour de Bretagne, one of the only “modern” buildings in the downtown core. Until last year, it was closed...

French Drinking Culture

Even though I grew up in France, the drinking culture never cease to amaze me. Okay, maybe "amaze" is the wrong word: it actually scares me more than anything. "La modération" is a foreign word here...

French Graffiti

French love politics and political messages, and the walls reflect it: there are a lot of graffiti, drawings and stickers around. I love collecting these witty, cynical or silly expressions that give...

Brain Reboot

The first thing I did in France was to get a haircut. I needed a fresh start. One of my goals for this trip was to "reboot" my brain. After a major lifestyle change—going from an office job to...

People of Nantes

My parents live in Nantes' downtown core and around 9 a.m. or 10 a.m., I witness the city waking up. On Sunday morning, I kept on bumping into drunks looking for a way back home (too much partying...

The Creepy Courthouse

Nantes' unique courthouse is well worth a visit—if you don’t mind unsettling optical illusions (think Inception) and the overall oppressing atmosphere. The dominant colours, black and red, kind of...

A Baby and Nantes’ Landmarks

We went back to the Château des Ducs de Bretagne with Mark (he was sleeping the first time) and he loved it. Well, I don’t know if he loved it but he did enjoy playing with the chains holding the...