Well boys and girls, 54 hours have come and gone since I touched down in my home for the next year in the West of France and although my internet is severely limited due to my hostel’s wi-fi being non-existent, I feel compelled to report on my séjour in Rennes thus far. Clichéd as an “I’ve arrived in Franceeeeeee!” blog post may be, the first day of any experience is always one you remember, so it seems only right to document it thoroughly through the medium of the blog. So gather around one and all and I shall tell you a tale…
The day began with two hours of frantic, yet incredibly strategic repacking of bags at the ungodly hour of 7am. Having been victim of the tight baggage restrictions imposed on customers flying with budget airlines, (RyanAir, June 2010, £80 for 4kg excess luggage. Never again.) I was prudent in my approach to packing for the Flybe flight, ensuring not an absence of any cumbersome items in my bagages, and by donning half my winter wardrobe in a vain attempt to attempt to avoid excess charges on my luggage. It was a rather sweaty affair.
The arduous train journey from Lincoln station to Manchester Airport came in two stints. The first requiring travel to Sheffield, a heavy cross to bear as it is, let alone in the giant, leaky tin can parading around as a train assigned to the Saturday morning run. It was pretty nasty; I had to put my suitcase in a puddle. A puddle! East Midlands train travel: not for the faint-hearted.
Having barely recovered from the trauma of travelling on the first train, I decided time was lacking for me to go and burn the clothes I was wearing, and rather, boarded a second train de toute suite, destination: Manchester Airport. Alongside me were many other suitcase-wielding travellers, whose skimpy attire and beamy expression suggested a week in Kavos or somewhere of the like awaited them. In contrast, I felt a bit of a twat travelling through the 25 degree heat in my hoodie and thick winter coat, presumably the attire of someone holidaying in the darkest recesses of Siberia – but alas, practicality before pride.
After checking in and passing through airport security (and in doing so, unwittingly smuggling a tub of contraband Superdrug Vaseline through in my hand luggage NOT IN A PLASTIC BAG), I was feeling rather peckish, and as such decided to go to the Upper Crust kiosk in the departure lounge. Keen to offset any impending cultural shock that should await me upon touchdown in France, I opted for a brie baguette.
One of the things I most love about airports is wondering why everyone else is there, especially anyone getting on the same plane as me. Business? Holiday? Year abroad? Espionage? For some reason, I didn’t really expect anyone to be on my flight; I just couldn’t fathom the idea of there being forty-or-so people all wanting to fly between Manchester and Rennes on that specific date at that specific time. But true enough, there were forty other people as tight-fisted as me, whose thriftiness made them also willing to risk travelling with Flybe, on a plane which, having read numerous horror stories and reviews, I was fully expecting to have only one wing. When I heard “this is the boarding call for Rennzzzzzzz” in a broad Mancunian accent, I was aghast. Not just because of the shocking interpretation of the pronunciation of the town I was about to fly to, but rather, that there had been no delay in the itinerary thus far.
I was pretty tense, but the journey over to Rennzzzzzzz was somewhat uneventful. I gave thought to getting pissed to calm my nerves, before seeing the prices and realising that anxious or not, I’m no millionaire. Stepping foot off the plane in my new home, I had the same thought that always passes through my head when I’m just casually popping abroad to live alone in a city I don’t know: “What the hell have you got yourself into this time?” Fortunately, one of my future colleagues from the university was there, waiting to pick me up and take me to the local hostel (very kindly!), and, as she was British, the good people of Rennes were, at least for a few hours more, spared hearing my shocking take on their otherwise elegant language.
In true convivial spirit so prevalent in hostels, I decided to speak to the first person I saw, and got into my first conversation with a real life French person! Germain is 27, from Lorient, and coincidentally had, just minutes before, been lucky enough to be selected as my roommate. He talked about music, something about a flute, but a lack of general French comprehension on my part prevented further detail being elicited. It wasn’t until a later conversation in Spanish with a Peruvian and an Ecuadorian that I was able to understand that he was actually a travelling busker, and played the flute on the street for money. I’d ask him if he had a proper job, but he’s probably already told me that about five times. Anyway, in short, he’s kind of nice but I don’t really understand anything he says. I hope that’s not a deal-breaker on an otherwise blossoming relationship. Although if anything, I think telling him, that we could “feel ourselves wherever we want” as went to dinner, was probably a lingustic faux pas too far. (Spanish speakers will sympathise with this.)
We went for dinner late-ish in Rennes’ finest Moroccan restaurant (not very French) where, having earlier been stripped of all the Euros on my person for upfront hostel payment, I feigned a lack of hunger and just ordered sangria (not very French…or Moroccan). Germain lamented his own shortage of funds before ordering 19 Euros’ worth of couscous and regaling me with his attitudes towards French politics. Or maybe he was talking about flowers. Who knows? I think he didn’t like Sarkozy. At one point I’m pretty sure he indicated he was a communist. Awkward.
Donc voila, that was my first non-full day in France. All in all fairly successful. I’m feeling pretty good about being here – I’ve subsequently been to my work, explored the town, practised a bit more French with a drunk old man, practised a lot of Spanish (naughty!), and tried the Rennes’ speciality…the sausage crepe. All this, as well as the yet unresolved ‘mare of flat-hunting will be addressed in a further post.
PS, I was only joking about Sheffield!!