I am now in Berlin! I arrived yesterday and look forward to telling you about this cool city ("I wanna be as cool as Berlin…."). But for now, let me tell you about Bretagne, a pretty awesome region of France.
I spent a bit of time in Rennes, just enough to stay the night at the hostel and walk around the cute old city center. Unfortunately, no luggage room in the train station meant that my suitcase came with me, so I didn't want to wander much.
My next stop was Quimper, a cute city known for its strong Breton culture. On my first night there I had a crepe for dinner, with a bolée of cider (looks like a big tea cup, that's just what one drinks cider in in Bretagne, okay?), then went to a pub for a live session! I think I'm on a quest to see live sessions all around the world. It was great--the pub was very atmospheric, with cider on tap, and even a free one for me because "we don't get folks from Boston around here much." The session featured at least 5 Irish flutes, plus a guitar, a few fiddles, a bodhran, and some pipes. I recognized a few of the tunes, but not enough to pull out my recorder. Unfortunately, my timing and accommodation possibilities didn't work out to hear a session anywhere else in Bretagne, so I'm banking on Berlin having some good ones.
I spent a couple nice days wandering around cute old Quimper and enjoying as many crepes as possible, then took a train down to the Quiberon peninsula. I got in before the hostel reception opened, so naturally my suitcase and I took a nap on the beach. It was so beautiful and very calming after being in Paris and Istanbul. I did get a little sunburnt, but with me that's pretty unavoidable.
Unfortunately the next few days were rainy, so I spent a drizzly day in Quiberon (the town at the end of the peninsula), and another drizzly day at Carnac. I was sharing a room at my hostel with a really nice Canadian girl, so we explored cloudy Carnac together. It was a lot of fun--rows and rows of megaliths and standing stones! I love old stones, and had a lot of flashbacks to my visits to stone circles and neolithic tombs in Ireland and Wales :).
My final stop in Bretagne was the port-side town of Saint-Malo, which was beautiful, if rainy as well. The walled city is very quaint and, to my happy surprise, has a lot of Québecois flags flying! Saint-Malo is proud to be the place where Jacques Cartier sailed from to "discover" Québec. I enjoyed many more good crepes, and cider, and walking around. I also happened to catch the "tall ships races," where dozens of old-fashioned giant sailing ships travel from Lisbon to Ireland, stopping at various places on the way and letting people visit. I hopped onto a Portuguese ship for a while and got to speak a little portuguese, which was great fun. There was also a "folklores of the world" festival with music and dance from around the world, but unfortunately I didn't get to see much of it. The hostel I was staying at was hosting some of the performing groups, though, so I witnessed a couple of their rehearsals.
I spent a lot of time inside, trying to avoid the rain, and some time outside, being unable to avoid the rain. I took a boat across the river to Dinard, a town that historically hosted a lot of rich Brits, and still feels like it does (they have a yacht club…). Right when I arrived it started pouring, so took refuge in a building that housed a sailing school, I think. Merci, nice sailors!
I headed out of Saint-Malo on an afternoon TGV to Paris, and arrived in the evening. It's crazy to keep popping in and out of Paris… what a cool city. I wandered around a bit for some dinner and to try to figure out my transportation for the morning (RER to the airport at 6:30 AM!), and stopped by Shakespeare and Co. I thought I had been there before, but I don't think I have because I was sort of flabbergasted. The AMBIANCE. Despite being filled with tourists… I was just so happy to be there. Old books and old wood and creaky floors and people writing things and plucking at a guitar and funny signs… if I ever decide to open up my dream coffee shop, it'll look like Shakespeare and Co., but with coffee in addition to books. Anyway… I had a farewell crepe for dinner (not at all as good as the ones in Bretagne) in the Latin Quarter and had an early night.
After an uneventful flight and a slightly eventful time trying to navigate my way around Berlin with both a broken suitcase and a broken backpack (oops…) and a broken metro system, here I am! First impressions: there are kebab shops everywhere in Kreuzberg (yum), and oh man, I hate not being able to understand the language. I had gotten used to being comfortable in French (yay!), and despite my one-semester accelerated intro German course from freshman year of college, I feel totally lost here. Eek. Since I'm in a Turkish-ish neighborhood I suppose I could try my Turkish, but it's pretty weak too. Sprechen Sie Englisch?
Stay tuned for more Berlin adventures!