Saturday, 14 November 2009

Caen: Northern France

These are the final series of trips, which I made to Paris, before Maïté left her place there. It was interesting to see more and more of Paris and of her home-region and the surrounding areas.

[Click on the bolded-italicised-title-links for more pictures]

IMG_1654 Lily Allen Concert [22 October]: I just had to see Lily Allen when I saw that she was hosting a concert in The Zenith in Paris. It was a bit more "teenie-bopperish" than I thought it would be, but at least I had a taste of what might have been my last concert for a while. She was drunk or something while she was singing, with a cigarette in one hand and a glass of champagne in the other, trotting up and down on the stage with her short & very exposing dresses. We had a nice time, and even got a poster on the way out.

IMG_1721 Caen: Northern France [Memorial] [23 October]: Maïté took me to visit her previous study city, Caen. A brief about the city: Caen is a commune in north-western France. It is the prefecture of the Calvados department and the capital of the Basse-Normandie region. It is located 15km inland from the English Channel. Caen is known for its historical buildings and for the Battle for Caen—heavy fighting that took place in and around Caen during the Battle of Normandy in 1944, destroying much of the town. It was quite pretty and culture-soaked, for a northern town, and seemed to have a lot packed into it, a much more exciting study city than Aix, for example.

We visited museums, saw the city & the port, ate traditional crêpes with apples and all the works [super cheap but high quality crêpes compared to Aix, after all this was the region of crêpes!].

IMG_1731.1 One famous museum there is the Caen Memorial: Museum for Peace, which, morbid and depressing as it is, we visited. Essentially, it is a huge exhibition [which took 4-5 hours to see/read everything] on the past world wars, and the destruction/politics, quests for peace, etc. Can you believe there was a tin of KLIM Powdered Milk in the museum! Who would have thought that people would one day pay money to enter a museum to see a tin of KLIM! Ha-ha! Aside from that, one interesting display was an original letter sent by Albert Einstein to Franklin Roosevelt concerning the discovery of the atomic bomb! In the end, the museum somehow got me interested in all this since in Trinidad, our education does not really focus on the world wars as European education does.

IMG_1773 Paris by Night [11 November]: We saw Paris by night on this occasion, after meeting up with one of Maïté's friends for drinks. We saw the spectacular light show of the Eiffel Tower, accompanied by corny music, but it was nice. Earlier that day, I had the pleasure of seeing KFC on strike; it was amazing. I knew that France is famous for strikes but ironically, this was exactly when I really craved for KFC!

IMG_1783 Villedieu les Poêles [13 November]: When I went to the train station [SNCF] to get my ticket to Villedieu les Poêles, the woman at the counter reacted with shock: "I have no idea where that is, but it's a beautiful name though". Villedieu les Poêles means literally: "The city of gods, the frying pans". It is a small town in the Manche department in Normandy very near Maïté's place [Gavray]. Its inhabitants are called Sourdins from the French sourd meaning deaf. Most of the people involved in the manufacturing of copper pans, which involved repeated hammering, became deaf. It is famous for handicraft work, such as the traditional manual production of frying pans, and other copper-based products, pottery work, and glasswork. We were lucky this day to see a demonstration by the glassmaker [the art of glass blowing - soufflage du verre].

IMG_1791 Gavray: Northern Beaches [14 November]: This afternoon after lunch, we went for a walk on the "beach". This is just to show how dark, gloomy, cold, and rough the northern seas are. I think I will stick to the Côte d'Azur.

For more pictures, see:

Sunday, 18 October 2009

The Solitary Traveller

When Maïté was not here nor was I in Paris, I travelled the region a bit alone in order to not to miss the still warm weather. On self-discovery journeys, meeting new exchange students, taking pictures like a tourist, it felt strange but familiar all the same.

[Click on the bolded-italicised-title-links for more pictures]

  • IMG_0707 Sainte Victoire Sunrise [27 July]: On this fine July morning at Gare SNCF Aix-TGV, I witnessed the sun rising behind the silhouette of Sainte Victoire. I tried to get some "artistic" photos but I was too tired [it was 6:00am, and I had just come to bid Maïté farewell on her return to Paris].
  • IMG_0987 Monaco & Monté Carlo [5 September]: This weekend [of my Birthday], I took an organised trip with George, simply because I have never been on this one with him. Monaco and Monte Carlo was the destination. Monaco is the second smallest country in the world; only Vatican City is smaller. Monte Carlo, which lies in the French Riviera on the Mediterranean Sea in Monaco, is surrounded by France and close to Italy. This chic-bourgeois city, often IMG_1084 featured in movies, is famous for its Ferraris & Lamborghinis, races [Formula One Monaco Grand Prix], casinos [Monte Carlo Casino], and the sun & surf. Travelling alone was not as boring as imagined, since I met some of the exchange students on the bus and we were soon doing a bit of touring together.
  • IMG_1159 Benediction Calissons: Aix [6 September]: This Sunday afternoon, there was a very traditional and provençal festival in Aix: La Bénédiction des Calissons. A traditional festival where Calissons are distributed to the public, I was spectator to many provençal icons: The Guardians of Camargue [The Cowboys], Camargue Horses, traditional costumes, The Mayor of Aix-en-Provence [Maryse Joissains-Masini], The Queen of Arles [L'Arlesienne: Caroline Serre, a very pretty queen I must say], and finally I was privileged to hear the Occitan / Provencal Language. During the day, I also visited the antiques market, the book market, and the museum of tapestries.
  • IMG_1610 Sainte Victoire: Irish Lads [17 October]: We met an Irish guy and an Italian guy [who spent some time in Ireland] randomly one day while clubbing for Halloween perhaps, and we all decided to go together for a hike to Sainte Victoire. Although I had been there before, it was a refreshing hike, which reminded us all of how beautiful France was, and what it has to offer in terms of freedom and nature. It was the first time also that I climbed fully to the top, that is, to the Cross of Provence. It was so high, and steep, we had this feeling of "vertigo".

For more pictures, see:

Monday, 12 October 2009

Provençal Remnants

Maïté had left for Paris to do her apprenticeship at Ipsos, and thus occasionally came back to Aix to visit. During these times, as summer very slowly began to dwindle away, we decided to visit the remnants: those few provençial sites and villages, which we had never seen, or at least had never seen/experienced together.

Surprisingly, along our journeys, some of them spontaneous and others premeditated, we even discovered new and culture-saturated "" towns, such as Miramas. Below are highlights of our encounters: brief accounts of our experiences, of course as always, accompanied by their pictorial journals on Picasa.

Provence Trips Overview:
[click on the bolded-italicised-title-links for more pictures]

  • IMG_0647 Arles-Camargue: Maïté [25 July]: We started with a touristic but characteristic destination: Arles & The Camargue. We have both been here before but never together. The city of Arles was established by the Greeks as early as the 6th century BC under the name of Theline. Thus, there was a lot to see in terms of ancient ruins and architecture, as well as other famous symbols of the region such as: the Camargue Bulls, the Camargue Horses, the room of Vincent Van Gogh, Cowboys – the Guardians of Camargue, Flamingos, and the Beach at Sainte-Marie-sur-Mer. We encountered all this during the day and even had time to stop by for a Camarguaise lunch at an Arlaise Restaurant.
  • IMG_0877 Sainte Croix: Plage de la Saulce [29 August]: On this day, with Céline [Maïté's friend], we drove to the Côte Bleue, the other side of the Côte d'Azur that not much people know. It includes sea-side towns such as Sausset-les-Pins and Carry-le-Rouet. Randomly driving with no aim in mind except "the beach", we landed upon the Plage de la Saulce and Plage de Sainte Croix [happening to be in the village of La_Couronne, near Martigues]. Result: a splendid day with hot sun, cool blue waters and, as always, magnificent views [See satellite view].
  • IMG_0895 Saint Tropez: Cap Taillat [30 August]: A nice morning hike to Cap Taillat, see some naked French people swimming, have a swim in the Côte d'Azur, see some naked American people swimming, then off to sightsee in the bourgeoisie town of Saint Tropez – this is the life.
  • IMG_1339 Baux de Provence [26 September]: This medieval village, Les_Baux-de-Provence, has a spectacular position in the Alpilles mountains, set atop a rocky outcrop crowned with a ruined castle [Château_des_Baux] overlooking the plains to the south. The village gives its name to the aluminium ore Bauxite, which was first discovered there in 1821 by geologist Pierre Berthier [I did not know this]. On this particular day, we went to see the Medieval Festival - The Siege of the Chateau, a true delight of traditional and historical display of costumes, merchants, events, parades, catapults, fairy-girls, and even a falconry show: a unique example of medieval history in Provence.
  • IMG_1356 Vauvenargues [2 October]: A peaceful and calming hike into the very near-by nature get-away village of Vauvenargues is how we spent this day. At the foothills of Sainte Victoire, this village is home to Picasso's Castle and Picasso's Tomb as well: that is about as cultural as it gets. After that, there was only nature to enjoy, since the village is practically one street with scattered colourful houses on either side. After the hike, we finished up with a refreshing glass of pastis of course.
  • IMG_1484 Salon-de-Provence, Miramas, & Martigues [3 October]: On this trip, we discovered the most, since neither of us had ever heard of Miramas before. I worked near Martigues, and always wanted to see it, so we decided to visit these towns surrounding the great Étang de Berre [Europe's largest saltwater lake]. First stop: Salon de Provence, we had time really only to see the castle [Château de l'Emperi], which was the biggest in Provence during the 12th and 13th centuries. After this, we went to Miramas only to find out that the older and more beautiful part of town was several kilometres away from the city centre. Solution: we hitch-hiked! It was scary but worth it, the village was extremely cute and had astonishing panoramic views of the Étang. We also hitch-hiked our way back in order to catch IMG_1448 the last bus to our final stop: Martigues. Nicknamed the "Provençale Venice", Martigues is a point of passage between the Mediterranean Sea and the Sea of Martigues [now Étang de Berre]. The charm of its canals, its docks and bridges made it "The Venice of Provence". Finally, after all the rush to catch our bus connections, sitting back in the bus, watching the sunset, we realised it was a successful day.
  • IMG_1547 La Ciotat: Calanque du Mugel [11 October]: We were running out of places to visit, and one day just happened to go to La Ciotat. It was a greater experience, however, than the last times that we had gone there separately, since on this occasion we visited the beautiful Mugel Calanque and the Mugel Park Gardens [a huge impressive exotic-open-air garden], in addition to the village of La Ciotat. Can you imagine having a swim in the Mediterranean sea in October, in burning sun!? Netherlands and Finland at this time were both at freezing temperatures. Next time we visit Ciotat, we need to go to the Green Island [l'Île Verte] and Figuerolles Calanque.

For more pictures, see:

  • Saturday, 12 September 2009

    Disneyland: Paris

    IMG_0755 Maïté and I somewhat alternated between visiting each other since, as mentioned before, she was now based in Paris [at Ipsos], and as it would seem, it was my turn to visit. I visited Paris twice on this account, and this is my narrative of the two memorable stays there.

    [Click on the bolded-italicised-title-links for more pictures]

    IMG_0724 Disneyland Paris [8 August]: The main reason for this particular trip was Disneyland Paris. I have always wanted to go to an amusement park with Maïté and it just so happened that her cousin worked in Disneyland Paris. It was the perfect excuse to go: free tickets & entrance in addition to accommodation in Maïté's place in Paris; it was either now or never. It was amazing with activities such as the hardcore vomit-inducing rollercoaster rides, as well as gay romantic ones and kids' ones, and a Hollywood vehicle stunt show. We saw Mickey Mouse, Goofy, Donald Duck [my favourite, since he is so angry all the time], and I even saw Cinderella [in her full blonde hotness]!

    IMG_0717 It was indeed a magical experience, they put a lot of effort into the ambience and theme, surrounded always by annoying music and fairies, but it was impressive. This brought me to wonder why it had failed in the beginning, remembering my case study in International Management class. The lines were a bit extremely long though, which forced us to skip some rides since there were lines with as much as 4 to 5 hours waiting time. After a day of fun, games, and eating a Mickey Burger, we had the privilege of witnessing the fireworks display, incredible.

    IMG_1170 Paris, Je t'Aime [11 September]: The city of love is not what the world thinks it to be, I personally don't quite take to it with all its noise, exorbitant crowds and the tremendous discourtesy and impoliteness of people. However, I have discovered that there can be some hidden districts and corners, which never fail to charm. Even when it begins to rain, the soft reflections of street lamps on the wet roads under the darkening night can touch the coldest of hearts and thrust you into a state of nostalgic reminiscence of this typical European ambience.

    IMG_1161 On this memorable day of September 11th, we visited a green park atop a hill, somewhere in the north-eastern part of Paris: Parc des Buttes Chaumont. At the top of the hill, we were rewarded with a beer garden bar [Rosa Bonheur], it was, as the French would call it, très sympa [very nice]! There was the most magnificent sunset view of Sacré Coeur from here. After our pint-of-beer "aperitif", we ironically had dinner in an Indian Restaurant, l'Elephant Rouge [it was quite good; it just felt odd that I could make all the same stuff at home :)]. The following days, we simply floated around a few districts, discovering places and restaurants along the way. Paris is not that bad after all.

    For more pictures, see:

    Sunday, 12 July 2009

    Family Visit: France, Spain, & Italy

    Well, it was summer in Europe, my graduation was just finished and my family was here to visit. Therefore, I decided to take them around a bit, to show them just what I was experiencing for these past two years.

    First off was sunny, high-quality-of-life Provence itself. Most people wait and entire lifetime to come here to retire and enjoy their lives, in the southern French-Aixois countryside [paysages axois]. I however, had the opportunity to come here way ahead of my time, and thus, I wanted them to feel and see it as I did, and not as a tourist would.

    After Provence, we ventured outward to the two other major "club-med" countries: Spain & Italy. I figured that they came all the way across the world, they might as well see a bit more than France, and a bit more of Europe. Our experiences are briefly highlighted below [mostly because I do not have time to blog each detail as an individual post and because I have visited and blogged about these places before].

    Family-Visit Trip-Overview:
    [click on the bolded-italicised-title-links for more pictures]

    • Provence:
      • 194 Aix-en-Provence: The city of 100 fountains, I had to show my family this charming little city where I studied and lived in for the past year, and the difference from an overrated city such as Paris. We visited the city, the fountains, the sites, the historic architecture, the bars where they served beer with sweet strawberry syrups, and the Kebab place [a type of food very generic in Europe but overrated, rare, and expensive in Trinidad].
      • 356 Cassis: How could anyone come to France and not see the beautiful turquoise-blue Côte d'Azur waters of Cassis [Read More]!? So I took them here, since it was a "do-not-miss" attraction in the south, a perfect exemplar of one of the [unofficially-publicly-nude] beaches of southern France. We were fortunate to see the traditional French market in the morning and afterwards to get tanned-black by the scorching sun and then cooled down by the crystal-clear waters.
      • IMG_0078 Gorges du Verdon: this has to be one of the most gorgeous sites [get it gorge – gorgeous?] that I have ever seen in France, in Europe, and in my Life, Seriously! I have never been here before, and George was organising a trip to the Gorges du Verdon [Read More], Moustiers Village and the Lavender fields, so I decided to kill 3 birds with 1 stone and 100 Euros [25 per person] to see it. It was more than worth it. Since we visited the most impressive part of the gorge [where the river has cut a ravine up to 700 metres down through the limestone mass]. Once there, it was necessary to rent some pedal-boats [for a fair price] in order to be fully immersed in the gorge and to get the best views and have the most fun possible. While pedalling, each of us took turns to jump off and into the warm summer turquoise-green fresh waters of the gorge [except my mom of course who is scared of water]. My dad on the other hand was the opposite, he just had to climb up to the waterfall to take a bath under it – little did he know how freezing it was. I cannot write anymore, since words cannot depict, as much as pictures, what we saw and experienced.
      • IMG_0191 Moustiers Village: After the Gorge, we visited one of the towns, which surrounds it [at the western entrance]: Moustiers-Sainte-Marie. Moustiers-Sainte-Marie, or simply Moustiers has been a centre of the pottery trade, especially faïence, for centuries. The village clings a hundred or so meters up the side of a limestone cliff. A spring flows out of the cliff, creating a waterfall directly out of the centre of town. Above the town, a star hangs on a 225m long chain suspended between two cliffs. According to legend, during the Crusades a knight of Blacas held prisoner by the Saracens vowed to hang a star over the village on his return. The star has been replaced several times over the centuries because it ages and occasionally falls. This was just the typical type of French [Provençial] village that I wanted my family to see.
      • IMG_0254 Lavender Fields: After the somewhat magical village, we continued on to witness something I missed the last time I was here, and something that happens only at a certain time each year: the Lavender Fields. At first, I was sceptical, wondering why this has been made so touristic in this region, but then we saw it: fields and hectares all bright-purple with lavender, and the sent extremely concentrated and delightfully fragrant. It seemed that no processing was needed, you pick a branch and it smelled as if you opened a bottle of lavender perfume. At one moment, we even saw one side of the road completely purple with lavender flowers and the other completely yellow with sunflowers: amazing! Again, only pictures can tell, however in reality it seems much more vibrant, I think our eyes have a much higher resolution than a camera.
      • IMG_0251 Marseille: Monté Cristo Island: I wanted them also to see Marseille, since it is such an essential aspect of the culture of the south, a must-see. It was more to compare it to some parts of Trinidad actually. However, more interesting was the historical tour of the prison [Château d'If] of the Count of Monté Cristo on the island of "If", and the hike and refreshing swim on the islands of "Frioul". We got there by boat, and it was indeed and still is my most spectacular site to see "in" Marseille.
      • IMG_0523Lambesc Vineyards: They could not have come here either and not go to a vineyard. My dad of course wanted to do this, so we went to the small village of Lambesc [Read More], not far from Aix, to taste and buy some good wine.

    Alas, we parted with Provence, and went on to explore some more of the southern-European Mediterranean-paradises. It was a quite tiring 2-days-per-city crash-course, but it was required for them to make the most of their trip here.

    I think they enjoyed it, there always another time to see more I guess…

    For pictures, please see:

    Thursday, 2 July 2009

    IMMIT Graduation: The End

    For more pictures see:

  • IMMIT Graduation: IT Symposium & Party
  • IMMIT Graduation: Ceremony
  • Two years have passed so quickly. Just yesterday, we were all; packing our bags for France; preparing ourselves for this adventure; formatting our minds for cultural shock and discovery; now the end is approaching.

    99'The end of IMMIT' was officially represented by this graduation ceremony; the granting of our three Degrees, and the declaration of us all as 'Masters of Management of Information Technology'. However 'the end of IMMIT' also signifies a 'beginning'; a beginning of: strongly-bound friendships, new explorations and endeavours, and the application of knowledge and cross-cultural-interrelation-skills gained during the programme to real problems across the world. It also does not represent the end of my Blog: 'EuroJev', since I still aspire to stay in Europe, at least for a while longer, and I still continue my travels and experiences here.

    276.0Since IMMIT began in France, they thought that it should end in France. The ceremony was held in the sunny south of France, in Aix-en-Provence, at the IAE Faculty; and was well organised and eventful. The graduation was actually split into two days: the first day: an IT Symposium, where we were forced to present our theses for a second time with company-, faculty-, as well as family-, representatives present as audiences; and the second day: the actual ceremony.

    As opposed to the traditional French system which doesn't allow for elaborate graduation ceremonies as this one, we had a full formal procedure, with granting of diplomas, speeches, cocktails, and even full graduation gowns and hats! French students simply get their diplomas mailed to them at home; and will never have something such as graduation gowns since it's too 'Americanised' :).

    IMG_9941At the end of the first day, we had a [successful] 'final' IMMIT party at my apartment; something somewhat traditional and unique to IMMIT: 'the IMMIT parties'; we thought we should end with one final grand party as it may be the last time that all of us were to be together as such a big group in the same place at the same time. It was as expected: fun; and we even had an after party in the city-centre afterward.

    303My family [Dad, Mom, & Sister] in addition to my girlfriend, Maïté, were all present as well [they decided to take the trip to attend my graduation]. Many other IMMITers' families also attended the graduation, and we used this opportunity to show each other off, introduce each other, and to really show them what IMMIT was, and what we've been boasting about [the IMMIT Family] for these two years.

    IMG_0059At the end, we all bid each other farewell, as we were all going our separate ways. Some would go back home, some to Finland, others to Netherlands, and yet still others, like myself, would stay in France. Looking back now, writing this blog piece, I remember one other which I wrote at the beginning: 'The IMMIT Crew', and I feel exactly the same now, when Leonardo DiCaprio opened the group-photo that 'Francois' [the sexy French girl] sent to him in the movie 'The Beach'.

    IMMIT was this 'Parallel Universe': I hope I could enter another one very soon…

    Other people's graduation pictures:

    Wednesday, 1 July 2009

    French Résumé: CV-Résumé Français!

    Finally it's here! You can Download my French CV! Enfin, c'est là! Vous pouvez Télécharger mon CV en français!

    Sunday, 7 June 2009

    Normandy: North-West France

    IMG_9409End of May: the semester, my thesis, as well as my  programme were nearing their end, and I felt like I needed a well-deserved vacation; a break from all of this academic 'hoo-ha'. I've been 'with' Maïté for a while now, and seeing as she also needed a break at the end of her student life, she invited me to her home-town: the ville/commune of Gavray, in the department of Manche [just next to Calvados], in the region of Normandy [French: "Normandie"], in the North of France. This also implied the dreaded and commitment-intending act of 'meeting the family', or at least her dad and her 18-year-old French-blonde little-sister.

    Nevertheless, we planned a trip* and almost 7 hours & 1,094 km later I was in the middle of nowhere: Gavray.

    *Trip 7 hours & 1,094 km

    A. Train from Aix to Paris

    3 hours & 758 km

    B. Waiting time on Champs Elysée

    1 hour

    C. Train from Paris to Gavray

    3 hours & 336 km

    View Larger Map

    Overview of Gavray:

    IMG_9386 Gavray is a French commune, situated in the département of Manche and the région Basse-Normandie; and is located in the heart of "la Vallée de la Sienne". The town is nestled between several hills, one of which housed the ducal castle of Gavray. The bridge on the Sienne, called the Peace Bridge (2004), was destroyed along with all the surrounding district during the Second World War.

    In summary, Gavray is a small village with: cows, horses, donkeys, lots of nature, no internet, no buses, no people, and farm girls. :) [OK, that's maybe a little bit of exaggeration, but one gets the point]. The population is around: 1,678 people in 2005. Wow!

    Overview of Normandy:

    IMG_9621Normandy [Normandie in French] is a geographical region corresponding to the former Duchy of Normandy. It is situated along the English Channel coast of Northern France between Brittany (to the west) and Picardy (to the east) and comprises territory in northern France and the Channel Islands.

    During the Battle of Normandy in World War II, Normandy became the landing site for the invasion and liberation of Europe from Nazi Germany. This is recognised as a turning point for the war in Western Europe. It's for this reason that's it's quite famous, and it was even more interesting for me to be there at the same time that President Obama was there for the commemoration of D-Day.

    IMG_9618Some Famous things from Normandy include: Crêpes [more so from Bretagne, but famous here too], Apples [Maïté is ironically allergic to apples], Camembert Cheese [which smells uncannily like a dead fungus infested cave-dwelling animal, but tastes good once you've acquired the taste :)], and of course Apple liquors such as calvados and Pommeau. It's probably also where the commonly used expression "ah la vache!" comes from, somewhat translating into "holy cow!", because of the cows and all, you know… [The pictures to the left & right above are of Pointe du Grouin].

    Overview of Trip:
    [click on the bolded-title-links for more pictures]

    • IMG_9332French Sunday Lunch: A 3-hour long lunch including:  aperitif, appetizers [or as we say in Trini: "cutters"], main course, dessert, wine, champagne, family, friends-of-the-family, and a 2-hour long promenade [after-lunch-walk], on the cold beaches of Normandy. We actually swam there, that day, uncannily freezing.
    • IMG_9366La Baleine: A refreshing walk into the wilderness of the small  village of La Baleine [the whale]: trees, cows, horses, rivers, small churches, English-country-side-houses, and an Andouillerie [a fumerie, where they smoke and cure pig intestines filled with chopped-up pig intestines and stomach, to create an appetizing "sausage" called "Andouille"].
    • IMG_9414Gavray's Sheep: I never really saw sheep like this until I came to Europe. Maïté's dad was trying to explain some stuff about them and the terrain around. The beaches just beyond actually look beautiful here.
    • Le Château de Fougères & Mont Saint-Michel: This day we  visited a Medieval fort of Fougères and the famous Mont Saint-Michel. Fougères is a commune of the Ille-et-Vilaine department in Bretagne in north-western France. Here, a medieval fort is built atop a granite ledge, which was part of the IMG_9542ultimately unsuccessful defence system of the Duchy of Brittany against French aggression. Le Mont-Saint-Michel is a rocky tidal island and a commune in Normandy [this is often frowned upon by "Bretagnians"]. It is located approximately one kilometre off the country's north coast, at the mouth of the Couesnon River near Avranches. The population of the island is 41. On this day, we also visited the Pointe du Grouin [the rocky finger that points out and protects the entrance into the bay of Mont Saint Michel] and the picturesque fishing village of Cancale also known as the "oyster capital" of Brittany.
    • IMG_9669Chateau de Gavray: Basically it's not a castle, it's the ruins of a castle; I climbed all this to see some crumbled rocks; but the sunset and the stray dog we found were nice. On top of a steep-sided hill that dominates 'Vallées de la Sienne et de la Bérence', stood at an imposing medieval fortress: Le Château Ducal de Gavray. Its location at the crossroads of routes from Caen and Nord Cotentin, which led to the Mont Saint Michel and Brittany, was a strategic point of interest. It is why the Dukes of Normandy had chosen the site of Gavray as a seat of viscount and had established this castle, for military purposes.
    • IMG_9824Granville: Maïté drove us there: first time I saw her driving [manual car]. It's a nice port-town, where the beach tides recede super-fast and very far-out during daytime, and advance all the way up to the port-side at night. The old town of Granville preserves all the history of its military and religious past. The lower town was partly built on land reclaimed from the sea. The upper part of the old town is surrounded by ramparts from the fifteenth century. These are entered through the drawbridge [Grand'Porte], the bloody theatre of the "Siège des Vendéens" in 1793.

    It was a very relaxing, inspiring, and well-deserved trip after a long and tiring thesis. It allowed me to discover another side of France: another landscape, another culture, another language, another history, and another adventure…