A Travellerspoint blog

The semester has ended, but the adventures have NOT...

Last French post of 2014!

overcast 7 °C

My last day of classes/exams was this past Thursday, so I am officially done with my first semester, and the CLA! This past week has been full of mixed feelings, as I have said goodbye to many friends who have already left or will be leaving soon for home, and all of those who will be staying on in Besançon but staying at the CLA (I am the only one that I know of who will be switching to the university for the Spring semester; it was a unique opportunity provided by my study abroad program that is not available for others.) Hopefully we will have the occasion to continue to see each other over the next semester!

I'm not quite sure how I ended up in the back here... This is my Oral Expression class, our the professor, Madame Marcelli, is the woman in black in the middle.

On Thursday night, in order to celebrate the end of a successful semester and to send off those who would be leaving, most of us went out for dinner to this little restaurant called Café Café. It sounds super kitschy, but was actually a super chill and charming little neighborhood place. Our table for eleven took up about a third of the room, and there were just two servers who were incredibly friendly. (An ongoing struggle for me is reading the daily menus in restaurants, which are often scrawled on chalkboards…but I discovered that I am not alone in this handicap.) After we spent a few minutes of giggling and asking each other what “closed chicken” could mean (apparently, fermier [in this context, “country”] becomes fermé [“closed”] when written quickly), and trying to decipher a few entirely illegible words, one of the servers came over and just read the whole board out loud to us…

Many of the daily specials contained things I had never tried before (veal, rabbit, duck, etc.) so I got adventurous and went for the rabbit confit accompanied by a hollowed baked eggplant filled with mascarpone. It was pretty schwanky. And actually quite delicious, like incredibly juicy and flavorful chicken. But eating off of bones is still a pretty big mental hurdle for me…


And they had these enormous homemade pies sitting on the counter (the pie of the day was raspberry rhubarb), so I had to verify that they were as delicious as they looked. Check.


Then after our dinner, we just hung out and then all of a sudden I was learning some basics of Chinese characters and the translations of the names of some of my classmates. Needless to say, my pronunciation needs some work. And there was also some unflattering portrait drawing that took place. But they were “good” enough to warrant the other server coming over to sit for his own portrait, which he propped behind the bar… If it isn’t clear enough to you already, I am in the middle on the top row.


On the university front, I met last week with an advisor to go over my options for classes next semester. I haven’t made any decisions yet; I’ll have to see what will transfer back to UNL for credit. I know that these classes are going to be infinitely more difficult than this last semester, but I am very excited for the challenge, to get back to art history, and to have French classmates!

Last weekend, I went on a day-trip with ESN to Strasbourg in the Alsace-Lorraine region. (In the past few hundred years, this region has gone back and forth between Germany and France multiple times, so there is a lot of rich German culture visible in the city, too, particularly in some of the architecture. They have one of the most famous Christmas markets in France, so I had to go along to check it out! First, we went on a tour boat through the city as a group. Though it was interesting to learn a bit of town’s very long and colorful history, it was unfortunately quite impossible to get good pictures of anything. But, as you can see, there is some beautiful and interesting stuff there!


After the tour, we had a few hours of free time, which was largely spent in the markets (there are actually eight of them spread throughout the downtown area: one is focused on gastronomy, one on products from foreign cultures, but most of them are just mixes of decorations, treats, toys, and other fun stuff). It was a really cool and festive atmosphere, with some very cool things for sale. There were SO many people. On one hand, it was fun to be part of such a popular tradition, and the crowds made it merrier, if you will, but sometimes it was a bit much. On occasion, it was downright impossible to navigate the narrow paths between stalls.


One thing that had been on my to-do list this winter was to taste marrons chauds (roasted chestnuts), which have been for sale from street vendors since the opening of the market in Besançon. They always smell amazing when I pass by, and there are few things more appealing than the idea of a warm and freshly roasted nut when you’re out in the cold! So I finally yielded to the temptation and bought a little cone. All of the pavement within about a block radius of each of the markets was just covered with shells, so I figured they had to be pretty good. (Oh, I guess the vin chaud debacle voids that argument…) But there was no need to worry. They were warm and chewy, a little bit sweet and a little but salty – perfect combinations. I had been kind of worried about making a fool out of myself trying to eat them, because they are roasted in the shell. So I was trying to inconspicuously eye the people who were buying them in front of me, but didn’t have much luck. It turns out though, that the shells become really soft, almost like wet cardboard, and they just peel right off. I must say I’m sad they are only a Christmas treat…

The picture of the stand is actually from here in Besançon, but it was very similar in Strasbourg!

Well, that’s about it for France 2014; I’ll be catching a train in about 12 hours to kick off the Kammerer Sister Christmas Craziness. I’ll be in Edinburgh by tomorrow night, and picking Eva up at the airport on Tuesday morning!!!! Stay tuned – the next post may be a joint effort!

Posted by NKammerer 10:45 Tagged friends dinner strasbourg cla kammerer_sisters_unite marché_de_noel finals café_café marrons_chauds

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Well, you've got me in the Christmas spirit! Thanks for the lovely gifts you an Eva got me for the Christmas Eva celebration. She will have to tell you all about it.

by DanKammerer

I'm glad you described the roasted chestnuts - I've always wanted to try them - they've beer for sale when we've been to New York in the winter time. Being such a lover of nuts, I want to experience chestnuts, too.

Thanks for the lovely French treats that arrived at your folks in time for Christmas Eva. We all had bits of one or more treats - the little girls loved the "marshmellows" and Chelsea loved the chocolate orange rind.

Eva keeps commenting on the fact that it's been over four months since she's seen you - you are really missed (not just by Eva).

I didn't realize you were changing schools for the second semester and that you would be with new classmates. You sure know how to add to the adventure.

You and Ethyl have a wonderful time and keep us informed of your activities.


by Judy Trout

I'll be seeing you in 36 hours! How crazy is that?!? You might not even see this before you see me :D I'm so excited, I'm not, I'm super chill. I really can't fathom being on an airplane, alone, and flying to Europe. And then having you there, in Europe. Will we even recognize each other? ;) Gah!!! I can't wait!!!!
(Those chestnuts look amazing. You'll have to hook me up.)

by Vinnie

I pray for Europe, please girls do not start another world war.

by Opa

Hi Natalie - I've been a little behind in reading your blogs. Your writing & pictures are nothing short of OUTSTANDING ! I so look forward to hearing about your visit with Eva. Keep up the wonderful work. You are a very special young lady! LOL

by Muti

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