Archive for the ‘going out’ Category

Gallic Geezer

Wednesday, December 31st, 1969

Well, I’m there. I’m finally over the hill. Furrowed wrinkles crease and crawl across my face. Meager gray hairs sprout sporadically atop my bald head. What’s worse, my vision, now so dramatically impaired, caused my driver’s license to be revoked. Huh, what’s that? Speak up! I can’t hear you. My hearing isn’t what it used to be. Oh, “What am I talking about?”  I just turned twenty-one. I am officially old.

As you may know, the lawful age to imbibe in France is three years younger than it is in the United States.  Thus, since my arrival I have been able to order a glass of wine without any validation of my age (of course, when you’re bald and wrinkled, you don’t get carded often anyway). So, what is it like to pass such an important milestone in a place where said milestone lacks its import? One might think it would be anticlimactic. He or she would be right. But that doesn’t mean it wasn’t wonderful.

So then, how did I spend my birthday? Well, unbeknownst to me, my fellow Crusaders had planned a surprise party in honor of the day I was born. And they got me! I’m almost never actually surprised by things like that. Held at the home of last year’s French FLA Stéphanie, the girls prepared burritos, as they are well aware of my affection for Chipotle and the desperate withdrawal I am currently experiencing. (My mother has already looked into airmailing me my usual vegetarian burrito, but it wouldn’t be warm by the time it got here. You think I’m kidding? That’s funny.) The party was incredibly sweet, and it lifted my rather somber spirits. The fête turned out to be the perfect beginning to my birthday week, as it was held a few days prior to the actual date.

When that particular Tuesday arrived, my friends and I kicked it off with a magical three-hour French lesson, followed by a substantial lunch of sandwiches, soft pretzels (a regional specialty), and eclairs. I then returned home, where my family greeted me with a card, a cake, and a plaid bowtie (c’était très chic!). After opening all the birthday cards my family sent along with me the day I left, I Skyped with my mom and the family cat until I left for dinner at a restaurant called HK. (If you think there seems to be a lot of eating in this story, you would be correct).  Then it was time for after dinner drinks including Long Island Iced Teas with glow-stick straws. (NB: It’s fun to hear French people say Long Island Iced Tea; you should try it some time.)  The following day when I returned to my room, I discovered a large package containing all the goodies one could ever ask for. Thanks mom and dad! Clearly, I need to go to other continents for extended periods of time more often.

Apologies for the prolific use of parenthetical expressions in this blog entry.

The brilliant birthday card given to me by my Holy Cross amies. As you can see, Sarah made it.

The lovely, if incredibly rich, chocolate cupcake, complete with candle, from our favorite patisserie “Kretz.”

Some of the goodies Mama and Papa Wey sent me for my birthday. Other care packages are always welcome!

When the Sun Goes Down

Wednesday, December 31st, 1969

I seem to have found a rhythm here in Tours. The days are filled with what you might expect: French class, bread and cheese, and the occasional kîr after classes. My friends (American and otherwise) and I have even found our own French version of Central Perk, a coffee shop where we discuss conjugations, crêpes, and coffee as well as read our French versions of Harry Potter, Sex and the City, and Elle magazine. I myself have returned to J.K. Rowling’s first book only to learn that Hogwarts is called Poudlard in France. Only time will tell if I can adjust to this dramatic shift.

But what happens at nighttime? What goes down after I have finished my homework and eaten dinner with my adopted French family, Les Chaigne? Despite a relatively small size of approximately 130,000 inhabitants, Tours boasts a dynamic nightlife. Every night during the week, including Sunday, numerous restaurants, bars, and clubs open themselves up to French and foreign customers alike.

The hub of activity for l’Institut hovers around La Guinguette, a bar and music venue lying under the stars and seated directly next to the Loire. Lit with luminescent colored blubs that hang from ancient trees, the rainbow glow sets an idyllic stage for an evening filled with good friends and fine wine. There’s even a man with a goat. And behind the mélange of French, Russian, English, Japanese, German, and Spanish spoken among us, a French band plays a music that can only be described as new age banjo; it’s exceptionally catchy. I’m not lying. No, seriously, it is. You’ll have to take my word for it.

As the moon rises, the students part their separate ways depending on their mood for the evening. One night, the salsa club may entice you to swing your hips, and the next, a bar called B52 may dare you to try one of their specialties that you drink while it’s on fire. Or perhaps you would prefer to simply sit by the Loire and watch the water, vibrating with moonbeams, float on by.  If you do, just remember that La Guinguette loves to overcharge you.

The author/Crusader/bonvivant with fellow students of L’Institute de Touraine from the Bahamas, Miaeda, and South Korea, SeungJu, at one of Tours’ various evening venues.