Starbucks in Nantes on Dec. 28, 2018, with funny spellings of our names. (Bridget McTague | For the Juneau Empire)

Starbucks in Nantes on Dec. 28, 2018, with funny spellings of our names. (Bridget McTague | For the Juneau Empire)

An amazing Christmas in France

Family, friends and late dinners.

Christmas in France was amazing — three straight days of fun and parties.

I spent Dec. 23 with a friend from school and her family, who love the United States and have licence plates from multiple states and pictures of New York along with the American flag plastered around their house. We watched a slideshow of their trip to Seattle together, and I was excited to see some of the places that I’ve visited as well. At Pike’s Place Market, they took a video of the fish that moves and the fish being thrown through the air. I told them their next trip should be to Juneau!

[Prepping for Papa Noël]

Christmas Eve and Christmas were spent with the families of my host dad and mom, respectively. On Christmas Eve, we passed almost four hours at the table eating full shrimp (with the heads on), charcuterie, foie gras, cheese and finally the bûche de Noël. We finished eating at 2 a.m., European style.

On Christmas Day, my host mom and I went to Mass at the Sacré Cœur church in Cholet. It was interesting hearing all the songs we normally sing for Christmas in another language. The priest opened with a joke which I didn’t understand — it was a play on words that my host mom later explained to me by writing it out on paper. It was a really dumb joke so naturally I thought it was hilarious and had to try really hard to stifle my laugh in the silence. Afterward for brunch, I made American pancakes and my host family and I opened gifts together. Passing this holiday without my real family wasn’t too difficult. I didn’t get to celebrate my holiday traditions, but I got to experience new ones. I definitely want to bring back certain things to my family, like the late nights with hours of talking at the dinner table.

In Cholet, we have two weeks of vacation, just like Juneau. At the end of the break, I’ll change to my second host family, after four months with the Gouys. This first week went by so fast with all the excitement of the holidays, but now we can relax and do some of our assignments for school and explore a little bit! Traveling is easy here because the public transport is accessible, and there’s a good number of buses that leave Cholet every day for Nantes and Angers. Recently, I took a bus to Nantes, the big city in my region, to meet up with my friends from New Zealand and Canada. We noticed the Christmas village being disassembled and the decorations for Noël being taken down. It was chilly out, so my friends and I had a good excuse to go to Starbucks. We don’t have one in Cholet, so whenever I’m in Nantes I make it one of my destinations. I’m not really a Starbucks fanatic — it’s just that it feels familiar, and when I’m with my friend from Canada, it feels for a little bit like we are back home. Once we finished our coffee, we went back out to explore everything France has to offer.

[Bonjour, France]

Also during this break, I welcomed in the new year! I was excited to celebrate the end of 2018 in France with new friends and more new experiences. I learned so much last year and in these past four months abroad. In 2019, I’m looking forward to speaking even more French, trying all the new foods I can and learning as much as possible. There’s lots of good things to come in 2019!


• Bridget McTague is a Juneau-Douglas High School student who is spending her junior year abroad in Cholet, France, as part of the Rotary Youth Exchange. Follow along with her travel adventures by reading her bimonthly column “Bridget Abroad” in the Juneau Empire.


Natelli from Canada, left, Shannon from New Zealand, middle, and Bridget on Dec. 28, 2018. (Bridget McTague | For the Juneau Empire)

Natelli from Canada, left, Shannon from New Zealand, middle, and Bridget on Dec. 28, 2018. (Bridget McTague | For the Juneau Empire)

Variety of chocolates in a store I found while exploring Nantes on Dec. 28, 2018. (Bridget McTague | For the Juneau Empire)

Variety of chocolates in a store I found while exploring Nantes on Dec. 28, 2018. (Bridget McTague | For the Juneau Empire)

Shrimp from Christmas Eve dinner. A tradition in some families is to eat seafood for Noël. (Bridget McTague | For the Juneau Empire)

Shrimp from Christmas Eve dinner. A tradition in some families is to eat seafood for Noël. (Bridget McTague | For the Juneau Empire)

More in Home

Wreath bearers present wreaths for fallen comrades, brothers and sisters in arms during a Memorial Day ceremony at Alaskan Memorial Park on Monday. Laying wreaths on the graves of fallen heroes is a way to honor and remember the sacrifices made. (Jasz Garrett / Juneau Empire)
Traditional Memorial Day ceremonies offer new ways to ‘never forget’ those who served

New installations at memorial sites, fresh words of reminder shared by hundreds gathering in Juneau.

Thunder Mountain High School graduates celebrate after moving their tassels to the left, their newly received diplomas in hand, at the end of Sunday’s commencement ceremony. (Jasz Garrett / Juneau Empire)
‘Forever a Falcon’: Thunder Mountain High School celebrates final graduating class

147 seniors get soaring sendoff during 16th annual commencement full of heightened emotions.

Seniors at Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé enter the gymnasium for their commencement ceremony on Sunday. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)
JDHS graduates celebrate journey from virtual ‘pajama class’ freshmen to virtuous camaraderie

Resolve in overcoming struggles a lifelong lesson for future, seniors told at commencement ceremony.

Sierra Guerro-Flores (right) listens to her advisor Electra Gardinier after being presented with her diploma at Yaaḵoosgé Daakahídi High School’s graduation ceremony Sunday in the Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé auditorium. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)
Alternatives are vast for Yaaḵoosgé Daakahídi High School’s graduating class

31 students take center stage during ceremony revisiting their paths at the school and what’s next.

The LeConte state ferry in 2023. (Lex Treinen / Chilkat Valley News)
Stranded Beerfest travelers scramble to rebook after LeConte ferry breakdown

Loss of 225-passenger ferry leaves many Juneau-bound revelers looking for other ways home.

Thunder Mountain High School pitcher Jack Lovejoy catches a line-drive hit to end the Region V softball championship game against Sitka High School on Saturday at Melvin Park. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)
Thunder Mountain High School Falcons are conference champs, heading to state softball title tournament

TMHS rebounds from 19-12 loss in back-to-back Saturday games against Sitka, wins finale 9-3.

A Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé player tries to control the ball during a May 3 game at Adair-Kennedy Field. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire file photo)
JDHS comes up short in state soccer title games

Boys fall behind early in 4-1 loss to Soldotna, girls miss opportunities in 2-0 loss to Kenai.

A photo taken from the terminal roof shows the extent of the first phase of paving to accommodate large aircraft. (Mike Greene / City and Borough of Juneau)
Large-scale repaving project plants itself at Juneau International Airport

Work may take two to three years, schedule seeks to limit impact on operations.

Capital Transit buses wait to depart from the downtown transit center on Thursday. Route number 8 was adjusted this spring. (Jasz Garrett / Juneau Empire)
More service, visitor information helping Capital Transit to keep up with extra cruise passenger traffic

Remedies made after residents unable to board full buses last year seem to be working, officials say

Most Read