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!
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.
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.