The past few days have been really busy but oh-so-great. Saturday there was another party, although this one was just a dinner party and didn't last quite as long as the last one. It wasn't as drunken of a party either, but there was still a lot of wine going around. I think Phillip had a little too much because when the desserts were brought out, a crème caramel was set near him, and it was announced that Sophie made it. He then proceeded to talk to the crème caramel, calling it Sophie and making faces at it. This honestly lasted for about 5 or 10 minutes. It was sooooooo funny, and we were all falling off our chairs laughing.
Phillip and Marie Laure were so nice and let us take their car for the weekend so we could go sight seeing. It's a massive 9-seater van (massive here, where the roads fit a small car and a half), and because Pete is the only one who has his international driver's license, he was the one to drive it. Now let's remember that in Australia, they drive on the other side of the car, on the other side of the road, and go clockwise (rather than counter clock-wise) in traffic circles. All this added to the fact that the van barely fit on the road, the first while was really interesting. I was sitting on the right side of the van, and I was constantly yelling out when he was about to hit a curb. There was even one time where he got within about 2 centimeters of a cyclist. His driving drastically improved after about the first hour, and we were well on our way. We parked in a town about 20 minutes from Mont St Michel called Pontorson, and we found a hotel where we would stay the night. We explored around the town a little, which had a fair amount of shops and bakerys, and then continued on to the Mount.
Mont St Michel is an island, or more of a giant rock in the English Channel off the coast of Normandy. On top of the island, and abbey was built in the 10th century, and a village gradually followed around the base of the abbey. It's become famous for it's dramatic appearance, it's monks, and it's tides: When the tide is out, it's completely surrounded by sand, but to walk on the sand, it's highly recommended you go with a guide because there's lots of quick sand, and every year people die there. When the tide comes in, it comes "at the speed of a galloping horse", so it's important you don't go walking around high tide. It's also important that you get your car from the parking lot before high tide. The water reaches all the way up to the island, and the guide said there are always cars and tour buses floating around at high tide. At the Chateau Monfreville, everyone talked about Mont St Michel and how great it is. Here in Mayenne, everyone talked about Mont St Michel and how great it is. Naturally, I was really excited about our trip to Mont St Michel. When we got close, we could see it in the distance: a massive mountain coming out of nowhere. The anticipation built as we approached it. Once we got to the parking lot, a short walk from the Mount, I became a little unnerved. There were hundreds of people walking from their cars to the Mount in the sea of silver. Hundreds of tourists. When we got inside the gates, I was greeted with tacky tourist shop after tacky tourist shop with things like plastic key-chains, Mont St Michel mugs, plates, cookies, wine, T-shirts, etc, etc, etc. Walking through the village (all shops and hotels just for tourists now-- no one actually lives there) was elbow to elbow with tourists the whole way up to the abbey, and thouroughly unpleasant. Once we got to the abbey, there was an 8€ fee to get in, although that included a free guided tour, so it wasn't quite so bad. If it wasn't for the tour, the place would have been an absolute waste of time. The guide explained about the construction of the abbey, the purpose of all the rooms, dropped in a few fun facts, and pointed out things we would never have noticed without a guide. Afterwards, I appreciated it a lot more, but if you ever decide to go, I would recommend you drive by it, take a few pictures, and continue on your way.
Monday morning after breakfast at the hotel, we packed our things and drove about an hour to St Malo, a Medieval town on the beach. It was also really busy here, but it was busy with locals, not tourists. We had to park a fair way from the walls of the town, but we walked to it barefoot on the beach. The weather was absolutely gorgeous, and we stopped a few times to get photos of the crystal-blue water, and the surrounding islands that all had Medieval castles on them. Once we got to the town, we walked along the perimeter of the wall and could see out almost forever. Afterwards, we walked around the town and browsed at the hundreds of shops, patisseries, and homemade ice cream shops. The trip that had almost seemed like a waste of time and money after Mont St Michel took a turn today, and I was really glad to have spent half a day at St Malo.
At around 2 o'clock, we got back in the van and headed to Dinan, picturesque village built in the 15th century. All the buildings are those timber houses that for me represent the sterotypical French village, and remind me of the village in Beauty and the Beast. We walked around, took some pictures, looked at the shops, and ate more ice cream (chestnut, litchey nut, salty caramel...mmmm). This finished off our weekend, and we got back in the van for a 3 hour drive back to St Ouen des Toits. About halfway though, we were driving on the freeway, and past a sign advertising the biggest Medival castle in the world. Then we got to a town called Fougères, and there it was-- unmistakable. We had to park, walk around and take pictures, but because it was already a bit past 7pm, the castle was closed, and we couldn't see the inside.
Tuesday we started designing and planting a garden from scratch. We made a circle in the middle where we're going to make a really tall tipi out of sticks and plant creeping flowers around it. Then we have 4 paths that branch out from the circle, making a plus sign. All the veggies are planted within the quadrants in rows spread out like rays of sunshine. I've made Marie-Laure promise to send me pictures once it's finished and grown in a little, because, unfortunately, I won't be able to see the finished product. The evening was really exciting because when we went to round up the cows for milking, there was an extra calf just sitting in the grass. One of the cows was pregnant, and had her calf that afternoon! It couldn't even stant up yet, and I made sure to take a few photos.
Wednesday's milking was equally, if not more exciting than Tuesday's. Phillip and I had to catch the 3 calfs that were in the field so we could put them with the older calfs, who stay in a pen on the farm. Once they're 3 weekd old, they seperate them from the mother because they start to take all her milk. Once they're in the pen, we give them the milk ourselves, only in a smaller quantity. Phillip gave me a rope, and we walked in the field towards the first calf. As it started to run away, Phillip caught it by it's hind legs, and I just stood there laughing as he played wheelbarrown with it. He started yelling for me to give him the rope, and we got it around the neck just in time. The other 2 were really hard to catch, and we had to corner them in another area. It was really dramatic with the calfs kicking in all directions and sticking out their purple tongues as they bleated really loudly. It was a great way to finish off the day, and we came in for dinner extra dirty, extra tired, and extra hungry.