Sunday, January 30, 2011

Let's See How Deep the Rabbit Hole Goes

I know this is probably a bit obsessive, writing twice in one day, but I don't want to forget anything.

First of all, I would like to comment that it has gotten even colder. Seriously, I have to get up and hug one of the two radiators in my room every once in a while, because my body is not accustomed to this weather.

So this morning I awoke and my host mom had already left to go on an 11 day tour with her theatre company, so it's just me and the boys :) I made myself breakfast, and was soon joined by my host brother. He began asking me questions about when I wanted to watch Indiana Jones with him and if I knew how to work the electric tea kettle. He is very bright and entertaining.

Later, after everyone got ready, we hopped on the tramway to downtown. Travel is SO easy in Europe. Most people don't need cars, unless they live far into the countryside. I love it. We went to buy my carte Twisto for Monday and headed toward what I thought was going to be a theatre building for the concert. As usual, I was wrong in my assumption, but happily so. We walked down one of the narrow streets in the oldest part of the city. 

Side note: 80% of Caen was destroyed in WWII from the bombings during the storming of the beaches and the following battles, so only a small part of downtown is still intact with the 300-900 year old buildings. It's quite sad, because they are so beautiful. End side note. So we are walking down these old, narrow streets and my host dad is pointing out different caf├ęs and streets and shops that he likes. We finally turned the right corner, and found ourselves in front of a 17th century church named Notre-Dame-de-la-Gloriette.

This magnificent building is where the concert was held. The doors suddenly opened and my host dad disappeared to the front, leaving his son and me to follow. He went around the side and got us good seats close to the front. He leaned over and simply said that it was a mens' and boys' choir and that his good friend is the director. I barely noticed his comment, considering when I walked into the church, I almost fell over. 

The soaring ceilings, the chandeliers, the altar at the front and the wonderful frescoes on the ceilings. Wow. I was dumb-struck by the beauty and grandeur. While walking over to the church, my host dad explained that all of the buildings in Caen are built with a special stone that is native to Caen. It is highly coveted, because the sandstone-type structure and light, ivory color reflect light very well, giving the buildings a wonderful, artistic light inside and out.

This church is made completely out of this stone, and what is more, is that the sun was out this morning, and it truly was breath-taking. The light reverberates almost as well as the sound. The director had no need for any amplification technology, because the structure itself was built to amplify the priest's voice, therefore, when the choir began singing, my skin rose into goosebumps. They didn't go away until the applause were finished.

The sopranos began at the back of the church following the lead of a bell ringer. (I will try to explain these instruments as well as possible, because the music was from the Middle Ages, so the instruments matched. They were all made of wood, it was amazing.) The altos were with a small flute, and the tenors/basses were with an instrument that sounded and looked like the fetal product between a trumpet and an oboe. 

The last two were at the front, on either side of the altar. The sounds played off of each other and blended to create something that is not possible with electronics. It was unlike anything I had ever heard. They slowly came together in front of the altar and continued with solos and small ensembles and a flute solo that grew into an ensemble. 

The flute display reminded me of a wolf who was content being alone, and then grew more and more melancholy about his predicament and began sounding off in lonely cries, but when it sounded as though he couldn't go on alone, he was quietly answered by a friend, and then another and another. It was quite moving.

Needless to say, I completely enjoyed the concert. After we left, we went to have a snack at a boulangerie. (I had my very first genuine chocolate French macaron today. LOVED IT! )This one has been in business since 1889. I could feel the age of the building, and the stone, and the beams. The history is part of the culture shock that I didn't expect. 

The US is so young and wild still. Most buildings are not built to last, and if an old building is in the way of free enterprise, it gets demolished without thought. Feeling the buildings, you get a sense of the city, almost like breathing and seeing a soul. This sounds cliche, but there are bullet holes in some of these buildings from the battles after the storming of the beaches in Caen. That is how real everything feels. There are buildings that have survived for 900 years in this city.

Speaking of said building, after the snack, we went to see Labbitiale Saint-Etienne. That was another wow. It was commissioned by William the Conquerer, and said abbey is his final resting place. (I wanted to take a picture, but it seemed disrespectful and naive to take a souvenir photo of a tomb.) A man who volunteers at the abbey to give tours, told us so many stories about the abbey and William and WWII. 

When the city was being bombed, the entire population took refuge in this building because it was built so strongly and for spiritual uplift. They slept in it for several days, praying that it would survive. That they would survive. He also told us the love story of William and Mathilde. The story of how and why certain features were used to build it. He spoke slowly for me, so that I could keep up, and I actually understood most of it.

On the way home, we stopped at a second-hand bookshop on Rue Froide, Cold Street, named so because it is a very old and narrow path that is oriented for the wind to always blow through it. It is almost like a wind tunnel. We went to the second story and had tea. We each got a small teapot and cup with our choice of tea inside and some organic cane sugar cubes. So cute.

OH, and les grignettes are amazing. It's bread that has cheese, or bacon, or escargot, or fruits, or veggies baked into it. I had the bacon one. Yum! I also just learned that my class level placement is the second highest level for the program. I have to choose between communication and media or the corporate world and society for my concentration. I'm happy that I did so well, but terrified at the same time, because I don't want to do poorly due to the high level. We'll see how it goes :)


  1. Eskimo! I'm so proud of you for placing so high. I knew you would do well. Your photographs are amazing. I find myself more and more intrigued with each blog you post. I want you to start posting pictures of the food! Everything you describes sounds so delicious. I'm sure food there is just a work of art. I told Cody about the bacon bread, you know how he is about bacon. Needless to say, you may have helped me win him over on going to France someday.
    I miss you. I love you. I look forward to your next blog post.

  2. Yes, I am in agreement with Taelor! Food Fotos Please! I am so enjoying your adventures my daughter! You truly have a GIFT of expressing your feelings in words that I never realized. I love and miss you but please continue to explore and blog for us all who have now become fans of your reality TV! Eskimo in France!? Taelor what you think?

  3. OMGoodness!!! I LOVE the elaborate buildings and the bits of history behind them. I am soooo envious of you! Of course I am in agreement with Taelor and Colleen about the "food photos" but please leave out the moldy cheese. I don't believe that would sit well with my stomach. Thankyou for finally posting a picture of you on here. I miss you baby!