Year Abroad Diaries: 9 November 2012

Wednesday 7 November

Google. Tapping swiftly, I entered several words into the search bar and noted the time of the sunset. Jacket zipped, shoes tied, Kindle in pocket. I was at the station 40 minutes early. I read lazily and waited, and waited, the sky already navy, moving to black. Yellow beams on the track motioned me outside.

The train had three carriages and the last pulled up level with me. Mum was inside. She stepped off, waiting for the train to move before she crossed the track. She was in jeans, a puffed jacket and my old battered Converse, a rucksack anchoring her down. All that way, just to see me. She smelled of my mother; a now foreign smell, her recently chopped hair brushing my face as she embraced me. Tired but relieved, safe in provincial Normandy with me.

Our bus scrambled up the hill towards the town square. “This is it? I’ve Googled this! I recognise the street. That looks like a nice bookshop! Your room is so much more cosy than I thought!” She looked at the mould on my wall nervously, then at all my trinkets from home, munching on nougat as I explained my timetable and showed my paintings. I felt like I wanted to tell her everything – about the people, Paris, teaching, life abroad – and she was telling me about Dad, brother, family, Christmas – as if one of us might disappear at any second.

Friday 9 November

Breakfast at the local tearoom – a cup of steaming warmth and a croissant – was our sunrise. We stood by the bus stop waiting for the Ligne 7 to Granville, purchased the tiny rectangle of paper, and crunched an apple each as we watched the little French houses zooming by. “It’s so French! Don’t you notice it any more?” The gentle waves of land pulsed out before us yet I barely remarked them. “Not really. I know the buildings are different but you kind of get used to it. Now French number plates are typical and I’m shocked to see a British car.”

The journey was supposed to last an hour, but it passed quickly, and soon we dismounted into a buzzing cosmopolis, at least it seemed that way to me. Regardless of the half-one lunch lull, we wandered around the town, first going to the marine then up to the Archipelago where we got a good view of the blue sea and crumbling, chalky cliffs. We then decided to hunt for lunch – perusing a few menus, then selecting a creperie – only to be told, “non, c’est terminé.” The following two restaurants turned us away, and walking further down the street towards disgruntlement, we saw scones in the window of a salon du thé. I commented, “Well, at the very least we can get a cake and a cup of tea.” Mum nodded.

The door opened onto a tastefully decorated area, with tins of tea on the left wall, the aroma of fresh leaves, this room passing into another where there were tables (and behind my seat, the scones). Luckily, they acquiesced to our foodie demands, returning with a mountainous potato, cheese and bacon tart. Then came the tea. Glorious. Old fashioned heavy black teapots, with beautiful floral cup and saucer sets. Mum took traditional earl grey, and I got a Greek inspired one with aromas of dates, rose and orange. We shared scones, and with the scone you selected a miniature pot of jam – so many flavours – but we decided on Clementine and Christmas tea. It tasted of late December.

“You have to come back here with C!” Mum commanded. And I think I shall.

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