Travel day, so not much to write here. Really the story starts late the night before at bowling with the track squad. I broke my phone, totally dead. Could not have been worse timing, no chance to ask around much for an old phone to borrow because people are in bed, no time to buy a new one because all the shops are closed and I leave early in the morning. David said I could borrow his old phone, shout out to you David, but we are talking old and beat up. It does not seem to be able to download any apps, that was how the trip got going.
But as far as the actual flights everything was smooth. After my good byes I cleared security which to my surprise took less than 5 minutes, then after a short wait board my first leg of the flight, Kansas City to Atlanta. The flight arrived in Atlanta a few minutes ahead of schedule and thus began my 7 hour layover. If you are going to have a 7 hour lay over Atlanta is not a bad place to be. The airport is pretty much just a big mall. All sorts of shops and restaurants, I spent those 7 hours eating dinner at “The Variety” an American fast food place, getting some cool shots for my video, beginning the process of editing and exploring the airport. We boarded on time, I watched Mockingjay part 2 on the in flight entertainment, ate a surprisingly good pasta dinner, pulled up the music on the entertainment system, put together a playlist, turned it on and fell asleep ending day one.
Today started on a plane, I woke up with just a couple hours left on my second and by far longest leg of the flight across the Atlantic from Atlanta to Paris. One light breakfast later I arrived in Paris. Only a 2 hour lay over here, I found my gate, cleared customs and security, which again surprisingly only took about 15 minutes. My plane was delayed about 30 minutes because a plane at my final destination, Brest, France had been stuck on the runway. But I arrived, got my luggage found my host mother and sister (Cate and Juliette) very quickly and headed to my home for the next 3 weeks.
Everything in France is tall and/or long and narrow. The streets, the building, the rooms even the toilet. The house I am staying in is very narrow front to back and side to side but is 3 stories tall which makes it plenty big. It’s a very nice house and my room is great, and the WiFi works great. After taking a second to put my luggage in my room and get a quick tour we ate lunch. Lunch was lasagna, though a little different than what we have at home, it was almost more Mexican, but it was good just the same. After that we took the 20 Minute drive down to Martials parents house right on the beach. We walked along the beach, which not having been to the beach since I was a little kid was pretty cool, then watched the end of Switzerland vs Poland in Euro league soccer tournament 2016 (Poland won on PKs) After hanging out there for a while we came back and Martial took me out on a run. It was a really cool trail we ran on, though with all the little hills, roots, rock and overgrown thorns along with having to stay with Martial on what was a complicated trial the pace was pretty slow. But that was alright, including about a mile I did running out and back in front of him it was a nice easy 7 mile run, a good start to my training in France.
Then, it was dinner time and what would be my first “challenge”, crepes were served. A traditional French crepe has a slice of ham, cheese and a full egg. I really don’t like eggs, but I am determined I will eat and finish everything I am served here. I did not particularly like it, but it was not that bad either. Do you know what else was not that bad? Dessert; a crepe served with just Nutella on it. I know, amazing. Then at about 8:30PM I headed up to my room, expecting to be on my computer for a little bit. Next thing you know I had fallen asleep. I woke up at about 2AM, which is when I am writing this, so since it is technically Day 3 now this is where I will leave it and go back to bed.
Today was super laid back. Most of the day was spent watching the Euro soccer tournament including the match of the day here France vs Ireland. France winning the match 2-1 to advance to the quarter finals. We had a French rice and sausage dish with a tomato base sauce that was exceptionally good. And dinner was a Turkish food, a half cut open bun like bread filled with beef cut like if you took strips of bacon and cut them into about 8 pieces, lettuce, tomato and a ranch dressing like sauce; again, delicious. We also walked up to a park I could run at, it allowed me to see more of the little town, including their only church, a very old stone catholic church. I am not actually in the city of Brest, I am in Landivisiau, about 20 minutes inland of Brest. It is a really cool little town with classic French architecture. It is small enough we can really walk anywhere if we want to. The weather thus far has been incredible a little overcast at times but 55 degrees overnight and 65-75 degrees during the day. But it is supposed to rain this week, we will see. It sounds like some of the more interesting activities will start tomorrow, so I will pick this up later.
Today started on the track. A nice 8 mile morning run including 25 laps around a track. 25 laps is a lot, but that is going to be my running for the next few weeks so I better get used to it. Once that was done and I had eaten a little breakfast we went to the grocery, or as the French call it, the market. It might just be my family, but I think it is French Culture, my host mother, Cate and sometimes Juliette go to the Market almost every day. They don’t keep very much food in the house, the fridge is not a lot bigger than a mini fridge. They simply buy food for the day every morning.
The plan for the afternoon into the evening was to go to the beach where a group of Juliette’s friends were camping. Juliette told me was that her friends were camping so I thought, oh like in the woods. So I did not even think to take a swim suit, which was fine, a good portion of the group was not even swimming and most of the time we were hanging out just above the beach. While it would have been much better had I been able to speak French it was still enjoyable.
In the evening we watched more soccer, Iceland vs England. It was a big game here because the winner would go on to play France. There were 3 goals leaving it 2-1 Iceland just 18 minutes into the game. That was all the scoring, the last 72 minutes went by and the score held up. Now everyone is getting excited for France vs Iceland in the quarter finals. The game ended around 10:40 here, at which point it was not even dark yet, the daylight is from about 7am-11pm, which I enjoy. After that it was off to bed, time to rest up for another day tomorrow.
Today started very early, getting up at 2:15AM to watch the Royals game. I did not make it all the way through the game before falling back asleep, but I was probably one of 3 people in France watching that game. After another track session of what felt like a million laps and a quick lunch we went to the city of Quimper. Here we visited an old cathedral. It is probably the oldest building I have ever been in as it is about 3 times older than the United States. After that we walked around the town, it was like the plaza or legends but with classic architecture. The shops were pretty much the same except for the pastries shop. French pastries are incredible I had Macarons for the first time, not the best cookie ever but very good. Just about anything sweet they make here is great. Along with that I did buy a hoodie that was on sale. It has the softest fabric of any clothing I own and it is beautiful.
I would not be able to be a driver here. What am I the worst at in driving? Parking, I am terrible at parking. Despite the very narrow roads about 70% of parking here is parallel parking on the street. So much of parking is on the street that many cars have a built in feature where when you lock your car your rearview mirrors automatically fold in.
While it was a busy, fun day there is not a lot to say; just a fun day out with a lot of video to edit together.
Today it was up at 7:00AM and out the door at 8:00AM for the 3 hour drive to visit Mont-Saint-Michel abbey in Mont Saint Michel France. It is an abbey set on a manmade island set about a quarter mile off the coast. Built up around it now are all kinds of stores, restaurants and tourist shops. But inside it is still its original architecture for the most part. It has a beautiful outlook over the Ocean with a huge clean white beach. It is incredible to see buildings 4 times older than the country I live in still be in such good shape; to think they made such a massive structure before the modern technology we have to use in construction now. Even with all the work it would take to build an island with a giant abbey on it, they still took time to build in small intricate details.
After the long 3 hour drive home it was back to the track for a brisk 5 miles in a grey slow drizzling rain. But while it looked dreadful was really fairly nice weather to run in. After a laid back evening it was time to get some sleep, and maybe getting up in 2 hours for the Royals game.
Today started with a great run, 7 miles plus a 1 mile cool down, the goal being to do the 7 miles as close to 7:00 minute pace (49:00 minuite total time) without going over. I ran it in 48:58, meaning I was less than 0.3 seconds off per mile so good job by me. In the afternoon we went to visit Brest, a fairly large city just 25 minutes away. The first thing we did was go bowling, I won! Beating Juliette and Cate with my world class score of... 95. We then went to city center, the city is all fairly new except for one old military fort. This is because in WWI the city was leveled by bombings, something I learned about in the city museum located in the old military base. Along with seeing the town centre and the museum we visited a monument tower built in commemoration of the help the USA provided France in WWI. Then we drove to another part of town where one of Cates cousins owns a running shop (similar to Garry Gribbles) I felt right at home there. Then on the way back we stopped at Ikea and got hot dogs, they have great hot dogs.
Back at home we ate dinner and Euro soccer got back under way with a great game between Portugal vs Poland with Portugal winning on PKs. Once that game concluded I went up to my room to turn on the Royals game which would start soon. A fire alarm then went off, I guess it’s a good thing, but boy was it loud. Do not worry mom, there was no fire, just a malfunctioning fire alarm. After that the clock struck midnight and it was on to day 8.
After an easy run and a good lunch we went out to visit the island where I will be racing my 10K. I only saw the first mile the course looks pretty nice. There is maybe 50 feet of sand and a little bit of hill but the footing is nice. The thing that will affect my race is that it starts fairly wide but narrows, so if the race goes out hard I may have to go out hard with it. The issue with public races is that often many runners don’t really understand the pacing for the race. As a result a large group of runners who really are not all that fat go out really hard sometimes boxing in much faster runners, what i can’t have happen is the top runners get out ahead and then get boxed in behind a bunch of people who started too hard. But that aside it looks like a quick course, and if the field is similar to last year I think I have a really good chance to win.
Back at home we had what was labeled as “American Pizza” but it was not really a classic American pizza. It had almost no sauce and it was white sauce, one of them had pickles on it. It was really good but not exactly a classic American pizza. We also had some French pizza. My goodness is cheese strong here. The cheese that thing had was, well interesting. Cate said once you try French cheese you can’t go back to American cheese...well if French cheese tastes like that I don’t think I am going to have an issue. It was a good day; I am getting excited for the race.
So maybe I stayed up late watching baseball again; but it’s not totally my fault, see the Blue Jays were playing an afternoon game with Cleveland. I want Cleveland to lose and Juliette is a Jays fan so it’s 1-1 in the 7th inning at like 10:30PM not that late. Well that game went 19 innings, Cleveland finally breaking through with a solo shot off a position player. By the time I thought maybe I should go to bed in the 14th I was like “I am too far in now, it will end soon.” Then, it was 2:00AM. I got up at 7:30AM to go visit the biggest city in Brittany. Rennes, it was pretty cool, many of the buildings are much newer than the rest of the area. I met my coordinator Marie, she was super nice and it was good to talk to someone in normal English.
One really interesting thing that happened; we walked into an old church to look around, there was a wedding going on. They just left the doors open and the public were free to walk in and watch. We watched for a few minutes as the priest was reading something...I have no idea what I would assume the normal wedding things but it was in French so I really don’t know. Then after shopping and walking around awhile we happened to walk by again as the Bride and Groom were walking out of the church. Their guests and random people clapped and cheered, bubbles were blown and confetti cannons were fired, the whole deal. I thought it was interesting just how open to the public it was. You could walk in sit down and watch the whole thing if you wanted to.
My family has been asking what I eat before races, I said I always eat chicken nuggets but it didn’t really matter. Well I am not going to get them the morning of, but the night before will have to do. We ordered quality nuggets from McDonalds for dinner and watched Germany over Italy in PKs to advance to play the winner of France vs Iceland in the Euro semi-finales. Now I’m going to bed to rest before my race tomorrow.
I actually got a reasonable amount of sleep, didn’t stay up to late watching sports. That’s because the highlight of the day was racing a 10K, so I thought like sleep could be an alright idea. When I got up I stretched a little bit, got ready and we headed out. Martial and his two friend Oliver and Jerry run this 10K every year, them and their families always head out to the island of I’le da Batz where the race is held a couple hours early to have a picnic. Now that picnic was a little too close to the race for me to eat so I ate on the way over, but it was good even if I had already had my food. Then was the actual race. My pacing was a mess, partially due to me racing poorly, partially due to the course. I went out too hard, leaving me tired and running on fumes the last mile or so. The course was tough, lot’s of hills and bad footing (I am calling it Rimrock France.) On top of that, with the race being on a small island the wind was pretty brisk. I ended up with an official time of 39:50, but the course was 500 meters too long so my real 10K time was 37:58, still really not what I wanted. I took 6th overall which is alright, and won my age division earning myself a trophy I now have to figure out how to pack. I am sure TSA will just love it.
Back at home we had a nice dinner, and watched France take on Iceland in the Euro Quarter finals. France won behind 4 first half goals resulting in a 5-2 final score. They will move on to play Germany later this week in the semi-finals. That will be a real tough game as Germany is the reigning World Cup champions. They knocked out both France and the USA in the last world cup, so I have a lot of ammo to root against them. That wrapped up another great day in France.
You know the run was slow when your Nike watch say “Way to get out there” after you are done, that was today. My legs were shot after the race yesterday, so I said I would go run with Juliette. I ran to, from and a little bit at the track with her, but even when I ran a bit myself the pace only dropped to about an 8 pace. But day after a race never feels great, I will get back at it tomorrow.
Today we went back into Brest for a few things. First we dropped off Justine at the apartment she stays in while in Brest for school, she met a friend and went to get her hair done. We then went to IKEA again to do some shopping around and eat more of their fantastic hot dogs. The main reason we planned to go to Brest today was because it is the 4th of July (AMERICA!). In Brest there is a monument in memory of the American soldiers that helped France in WWII. Here they have a little ceremony for 4th of July. What Cate read in the paper this morning was that it started at 5:30PM, however, when we arrived at 5:25PM they sung the American National Anthem, the soldiers did their formations and then it was over. What we saw was around 5 minutes long, but I did my best to honor the country on Americas Independence Day. After that we picked up Justine with her new amber highlighted hair and went home. We had Tacos for dinner so that was great, after that we went to a nearby soccer field and played some frisbee. I don’t think any of them have really played before, which was kinda nice because it made me look pretty good. By the end Martial got the hang of it and the two of us tossed it around for a bit before heading home
Today started with 27 slow, painful laps, but not every run is gonna be great. Really not anything to say about today. We went to the beach in the afternoon, that was pretty cool. I would say the beach is a little overrated tho. A natural beach anyway, there is a lot of seaweed and plants on the edge of the water which is not great, sand gets everywhere and here it’s a little cold to be in the water much (and that water is cold.) But despite all of that it is still a really cool experience too really check out a beach for the first time. At home we had crepes again for dinner which is good, desert being crepe/pancakes with a lot of Nutella. Tomorrow is an early start and off to Paris! So it is time to call it a night and get back to it tomorrow.
Today was day one in Paris. We got on a train at 7:30AM and thus began the 4 hour ride. With the exception of a couple towns, the ride through the west of France to Paris is like driving across Kansas. It’s flat farmland, a few trees here and there and the occasional hill, not a whole lot to look at. The main city of Paris I think is kind of overrated. It’s cool to see the monuments I have seen in book and online, but it's mostly tourist. The streets are packed, people are trying to sell you, you have to be alert of pickpockets and it’s just tourist shop after tourist shop; especially right now while Euro 2016 is going on. Along with that it was hot, not Kansas city 95-100 hot, but in the sun I was sweating. But it was still cool to see the Eiffel tower, walk around the city and ride down the river on a big sightseeing boat.
After the day in the main city we went out to the edge of the city where we were staying for the night. Martial has a cousin, who live out here and they have an extra apartment he uses to teach music to students which they let us stay in. We then went up to their apartment for dinner. That was the biggest food challenge I have ever faced to date. The dinner mainly consisted of zucchini, mushroom, shrimp and possibly muscles. But since I didn’t know these people I just ate it and smiled, it was not as bad as I would have thought but I don’t want to eat it again. They showed us around the part of Paris less seen, not nearly as full which I found to be much more beautiful and interesting than the main city. By the time we were back from that it was time to go to bed, and thus day one in Paris concluded.
Day 14 was day two in Paris. After a breakfast with Martials cousins we went back to the subway and got back into the city. The first stop was the Louve, a pyramid shaped art museum. We did not actually go inside the museum but the building itself is the main attraction, a glass pyramid rising from the ground, surrounded by fountains in the courtyard of a much bigger building. After that we did mostly shopping, which gave me a chance to see the less tourist filled part of the main town. None of us bought a whole lot but we did see a ton of shops. One of which was a massive 5 story shopping center. There was one other store that we actually went to yesterday, Abercrombie and Fitch Paris. It had a very well kept pea gravel and grass entry way with tall trimmed hedges on both sides, with security just to get into the shop at the start of the entryway. Inside was a four story building with immaculate paintings on all the walls, staircases, trim and footing with intricate details, it was the biggest and most incredible single store I have ever been in.
Food here is obviously different, but what is not fair is that they take our food and honestly do it better. When I have had hamburgers here, even from fast food places, they are nice full burgers with appropriately thick well cooked and seasoned meet. Today we went to PizzaHut for lunch; it’s not a fast food place here. It is a classy sit down place with pizza cooked much better than any fast food pizza you can get in America.
After lunch it was still pretty much just shopping and a couple subway rides. Eventually we made our way back to the train station, found our train and got on.
This was the first day we didn’t really do anything. A painful low morning run was followed by lunch. Then later in the day we watched the European championships which were pretty neat. Really the most interesting part was visiting the store with Juliette. That was really it from day 15, a slow, but relaxing day.
One other thing that happened today was Juliette got her junior year Baccalauréat score. The Baccalauréat is the final test for high school and the test that gets you into good colleges, like finals and the ACT in one test. It is taken over two years; you take it for some subjects at the end of junior year and the rest of the subjects after senior year. You get a junior year score and it can be a positive or negative score. This score makes it either easier or harder to pass the test which you have to do to graduate high school. If you don’t pass you have to stay another year in high school. Disclaimer: communication is a little shaky here since I don’t speak French and most people here are not super fluent. So this has all been explained to me, but I very well may have some of the details off.
Juliettes score was +34. I am not sure what the best and worst scores you can get are, but I am told +34 is a good score, so good job Juliette!
This morning’s run was fantastic, one of those runs that are fast but feel effortless. In the afternoon we were going to go to a traditional Brittany dance and music performance in Leon. However we had the date wrong, it was not until the next day. So we went to Roscoff and ate ice cream and crepes by the ocean so that was a pretty good alternative. We also saw another old French church, they are all fairly similar. But it is pretty impressive how long they have all latest and how good of shape they are all in.
For dinner we had a barbecue with some of Juliette and Justine’s friends at one of their houses. I must say they were not great grilling, but after about an hour the charcoal grill was finally ready to use. The group was an entertaining one; some of the attempts at English were fantastic. But to be fair they all know a lot more English than I know French. We got home fairly late. So, I went directly to bed and the day was over.
It was nearly 11:00AM when I woke up and then I didn’t get out of bed for a little while. So by the time I was going to head out to run it was time to eat (The eating schedule is light snack breakfast, early Lunch, afternoon snack and then a later dinner.) So we ate, then after a couple hours I went running, it was a pretty rough run, just didn’t feel great.
Not much to say about the rest of the afternoon, but I have a warning to anyone who may come to France in their life. Please try the mustard before you put it on anything. They don’t really use yellow mustard here, just Dijon. I am not a fan of dijon so until today I just didn’t have any. Well tonight we had hamburgers, Martial put toppings on my burger before dinner and those toppings included mustard. Wow the dijon here is different than what I have had in the USA, it’s real strong. Even after trying to scrape it off (didn’t really work it was soaked into the bun) I could not taste anything but that mustard, and boy did it taste bad. But that’s not what the warning is for, it’s for how incredibly acidic this stuff is. Eating it I find to be physically painful; it burns your mouth and lips. And not in the good way spicy food does, more along the lines of what I imagine drinking bleach would feel like. I really don’t know if I have ever eaten anything I like less than that mustard, I do not understand how anyone enjoys eating that stuff.
After dinner it was the Euro soccer finals between France and Portugal. In the 20th minute of the game Ronaldo, if you are reading this mom he is one of, if not the best soccer player in the world and he is from Portugal, was tackled and injured. He limped off the field but a minute later came running back on to give it a shot on his injured. But after trying to stay on for a few minutes in the 25th minute he could not go on, he went down and was stretchered off the field. With him out of the game my already high hopes for France went way up, they had no excuse to lose now. But lose, they did, after a fantastic game out of the French goalkeeper keeping a clean sheet into over time and making some great saves in the 108th minute a Portugal player had an incredible shot from outside the box that went in and would prove to be the winning goal for Portugal. A loss that should not have happened with Ronaldo out and France on their home turf they controlled most of the game, they missed some really good chances. But in the end it’s only the goals that matter.
It was another normal morning, running then eating. In the afternoon we went into Landerneau a small town not too far away. Our main purpose to go into the town was to see an art exhibit for an early to mid 1900s, Chagall. His paintings were similar to painters like Van Gogh and Monet. But old paintings have never been my cup of tea.
Whenever we are out in the afternoon we always stop at a little restaurant/bar place (they have them everywhere here will little outdoor dining areas) to get something to drink and sometimes a snack. But anyways we did that today while we were sitting there I am pretty sure we ended up in the background of some music video. So if you see a French music video with a girl in a blue dress walking through a crowd in the streets of France look for me in the background sipping a lemonade.
That was pretty much it for the day. Came home, had dinner, hung out for a little while and then off to bed, another day over.
Running and food, it was another standard morning. We went into Roscoff to go to the beach today. We picked up Juliette’s boyfriend and another of her friends to come down with us. First when we got there I got to use a land yacht. Land yachts are pretty much sail boats with wheels that you drive on the beach. You steer but moving the front wheel with your feet and the speed by the tension you put on the sail. It was set up so that you drove around in cone shape taking a wide turn at one end of the driving area and a tight turn at the other end. It took me a few laps to get it down but once I got going I was lapping everyone else. I don’t know how fast I was going but it was a windy day so I was flying around pretty fast. It was a ton of fun!
After that with the other two guys there I finally really went swimming in the Ocean. At first it’s incredibly cold, but once you get running around and swimming it is a ton of fun. I have been in a wave pool before, but it’s nothing like that. You can ride the waves around and stuff, it’s super cool. That was the day, a fun filled day.
This morning started pretty early. It was the MLB All-Star game so I was not going to miss that! Of course, it was at 2AM local time. Totally worth it though, AL won 4-2 Hosmer and Salvy had all four RBI including a home run from both of them in the same inning. Throw on top of that Herrera's 1-2-3 8 pitch inning with a strikeout and Hosmer won the MVP. Now being up from 2-5:30AM may have resulted in a brutal morning run, but the food was good.
Every four years, a big famous boat comes into the harbor. Around this there is a big festival, that was this year.That is where we spend that afternoon. For this they shut down a couple of big streets, and open up a small portion of the Brest military base. There are big event tents set up all over with displays, food and shopping. There are several stages set up for live music performances, you could get on old boats there was even a display with a couple cows and horses. It was a blast, great weather too. That about it for the day tomorrow is the French Independence Day so that should be a lot of fun.
Today was the French National Day, the French 4th of July. Though I must say they are not nearly as over the top as Americans. That meant after my run we went off to a lunch with Cates extended family. It was I guess my first, probably only, classic French meal. A three course two and a half hour meal, the three courses add up to a nice side dish worth of food. Serving sizes not exactly super sized. After that long meal we went to one of Cates sibling’s house. There it was more visiting, which can be a little awkward as I still don’t know much French. When you are in a big group and you don’t know the language it makes you wonder “Are people talking about me and what are they saying?”
Me, Juliette and Justin went to McDonalds for dinner. Pretty much all fast food places here have the automatic food ordering kiosks. Order the food on the screen, pay at the counter, then they bring it to you. It’s great, and French McDonalds is a little higher quality than in the USA. Right around sun down (like 10:00PM) we went to a local park where there was a firework show, it was no 4th of July explosion show, but it was solid. Happy French National Day! Tomorrow is my last full day here...depressing thought, but I am going to enjoy the last day!
Today is my final full day in France. It was my standard start to the morning with a solid run and lunch. Lunch was shrimp, full shrimp head and all I was not even sure how to eat them. Once I was shown how, despite it being much fresher than I have ever had, I just really did not like it. But there was plenty of other food to eat so I was fine. We went to a park with one of Juliette’s friends. It was a super pretty park; it had a lake soccer/basketball area, workout station and a great trail. We hung out there most of the afternoon. We ate dinner, I packed up my suitcase to be ready for the next day and that was the day. My final day was nice I went to bed knowing this was sadly my final night in France
I woke up for my final few hours of the trip. I got up at 7:00AM to run to make sure I had time to be ready to get to my flight. I got home made final preparation for my flight took some final pictures said my goodbyes and got to the airport. I got to my flight, made it to Atlanta. At my gate they said the flight was overbooked about 10 passengers. When they offered a hotel and flight credit they got more than enough volunteers to take the flight in the morning. So I should be good to go and unless something crazy on this flight happens this is where my journal will end. This has been the trip of a lifetime with memories that will last forever. Thank you to everyone for making this trip so great!