What are you meant to expect at the crux of two selves? The hardworking daughter my parents know in America plunged into a French world that has been the 6-month payoff of all those years they witnessed.
I expected a hang-up, a glitch, or a code-switching snag, but as they stepped forth into the world I’ve made mine, I felt so authentically me. My parents’ American accents served as a foil for how far I’ve come in my understanding of the language and culture.
Joining me in the wet early Spring of Brittany meant we had the virtue of fewer crowds and a more naturally indicative experience of France as it exists for the French. Not the least of which was provided by the manifestations, or la gréve protests, livening the city streets.
Avoiding the city center, for the most part, drove us to an exploration of the surrounding countryside.
Starting with a trip to the small town of Loheac, we found an expansive collection of vintage vehicles at the “Manoir de l’Automobile.” These cars, covering more than Peugeot, BMW, Ferrari, and even Ford, told a vibrant story of racing and automotive advancement.
Over 400 vehicles occupied the vast space with enough frames to captivate even car unenthusiests.
A small cider bar and empty restaurant hall upstairs suggested a flooded attraction for summertime automotives; though adorned and posed mannequins animated the paraphernalia-related exhibits in the off-season.
We spent nearly three hours wandering down and through the expansive warehouse floors and could have spent another three comfortably examining the details.
At another small-town destination, Fougeres, we discovered chateaux with its surrounding gardens. The nearly-abandoned stone walls articulated an over 1000-year-old story of battle, Brittany, and building development.
You could feel the antiquity in the air as you stood on pilled rock and surveyed the surrounding town within the ancient village walls.
Green grows from these same stacked stones and blooms in violet color. The sky was gray and heavy, the wind softly blowing, and people slowly swaying as they stepped over paths walked a million times before.
We stayed for crepes and a garden walk after our self-led tour reached its end, and the quaint family-run restaurant filled us with the same quiet calm that extended from the time-worn castle facade.
On their last full day, we began seeking something new from the Roche aux Fees in the farm village of Esse. These ancient stones were a humble site, honored as a remnant of a tribal tomb constructed centuries in the past.
Standing in their simple hollowed coverage, you cannot help but be in awe of their structural integrity. In their presence, standing, rock on stacked rock, remaining through the test of time.
The next chateaux we ventured was in Vitre, similarly unpopulated in the offseason and holding the same quiet gray felt so softly in Feugeres. The chateaux location, adjacent to the towns historical main road, led us to the town’s Christian cemetery and through a few token gift shops where we gained region rings and a small stuffed dog, snowy from the classic French comic TinTin.
Rounding out the night with kebab and half a dozen rounds of pool, we felt full sitting in the sunken living room couch of Chat Noir’s converted bar.
Experiencing my France through their eyes, I felt an overwhelming calm. I felt whole, like the person they raised is the person I am, with no contradictions worth crumbling over. Open and, as always, seeking more.