A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Mt. Saint-Michel

The only thing I was worried about was catching the bus from Rennes to Mt. Saint-Michel itself. The online schedule was confusing and the only directions were vague; something about going 50 meters north of the train station and voila! You were all set. We arrived on time and stood in front of the station looking around for a bus that definitely wasn't there. At the last minute we realized that the building off to the right of the station proper (east, fool, not north) was the bus station...but it turned out that the bus had left an hour earlier and the next one wasn't until that evening.

We stumbled back out onto the street and a funny little dude came up and, in French, asked if we needed a ride. Five minutes later we had hired a part-time minibus driver who picked up stranded tourists at 20 euro a head on his days off and drove them to St. Michel in his little Peugeot. I proceeded to discover a few things:

* I can understand French just fine, as long as the speaker is from Normandy or Bretagne.
* I can carry on a conversation in French for an hour just fine...as long as the speaker is from Normandy or Bretagne. They speak SO much more clearly and SO much slower than Parisians. I was thinking "he's talking like a French class!" the whole time I was in the car.
* It's pretty in NW France.

An hour later we were there. In mid-December, along the English Channel, while it was pouring cold rain back in Paris, it was a gorgeous blue day over St. Michel. We got our hotel room (real bathroom! TV!), we took about 160 pictures each (must create new set in flickr!), and we ate tasty food (little fancy pizzas and a bottle of cotes du rhone!)

The next day, the trip back went as planned: we were there when the bus showed up and the TGV always seems to run on time. It was a crazy 36 hours, but by 8pm we were back in the little apartment on the Ile St. Louis.

I highly recommend checking out my many pictures, some of which are pretty (the ones with B in them and/or Mt. Saint-Michel.)


Kelly said...

you know, I had French teachers from the North and they seemed easier for me to understand also. I'm glad not to be the only one.

Dolce Vita said...

Your discoveries and Kelly's comment remind me of one of my best French professors. She was from Nantes and explained that only Bretons and Normandise (?) spoke high French (or good French). Parisians did not, nor did those patois speakers from the South. She said this in such a matter-of-fact way that there was no disputing her. And my experience bore this out. I made a similar discovery to yours, KFR. And found the same in Bourgogne. (Another reasons to escape Paris.)

Rachel said...

would that be because they didn't use to speak French and were taught it in school?

Mont St Michel in on my list. :) Looks like y'all are having a great time!

noncoupable said...

The Bretons are a bit...stubborn. If you end up with one of them as a teacher/professor *after* having a Parisian, Toulousain, Belgian, etc as a teacher then you realize this. If not, you go on your whole life thinking that everyone should speak like the Bretons. I think it's also a bit suspicious that people so passionate about being Breton choose to leave Bretagne as soon as they turn 18 but hey, that's just the Toulousain and Parisan in me talking. ;-)

noncoupable said...

PS I love your Mont St Michel pictures. Reminds me of going there when I was about 10. Except that the highlight of the trip was my brother playing puppet games with a giant prawn head from my father's dinner plate.