October 2, 2012 § 2 Comments
My last day in France has gotten off to a fantastic start. I ventured to this boulangerie. I ate my escargot, a swirl of flaky pastry, chocolate, and bright green pistachio paste, in a sort of blissed-out daze as I walked along the streets, up to the nearby Canal St. Martin. I bought a loaf of their crusty, pain des amis for later. Now I’m sitting in a coffee shop in Montmartre. I’ve just finished the best cup of coffee I’ve had in ages. If you sit outside, you can see the Sacre-Couer peaking out from behind the stately old buildings.
What’s next? I’m not sure. I can’t wait to see how the rest of this day unfolds.
But I still have Brittany on my mind. My time in the Breton countryside was hardly unpleasant. This volunteer experience just came at the worst possible point in my travels, when I was tired and becoming increasingly disenchanted with farm work and help exchanges in general.
There was so much that made the experience worthwhile.
I worked alongside a diverse group of individuals–students, “tramps,” soul-searchers–all of whom had lots fascinating stories to share.
I ate well. Seasonal, homegrown, and organic foods, with few exceptions. Even the flour was milled on the premises. Country bread so substantial it expanded in your stomach. Rounds of fresh goat’s cheese from my hosts’ fromagerie at every meal. Homemade fig and berry jams and apple-peach compotes. Fresh vegetables from the garden. Bowls of nettle soup. Traditional Breton apple tart and quiche. Subtly sweet rice pudding. Hot mugs of tea with nothing more than a few sprigs of lemon balm.
I baked bread. I spent an entire day mixing and measuring dough, shaping loaves and boules, and learning how to maneuver the long wooden paddle used to guide the breads into the wood-fired oven.
I helped produce some of those rounds of goat’s cheese I ate with abandon.
I knew if I couldn’t be happy here, then I couldn’t be happy anywhere else. This meant it was time for me to go.