“Bonjour, Madame!” Nantes revisited

Between arriving in France and getting to Auch (yep, I’m there!) I spent several days visiting my friend Lise in Nantes.

I lived and studied in Nantes for four months in the fall of 2010 through the IES Nantes study abroad program, so I was already quite familiar with the city: the sites, the major stores, the little cafés and restaurants, the bus/tram system. This made readjusting to France that much easier.

I knew where things were. I was feeling confident about my spoken French. I really felt like I was in my element.

Until I started shopping…

One of the main reasons I wanted to spend a few days in Nantes was to purchase some necessities that might have been harder to come by in Auch, since it’s a much smaller city (ex: sheets, towels, hair dryer, etc.).

I wasn’t thrown by the shopping itself; I was able to buy everything I needed (and several things I didn’t). What did startle me was being greeted as “madame” almost everywhere I went.

The last time I was in France I’m pretty sure I was still a “mademoiselle.” In truth, I don’t really have a solid memory of being called one or the other during my last séjour in Nantes, but the fact that all the “madame-ing” really stood out this time makes me think that it didn’t happen before.

I guess this mean’s I’m out of that awkward not-a-girl-not-yet-a-woman phase of my life, even if I don’t feel quite like a legit grown-up.

I still do plenty of un-grown-up-ly things. I frequently stay up until 2:30 a.m. watching cat videos on YouTube or reading every article on Jezebel. Sometimes I eat candy for breakfast (when in France, my sugar rush of choice is the Bueno Bar). I still don’t know how to balance a checkbook (this one I can at least get away with because of debit cards/online banking).

But now it seems that despite my failings, I can successfully mascarade as a living, breathing adult.

I did some other fabulous things while in Nantes in addition to being consistently greeted in the same fashion as an 80-year-old woman.

1. Overcoming the decalage horaire (time change) by staying up until 1 a.m. (France time and after being awake for roughly 24 hours) eating foie gras, duck confit and pommes de terre à la sarladaise (potatoes cooked in the duck fat); splitting two and a half bottles of wine amongst three people; and watching my new favorite TV show, “L’amour est dans le pré.

2. Having an unanticipated (and very American) IES Nantes Fall 2010 reunion at Burger House. Michael and Andrew are both doing TAPIF this year, Michael in Sarlat and Andrew in Nantes. Michael was also staying with Lise before heading down south, and the two of them serendipitously ran into Andrew at the train station one day.

3. Waiting out a torrential downpour in a cozy café with some Côtes du Rhône

4. Indulging in galettes, crêpes and cidre (brut, of course)

5. Meeting up for lunch with my French friend Astride (who I met while studying abroad) and then for drinks with my friend Hanna (who’s a Whittie and current IES Nantes participant).

6. Wandering around Nantes and photographing my tried and true favorite sites as well as new ones:

Le Passage Pommeraye

The view from Lise’s apartment of the Basilique St. Donatien and the Tour de Bretagne (Nantes’ only skyscraper)

La Cathédrale St-Pierre-et-St-Paul de Nantes

Cobblestoned streets, candy and flâneurs

Le Château des ducs de Bretagne

Stay tuned for upcoming posts about my multi-train (and bus) trip to Auch, my welcome from my responsable pédagogique and my landlord, a tour of my house, and my first impressions of the city.


Click here for more photos from Nantes.



  1. Hardcore judging your fellow IESer for hosting his blog with Weebly. Otherwise I’m just missing you lots kitten!


  2. Concerning the “madame” issue, perhaps they meant a degree of respect, and were trying to flatter you in acknowledging you as a lady (i.e., a true adult), out and about and making her own decisions. Perhaps your confidence level has increased since you were last there, which they are recognizing and acknowledging. Also — I am jealous of that dinner with the duck, etc.!

  3. Mademoiselle, as a word, has now been outlawed in the french language, ahsn’t it? I think that’s why.

  4. […] first time I’d been back to Nantes since my semester abroad (I visited my friend Lise there on my way to Auch and again for Christmas that same year), but it was the first time I’d been back in exactly […]

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