Dragons, Road Trips and a Whole New World

“This is the kingdom-dom! This is a kingdom-dom!”

All I will remember about the eight hour drive from one side of France to the other, squished in between two squabbling kids, is that one refrain. Shouted. On a loop. In a distant monotone voice. Imagine Dragons, why you gotta be kiddie catnip?? At least it stopped them fighting over whose turn it was to play Cut the Rope.

We left Brittany and headed to Nancy, swapping out one set of grandparents for the other. When you’re volunteering with a family you really have no idea where you’ll end up next! And not only was I switching locale, stepping into my new home was like stepping into a whole new world (and I didn’t dare close my eyes. Sorry, couldn’t resist).

The Brittany grandparents lived in a big house on a spotless plot of land that was presided over by an angry, domineering grandpa whose patriarchal outbursts towards his wife left a bitter taste in my mouth. She just laughed off his exclamations of “Oh-lalo-lalo! M’énerve! Pas possible!” I was more of a fulltime babysitter than an English tutor and everything I touched had to be wiped down. Because obviously fingerprints are the devil. Now don’t get me wrong, they were nice and I had a good time, but it certainly wasn’t what I would call relaxed. Especially when I managed to break my 200 year old bed! And not in the way you’re thinking, oops.

Enter house number two: a tiny little two story semi-detached nestled in between the science and sports faculties. Immediately I was greeted by a house full of young adults (the children’s aunts and boyfriends) and after a quick shower was handed a martini and a bunch of goodies (French magazines, local sweets, maps of the area, a ten trip bus pass etc…). A great start to a fun ten days.

The mornings were spent working through the children’s summer holiday exercise books and then, after a delicious lunch with more cheese than I could handle, I was free to explore Nancy. Nancy is really beautiful and an awesome mix of old and new. As the biggest city in the Loraine region and a university town to boot, there was a lot of life and plenty of things to see. I explored museums, the old town, the park, the main shopping district, and of course Place Stanislas- the impressive town square with gold gates.

Statues at Stanislas
Dragons at Stanislas

On my very last night one of the aunts and some of her friends took me to the square where every evening at 11pm there is a light show. Sitting at one of the cafés sipping red wine we watched as images and lights and all sorts of mind blowing things were projected onto the facades of the surrounding buildings. It was all accompanied by an assortment of music by Edith Piaf, Massive Attack and older classical pieces.

We spoke in a mixture of English and French, substituting one for the other when we got stuck. Having been on similar language learning trips to England or Australia they were well aware of what it’s like to live in a foreign culture so were quick to make me feel welcome. And share stories of drunken nights and bad hangovers.

The next morning the time had arrived to say good-bye to the children. It was weird to think that after living with them for two and a half months I would probably never see them again. But at the same time I was pleased to be free from the torrents of “Let’s play zombie!” “You’re a bird and you have to chase us” “I DON’T WANT TO WORK, IT’S NOT FAIR!”

I boarded my train and watched out the window as Nancy disappeared. This marks the end of my Workaway times, at least for now. Onto the next adventure!

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