True courage is easily quantifiable. It is measurable. It is a valuable method by which we can judge ourselves. Recently, I discovered something about courage in the most unlikely of places…. France.
It was with great trepidation that I made my way by planes, trains and automobiles to the city of Nantes. My head was full of confused prejudices. It was as if I remembered that I wasn’t supposed to like France, but was unable to put my finger on exactly why. Stereotypes aside, I had absolutely no idea what I was letting myself in for. Nantes. Nantes. In my English accent it sounds like the plural for a group of nuns. A Pride of Lions and a Nantes of Nuns.
Imagine my delight when I discovered that Nantes is not actually a group of nuns, but a rather enchanting city. Nantes boasts a magnificent gothic cathedral (from the outside at least) with a collection of gargoyles which look like photographs of my family, two rivers, an incredible mechanical elephant and a charming old town which gives Nantes a vibe which made my inner Bohemian drink absinthe with joy. On top of that we were lucky enough to be visiting during Le Voyage a Nantes, an artistic trail featuring countless art installations which essentially give the city the equivalent of Bohemian warp speed, so much so that I am sure that I can play the accordion just because I have visited there.
Another highlight was the visit to Parc du Puy du Fou. The park is a kind of theatrical theme park which gives children and adult children alike, the opportunity to both walk through and observe different ages. We watched Musketeers, Knights, Vikings and Gladiators leap and dive and slice and stab with such a swashbuckling panache that my swash was well and truly buckled. There were a few oddities, such as the fact that every child in France appeared to be there, that the actors were all miming from a recording and that the Vikings only pillaged and didn’t rape. The highlight of the day was a simply astonishing display of over forty different species of birds of prey.
They swooped over us at such a close proximity that if I would have reached skywards I would quite probably have been able to touch them. However I have always enjoyed having two arms, and didn’t see any reason to change that. Parc du Puy du Fou is worth a visit for the birds alone, and that’s no disrespect to the astounding special effects and the incredible cinema-like sets. Without a doubt Parc du Puy du Fou is truly a unique experience.
Part and parcel of travelling is always the stories you go home with. None make me smile as much as the morning I volunteered to go the boulangerie to buy a baguette. I entered the shop and said heartily ‘La Baguette’. The man behind the counter merely pointed at the 6 variations standing behind him. Panic set in as I realised that I had absolutely no idea which I should take. Despondently I muttered the word ‘shit’. The man then handed me a baguette. As I walked back to the flat I was somewhat panicked as I privately feared that I had inadvertently bought a shit baguette. Our host then explained that it was a traditional baguette which only served to confuse me further as I thought that a traditional baguette would be a fairly good one. Regardless of what type of baguette it was I can happily inform you that it definitely wasn’t shit.
Was this the courage I mentioned? Was it the courage to buy a baguette solo? Not really. The courage to stay calm when you are terrified that an eagle is going to shit on your head? Not exactly. It is the courage to admit that you were wrong. After all, it must be difficult or everyone would do it. Now where did I put my beret…..