The Spirit of Guillaume

October snuck up on me because one second I was in Summer Mode, riding motorcycles, eating junk food, going camping and playing with cats all day long and then… leaves were falling off trees that were lined up against the remains of a castle in a small town in Normandy.

Which is where I live now.

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View from my window is mostly sky. I love it.

Alençon, located in the southern part of Normandy—maybe an hour and a half by train from Paris and an an hour from Caen—is a small town but not so small that there’s only one street light (lookin’ at you Coupeville!!).

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The leaves are falling! Where’s my PSL?? Oh yeah no Starbs here.

On my first full day here, Nicolas, one of the English professors at Lycée Alain where I live and work, took me on a tour and said something along the lines of: “Coming from America, some of these buildings probably look pretty old to you.”

I didn’t let him know that in my head I was reenacting a scene from Camelot because we were standing at the foot of what used to be an actual castle.

“Yeah,” I said back instead.

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Walk through the small streets until you reach the castle.

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There she is.

Already I feel the spirit of Normandy. The sky is almost always cloudy. The rain is a mist, or a steady drizzle through the night. (As of yet unconfirmed if it rains more here or in Seattle. But to say I’m prepared for this weather is an understatement).

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The rain keeps it green.

There’s also a feeling of strength that I sense coming from the people who live here, whether it’s because they have worked the surrounding farmland for centuries, or because they’ve dealt with the rain, or because they eat tripe and enjoy it.

Or perhaps it comes from Guillaume Le Conquérant aka William the Conqueror. An illegitimate child who faced murder plots and anarchy as a young duke but grew up to successfully conquer England. Maybe it’s a bit of rebelliousness. Or an unwillingness to take anything sitting down.

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Looking for Guillaume.

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In Caen.

Guillaume’s grave and a street cat I named Guillaume. He wanted my crepe.

This weekend, I visited Guillaume’s grave at the Abbey of Saint-Étienne in Caen—just an hour train ride from Alençon. I’m hoping that I gathered a bit of Guillaume’s spirit while I was there because I have my first English classes tomorrow and feel like I’m going to need it.

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In the Abbey, finding some peace. 

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