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side bar
Wednesday, December 6, 2023


Apparently Batman likes to hang out at clubs in France

During our first weekend in Angers, France, there was the grand opening of Quai D’Angers, a theater that features concerts and other events. To celebrate the occasion, the theater hosted a grand fireworks show near the Maine River. This show was witnessed by a large crowd, including many of us Americans, and was unbelievable. It was an early indicator to me that France would be very fun.

After the opening, most of my Houston friends headed to the Soft Bar for its Friday night event: Salsa Night (yes, there’s salsa dancing in France – the country’s versatile). My roommate Willie Wright and I decided to go to Centreville instead to meet a few local friends from our university who had invited us to accompany them to a club with "American music" (a cure for our slight homesickness).

While waiting for them, we heard a voice shout our names. We turned and saw Lisa Nguyen, a Houston friend, sitting on the outdoor patio of Brasserie Au Bureau, a Centreville pub, so we stopped by. This was one of the trip’s many spontaneous moments and also one of many times that, because of Angers’ small size, I ran into either an American or local who I knew. It was also here where I heard, for the first of many times, the song "Relax" by Mika, which was a huge hit throughout my stay in France. And it was also here that I witnessed another first: a guy in a Batman costume drunkenly attempting to withdraw Euros from an ATM.

Later, in our neighborhood, Wright and I again ran into Houston friends, Daryl McDowell and Stephanie Chiquillo, who had been at Soft with everyone else. They informed us that another friend, James Cox, was at a club called Le Dome, and we decided to meet him there.

At Le Dome, we ran into Batman again, this time even drunker. After paying the 10 Euro entrance fee, we entered Le Dome and, sure enough, Cox was in the middle of the dance floor, surrounded by locals. One of the odd things about Le Dome was the playlist, which consisted solely of American songs from the 1960s. As Cox precisely summarized: "We were doing ‘The Twist’ all night." I celebrated a little when a 1980s song came on because it was the most current song I had heard.

Along with the music, the club’s vibe was strange, so we never went back. By the time we left Le Dome, it was 4 a.m. In France, clubs close at 4 a.m., not 2 a.m. Since Cox’s house was very far from Le Dome and the house where Wright and I were staying was nearby and had an extra bed, he crashed there – the next morning’s episode was hilarious.

As Cox was leaving our house, he ran into my host-brother Hugo Nicolaus, and I introduced them. After my host-mom Isabelle Nicolaus heard Cox’s voice (which she’d never heard), she quickly walked in the room. Cox, who, like all of us early on in the trip, was new to speaking French, took 30 minutes to explain to my host-mom (a complete stranger) how he ended up in her home. The surprised look on her face was classic. Amazingly, she didn’t get mad. Everyone’s French improved throughout the trip because of situations such as this where speaking French was the only option.

After the Le Dome fiasco, we were determined to find a better discotheque, or nightclub. Our host-brother Nicholaus laughed when we told him about it, saying, "That place is strange." Luckily, his friend then told us about one of Anger’s best clubs: Le Mid’Star. So, the next Friday – the day before our weekend excursion to Paris, which began with our class meeting at 7:45 a.m. Saturday – we went to Mid’Star. This club was larger, more modern and much better. It featured strobe lights, modern American songs and hours of trance songs that were, judging from the crowd’s reaction, apparently hits in France but were new to my ear. While Cox and Wright remained on the dance floor throughout the night, I left the floor and walked around the club at 3 a.m., thinking, "I don’t think I should be on a dance floor at three in the morning: I have to wake up in a few hours to go on the excursion." So I sat down and conversed in (mostly broken) French with those around me. I made some new friends, such as a local who had studied abroad in the U.S. It was times like this that made me realize how people all across the world have much in common.

We took a taxi home and I was in bed at 5:30 a.m. – just hours before our class was scheduled to meet at Anger’s gare (train station) to go to Paris. But, there was a problem. Wright and I didn’t wake up at 7 a.m., thanks to a faulty alarm clock. Instead, Wright burst into my room around 7:30 a.m., urging me to get up. I knew the serious tone of his voice meant trouble, and the late time showing on the clock confirmed that.

Luckily, our bags were packed for Paris. Without time to eat breakfast or even wash up, we hectically ran out the door and proceeded to run through the empty streets of Angers on a Saturday morning to the gare, which was 20 minutes away from home. We had to be there at 7:45 a.m. or we’d miss our class’ train ride to Paris. Did we make it? Stay tuned for the next part of this series to find out.

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