Touring Tours!

10 06 2012

8 juin 2012
Touring Tours!

I’m currently sitting on the TGV (high speed train) gazing out the window at the beautiful fields outside of Paris, France. Yes today, 8 juin 2012, I can finally say I’ve been in Paris! The few hours I was there, as my dad would say, “was a character building experience.”

The day went a little like this…

French Beginning Class~
We just started our french lessons even though we have already been here for almost a week. I felt as though I had the basics down pretty well…until I arrived in Paris.

French Cuisine~
Our professor asked us for an odd assignment prior to coming to class. It was to each bring a large baguette and to find the stinkiest cheese (let me tell you we found it)! This cheese is Angostini’s (our professor) favorite.

I’m traveling to Tours, France with my friends Kelly, Miranda, Jess, Caroline, and Nicole. None of us have mastered the european railway system and none of us have been to Paris. I was warned prior that Paris is a very difficult area to navigate around the train, subway, and bus station. That indeed is extremely true!

On our train from Metz to Paris we worked in some study time memorizing the country locations and their capitals. The French lady sitting across the aisle started talking to us and soon became our life savor and best friend!

I was pretty confident that we would be able to figure out how to get out of the train, get through the subway, and onto the next train in an hour easily. However, now I know there is absolutely no way someone would make their train if they didn’t know it on the back of their hand!

The French lady, who we call Mademoiselle because we never got her name, quickly took us under her wing. As we got of the TGV, the six of us followed her in pairs as if we were her little ducklings. She led us through the extremely busy rush hour,running, to catch our next train. It is all a blur to me now with the hundreds of people running around and my fear of being pick-pocketed.

The subway we needed to catch was up ahead and extremely full. As the sound signaling the subway to depart my anxiety sparked. Nicole and I (buddy system) were the last one to get on and we shoved our way onto the subway as the doors were closing! It was not going to leave us behind!

Never have I felt like I was a sardine more than this moment. Not even exaggerating, I was completely squished touching everyone around me and squeezing onto my bag as hard as I could. It was extremely hot and smelly (let me tell you, not all French people are aware of their oder). I’m glad I was educated prior on pick pocketers because as we were packed like sardines, unable to move, I felt someone behind me graze my pant pockets in search of money or credit cards. I started to panic then took a deep breath knowing that five minutes before getting on the train I secured my credit card so no one could get it (still one of the scariest moments I have had here).

Before our mother duckling, Mademoiselle, got off at her stop she made sure we knew how to get to our next train. We said our goodbyes and watched her wave “au revoir”as the subway took off. She was the kindest lady helping us out and taking us under her wing as if we were her own children. We are extremely lucky she helped us otherwise we wouldn’t have made it to our next train! Especially being we literally ran down the platform and jumped onto the train!

Arrival Tours, France! ~
We made it! The doubt that we had, not thinking we would make it has disappeared and now we are ready to tour Tours!

We arrived at our hostel to quickly freshen up before we got dinner (at 22:30 they still serve food). The hostel is way better than I was expecting. We have two private rooms next to each other that are only 22€ per night, which is extremely reasonable with the amazing location and decent accommodations.

Out for the night I enjoyed delicious trarimusu dessert and a night out on the town. The square was filled with tons of people everywhere and many students our age. We met a few students who are originally from the United States who could relate to our experiences and gave us some suggestions for the weekend.

9 juin 2012
This morning we ventured out to explore the city and came across the local market. As I walked around eyeing the fresh fruits and vegetables it occurs to me this is why the French are so healthy. Every Saturday morning it is common for everyone to go to the market to pick out the freshest food for the week ahead. Continuing along on such a gorgeous sunny day, I try to take in everything around me. The more I people watch the more I see how different Americans live compared to the French. Their lifestyle seems much more relaxed and enjoyable. Instead of rushing through each day having their lives pass on by; they stop to enjoy each moment of the day and every sip of coffee they take (after all… how much you pay for such a small espresso, you better take your time).

Chateau Chambord ~
All dressed up in our finest (well, from what we brought in our backpack) we toured the largest chateau in France. When I mean large, I mean 77 staircases, 282 fireplaces, and 426 rooms! This chateaux is massive! Walking around was a maze and it is easy to get lost. The staircase actually made me dizzy walking down (which is rare because I used to figure skate). We were able to take many pictures and I hope they turn out, but it was challenging to capture the depth and beauty with how massive this place was.

Chateau of Chenonceau,
The Ladies Chateau ~
I have found my palace now all I need is my prince! The last chateau was incredible by its magnificent size, but this was an elegant chateau with beauty and charm. Looking off the balcony onto the courtyard, there are three beautiful green gardens where every bush and shrub is perfectly trimmed and fountains beaming. Each room is perfectly kept up with the original paintings and furniture from when Thomas Boheir and his wife Katherine Briconnet lived there. The location isn’t just great because of the beautiful gardens, but it is also unique because the chateau incorporated the river into its architecture. I looked out the window of the gallery, over the river, watching as canoes and river boats pass below.

There are many other famous chateaus in the Loire Valley we were unable to see. I’m sure all have their own unique personality about them, but what amazes me is how magnificent they are from the time in which they were built.

The evening continued on with a tasty meal, sitting outside in the city square surrounded by a diverse crowed of people. We ate at a pub, enjoying french salads and pizza conversing about our day. Even though we were all stuffed we found room for gelato and sitting around conversing about life before we turned in for the night.

10 juin 2012
A rainy morning it is, we sit at a local café writing in our journals and look trough pictures of the weekend. Today will be a very relaxed day to enjoy the French culture.

Today was an enjoyable day of walking around Tours, a French meal (2 and a half hours long, which is very typical in Europe), and traveling back on the train to Metz.

Tomorrow morning we will be getting on the bus to visit Strasbourg, France to visit the Lorraine Regions Parliament.

Bonne nuisance! (Good night!)
Kyle Ashley

P.S. Sorry I’ll have to post pictures tomorrow, because it’s very late and we have to get up very early for our second field trip!

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