It's because, as soon as I'm done, that's it.
There's something special about reliving something for the first time that's almost as good as doing it in the first place. After re-telling it the first time, it's not special anymore.
See what I do for you all? I hope you're happy.
In the interest of time, today's post is going to be a fast-forwarded version.
After Mont St. Michel, we went to another town. (If I really cared enough, I could look up on the itenerary, but I don't care enough. Sorry.) It was pretty cool. (Descriptive, I know.) This was also the town where Ariel and I really started to hang out. We walked around for a few hours, speaking in franglais and bonding. It was a good time.
We stopped at this town on our way to our next hotel. Which was in the middle of nowhere. Which means we had nothing to do.
It occurs to me that I don't think I ever spoke about Caen, the city we stayed in first. So here goes that: It was beautiful. The perfect size. There was a giant free concert the night we were there. I also spent about two hours wandering around the town with a couple people because we got lost on the way back to the hotel... Oops. It worked out, so no worries. Out of all the towns we visited, Caen was my favorite. It was also the place where I had my first cafe au lait. Thank you, Caen for my new addiction to coffee! Now on to more stuff:
Before every new place we visited, someone had to read about it on a sheet we were handed, summarize it, and present the summary to the class. On the bus. With Roby and Beth grading/correcting us. It was a little intimidating. I did this town. I don't remember much other than it's in a star-like shape because it used to be a fortress. We walked around and visited a fish museum. Seriously. That's what it was called. The fish museum. Only in French, of course.
This boat was a part of the museum. We got to go on it. I almost fell into the ocean.
That crab is bigger than I am, fyi. They had lots of fish. And boats.
Then we got back on the bus and traveled some more and ended up at another cathedral. It was gorgeous, like they all are.
That's the pulpit. Not kidding.
While we were walking out of this town and back to the bus, I remember walking with Marcus. Sidenote: By this point in our trip, we have realized that literally EVERYONE in France is gorgeous. When we were walking through town on our way back, Marcus says, "Even the mannequins are gorgeous." And he was right.
The most exciting part of this hotel was the langoustines and one of the managers/servers/guys who owned the restaurant. Think really big shrimp things. They were very creepy to look at but delicious. The man, whose name I can't remember and it's going to drive me crazy for awhile, was hilarious. He spoke in a high-pitched voice, a little like Mickey Mouse. His manneurisms were hilarious too. We spent a lot of time after this impersonating him.
After spending two nights at that place, we packed up on the bus and headed out again. We first stopped at the monoliths. They're basically huge rocks, like Stonehenge, that no one knows how they got here or what they're doing. Only Stonehenge is a little more picturesque.
Second picture included for sizing reference.
And now, we start the chateaux! The rest of the trip was filled with chateaus. The first one we visited was Angers (ahn-jay). Angers is also the site of the semester-long study abroad program in France. Justin, who at this point was planning on spending his Spring semester in Angers, was freaking out a little. While Angers isn't the most striking out of all of them, (it mostly looks like a fortress), the gardens that surround it are beautiful.
View from the top of the tower
We all sat on the edge and looked out in the city. It was a long way down. But the view out to the city was great. There are pictures on Facebook, somewhere.
I think that was the end of the day. I don't remember. Sorry.
The next chateau on our list was the Chateau Royal de Blois. It had about four different architectural types built into it and had a very rich history. Lots of queens, kings, etc. I don't remember the details. But it was pretty. When you walk in to see the chateau, you enter into a courtyard. The next three pictures try to show what the chateau looked like, in panoramic. Sort of. Hopefully you'll be able to see the architectural styles.
It was still raining that day. Very badly.
I think we got on the bus and headed to the next chateau. Where we ate lunch and then toured the chateau on our own. It was the most fairtyale like of all of them. Le Chateau du Chambord.
During lunch, Ariel and I decided that we were going to speak entirely in French from that point on, so we would get better at speaking. (We were speaking in French the whole time too until we had a guest join us for lunch and he ruined it. Bleh.)
Notice it is no longer raining.
The gardens that are behind the chateau
Most of the group, overlooking the gardens
From here, we went on to another chateau, for which I have the name written down wrong. Sorry. Also, my camera(s) were dying at the point, surprise surprise.
You had to walk through a forest to get to it first
Do you see the part that looks a little funny? It was under construction/renovation. This has happened/will continue to happen at EVERY place we go to that we actually want to see/take pictures. It gets really annoying.
The gardens here were the most impressive, too. Also, this chateau is mostly photographed from the other side of the river.
We were here much longer than we needed to be, but that's okay. Seven of us, or so, ended up hanging out at a cafe nearby. We chatted for at least an hour. It was grand. Then we got back on the bus and headed back to Tours (the city where our hotel was).
The next morning, we headed off to another chateau. (Are you tired of them yet? Because I was.) But this one was super cool. it was called le chateau du Clos Luce. Also known as Leonardo Da Vinci's home. It was the coolest thing ever.
Except we got lost on our way there.
Beth, because she had to run into a store with another student, walked us part way there. Then she said, it's that way, and pointed us in the right direction. Now, there were signs, but they weren't very clear signs. We were walking for a while, and then we got stuck. We were arguing over which way the arrows were pointing. Marcus decides to step up and ask a girl where the cheateau is, and she points us in the right direction.
So, by this point, Beth had joined us again. We keep walking and come up to a big stone building, lots of steps, and the word chateau on its sign. We get all the way to the entrance. When Beth goes up to buy tickets, she realizes that we are, in fact, at the wrong chateau. Who knew, right?
All of us, walking up to the wrong chateau. Cue laughter.
So we walk down and keep walking, and walking, and walking...
Seriously. We walked for a good twenty minutes. We kept thinking we were getting lost again. But, sure enough, there would be another sign and we would truck on. Here's where we ended up.
Sadly, we were not able to take pictures inside. They had models of his inventions, both big and large, diagrams, explanations of everything... I was in awe. This was also the place where I bought my first book of the trip. I would buy nine books by the time I came home.*
In additon to his home, they had a huge garden/park area where there were full-sized, working models of his inventions. Sadly, I didn't know this until we had about five minutes left. I frantically ran around, trying to get pictures of all of them before we left. So I couldn't really enjoy them all. But that's okay. I hope you do.
I hope somebody recognizes this.
After this, Roby had another surprise for us. We went to a winery. We got a tour of the place, got to watch wine being bottled, and then had a tasting. It was an experience.
Those are all bottles
Tours was also the city where we got to run around a lot. On our last day in Tours, we finished with the chateaus around noon. This was fantastic, as we had the last day to run errands. (Yes, I realize you're reading this out of order. I don't care.) This was the day Ariel and I bought our French phones and I bought the third Harry Potter book in French. I also found this:
You have no idea how hard it was not to buy those.
After that, we went back to Tours for our last night.
That last night was a blast. I went out with everyone. A big group of us ended up in an outdoor square, with tables for every cafe/bar in it. We sat for a couple hours, hanging out, drinking the best beer I've ever had in my life, and overall having a good time. We also met a French girl who was moving to Arizona for a year. That was entertaining.
Definitely stole this from Facebook. That big tower thing was full of beer.
The next morning, we started to head back to Paris. But first, we made a quick stop at Chartres first.
And, of course, because I was looking forward to it, there was construction everywhere. On the front, inside, ugh... I was really upset. Especially after I recognized it from my art history book.
See what I mean?
Stations of the cross
The Virgin Mary's veil
We then got back on the bus (for the last time) and traveled for several hours back to Paris. Our goodbyes to Roby were very abrupt and mostly non-existent because he was parked illegally and couldn't stay there. I was very upset. We then carried our luggage across the street, into the building that would be our school for the next four weeks. It resembled nothing like a school. I have pictures, but they don't make any sense unless I am able to sit next to you and point things out to you. Sorry.
We were split up and taken in to take our oral placement test. Yes, you read that right. We had to take an oral placement test right after we got off the bus, after over a week of traveling. It was a good time. We also met Professor Hayes here. After our placement tests, we all gathered in one room, and were given the run-down of what was going to happen. Our maps. When we were meeting. Our metro passes. Then we were set loose, told to take the metro to our host families.
Now THAT was an adventure.
The metro is full of stairs. We were warned about this. We were told to pack light. I still have no idea how my bag ended up being 50 pounds. Not to mention, this was our first time riding the metro. We really had no idea what we were doing. And it was rush hour. And we had giant suitcases. And we were all tired.
It was a giant cluster. But we made it. Emily, my roommate, stayed with a different host family for the first two nights because our host mother was out of town and couldn't meet us. When we arrived at the right apartment, we couldn't get into the building. We tried the code several times but it never worked. We were distraught. We tried everything, including calling the number we had been given for this host mother. She never answered/we couldn't hear anything each other was saying. We had to call Professor Hayes and ask for help. After about ten minutes, we made it in, had dinner, and went to bed.
The next day, since it was the weekend, we had to ourselves. We spent it walking all over the city. We started here:
I'll talk about that tomorrow. I hope today's fast-forwarded edition was too speedy for you.
It occurs to me that these stories probably aren't very entertaining when they're on fast forward. If you want me to re-tell them, talk in more detail, etc., please ask me the next time you see me. I promise the least I can add is more hand gestures.
*Does that really surprise you?