Au Revoir

After four weeks of “school” in Toulouse with some really great new friends, another four weeks in Moncaup with my phenomenal host family, and two weeks in Italy…I’m finally headed back to the U.S. 

Writing this in London’s airport during my six hour layover, I have plenty of time to reflect on my experiences while being in Europe….

1. I love France, more than I was expecting too when I initially decided to come here. It’s amazing how a place so far away from home can feel like a second home. 

2. French is really really really difficult to learn. I have so much respect for those who attempt to speak it.

3. Eating is equivalent to a sacred ritual…and it’s great. 

4. Stereotypes aren’t always true…

5. The world is a huge and small place all at once 

6. Most importantly, I’ve met so many wonderful people from all around the world. (And some not so wonderful people too) 

I’m sure there’s more but I’m not feeling very poetic…

Things I’ll miss: 

  • Garden fresh tomatoes 
  • Wine with every meal 
  • Kissing on the cheek to greet people 
  • The metros 
  • Not having to tip 
  • Cheese courses 
  • Layout of the towns and cities 
  • My host family 
  • Buenos bars, Orangina, Madelienes 

Things I can’t wait for in the U.S.:

  • Chik-fil-a & chipotle
  • Air conditioning
  • Screens on windows 
  • English 
  • My closet 
  • Driving 
  • Using my phone while not on Wifi
  • One dollar bills instead of one and two euro coins 
  • My puppy 
  • Friends, family, etcetera

Can’t wait till we meet again Europe, it’s been real ✌🏼️

The End

El Fin 

(Note: this is a very very delayed post)

Salut!

So today was my last day in Moncaup with my host family and I am now safely back to Toulouse with all of the other students. It’s a bittersweet day to have to leave my internship because as much as I wasn’t really expecting it to happen, my host family became like a second family to me. It is weird to think that I am not coming back any time in the foreseeable future when there have been so many times I’ve looked forward to “going home” and I mean to Clos Baste (mostly after hot days in the vines when I’m starving or when I’ve been stuck in the car with all of the girls for an extended period of time and they’re fighting). I am so lucky and grateful to have been assigned to this family. I really feel like I gained three sisters out of the experience and I will miss them terribly. Then there’s the parents and the rest of the family who I could barely share any conversations with, but who treated me like one of their own family members. It has been an amazing experience to get to know the Mur’s (literally all of them) and today I’m wishing the ocean wasn’t such a big place so they weren’t so far away. 
One the bright side…I am excited to be back in Toulouse and understand what people around me are talking about. You never really realize completely how valuable language is until you’re the only one left out of conversations because you speak English (I mean it is a universal language…). I’m looking forward to the next day and a half or so that we all have together in Toulouse, but I know that too will end and I’ll have to say goodbye to 60 people who have become so important to me in such a short amount of time. I hate goodbyes. (My oldest sister Claire left yesterday for vacation and I cried) one last night all of us together on the town tonight and I’m very excited. 
Tomorrow we are all to give presentations on our internships. I know that some people have worked ten hour days Monday through Saturday, and others, like me, have worked much less. For example…I haven’t worked since last Friday and got three other days off before that. Hopefully everyone is entertained by my family vacation stories rather than my work stories. I doubt there will be any complaining. Friday is my last day in Toulouse essentially since I leave for my flight to Paris around 5 am 😦 
Next stop…Italy! 

Alle a le Montagne

Salut!

So another week has gone by at my internship in Moncaup. It has been an unconventional work week, but a fun one!

Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday: we worked the usual day… can’t remember what else because it has been a while and the days are starting to blur together.

Friday: no work for me because Claire went to her friend’s house and since she didn’t have to work, neither did I apparently.

Saturday: resting day before the mountains. Also, it was Amelie’s “surprise” that we were going to all eat dinner on the couch and watch TV. Although it was a cute idea in theory, it didn’t really work out that well with the five of us and two very small tables full of food.

Sunday: we left to go to the Pyrenees with two aunts and uncles, and two of the cousins (Elise and Francois). We were staying in a refuge that night that we needed to hike to in order to get there. I think it took about two hours and we were eventually to an elevation of 1804 meters by the time we were finished. The refuge was on the most beautiful lake, Lac d’Estom. We had lunch on the lake and hung out there for a few hours before the sun went down behind the mountains and it got cold. Later we had dinner at the refuge and Manon, Francois, Elise and I tried to play Monopoly. Operative word there being “tried” because they didn’t know how to play and I couldn’t explain the instructions well enough in French. So that was a lost cause. Sleeping in a refuge….it’s not fun. Especially with strangers. I think the room that we were in had 16 beds and we took up ten of them. Also, luckily for us we got to sleep in the room with all of the young children. Needless to say, the kids woke up in the middle of the night whining and crying….then Phillipe and his brother were snoring…and it was one million degrees. I didn’t sleep much that night.

Monday: we hiked again. This time we ended up being just under 3000 meters in elevation. Our final destination was another lake, Lac de Labas, that was equally beautiful as Lac d’Estom. The hike to get there was pretty intense, but really fun at the same time! We got high enough to reach the snow on the mountains which is something I’ve always wanted to do (mostly just to touch the snow and have a snowball fight while it’s warm) and we also got to cross some pretty intense paths that had moving rocks. I say pretty intense, but really I was terrified I was going to cause an avalanche and was so hesitant every time I took a step. I was so slow and everyone thought I was hilarious…I was just trying to be safe. Anyways…we ate lunch at the lake and traveled back down to the refuge and then down to the car so we could head to the grandparents house to eat dinner. Side note: climbing down a mountain is much more difficult than climbing up it. It takes less time, but it’s much harder on the body I think.

Tuesday: BASTILLE DAY. But they don’t call it that in France. I tried to ask so many people about it and no one had any idea what I was talking about until I said the actual date. It’s known as la fete de nationale or quatorze juillet here in France. The Tour de France was coming through a nearby town that day so we went out to watch which was something I was really excited about because I was hoping to see Le Tour de France since before I even got to France. Anyways…we set up a little area on the side of the road that the cyclists were going to ride down and waited for the parade to start. Way in front of the actual cyclists there is a huge parade that comes through that has all of the companies that sponsor the race. They all play music and have floats that are themed with bicycles and they all throw out free stuff. (Including Madeleins, yum) The parade lasted about half an hour or so and we had tons of free stuff from hats, to snacks, to magnets and key-chains. We divided all the stuff up between all the kids and myself then had lunch before the cyclists came through. We were at the beginning of the route so most of the cyclists were still in a pretty big pack but the guys in first and second place were pretty far ahead of the rest of the pack. I think they ended up winning that stage. I was really looking forward to fireworks, thinking that Bastille Day would be similar to Independence Day. However, there are apparently only really fireworks in pretty big cities so I waited up until 11 or so to watch the firework show in Paris on TV. They had a huge concert with an orchestra for a few hours in front of the Eiffel Tower and then had a miraculous fireworks show afterwards.

Wednesday: First day back to work…really exhausting. Moved the lines up on the posts with Claire for a while and then removed pumps.

Thursday: Pumps and de-leafing. I found two baby birds nests in the vines, one that was empty and the other that had the ugliest little baby birds inside. They must have just came out of the egg because they barely even looked like birds at all.

Pictures don’t really want to upload with the Wifi so they will have to wait.

A bientot!

I love mountains

I love mountains

Vines Vines Wines 

Salut!

So here’s a recep of my first full week here at Clos Bastè since I don’t update that often. 

Wednesday: we removed all the pumps (not sure if it’s the same word in English or not) from the vines. If you don’t know what they are, they’re these pesky and unwanted stalks that are growing at the bottom of the vine. (My terminology is really bad, sorry) so basically you go around every. single. vine. and remove them with shears. Since they’re at the bottom, it means you’re either bent over for about five hours of the day or you’re doing squats for five hours, your method of choice. It only gets better when the sun starts to blaze (102 degrees that day) and the bees start to swarm you. Obviously I love this part of the job. Anyways, we are something delicious for lunch and then went to work in the barn where Phillipe carries out the enology part of owning a vineyard/winery. The girls and I and Andreas all helped with packaging of the bottles that day. 

Thursday: we worked again at the vines removing the pumps. There’s 10 hectares of vines so this takes a few days to complete. Had lunch, no work for the rest of the day.

Friday: day three of pumps. Had lunch, relaxed and went to give some tastings at a small local market in the evening. 

Saturday: INDEPENDENCE DAY. But really know one cares about that in France. I hung out with the girls for the day and we all went to a basketball banquet for the teams that Claire and Manon play for. It was a little awkward at first being introduced as the American and not being able to tell people about myself because my French is terrible. So who knows what all these strangers actually thought of the mute American girl. It got better though and I spent a lot of time playing with Amelie and running around with her causing a scene. We had a delicious dinner of finger foods and duck hearts (I couldn’t bring myself to try them) then there was dancing. The later that the night went on the more I realized I was almost at a Fourth of July party because there were red and blue decorations, loud music, beer, finger foods, and cotton eyed joe was playing. Surprisingly enough, the French have a lot of dances that they do in groups (like how the U.S. does the cha cha slide or Cupid shuffle). Manon and I danced to cotton eyed joe and then Chantal came out of nowhere and took me to dance with her to some song in French that I think the objective was to look like a dancing penguin. We had a good night overall. 

Sunday: Phillipe, Claire, and I went to a blueberry farm to a farmers market to sell some of the wine. This was my first time doing something like this and I wasn’t sure 1. How popular it would be at the market 2. How popular Phillipe’s wine was/is. The answer to both is very. The market was overflowing with people from about 10-3 and from my opinion, Phillipe was making a killing. Also noted, the French buy wine in huge quantities. Anyways, Claire and I chowed down on some blueberries all day and packaged up the various orders. I greeted people as they approached our booth and then they would babble something to me in French. Luckily, I didn’t get any disgusted looks when I said I was American and only spoke a little bit of French. Phillipe told some people all about what I was doing in France and they seemed impressed, I just wish I could have told them myself. Sometime during all of this we had lunch that included patè, escargot, and white cheese sorbet. All very different (the sorbet especially), but tasty. Claire and I sat next to the woman who was playing music and she was coincidentally from New York and told me she took a summer trip to Europe and never came back. She’s lived in France for twenty years now. Just in case you were curious. 

Monday: no work, but still an early day. We woke up at 8 to take Amelie and Manon to various aunts and uncles houses because they’re going camping for the week with their cousins. I also met Chantal’s parents who speak no English just like her. Luckily I was able to make out some of what they were saying so that I could somewhat impresse them with the fact I wasn’t completely ignorant in terms of the French language. Claire and I then went with another aunt to her house and then to her grandpas house to go swimming for the day. We had a delicious lunch and spent the day by the pool. We had a pretty long drive home and stopped to have McDonalds for dinner. I asked if they took me there because I was American, but they said they loved it as much as Americans do. So in total I went to 4 different homes, met four aunts, three uncles, and two grandparents in addition to the family I’ve already met. They’re all so close even though there’s so many of them and it’s really adorable in my opinion.

Gotta get to sleep so I can cut some pumps bright and early tomorrow!

Au Revoir!  

Setting up for the marchè fermier

  

Pulp Fiction

 

This is Amelie. She’s even more precious in person

  

Claire and I selfie-ing

 

Je Ne Suis Pas

(Je ne suis pas means I don’t know in English. Pretty much sums up how I feel hearing this much French)

Bonjour! 

It has been a few days since my last post and a lot has happened since then! Thursday we went on a trip to Bordeaux to visit two wineries and a farm that grafts vines. I didn’t know grafting could be used for vines, but it’s done with an American root and European top so that the quality is that of a European wine, but the American root is resistant to a harmful disease to the grapes. We did a wine tasting in Bordeaux, all of which were delicious. Also, we visited a mass production winery while in Bordeaux. The equipment was unbelievably big, pictures don’t even do it justice. 

Friday was my final day of school and we did a wine tasting for class and took our final examination later in the day. Friday was also the day of graduation for the students at Purpan, including our program assistants. The school throws a huge party for this. It’s unlike anything you would see in the states, they provided alcohol and the party lasted until atleast 3 am if not later (I left before then). It was our last night with all of us together which was kind of bittersweet. 

Saturday I finally got time to go out and eat crepes for breakfast! The enormous nutella and banana crepe I got was definitely worth the wait. Darcie and I did some shopping that day since there is a huge two week sale throughout France that was going on. The rest of the day involved packing for my internship that I left for Sunday afternoon!
Beginning of my internship at Clos Bastè

Sunday I checked out of my home for the last month and went on my way to the train station to get to Tarbes where I would meet my host family for the first time! Toulouse is the fourth biggest city in France, but still isn’t very much of a touristy area so I was really surprised to have ran into a guy wearing a Notre Dame football shirt. I stopped him and we talked for a second while I was skyping with Kyler. As soon as he walked away I told Kyler I should’ve asked him what train he was on to see if by any chance he was going to the same place. He walked by again and it turns out we were on the same train! Turns out he graduated from Notre Dame and was on his way to Lourdes which was a few stops passed mine, but we talked the whole way. 

I got off the train and walked a little ways to hear people calling my name behind me…that’s when I met my host dad and oldest sister, Phillipe and Claire! Phillipe’s English is pretty good and Claire’s is too to my relief. I still must speak differently than I would to a fluent English speaker of course, but I can get my point across to them and understand them on most things. They drove me to their home and my home for the next few weeks in Moncaup which is in the middle of nowhere but is absolutely beautiful. There’s a lot of corn, it’s almost like being in Indiana but a million times prettier. I met my host mom, Chantal and then my two other sisters Manon and Amelie. They have two dogs, Blackie and Belle as well as three cats that all look the same so I’m not sure if they have names. Chantal speaks 0 English which is a challenge but if she speaks slowly enough I can try to get the gist of what she is saying. Manon is also learning English at school and is very good. Amelie is only five, but she is learning too. She mostly teaches me French…and then laughs hysterically at my pronunciation. She will repeat herself ten times until I get it right…can’t tell if it’s because she has a lot of patience for a five year old or if she just likes to laugh at me. Regardless, the whole family is very nice and so welcoming despite the language barrier. They also feed me like a queen, I’m never going to want to eat an American style lunch again after eating lunch like the French. You start with salad, some vegetables, ham, and bread. Then you have some more sides to go with your main course which is some variation of meat that’s always delicious, then you always get dessert. And wine of course. It’s very extravagant, much more extravagant than dinners in The U.S. The first night I got here we had dinner and watched some of the women’s French basketball team play in the finals… Unfortunately they lost to Serbia I believe. Monday I didn’t work because Phillipe was off doing something and the girls were all at school so I hung out and read in the hammock, took a nap, and picked up the girls from school with Chantal and her nephew François. Today, Tuesday, we went to the vineyard at 7:30 am to prune the vines so that wind could get to them to prevent mildew from the morning dew. We worked until about 12:15 and then came home to have lunch and go swimming! The vines we worked on today were for Merlot and Tannat varieties. (Tannat is local to this region of France) 

That’s all I’ve got for now, hopefully this posts because the wifi isn’t very strong out here in the boonies. 

Au Revoir!  

Bon Week-end

We continued with French class and wine classes this week. I think the longest I’ve gone without having a glass of wine thus far is one day, but hey I’m not complaining. We visited 2 wineries and a farm this week and didn’t have very much class. Friday we had a “field trip” to downtown Toulouse for French class where we were supposed to go to a market and essentially make a dinner menu and look at prices for the ingredients. We are presenting is information on Monday as our final evaluation for French which I am really eager to be finished with. The French language is beautiful, but so difficult to learn if you’re not a native speaker. I think what makes it so difficult for me is that the spelling and the speaking of it are not similar in the slightest. Okay maybe in the slightest, but still. As a class we pretty much decided that it’s a safe bet to not pronounce the last letter on any of the words and to make a hissing/gargling noise whenever there’s an “r”. It’s much different than English or Spanish when pretty much the spelling is the same as the pronunciation so it’s pretty hard for us to get the hang if. Which isn’t to say that I’m not learning anything because I am, just very slowly. The highlight of this week for most of be people in the origin was finding out who our host families are going to be for the next half of the program which is an internship. We are all dispersed around France on different farms or wineries and live with a host family for four weeks to work for them. My four weeks will be spent on a vineyard and winery in Moncaup, France which is a very very very small town of a 4.2 square mile size according to Wikipedia. My family has three girls that are ages 5, 12, and 14. The parents own a vineyard and winery that I will be working at. A girl from Purdue had the same family last year and said they were very nice and that she considered them family by the end of her trip so hopefully I feel the same way! She also mentioned that the dad is the only one who speaks English so that could get interesting…stay tuned! A small group of us took a little break from Toulouse this weekend to go to the beach. This weekend was our only free weekend so we were able to go wherever we wanted. Six of us rented a condo for the weekend that was in walking distance of Valaras Beach aka Vias Plage. Getting to the condo was a bigger challenge than any of us expected. Our tickets were at the train station so we got there early to pick them up. There were plenty of kiosks to buy tickets but for some reason we weren’t allowed to print ours out from the kiosk so we had to wait in line. After taking a number, we made it up to the counter with five minutes to spare before our train was scheduled for departure. Turns out, three of our tickets were bought for the week before and we had to re-purchase them within this five minute period. We were all panicked about missing the train but luckily our terminal was close and we were able to sprint to our train. Of course as soon as we got on the train we were stuck at the station for a little over an hour so we were worried about time for nothing. An hour and a half later we made it to the train station in Bèziers and took a taxi to our condo. The condo was brand new and very nice for the price that we paid for it which was a pleasant surprise after our stressful train experience. The area was a quaint beachy town that reminded me a lot of a small town in Florida. Saturday we went to the beach which was hot, windy, and the Mediterranean was like ice water. It was a very relaxing day and we got dinner and drinks later that evening. Sunday we had an evening train departure and wanted to make sure we arrived early enough at the train station to avoid any issues like the ones that happened Friday. We had about half of the day Sunday before we left which I spent most of sleeping partially because I was sunburnt from Saturday and partially because I was pretty sick the previous few days and figured it would be my only time to get some solid rest. We haven’t had wifi for the weekend so I will post this as soon as we get back to good ol Toulouse! Au Revoir!  

Hot and windy day on a freezing cold sea

  

At sunset…which is in the opposite direction of the coast conveniently

Picture of my drink and the girls taking lictures of theirs. So American

Darcie, Me, Morgan, and Bre

Vin et Barcelona 

After a week of excitement and six restless hours on a full charter bus, we made it to Barcelona. Almost instantly after checking in we were all ready to take on the city and all it had to offer. After all, Barcelona does have one of the greatest reputations for night life and when I say night life, I mean night life. Everything in Barcelona starts very late compared to France. Most places don’t even begin serving dinner until 9pm. Bars open around 12am and clubs are open from 2am to 6am. Needless to say, we were all exhausted by the end of our weekend. A big group of us went to a restaurant so that we could try paella (it’s delicious btw) and seafood. From there we waited to see what the nightlife was all about….and let’s just say we weren’t disappointed. After paying the most expensive cover fee I’ve ever heard of, we danced the night away and had one of the best times on the trip.

Saturday morning one of the other girls from Purdue, Darcy, and I went on a bike tour of the city. Thank goodness we took bikes because the city is enormous, we ended up biking a little over seven miles and didn’t even cover that much of the city. By the time the four hours of the tour were finished we were able to see the gothic quarter, the Barcelona cathedral, the Arc de Triumf, (apparently there’s a handful of these in the world) one of the parks that I can’t remember the name of, the beach of Barceloneta, and of course La Sagrada Familia. After the bike tour, Darcy and I were feeling extra touristy and went to visit the Park de Guelle which was a hike to get to. There were multiple escalators to get up to the park and then the steepest hill (of course they decided not to put escalators here) I’ve ever walked up in my life. Exhausted, we finally made it up to the park which was definitely worth all the physicality to see the view of the city. We went to the Picasso museum as well which featured an exhibition on Salvador Dalì. And it was free 😀

Barcelona things:

  • I want to go back.
  • The weather is perfect and there are Palm trees everywhere even though they aren’t native.
  • Practically everyone there speaks English which was kind of a bummer because I wanted to speak some Spanish (even though they speak Catalan)
  • Nobody in our group got pick pocketed! It’s a major concern in the city. There were even people on the street who would tell me ways to avoid it. ie this lady who told me to tuck my zipper string into my bag.
  • I’ve never seen so many people out so late at night before in my life. They also get practically the whole month off for August, most everything is closed on Sunday’s, and they have about thirty holidays that they get work off for.
  • It is much hillier than I expected, kind of like San Francisco.

The weekend ended (boo) and we had to get back into the studying part of study abroad, but luckily we started our wine classes this week (yay!). Our first “class” was a visit to an abbaye/vineyard/winery. If I had one word to describe it: stunning. The abbaye had courtyards and gardens that were in pristine condition and just beautiful. The vineyard was actually much bigger than I was expecting and it too was beautiful. We went around the winery briefly and learned the processes of turning some little grapes into a nice big bottle of wine. And of course we had to try some so we had samples of their Chardonnay, Rosè, and what I think was Merlot. All of them were delicious…I had to buy some for myself. Red wine is loaded with antioxidants 😉

Au Revoir!

Darcie and I on our bike tour

Bet you can’t guess what this is. It should be twice this height when it’s finished!

Barceloneta

On top of Barcelona in Park de Guelle

Abbaye de Fontfroide

   

Note to self: you’re supposed to spit out the wine once you’ve tasted it

Baby grapes

Believe it or not they make bigger sizes….show these to dad, mama!

J’adore Fromage

We are finally in the groove of school now that we have been here for a week and are starting to have real lectures and quizzes. The lectures here are so long. We have two classes daily, three hours for each. It’s pretty painful for us all to sit in the same spots for that long. Our professors really know what they’re talking about and speak English very well even though they are embarrassed by their English. The lecture topics are pretty general agricultural topics and this week we are talking mostly about animals in agriculture.
Tuesday we didn’t have class (yay!) and went on a field trip instead. We visited two places, one was a sheep farm and the other was a Roquefort cheese cave. The day was so long due to about 7 hours of driving and only around 3 hours of actual field trip activities. The farm we went to had about 700 ewes that are milked. Their milk is mostly used to produce cheese, and in this specific area it’s used mostly to make Roquefort. The farm is about a century old and the owners were very hospitable and provided us with wine, cheese, and two different desserts to go with the food we had brought already. The farm life isn’t really my thing, but it was interesting to learn about the sheep!
Roquefort cheese is special to the area of France that we are near. Actually, it is the only place in the world that makes this kind of cheese and it is illegal to make it elsewhere because it isn’t authentic. If you haven’t had Roquefort before…it is an extremely strong blue cheese. I think it’s great although I sometimes eat around the parts that are too “blue” because too much of it freaks me out. The flavor is excellent though if you like strong cheese. The legend of Roquefort goes something like this: there was a guy and he was in a cave getting ready to eat some bread and cheese when he saw a beautiful woman and he followed her for a very long time. He eventually came back to see that his cheese had mold on it but he ate it anyways and realized it was delicious. Did he get the girl? I don’t know, but he got the cheese so that’s a positive. The caves were freezing and smelled as musty as one would expect. We learned all about the cheese making process and how long it takes for the Roquefort to ripen. We also found out that there are three types of Roquefort and one of them is pretty rare but we were lucky enough to try it!

 

Some of the ewes, bahhhh

  

France country side> Indiana

  

Cheese cave

  

Roquefort

  

Societe, the main producers of Roquefort

 Things I’ve Noticed:

French people stare at us…especially our shoes
Food delivery is done by mopeds
French people love to say “no problem”
Charter buses are terribly uncomfortable for more than half an hour
Croissants are good anywhere over here…even out of vending machines

Au Revoir!

Premier Week-end

The last few days have been filled with exhausting but amazing trips. First, a day trip to the city of Carcassone and its historic castle. In our enormous bus we arrived to an even more enormous medieval castle. Once inside the castle walls we were able to tour the grounds and the church inside. We learned about the architecture of the castle, (from the most adorable tour guide ever) including the fact that the marble steps inside the church of the Carcassone castle are made from the same marble that is in the Palace of Versailles and in the pillars of the Capitol in Toulouse where we are studying! The castle was beautiful and the pictures below don’t do it enough justice!

Next on the itinerary was a weekend in the Pyrenees mountains that are located on the southwest border of France and Spain. I’ve never felt more small and insignificant in the grand scheme of the world than when we arrived at the mountains and the town of Gavarnie (I mean that in the best possible way). The mountains are absolutely breathtaking and grand. I could have sat in the grass and stared at them for hours and still not be over how amazing they are. For anyone who talks to me on a regular basis…you know I want to move to Colorado for the mountains and this trip has completely confirmed that aspiration. We stayed in a small refuge for the evening, but of course went on a hike during the day. Our hike was a little under two hours or so and eventually led us to the highest waterfall in Europe. The weather on the way up was sweltering and sunny, conveniently for us…. The instant we got to the waterfall the clouds came in and it started pouring. When we made it home we socialized and were served a four course meal at the refuge of soup, turkey and risotto, cheese, and cake. I was a little nervous to try the soup…it looked like porridge, but it was actually great. I’m slowly learning not to judge a book by its cover when it comes to food.

Before heading home the next day, we stopped for a few hours in Lourdes, France which is considered to be the next best thing after Rome for Catholics. The “legend” behind the city is that Saint Bernadette was approached by Mary on 30+ occasions while living in the city of Lourdes. Truthfully, I don’t know much more about it other than that. In my opinion, the city seems kind of like an amusement park for Catholics with the main attraction being Porte Saint-Michel which is almost equivalent to Cinderella’s castle in Disneyland. It’s stunning from the outside. There is a church on the lower level and a crypt and basilica on the upper level. The churches are a little more modern than I had suspected, but were pretty nonetheless. There was also a grotto that we visited as well as a castle in the middle of the city. Perhaps the most amazing thing that I noticed was all of the elderly people we saw there. For many people, the pilgrimage to Lourdes is done as a last effort to find good health when they are sick since the city is holy. The people there were filling up with holy water by the gallons, drinking it, washing their hair in it, everything. It was kind of unsettling for me to know that this was the last resort for some people regarding their health, I hope all of their pilgrimage’s and holy water do them some good.

Tomorrow we go to a cheese factory and this weekend we go to Barcelona!
Au Revoir!

Carcassone aka Hogwarts of France

Carcassone aka Hogwarts of France

Courtyard

Courtyard

Crystal clear water and mountains

Crystal clear water and mountains

I heart mountains

I heart mountains

Castle in Lourdes

Castle in Lourdes

Castle view in Lourdes

Castle view in Lourdes

Cinderella's Castle

Cinderella’s Castle

Small is an understatement

Small is an understatement

Looks like I'm flexing....really I'm thumbs up-ing

Looks like I’m flexing….really I’m thumbs up-ing

I’école

Salut!

For those of you who don’t know, the school that I am studying at is called Purpan which is an agricultural college that I believe is part of the University of Toulouse. We had tours of the school on Monday and our first day of actual class on Tuesday. The school design reminds me of a middle school more than a college since it is so compact. The majority of the day was tours and a two hour lunch break. The school lunches in France are much more elaborate than those in the U.S. and they have many more options to choose from…like bottles of wine in the cafeteria.

Tuesday we had our first day of actual classes which included a culture lecture (of three hours) and another lecture on the French language (another three hours). We were essentially in class from 8:45 am until 5 pm with an hour and a half for lunch. The lunch sounds nice, but we have to walk about fifteen to twenty minutes to get to the cafeteria and it is consistently sunny and hot here in Toulouse. Also, hardly any of the buildings have air conditioning so all of the people from our program are essentially dying from the heat by the time we get back from lunch. Side note: the French act like heat doesn’t exist and are capable of wearing long pants and jackets without sweating.

French class was a little rough for all of us in the beginners class. We were under the impression we would be learning letters, numbers, and colors to start with, but we immediately learned common conversational phrases. It will probably be the most helpful, but we were all pretty overwhelmed. Aside from the language, we learned how to appropriately do the kiss on the cheek greeting which a lot of people seemed to be uncomfortable with. It was entertaining for the rest of us though.

Last night we met our French neighbors from across the hall. They had a fun time making fun of the terribly cheap wine we were drinking (mine especially because I bought wine for cooking seafood with apparently). They were pretty good with English and told us they practiced it by listening to American music and watching TV shows and movie. They really like Game of Thrones and Project X over here.

That’s all I have for now!

Au Revoir!