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!