Chateaux and Paris

It’s been harder than I expected to write consistently, but I’ve also been caught up experiencing life here in Angers.  It feels like home, and I have now developed somewhat of a consistent routine.  I’m taking 21 hours here, which sounds like a lot (but it’s really manageable).  I’m taking 9 hours of language, 3 hours of oral comprehension, 3 hours of oral expression, 3 hours of French history, and 3 hours of French culture.  I really enjoy all of my classes—they are challenging but not too challenging at the same time.  I’m glad to have some consistency as it has allowed me to settle down.

Each week has brought new challenges.  I’m currently dealing with a bed bug infestation, and I have been unable to sleep in my room for the last two weeks.  Fortunately, my landlord is allowing me to sleep in the apartment across the hall so I now have a bed.  I’m waiting for the mayor to take some sort of municipal action (yes, the actual mayor sent me a letter saying he understands my situation and is working to address my grievances…).  What’s worse is that my IPhone was pick-pocketed at the kebab restaurant, so I’m feeling a little lost and disconnected (I guess there’s more than one problem with that).

Last weekend, I went on an excursion with the school to see the chateaux of the Loire River.  We saw three different ones, but my favorite was Chenonceau by far.  Not only was it beautiful, but we also had a picnic on the estate.   I’m feeling more French day by day.

Picnic at Chenonceau
Picnic at Chenonceau
Chenonceau
Chenonceau

Last week, we went to prom at UCO (my university).  The school is divided into different majors or institutes, and several of my friends are in the modern language institute (they invited us).   It’s officially called the Gala d’Eden, but it is pretty much prom for college (or CROM to my fellow Crofties).  It was held in a beautiful building across the river—a stone building with visible rafters and hanging tapestries.  With the purchase of a 19 euro ticket, we received admission, unlimited cider aperitifs, a three course meal (salad, chicken over pasta, and some type of apple dessert), pitchers of red and white wine, and two drink coupons for the bar.  I was completely blown away at how well organized it was.  There were several performances including belly dancers, singers, and a DJ.  They even voted for a king and queen.  It was like my high school prom only better, less awkward, and the drinking wasn’t done in secret.

As I mentioned earlier, I’m dealing with bugs and a stolen phone.  I’ve been feeling pretty down and dealing with my first round of homesickness.  I’m pretty lucky to have a great Dad who is mailing me a replacement phone—as I use it for maps and as a camera—and lucky that my friend Greer came to visit me this weekend in Paris.  She really cheered me up and brought a part of home to me.  We stayed in beautiful apartment overlooking Les Invalides, the tomb of Napoleon.

We went on two Paris Walks tours—one following Ernest Hemingway’s time in Paris and the other through the Marais neighborhood.  We rode the buses through the city, taking in the sites that are often missed while traveling underneath the ground in the metro.  We frequented less touristy destinations like the neighborhood surrounding Rue St. Clair and more touristy sites like Montmartre, although it offered a stunning view at sunset.  I had some of the best food since I’ve been here:  foie gras ravioli, roasted lamb, fried duck…  The best part was really just seeing a familiar face and catching up.

She left this morning, and I did some adventuring by myself before my afternoon train.  I visited the Rodin Museum and Les Invalides; my mistake was visiting them in the wrong order.  The Rodin Museum has been one of my favorite museums by far because of its location and beauty.  Visitors can walk though his old studio and see much of work on display as well as paintings by Van Gogh.  The best part, however, is strolling the garden to see the larger bronzes (including The Thinker) and soaking up the atmosphere. I spent some time writing while drinking a coffee and eating macaroons in the garden.  Les Invalides is not just the tomb of Napoleon, but many others are also buried there in addition to a military museum.  I skipped the majority of it, choosing to spend my time exploring the World War I and II exhibits, which were incredibly well done.

The Thinker with Les Invalides behind it.
The Thinker with Les Invalides behind it.
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