Tag: france

Saturday, May 20 – Monday, June 5

Saturday, May 20 – Monday, June 5

On Saturday, I did another excursion with the school to see Giverny, a village in northern France where Monet lived and painted. We took a bus from the school and first went to the Impressionism museum where they had a temporary exhibit of music in impressionism. They had paintings of violinists, guitarists, pianists, and dancers, so of course, I loved it. There were a lot of paintings by the painters we studied in art class.

Then, a few of us walked around some gardens just outside of the museum, wandered around the village, and walked in a couple of art galleries.

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We walked back to the bus to get our lunches and ate on the grass with some other students. We all met outside of the museum and then walked to Claude Monet’s house and gardens (Monet had designed the gardens, which have been maintained to look how they did when Monet lived there).

We walked through the gardens in the backyard with all the flowers first:

Then, we walked through the Japanese gardens:

It was fun taking pictures in the gardens. If only I knew how to paint…

On Monday, I gave the dreaded 20-minute presentation on how to fight against burn-out in my language class. At dinner, we were talking to our host parents about anglicisms and how French people use a lot of English words like “burn-out” or “DJ” (or “jet set”… I had never even heard that one in English before). I explained how Emily and I have trouble understanding them when they say English words because we try to find a French word in what they said, but it’s not French.

Wednesday was our last day of classes before exams. Emily and I ate lunch outside and some of the professors brought in food for the last class. After dinner, we left for our Barcelona trip.

When we came back on Sunday, Emily wanted to stop and buy a pastry on the walk home from the train station, so we went to a boulangerie and when she bought it, the man asked what color rose she wanted. She said she didn’t want one, but he handed her one anyway. On the way home, we were trying to figure out why they were passing out roses and I said it must be their Mother’s Day or something. When we got home, I checked online and saw that I was right, so Emily gave it to our host mom.

I had exams Monday through Thursday, so I took exams and studied most of Monday and Tuesday. On Wednesday, I took the art exam and then walked downtown to find the art on display. The city of Angers had people paint some buildings to bring art into the streets.

It was nice to see downtown in the summer with flowers:

I walked across the bridge and walked around town on the other side of the river since that was one of the parts of the city I hadn’t explored yet.

On Thursday, I had my last exam, which was an oral debate between another student and I. After getting groceries, I met Edmée and her husband at their apartment. Edmée showed me a map of where they have hiked in Europe. Over the course of three years, they had hiked 900 km across southern France and northern Spain. They did another 900 in northwestern Spain along the coast, and now they’re working on the coast of the Brittany region. She then brought out some desserts she made for me to try: a pudding-like cream and chocolate salami.

Friday was Emily’s last full day in Angers, so we went on a walk and stopped at McDonald’s to get ice cream. We came back and watched a French comedy movie.

I went to the train station with Emily on Saturday and then I finally went to the big market near the station that everyone told me about. It was a pretty big market with all kinds of food, clothes, and jewelry.

On Sunday, I ate breakfast as my host dad told me about the terrorist attack in London. I finished packing and then he drove me to the train station. I ran into another girl from CMU, who happened to be taking the same train to head home. We got off at the airport and I took a shuttle to a hotel. I flipped through some French TV channels for awhile and went to bed.

I flew back on Monday. It felt a little weird being back, but mostly felt like I was just there. Here’s a quick FAQ since everyone’s been asking me about my trip: Are you planning on living in France? No, but I definitely have a list of places to travel next in Europe. Did you learn a lot? Yes. I expected to pick up on more vocabulary, but it’s definitely a lot easier to speak and understand people. Are you fluent? I guess… I can hold a conversation and talk around words I don’t know, although there are still a lot of words I don’t know that a five-year-old French kid would know (doorknob, tile, bucket…). Favorite place you went? Cinque Terre. Favorite place in France? Nice. Do you feel like a changed person? I ate Italian gelato and my whole world changed.

It really was a great experience. When I look back through my pictures, I can’t believe all the places I went. Thanks for reading my blog, I hope you enjoyed it 🙂

Côte d’Azur: Friday, May 5 – Monday, May 8

Côte d’Azur: Friday, May 5 – Monday, May 8

We didn’t have school on Monday, so Emily and I took a weekend trip to Nice and Monaco. We took a train to Paris after our class on Friday and then flew into Nice. We walked from the airport along the Promenade des Anglais along the water to our hotel.

We went to the restaurant we had picked for dinner. It was a family-owned restaurant that served local olive oils. We tried bread with an olive oil from Nice and split a salad where he paired fresh diced avocado with granny smith apple. It was surprisingly a good combination. For the main dish, I tried rabbit.

It started to lightly rain when we left the restaurant. We walked around downtown and through a town square with statues and some sculptures of people that were lit up and changed colors.

Some cars drove by a couple times honking constantly and we realized it was a car parade for a couple who just got married.

Saturday morning, we saw some people dressed up for weddings or other events on our way to the port. We took a bus to Monaco from there. We got off the bus in the Monte Carlo area and walked by the famous casino and then walked along the shore.

We walked around in an old theater and fort on the way up the hill to the museum and palace we wanted to visit. We also stopped at a cathedral on the way. We got audio guides for our visit of the palace, the home of the Prince of Monaco. We couldn’t take pictures inside, though. After the palace, we walked back through a garden.

Next, we went to the oceanographic museum. The museum was huge and overlooked the water.

We headed to a garden, which looked like it was nearby on our map, but we realized it was all the way up a hill and we had to take roads zigzagging up the mountain. It started pouring, but we kept walking because the park was going to close soon. Finally, we found what we think was the entrance, but the door was closed. We turned around and walked around in downtown Monaco and then took the bus to Nice.

For dinner, I got an onion tart appetizer and sea bream fish with vegetables and rice. On our way back to the hotel, we got ice cream and walked by a big water fountain that was lit up in France’s colors.

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On Sunday, we walked to the Russian Orthodox Cathedral. It was closed off to visitors during the morning service, but we got to see it from the outside.

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We then walked around through some parks and town squares. I saw a poster advertising an art exposition at a hotel nearby, so we decided to check it out. They had the door open where you could walk on the terrace, so we got to see a great view of the city of Nice from there.

 

We then went over to the parc du château, where we climbed up a big hill to see the ruins of a cathedral, a park, some lookout points, and a waterfall.

We walked through another part of the old town that looks like Cinque Terre with the colorful buildings and narrow streets. We relaxed on a beach for a couple hours and walked in the water. We went back to our hotel and the receptionist asked us about what we did that day and where we were from. I think he just appreciated that we had learned French. We went to our room and changed and made a reservation for dinner. We went to a nice French restaurant. They brought us crackers and bread with an olive spread called tapenade. We split a smoked salmon appetizer and I tried duck with fruit and deep-fried corn. They also brought us mashed potatoes to share.

Emily had heard the couple next to us and said they sounded French Canadian, so she asked where they were from and they said Quebec. We talked for awhile after our meals about the differences between dialects and what we were studying and where we had traveled. It was nice to get to talk in French to other people besides my professors and host parents. We realized it was already 10pm by the time we finished talking to them, but we were determined to get crème brulée before the end of our trip, so we wandered around until we found a restaurant still open that served it.

We went back to our hotel and I went online to find that Macron won the French elections. We flew home on Monday morning.

Thursday, March 30 – Friday, April 7

Thursday, March 30 – Friday, April 7

On Thursday, Emily and I went to the mall in the morning to get food for dinner for the weekend. I walked through downtown to the theater to pick up tickets for a show. It was 74° and sunny, so I sat by the river and worked on homework. It’s crazy how many people are still wearing winter coats, scarves, and gloves.

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I walked to class, realizing the school was farther away than I thought, so I started walking faster and sweating more. I walked to the classroom and one of my classmates in the hallway told me there was a sign on the door saying the class was cancelled. I decided to walk to a nearby park to finish my homework. The park is right behind a college-level art school. It felt like I had gone back in time or was inside a movie because I didn’t see anyone on their phone—people were sitting in circles talking to each other, working on projects, or playing soccer. But it also felt like going back in time because of everyone smoking in public.

After dinner, Emily and I went to the theater for the show. I was expecting it to be more fast-paced, but it was really unique and interesting. There were some acrobatics, dancing, acting, and a little bit of singing, but aside from the singing, the six performers were silent.

On Friday (31st), we went to class and as we left the building, we saw a crowd of people looking at a bunch of caterpillars on the sidewalk. Our host dad had just told us about this, which they call a caterpillar processionary.

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We went with our host dad Saturday morning to pick up groceries for this week’s dinner since they went to Portugal for the week.

On Sunday, Emily and I went on a walk through the Parc de l’Arboretum.

On Monday, I walked with some friends to a bakery after our morning class and bought a sandwich for lunch. After the afternoon classes, Emily bought a mango caramel mousse cake from another bakery for my birthday. It was an interesting combination of flavors, but tasted pretty great.

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On Thursday, I walked to the Parc du Pin by the university. I was surprised to find a château in the middle. I walked around the building and then sat at a bench to do some homework before class.

Emily and I went to the Parc Saint Nicolas on Friday and walked around the river.

I keep thinking about how different the study abroad experience would have been before the internet and even before smartphones. This trip is so much easier since I have Google maps at my fingertips if I ever get lost or need to find a restaurant. When I talk to my host parents, if I don’t know a word, I can look it up and tell them (I usually try describing it first, but if they still don’t understand, I’ll find the word).

Talking to my classmates is interesting because they’re all international students studying French, but everyone’s studying it for a different reason. One guy is learning French because his girlfriend is French and they want to live in France together. Another man is a priest and wants to live in France. One girl is currently living in France because her dad is an ambassador. Some students want to be French teachers and others want to improve their French so they can study a different subject (sociology, culinary art…) at a university in France.

Monday, March 13 – Wednesday, March 29

Monday, March 13 – Wednesday, March 29

Since I got back from Ireland, the weather has been great. I’ve been trying to go for walks when I have the time.

Emily and I made our spring break plans on Friday. It took almost all day to book everything, but we planned a trip for Italy and Greece, so I’ll be posting about that trip in the next month!

I went for a walk through a nearby neighborhood on Sunday. I like how there are neighborhoods still close to downtown that feel like their own little villages.

On Saturday (25th), Emily and I went for a walk to two parks in Trélazé (a commune/town right next to Angers). They are right by a slate mine, so there was a lot of slate between the paths and the lakes.

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Parc des Ardoisières

We sat by the lake for awhile in the Parc des Ardoisières and then came home, walking past people’s big gardens in the park and cute neighborhoods that remind me of Florida because of the colorful houses. It also felt like Florida because we saw a few lizards and palm trees in people’s yards and outside a McDonald’s.

On Sunday, I went back to the Jardin des Plantes to see the flowers in bloom this time.

I cut through the Jardin du Mail by downtown on my way home.

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On Monday (27th), we went to our language class in the morning and then I met a retired French teacher named Edmée and another international student from my program named Yanhong. I had gotten an email from the school saying that Edmée was looking to meet some international students once a week, so I got in contact with her. The three of us sat outside and showed each other where we’re from on a map. She explained that she taught French in London and Switzerland and then lived in the Paris area for awhile before returning to Angers where she grew up. After, Emily and I had a picnic on the grass in the middle of the campus.

We went to our other classes and then walked to the mall. We finally decided to get a discount/membership card for the supermarket we’ve been going to every week. The lady was really nice and let me put the store’s phone number for personal information on the account because I couldn’t use a foreign number (a couple of the other employees had questioned us before when they saw we were using a foreign credit card, so I was relieved that she didn’t give us a hard time). We had to rush home, though, because it was already 7:30 and we’re supposed to be home at 7:30 for dinner.

Our host dad made ratatouille with zucchini, eggplant, and tomatoes one day with dinner. Another day, we had an appetizer that was like a fish pâté: a creamy spread to put on bread, but made out of different kinds of fish and fish eggs. I had to eat a bunch of bread to be able to swallow that.

Emily and I decided to try to start speaking in French to each other again so she can work on her pronunciation and I can work on my vocabulary. We’ve also been talking recently about the differences between American and Canadian English. There are a lot more differences than we thought. For example, they call a robe a housecoat, college is only used to refer to community colleges and doesn’t include universities, and they call notebooks scribblers.

Nantes: Friday, March 3 – Sunday, March 5

Nantes: Friday, March 3 – Sunday, March 5

For my first weekend trip, my roommate and I went to Nantes, a 45-minute train ride away. It’s about twice the size of Angers, so there was plenty to do. We walked to our hostel and put our stuff in the room and then walked to l’Île de Nantes, a big island between two branches of the Loire, to go to the Parc de Beaulieu. We walked around along the river and found a little playground. We rode on a zipline and teeter-totter, which I think was just what I needed after a long week of classes!

 

Next, we walked to l’Île de Versailles and walked through the Japanese gardens.

We walked back and sat on the steps of the cathedral while we searched online for a restaurant. We ended up going to an Italian place. I got penne with chicken and peppers and then we split a pear tart for dessert. I tried gambas (similar to shrimp or lobster) and ate the tail. My roommate, who grew up in a fishing village, laughed and explained that most people don’t eat the tail. Oops. We walked back to the hostel after dinner and found that a French girl was staying in our room with us. She was nice and said she goes to school in Angers, too.

We ate breakfast at the hostel Saturday morning (baguette with strawberry jam and cereal). We walked through the Jardin des Plantes, a big park with a birdhouse and some ponds.

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After the park, we walked through the cathedral, which had the most colorful stained-glass windows I’ve seen.

We ate lunch at a small French restaurant and I had a ham and egg galette and we split a chocolate almond banana ice cream crêpe. That was a mouthful (no pun intended).

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We went back to l’Île de Nantes to Les Machines de l’Île, a museum of machines made to look like animals.

While walking around downtown, we heard a a few street performers (some violinists and a band singing English songs and playing drums and guitar). We walked through a mall called Passage Pommeraye and then went to an Irish pub for dinner where I tried a battered calamari appetizer.

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Passage Pommeraye

On Sunday, we went to the Natural History Museum and saw live snakes and stuffed birds and other animals from around the world.

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We went to a sushi place for lunch (I had never tried sushi before). The appetizers were a cabbage salad and miso soup with mushrooms, tofu, and seaweed. I tried cheese, salmon, tuna, and fish eggs sushi. The cheese and fish egg rolls were my favorite.

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We ended our trip by walking around the castle.

Monday, February 20 – Thursday, March 2

Monday, February 20 – Thursday, March 2

On Monday, my roommate and I went to buy lunch at the café at school in between classes, but they were already out of most of the food, so we went to a restaurant nearby. Their menu was written on a chalkboard (I’m guessing that means they change what they serve too often to have printed menus?).

I usually have one class on Thursday, but it got cancelled. Emily and I went to an outdoor market, but it was pretty small, so we decided to walk by the river and castle.

 

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Buildings overlooking the river

On Friday, we went to the supermarket to buy food and wandered around awhile looking for Alfredo sauce. Eventually, we gave up and changed our meal plan. We bought frozen pizza for dinner and watched a movie.

We got up at 6 on Saturday for an excursion with the school to see some castles east of Angers. The bus took off under a pink sky and drove along the river. The view of soft reflections of buildings and boats made getting up early worth it. We went to the Château de Chenonceau in the cold and misty morning.

First, we walked through the different rooms.

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The chapel
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Thankfully, they had fires going in the fireplaces

Then, we walked outside through the gardens.

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The center of the labyrinth

 

We took the bus to a nearby town called Amboise and ate lunch along the Loire river and then walked through town.

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La Loire

We saw a couple of castles on the drive to our last stop, the Château de Chambord. They had outdoor staircases as well as a giant indoor staircase in the center which was shaped like a double helix: there were two different staircases intertwined so that you could access one staircase from the east side and the other staircase from the west side. Its purpose was so that two people could be going up or down the stairs without seeing each other. We had about a three-hour bus ride back and then we ate the leftover pizza for dinner.

On Monday, I went to my morning class, worked on a project with my classmate, and then walked downtown to renew my bus pass. I went to my other classes and stumbled through my words in oral expression- I could tell I hadn’t practiced speaking enough French over the weekend. Speaking went much better on Tuesday.

In the realm of food, I tried boudin blanc one night at dinner. At first I thought it was sausage and told my host dad that I don’t like sausage, but he explained that it was made of white meat. Thankfully, I liked the taste. Emily brought home some macaroons one day (neither of us had tried them yet) and I tried the strawberry, pistachio, lemon, and vanilla flavors. I’d recommend strawberry. I also tried the Pavé d’Affinoire cheese (that’s just the brand name, I’m not sure what the actual name of the cheese is) and Saint-Albray. They were both pretty mild. On Thursday, my host dad made a zucchini and bacon gratin.

Thursday’s dinner
Sunday, February 12 – Sunday, February 19

Sunday, February 12 – Sunday, February 19

I started off the week by walking with my roommate downtown and then to a park.

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Jardin du Mail (park count: 1)

On Monday, we went to our classes and then to McDonald’s for dinner (we had a short time before a school event and were too hungry to wait for the other restaurants to open at 7pm). The food was more expensive than in the States (€6.50 for a salad, €4-ish for a burger) and only slightly better quality. We went back to the school and partnered up with French students. I’m in a group with a Chinese girl and a French girl. They had different events set up, including Just Dance, musical chairs, and karaoke. Someone chose We Will Rock You for karaoke; apparently it’s well-known around the world.

We went to class in the afternoon on Tuesday. That night, Emily ran into my room because there was a big spider on the inside of her shutters as she went to close them. I still haven’t figured out why Europe doesn’t invest in screens for their windows.

I got up on Thursday and had a “French” breakfast: a slice of bread with black cherry jam and a pear. I did some homework and then took a bus downtown. It was warm and sunny and there were a lot of people walking around downtown, so it felt much livelier than when I had walked there before. I bought a chicken sandwich from a sandwich shop downtown and then walked over to the Jardin des Plantes (park count: 2) to eat and walk around. The park had a pond and a little gated off area with goats and rabbits. I then walked around the outside of the downtown area and by the river and castle.

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Promenade Jean Turc

I stayed at Parc du Haras to study until it was time to go to class.

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Parc du Haras (park count: 3)

 

I went on another walk with my roommate after class for an hour. Yes, I was tired… I took the bus everywhere on Friday to recover.

Saturday came and I was ready to walk again. Emily and I took a bus over to the other side of the river and we walked between the river and the lake at the Parc de Balzac (park count: 4).

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Lac de Maine

 

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Lake picture photobombed by a dog

On Sunday, I walked to the Parc de l’Arboretum (park count: 5) and watched all the birds flying around. I’ll have to wait and get a picture when all of the flowers are in bloom. Yeah, I went to a lot of parks. I couldn’t resist; there was no rain and it was warm.

While walking around a French town, you never know when you might stumble upon a church or cathedral:

Aside from seeing more of the city, I’ve been getting more settled in to a routine here, so I can catch you all up on a few other things.

Update on classes: I tried out a French literature class, but the professor spoke too fast and I couldn’t understand her. I’m required to take a 6-credit language class and I’ve decided on four other classes. Oral expression is a class of only 8 students and we’ll be practicing speaking French and giving presentations in front of the class. In sociocultural studies, we’ve begun to discuss symbols of France, but we’ll also be learning about the education, work, and health care systems, as well as politics and traditions. Art history will cover 19th and 20th century French paintings. Music history will also cover works of the 19th and 20th centuries including operas and Russian ballets (many performances were held in Paris). I have class most of the day on Monday and Wednesday, afternoon and evening classes on Tuesday, one afternoon class on Thursday, and one morning class on Friday.

Update on food: I’ve tried a few different cheeses (didn’t like roquefort, loved comté), seafood (mussels and crab- I liked both), and dessert (a coffee cake pastry and mille-feuille: flaky pastry layers, pudding layers, and frosting- do I even have to tell you if I liked them?). We eat dinners with the family 3-4 nights a week and then cook the other nights. Breakfast is provided by the family. We’re on our own for lunch, so we usually eat on campus a few days a week and eat at home on the other days.