Finally, c'est dimanche and I have time to reflect. The past four days in Tours have been such a whirlwind and keeping up with the logging of it all has been a huge task! Much greater than I would have thought.
My mere d'accueil is simply wonderful. Elle s'appelle Helene and she is a single mother with one twenty-five year old daughter who lives in Paris. Helene taught kindergarten for many years; how many, I'm not sure but I do know (now) that it was somehow inappropriate for me to ask because there was a very awkward silence after I posed the question...
When we arrived in Tours we went straight to our host families. Helene had a cold lunch prepared for us: fresh chopped tomatoes over pasta with boiled eggs, cheese, yogurt, and home made apricot confiture.. yum!!!
She has wifi which is absolutely wonderful. I picked up a new SIM card for the phone Julia had during her time in France (participating in the same program), on the first day. I have yet to learn how to store numbers in the phone....
We have gone on one excursion (yesterday, Saturday the 28th of August) to the small town of Amboise where we toured the home of Leonardo da Vinci during the later years
of his life and an Amboise chateau that was inhabited in 15th century by French royalty.
We walked to da Vinci's home first and had a picnic lunch, packed by our host families. Here ^^ is a photo of a French family behind us, having a picnic... I pretended to a take a picture of Alyssa. Around the "grounds" of the chateau were replicas (I believe) of his magnificent designs.
We were able to tour the chateau and see where he studied, slept, ate and even got a peek into an underground tunnel where royalty met with him for secret meetings.
<-- Mimi Neale and I
in da Vinci's chateau, over our heads it says that the home was built in 1472!!!
We sat in the gardens of da Vinci's chateau and had a glass of wine with some chocolates that Mimi brought along before heading to the royal chateau for a tour of that.
The royal chateau of Amboise is built up on a hill/mound thing and boasts a most spectacular view of the Loire River.
The history behind this one building, like most places in Europe, is quite remarkable. My favorite part of the visit was sitting in one of the gardens outside of the chateau with three friends, drinking cafe au laits and taking pictures.
My friends here are really wonderful and it is obvious that they are willing and excited to learn about French culture, history, the arts and the people, an environment which stimulates me more, in return. It is still very early in the semester but I will be happy when we settle into a routine and I have confidence in who my closest friends will be.
As for right now, it's sort of a hodgepodge of lots of people trying to hang out all at once which can be a bit crowded for me but also really, really neat to see so many people find common ground in their love for and interest in France and all it has to offer.
Last night we went out in Tours and sat around until late at various cafes, drinking rose, as a celebration of making it through the first few crazy, crazy days of being abroad.
As I mentioned before, today is my first day of having some alone time and that has been really nice. I hope to have time alone while I'm in Paris. As many of you know, I am not afraid to step out into the world alone, in fact I love to do just that, for the most part. Self-reflection is so healthy for me and allows me to regroup and center myself.
Not much is opened on Sundays. I walked to a nearby flea market which I thought would be peoples' "goods" but it was more like a garage sale for everyone in the neighborhood!
I was able to journal for a good little while and that was extremely relaxing. I watched a little boy (around age 3 or 4) and his father kick a ball back & forth for about an hour. It was a nostalgic time for me. I took a picture of the little boy but I think it would be illegal to post a picture of a minor on the internet if the minor is not mine... we'll have to ask Julia.
As for now, I'm missing everyone at home... but not really "being" home... not yet, at least. More than anything I wish that each of my family members, close friends and Jeff were here to enjoy all the amazing sights, smells, tastes, sounds, etc., alongside me. I hope that anyone reading this will consider coming to visit. I'm sure Paris will be a whole 'nother ball game in terms of lifestyle but it is really neat to see how everyday French people live and not just base my opinion of French lifestyle on the more fast-paced Parisian model of life.
I wish I could share all of my photos on here but it takes a very long time to upload even one, so I'll be trying to get the best of the batch of my photo taking onto PicasaWeb, and hope that that is enough.
Love to all.