Tuesday March 12

Zenande –

obKcGnU5S6aoVHabVXWtiQ On Tuesday, we enjoyed lunch at a Parisian restaurant and french ‘glace’ as a desert afterwards. We toured the streets of Paris throughout the day, regularly using the subway. As we toured, Madame was subtly hinting at a ‘surprise’. It transpired that the surprise was a night at a local karaoke bar. We enjoyed the night together with music and our “perfect” voices. We concluded our day with a trip to the Notre Dame and a beautiful view of Paris.

Sunday, March 10th

Edwina –

Today was a good day. We slept in and had cereal for breakfast, as usual. Her aunts, uncles, and cousins came over. We played French-English Pictionary and went to the skate park. Afterwards, we came back home and played Just Dance. The kids were so cute and we baked chocolate cookies together. Dinner was a little sad because we all realized that it was my last meal with the Rousseau family and the week had passed so fast. I’ll miss Louise and her family, but Paris was waiting for me!

Saturday, March 9th

Maya –

This morning I slept in while my host Juliette finished some of her homework. Then Juliette, her mom, her brother and I all sat down for lunch. Afterwards her little brother had to go tour a middle school so we all went there and spent a lot of the day there walking around and talking to some of Juliette’s old teachers. Since the school was close to the downtown, Juliette and I went to meet up with one of her friends who was also a host for someone from Groton. We all walked around downtown for a while and then went back home. Later on Juliette’s dad dropped us off at her friend’s house where we ate pizza and played games.

March 8th – Châteaux de Chenonceau & Villandry

Today was different: rather than going to class, the french students came with us to the Chenonceau and Villandry castles. We left the school at around 8:15 AM, and arrived at Chenonceau at around 10 AM. Immediately, we were mesmerized by the fact that the castle was on water — a simple detail which made our experience even more special. Unlike the other castles we had visited, Chenonceau is often described as “the ladies’ chateau” or “Château des Dames” as throughout its history, it is they who have most influenced its design and its destiny. We all thought it was funny and a bit ironic that we visited one of the few castles with such strong women presence on International Women’s Day. One room that captivated us was the room of lady Louise of Lorraine. Her room was black and sombre compared to the other ladies’ room. The reason is because her husband, Henry III, was assassinated and one of his dying wish was that she stay in the castle and pray for him. And so she did, and to honor him, she wore white and redesigned her room with symbol of death objects to illustrate her pain. After visiting the rooms of the castle, we were all super hungry so we all had lunch at the designated picnic area. After lunch, we got back on the bus, and headed to the castle of Villandry. This castle was also different because it felt much more recent than the other ones. It was enormous and the gardens had impeccable designs. Following that, some of us stopped by the store, where we purchased some souvenirs. Then, we headed to the bus once again, and left for the school. Once we arrived at the school, we separated, and we each went with our correspondents. We’re all super excited for the weekend, and a bit sad to leave on Monday.

Nantes, March 7th

Today the group and I took a train to Nantes, where we roamed the streets admiring the different monuments. First, we visited a slave memorial by the river. There were lights embedded on the concrete sidewalk, with the names of different slave ships written on them. We then walked downstairs to the main memorial cite, where we found a map with dates of when the slave trade and slavery were abolished in different countries. There was also a hallway with quotes from leaders, artists, slaves, and political documents about freedom and equality. Seeing the memorial was a powerful experience.
We continued walking and stumbled upon a mall, hidden in the center of a couple buildings. We sat down to eat, and ordered food from a nearby café. As we walked around, we saw a strange man in an orange shirt who was dancing. He was dancing in front of a group of people who were posing for a picture, and would not leave them be. Everyone thought he was crazy. As we began to walk away, the man followed us around the mall, dancing and rolling after us for a few minutes. Later, we learned that it was a publicity stunt and that he was being followed by a camera man to record people’s reactions.
We visited a store in the mall dedicated to camping supplies and nature products. Angela and I got to eat bugs. The funniest part of today was seeing Maya’s reaction when she realized that what she was eating wasn’t weird foreign chips, but insects. Upon realization, her eyes widened and she ran out the store, horrified.
After the mall, we went to the Nantes’ Museum of Arts. The art was very interesting, and I got to see some of Pablo Picasso’s artwork. The building was also very beautiful.
Luckily, the museum was close to the train station. So as soon as we were done at the museum, we rushed to the station and caught the train to Angers.

March 6th

After a morning of classes, our correspondents came with us to visit the Angers Chateau. A beautiful and magnificent castle in the city of Angers. The chateau served as a fortress and a noble abode for the royal family for an extended period of time, and what is remained of it is now a tourist attraction and display for the elegant buildings and the ancient centuries-old Apocalypse Tapestry. Unfortunate for our group, it was a rainy day not suited for outdoor activities; nonetheless, we traveled to the castle and browsed the brilliant art and history of the grand Chateau. The view was outstanding; we could oversee the city and the castle grounds from the great towers. At the end of the day, we returned with our correspondents as the sun sets on the horizon.

Tuesday March 5th – Amboise & Clos Lucé

On March 5th, we did not have class in Saint Martin High School. Instead, we went on a two-hour road trip to Amboise, where Leonardo Da Vinci died. We arrived at the small town around 10:30am, having driven through a pleasant country of greenery very different from the monotonous grey at Groton. From there we took a walk toward the center of town, enjoying fresh air and traditional European houses lit up by rays of sunlight. Just as we were walking down a narrow rue, the road broadened and a huge castle was sitting on our right.

Renovated by Charles VIII in the 15th century, the Castle of Amboise has been a beast of a fortress since the Roman times. Although the moat and some towers are gone, the castle is still formidable. Due to its relative safety, Charles VIII, Louise de Savoie and François 1er moved in this chateau.  We visited the king’s chamber and the royal dining hall using a Huawei pad which could restore and introduce the purposes of the rooms. We toured the extravagant royal residence, enjoyed the view on the ramparts, and had lunch on the chateau terrace.

In the afternoon we visited Clos Luce, where the Italian artist and innovator Da Vinci lived his last  3 years -invited by the king François 1er- and  died. We walked through his former living room decorated by the drawings of his inventions, drenched in the rich heritage of the culture giant. Though it rained a little, it did not extinguish our excitement for Da Vinci.

We returned to Angers tired but happy. After we practiced ‘waiting while doing nothing’ -a common practice in France!- we had French burgers which were “different” .At 7pm we were picked up by our host, stuffed to the neck by great food, and prepared for a new day.

Angers, March 4th

It’s our first day in France! Angers is so beautiful and so different from a bustling American city. In the morning, as Albane, my host, drove with her parents and me going to school, we passed by so many beautiful houses, their bricks worn and mossy with age. The small, winding brick roads were nearly empty, except for a few students and cars trying to get by. We stopped in the middle of a plaza, surrounded with small shops and cafés, to walk down the remaining road to her high school, or, in French, son lycée. Here, we spent the remainder of the day, going from English, to the gym for a “PE” class called, simply, le sport, to French. Each class lasted for an hour, which is a long time for us Groton students! Albane and her friends spoke French at a rapid-fire pace, but because of it I could feel my French getting better. In the middle of the day, after le sport, we ate lunch at the “self,” a café in the school which was separate from the cafeteria. The lunch break lasted for an hour, and then it was time to go to a two-hour French class. Although the teacher enunciated every syllable, the two hours were very much longer than my attention span. After French, we met up with other Groton students, leaving our hosts behind, and headed out to explore the city with Madame Stanton and Monsieur Koffi. Brief periods of rain and even hail bewildered us, but when they disappeared, they left behind a beautiful, clear, blue sky. We walked to a supermarket, and then a patisserie, or pastry shop, and with our goods in hand, went into a bookstore. We explored gleefully the shelves upon shelves of movies, books, gadgets, which all stood neatly in the store. Time flew by, until we returned to the school to meet all the hosts. We drank Coca-Cola and orange juice and there were cookies as we talked and laughed with our French correspondents. Then my host and I returned home with her parents, tired but happy from the day.