Saturday, July 31, 2010

Chateau Chinon

I visited Chateau Chinon last Friday with my language school, Tours Langues. They have excursions every Friday. Chateau Chinon has been under construction for restoration for a very long time and just reopenend last week. There is a lot of history at the chateau, most notably it being the place where Joan of Arc visited the Dauphin of France, Charles VII.

Chateau Chinon

Only one wall remains of the part of the chateau where Joan of Arc visited the Dauphin.

From another view

This is the place where Joan of Arc slept. I think pigeons also slept in those holes, but perhaps something was lost in translation...
The group that visited the chateau consisted of one of the teachers (Annick), 5 Japanese girls, and me. We took a few group photos, and I'm sure I looked totally out of place. I'm looking forward to seeing them. Annick spoke fairly fast and with few hand gestures. I think most of these grils are in her class and are at a higher French level. They didn't seem to have much trouble understanding Annick, but Ayumi told me later that they may have just been nodding their heads a lot...
Anyways, regardless of not understanding all the history of Chateau Chinon, it was very interesting and fun. We also walked down into the medieval village of Chinon to check out the architecture and the shops.

The view of the village of Chinon from the chateau
The medieval architecture and Annick explaining something to us (in French).

The street that led Joan of Arc (Jeanne D'Arc) and her horse up to the chateau to find the Dauphin.

Ancient door

And even a little influence from the U.S.

More Delicious Food

At the Garlic Festival earlier this week, Ayumi and I told Martine about the different sausage we saw. One of the types was boudin noir. It's the French version of blood sausage. It is a specialty of the region, so... Martine bought some boudin noir and we had it for dinner a few nights ago. It was delicious! She served it was sauteed apples. She doesn't like it herself, but made it for us anyway so that we could try it. So nice! There is also a boudin blanc. I saw she bought that as well, so I'm hoping we'll have it next week.

Martine made a plum tart for dessert tonight. Very good. She said that for the preparation of the custard, she added a little Eau de Vie (very strong liquor) and did a flambee. Very interesting.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Cate Cafe Cafe!

Oh la vache! I am drinking so much coffee! Coffee for breakfast, coffee for lunch, midafternoon coffee, coffee after dinner. It never stops. In the morning we drink cafe au lait with breakfast (coffee with milk). If we have a sit down lunch with Martine (during the week, Ayumi and I eat in town), we have un cafe after the meal, which is a small very strong cup of coffee. You can have it avec sucre if you prefer. If I stop at a cafe in the afternoon, I find myself taking another cafe. After dinner, bien sur, another cafe. I'm so hopped up on caffeine by the time I go to bed, that it takes hours to fall asleep! Oh well. C'est normale.
Les petit tasses that we drink our cafes in a la maison (I love these!). My Franglais is pretty good, n'est pas? And below...le sucre

Mo Mo

Mo Mo is le chat de la maison. She is a tiny but extremely curious and mischevious cat. Mo Mo often provides the entertainment for Martine, Ayumi, and I. Often times, after dinner, while drinking our cafes, we will sit at the table, attempt to converse in French, and watch Mo Mo chase feathers. Mo Mo enjoys sleeping in my lap and "hunting" me. She has peed on Ayumi's bed three times in the last few days...not good. Mo Mo also enjoys sitting in the kitchen sink, drinking water from the faucet, chasing insects, and trying to sneak her way out onto the windoww sill. Martine will then promptly scold Mo Mo and say, "C'est trop dangereux pour un petit chat!"

Mo Mo has been acting very strangely the last few days (peeing on Ayumi's bed among other things...). When I commented on the cat's behavior the first day, I thought Martine replyed with a joke that Mo Mo's was in love. I made another comment yesterday because Mo Mo's been meowing like crazy and just acting weird. Martine provided the same response, but this time I understood...Mo Mo is in heat. The French call it something like "a time of love"... Martine does not speak any english, so misunderstandings are a common occurance.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

I Taste Good!

Last night at dinner, I told my Host Mom, Martine, "Je suis bon!" She started to laugh and told me that that meant "I taste good" or "I'm good in bed". Woops! I should've said "Je suis bien" or "Je vai bien".

Monday, July 26, 2010

Garlic Festival

Today, there is a garlic festival in Tours. There are tons of vendors winding through many of the streets selling food. The main thing for sale is garlic and lots of dfferent types.

Walking through the streets there were so many different smells. There were vendors selling sausages, tea, spices, herbs...beaucooup de choses!
I don't know what this was, but it looked delicious.
For lunch we had andoillette (tripe (stomach) sausage made from pork) sandwiches - fresh baguette, mustard, and sauteed onions.

The crepe vendor had a giant jar of nutella!




Ayumi and all different types of tea


This woman was selling some sort of regional cake. They were mildly sweet. The tops looked like they weren't burnt to a crisp, but it didn't taste burnt.

The First Meals

For my first meal, Martine said there wasn't enough time to prepare something French because my train was so late, so she put together a quick meal of something like hamburger and pasta. First we had an appetizer of bread and mushroom pate (so delicious). Then we had the main course, and afterwards, we had a cheese course with two different types of chevre. Then fruit for dessert and finally coffee. We also had hot sake that I think a friend of Ayumi's or else Ayumi herselft brought Martine. The meals take up a lot of time (at least an hour, more like two), which I like.

For lunch on Sunday (which was my breakfast because I woke up at 1:00pm), Martine asked me if I knew lapin? Rabbit! I was so excited that my second meal in France was rabbit. So delicious! It was paired with a pasta like fettucine, potatoes, and sage. Again, everything was split into courses. We also had salad after the main course. It was something like spinach (can't remember the name) with a vinagrette.

For dinner on Sunday, we ate terrine du canard (duck) with bread first. The jar had just been opened and it looked like there was mold growing on top. I had to ask Ayumi if it was normal...C'est normale? She said yes, and I felt a bit embarrassed. It wasn't mold afterall. For the main course, we ate pork with mushrooms in a cream suace. Delicious again. No salad this time. Then cheese, then fruit, and finally crepes for dessert. The crepes were served with honey and jam. Martine was a bit surprised when Ayumi and I wanted both jam and honey on our crepes, but Martine said pas de probleme! Martine just had jam.

I am trying very hard to make sure my table manners are up to par. A couple things I've noted: I always get served first, possibly because I'm the newest? I was a bit disappointed because I wanted to see how everyone else did things first. You never pour your own wine unless you brought the bottle. We haven't had any wine yet, but we had a conversation about this. Arms always rest on the table, not in your lap. I'm sure there are more things, but I can't remember them all now...


I'm in France! I made it onto the correct train, car, and seat... well not exactly. There was a woman in my seat, so I took the next open one. Pas de probleme. I resisted the urge to fall asleep on the train for fear that I would miss my stop. The countryside was very beautiful - lots of farms and old buildings. I saw lots of sunflower fields which were very beautiful, although more of a yellow blur on the TGV going 300 km/h.

My train arrived in Tours about an hour late, so I was worried that my Host Mom, Martine Dupont, would not find me. When walking out of the station, I did not see anyone with a sign saying "Annie Plank", so I wandered around a little. ...Maybe she was back where the train let us off? Or the parking on the other side? I wandered back out again and looked for a telephone. As I was hoping that I would be able to figure out how to use the telephone, a woman came up and asked if I was Annie Plank? What a relief! She said that she was expecting someone with more luggage. Martine came with her son Pierre who is 23. He looked very French wearing slacks and a button down shirt with a sweater wrapped around his shoulders. He has a wild set of curls on his head, more of a fro really. Martine is quite glamorous herself. She wore slacks, low heels, a white blouse, and a sweater around her shoulders. She has jet black hair put up very elegantly and a bit of that je ne sais quoi that all French women seem to have.

Pierre and Martine drove me back to the apartment in their itsy bitsy car. The apartment building is in the shape of a hollow square with parking in the middle. It has a white plaster facade with lots of pretty windows and flower boxes. The apartment is on the 4th floor (3rd in France, the 1st floor doesn't start until you hit the 2nd floor...) And bien sur, no elevator. The building was built after World War II because the area had been bombed.

The aparment is very simple, yet beautiful. It consists of one hallway with rooms attached. The kitchen, bathroom, and one bedroom are on one side. The living room and my bedroom are on the other. The toilet is at the end of the hallway (seperated from the bathroom). I have read that the French don't see why one would use a toilet in the same room that you take a bath in. However, after you use the toilet, you then have to walk into the bathroom to laver les mains.

The living room has an entryway with French doors, a large window, and a small fireplace with gorgeous red marble. There are many photos and paintings on the wall either done by Martine herself or her friends. Two of the paintings in the apartment that she has done are of cats in the style naif.

The bathroom has a stand alone tub with feet, no shower curtain, and a hand held sprayer. It takes a little getting used to to not spray the walls with water. The bathroom has a ton of purfume bottles in it, mostly channel, which I think is very fun.

The kitchen is small but functional. It has what I think is a small dishwasher, but we don't use it. There is also a small washer (no dryer) in the bathroom. The fridge is full sized which looks huge since everything else in the apartment is small.

My bedroom is nice. It has a big window looking out onto the square that the apartment faces (La Place de la Resistance). There is also a small fireplace. The other bedroom belongs to Ayumi, the Japanese student who also stays with Martine. I'm not sure where Martine sleeps. I think she is in an apartment one level down. Pierre explained this to me on the first day, but it was a little confusing. Anyways, I love the apartment!

On plane # 2, 7/24 9:08am (France time!)

45 minutes until we land at CDG. I feel pretty good. I got a few hours of sleep, and I've already had some coffee. I'm listening to Florence & The Machine to pump myself up for the next stage of my trip - getting on the TGV. Last night while trying to coax myself to sleep, I was reading the TGV section of my Savoir Flare book. I am now acutely aware of the difficulties of finding the correct train, car, and seat. Apparently, there are no signs anywhere, but no worries. The author's advice is just to ask someone. This is also what Meggie told me, so I will be sure to do this. I hope I don't have trouble stowing my pack wherever it is I'm supposed to do that on the train.

I had a slight scare in Dallas/Fort Worth where I made my connection. We landed and immediately started seeing buckets of water spilling down the sides of the windows as well as flashes of lightening followed quickly by thunder. We taxied about halfway to the gate and stopped. The ramp workers had all deserted to escape the storm. The airport had come to a standstill until the storm passed. I only had 50min until my next flight took off. Were the departing flights delayed as well? Probably... Hopefully... They must be, right? But by how much? We roll into the gate about 30min later. I have about 15min to find my gate. With a frantic search of the teleprompter and a little running I find the gate with time to spare. On the plus side, I got the blood rushing through my body with all the running, so I feel a bit less stiff for the long flight over the Atlantic!

And sorry if there are any spelling mistakes. The spell check is in French, so it thinks everything is misspelled!

Arriving at the Seatac airport, 7/23 ~9am

I'm sitting at gate A8 by the big window watching all the airport traffic. Boeing did at least provide me with more of an interest in airports. I am in full on travel mode now. I'm glad I got all the jitters out of me a few days ago. I now feel fairly calm with twinges of excitement here and there.

When I arrived at the airport and went to the AA desk, the self-service kiosk asked, "What is your destination?" I typed PARIS and thought, "How amazing is this?!" The people next to me were only going to Chicago...too bad. I whip out my passport to slide it across the machine. I love the feeling you get when you whip out your passport!