Friday, October 29, 2010

Apartments in Tours

***written a few weeks ago***

I’m on the train yet again traveling through the French countryside on my way to Bourges. This time, my stomach is in knots. It was much more difficult to leave Tours this time. The two and a half months I spent there was truly a rich experience for me. I was lucky to have the opportunity to live with two different women, Martine and Barbara. Although they are colleagues and friends, they are quite different. Their differences are apparent in the way they keep their apartments.

Martine lives in the heart of Tours in a square called La Place de la Résistance. It’s a five minute walk to the medieval quartier of Tours (which is also where my school was). Her apartment is on the 4th floor of a building that was built after WWII due to it being in an area that had been bombed. The building was constructed with the traditional façade of limestone walls (truffeau) and a grey roof.

The apartment has old hardwood floors that creak, marble fireplaces, crown molding in the salon, and beautiful enormous windows that somehow always manage to find a breeze.

The kitchen is the traditional French style (i.e. tiny) with a door, and there are two bedrooms. Martine loves antiques, so everything in the apartment is old and mismatched, which creates an overall laidback feeling. The walls are covered in her artwork, her friends artwork, and photos of her family and friends.

The bathroom has an old bathtub with feet, a handheld sprayer, and no curtain. It took a little get used to, and I still managed to spray the floors from time to time. Her bathroom is also littlered with perfume bottles and pretty shopping bags from stores like Hermès.

The apartment is very cozy and very Martine.

Barbara lives in a completely different part of town. She and her son, Nans, live in the quartier Giraudeau, in the SW part of Tours. It’s a thirty minute walk to my school from the apartment, but I had the opportunity to walk through more neighborhoods in Tours that I otherwise would have never seen. It’s a much more modern part of town with a much more diverse group of people. Most of her neighbors are either French or North African.

The building is small with stores on the first floor facing the street, and two floors of apartments on the back side. It sort of looks like a concrete shoebox. The building was surrounded by high rise apartments on all sides. There was actually grass, a playground, and big trees where a huge flock of birds lived and chirped at all hours of the day. It was much quieter and peaceful (although the noise at Martine’s was never a problem, just different).

The apartment has three bedrooms, one bathroom, a salon, and a kitchen. The kitchen is une cuisine americaine which means it has no door.

Everything in the apartment was much more modern. All the windows were new double pane windows with outdoor blinds that opened and closed with the push of a button. The salon, Barbara’s bedroom, and Nans’ bedroom all had french doors and a balcony. The floors were all laminate, and all the rooms were whitewashed except for one pink wall. Barbara is a bit more computer savvy, so there was wi-fi in the apartment, as well as a printer, and cable TV. I hadn’t watched any French TV when I arrived at her place, so it was a new experience for me. French TV has a reputation of being horrible, and I can now say that I agree. Most of it consists of bad American series and films dubbed in French. All the décor in the apartment was also more modern with an Ikea-ish style.

The apartment also came with two pets! There was Valine the doxen and Caroline the tortue. Valine liked lounging on the Tintin sheets on my bed. Caroline preferred to sleep in a dark corner in the kitchen. When the weather was warm enough, she'd emerge and I'd find her in a different corner.

The bathroom was also more modern. There was a shower curtain, and I had the option of standing up to shower!

Overall it was a really comfortable apartment, and I’ll miss it.

It was fun to experience both living styles because they were so different. With each host mom I was also able to meet their families and see how they lived. I will miss them both very much!

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