Friday, October 29, 2010


After leaving Tours, I headed to Bourges to visit my 3rd cousin. My great-grandmother was French but immigrated to the US after meeting my great-grandfather during WWI. My cousin, Maryse, is the daughter of my great-grandmother’s brother (there was a large age gap between the siblings). Maryse lives in Bourges, which is about 2 hours East of Tours and 2 hours South of Paris (both by slow train, not TGV). I was 3 years old the last time I saw her, so although I had always wanted to reconnect with her, I was a little anxious to meet her again.

Maryse, unfortunately, broke her leg in the spring. She is still not able to get around very well, and uses canes or a wheelchair. She lives alone but has very good friends who stop by the house everyday to help out. I was able to meet most of them during the five days I was in Bourges. Since Maryse couldn’t take me on a tour of the city, her friends acted as tour guide in her place. Her friends Annick, Serge, and their son, Jerome, did a lot for me during my stay. They drove me around town, gave me numerous tours of the city, and took me out to restaurants (Saxo the dog got to come too!). Maryse, of course, accompanied us whenever there wasn’t too much walking involved.

The minute I got to Maryse’s house from the station, I was immediately family. She talked a mile a minute with her friend, Annick. I hadn’t been there five minutes when she told me I ought to marry Annick’s son, Jerome, because Maryse is his godmother and then we would all be a family! She was always happy, always smiling, and she talked a lot! I generally understood about half of what she said, but it was always fun.

We ate a lot of food and drank a lot of wine. Maryse took me to les Marais, which is a huge network of gardens owned by the habitants of Bourges. Each garden is seperated by water, and everyone takes old wooden boats to get to their gardens.

Annick and Serge took me to the cathedral, and we climbed the 373 stairs to the top.

Jerome took me to museums and walked around town with me. We even got a look at the manifestation. On my last full day we all took a drive into the countryside where we visited a village of potters. The funniest part of my visit was when Maryse would tell me I was skinny and then pinch my shoulder, elbow, or knee. My best memory of the trip was when Maryse taught me how to make mayonnaise.

The craziest experience I had was visiting Jerome’s school where he is a teacher. When I arrived in Bourges he and his mom picked me up at the train station. I hadn’t been off the train for a whole minute before he asked me if I wanted to visit his school. I said, “Why not?!” Then the night before my visit, he explained what to expect at the school. I was surprised to learn that I would actually be presented to the students in his two classes so that they could ask me questions about the U.S.! He handed me a piece of paper with a little bio of myself and a list of questions to expect. Luckily, the English teacher had prepared them for me in English, but I was expected to respond in French as much as possible. Jerome reassured me that the students were very nice and I had nothing to be nervous about. The experience turned out to be really fun. The students were indeed nice and asked a lot of questions. They wanted to know which French celebrities I knew and which French brand names are available in the U.S. They were shocked when I told them I worked a minimum of 40 hours a week at Boeing and that I only had 10 days of vacation each year. When I told them I was going to Paris next they told me what I should visit, and then tried to convince the teachers that they should all get to spend a day in Paris with me. It didn’t end up working out, but it was really cute. I was totally shocked, but afterwards Jerome told me that my visit to the school was going to be in Bourges’ local paper! I was even more shocked when it actually appeared a couple days later.

I was really sad to leave Maryse. Due to the strike going on she was very worried about me getting to Paris. She and Annick dropped me off at the station, and even found a woman who was going to Paris and asked her to keep an eye on me. I had to take a bus first, and Maryse told the bus driver that her “little American” was going to Paris and to take good care of me. I hope to return soon!

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