Hey there everyone, and greetings from Perigueux!
So, I finally got here last night, safe and sound, and the slightest bit tired. Our train was supposed to leave at 2 yesterday afternoon, but instead it left an hour and a half late, making us miss our second train. Thankfully, the French, although with terrible time-sense, are accommodating (well, most of the time…to French-speakers). Three and a half hours later, we created a system of taking the bags off the train (there were about 40 bags in total), and we managed to do so in five minutes as opposed to 45 minutes, which is how long it took to get on the train. Our second train was filled with butterflies in our stomachs, as Perigueux flashed on the screen as the final destination. Those who weren’t nervous at all began to feel just the slightest bit worried. It didn’t help that one of the bags up above, which I had helped put up, almost fell on a little girl. Nor did it help that we were starving. As the train stopped, we could see all our correspondants, mine being the first in the group. I was welcomed by her and her parents, all of whom I couldn’t understand. And so we left, 45 minutes to her house, at around 8:30 pm. The ride was dark, and as she lives in the middle of nowhere, there were no buildings or anything around. The cool thing is that I saw my first owl ever! Of course it had to be in France, because that makes it so much better. When we got to her house, I was totally expecting everything I saw. The house is in the middle of the woods, with tens of hundreds of acres of land. When I went inside, however, I was not expecting anything. They have the most beautiful house I have ever seen. It’s easy to tell that the family consists of artists, as various colors are spread out. Their kitchen has defined red trees painted around, with various chair colors. The rest of the walls are made of large white stones, and the upstairs (with steep stairs…eeeekk) has wooden panels up above from the ceiling. I have to be careful to crouch when I walk upstairs, as the panels are rather low. Most important of all, the smell of fireplace wood floats around in the air, and it’s such a refreshing smell. I absolutely love it.
The family is of course tremendously nice. Her younger brother is in his first year of English, as well as very talkative, so he insists on talking to me in English. Her father tries to speak a bit of English for me, but honestly, I’m okay when they speak French. My only problem is the speed at which they speak French. The fact that they have an Indian correspondant is absolutely perfect, as there is such a great Indian influence on the decor of their house. Cabinet panels are painted with scenes from India, created by Eleonore’s mother herself. There are small temples of Ganesh and pictures scattered around the house. And simultaneously, the outside makes me feel like I’m in Vermont. All I see in today’s bright sunlight is rolling hills and lush plants. On the 45 minute ride to Perigueux this morning, I felt like I was driving along the roads of Vermont. In fact, Perigueux, in an odd way, reminds me of Burlington too. The size is more or less the same, and although the buildings are old European ones, the quaintness of the town resembles where we live so much. This, of course, makes me miss home a lot, but it helps that I’m here with 19 others who feel the same way.
We spent this morning at the Consule Generale, where I failed to understand even a single word of the Vice President. Nevertheless, it was a time to catch up with all the French, and recreate our past friendships. Later we head to Le Poivre Rouge, a restaurant that resembled Olive Garden slightly. Finally, we head to the bowling alley, of all places, where I realized that all these years without bowling haven’t affected my game…I’m still terrible. I did manage to get one strike, and end up in 3rd place on my 8-person team! That’s how it’s done.
Right now, I’m back at Eleonore’s place, relaxing. Tomorrow, I have to wake up at 5:45 to head out to Perigueux. The entire group is taking a bus to Bordeaux, and spending the day there. Although it’ll be nice and relaxing, we’re not getting back to Eleonore’s place until midnight or 1 am, or so. But for the moment, it’s nice to sit down and just write.
We started yesterday off with a leisurely stroll around Paris, soaking in the last bits of this beautiful city. My feet are personally dead, but yesterday was nice. We head to a local market to grab lunch for the train ride (I got my usual baguette sandwich…mm mm mm!), and I made my last stop at the local grocery store, where I had managed to go every single day for one thing or another. We said our final goodbyes to Francoise, our spectacular Paris tour guide for the trip, and forgave her for our feet sores.
I haven’t had time to blog about the days before. But let’s see if I can go over the highlights.
Day 3, we head out to Versailles, which is obviously incredible regardless of the fact that I’ve seen it before. Although I didn’t understand the rapid French of our tour guide, or the history in general, I really took in the architecture. The main gates are made of real gold leaves, not paint, which is mind-blowing. And the fact that kings and queens lived here is even more incredible. There were many odd things that the royals would do. One example: when the kings and queens would wake up, they would re-locate to the “public” bedroom in order to officially wake up in front of the public. I thought this to be so bizarre, but I guess it’s because I’ve never personally seen a monarchy…
We continued onto the lush gardens of Versailles, extending out into the horizon. My video blog shows all, so be sure to check that one out if you haven’t yet! Francoise took us out to the back trails, where we strolled along a quiet lake, stopping to take pictures. After the bustle of tourists, this serenity was amazing, and we continued on throughout the town of Versailles.
Later in the day, Francoise took us to an area around Bastille, where there were numerous boutiques with cheap clothing [unfortunately, we couldn’t go :(…..], to see the ugliest building in Paris. This museum is constructed of tubes of different colors, so it looks like modern art, basically. Unfortunately, it was ugly. I did get to have my first crepe of the trip here, so the building became irrelevant soon. Afterwards, we walked to our hotel for a little break.
Dinner on day 3 was at a cute restaurant on a street near our hotel, called Rue Mouffetard. Most people tried Escargots for the first time, and I enjoyed mine for the second time. We shared way too many laughs…so we couldn’t help being loud Americans. But the night was spent in good company, with good food—and we spent the night talking and talking.
Day 4 was my dear, dear Louvre, which I enjoyed more than I had anticipated. Yes, the Mona Lisa did give me the goosebumps I didn’t get before. Even more than that, the mummy was frightening. Actually everything is goosebump-worthy once you know the history of it. There were a couple of pieces I particularly enjoyed, but our tour was far too short. I got on the bad side of three random people, as I accidentally bumped into them and they gave me dirty looks. I guess Parisians are not as quick at accepting apologies…
The rest of the day was spent shopping! A couple of us looked around at a large department store called Printemps, and then headed to Rue Mouffetard. Only getting to the road was difficult, as we had to take two trains. After getting there, we walked for about 45 minutes, asking various people for directions on the way, before reaching the road. But we realized what a small world it is during the walk. A woman whom we asked for directions from asked us where we were from, and it turns out that her and her husband visited Vermont this summer! I had difficulty understanding her, but we held a complete conversation, which was great.
Our last night in Paris was spent on a Bateau-Mouche, which means “Fly Boat”, as in it is a fly on water. We happened to be stuck next to British boys who evidently had no respect for Americans, as many girls proceeded to flirt with them and they reciprocated with various jokes. See, I don’t find myself to be an intimidating person, but one dirty look and I had them apologizing to me…but it was actually funny. I just didn’t appreciate their narrow-mindedness. I mean, we have our jokes about the Brits, but we’re not about to say them to people we just met. Plus, they were kind of ruining the beautiful ride. We were on top of the boat, and you could see the sky, which unfortunately wasn’t clear. Nevertheless, it was a magical trip. I had bundled up, so I was thankfully not cold. The Eiffel Tower glittered every hour, and we were lucky to see it numerous times. For dinner, we celebrated two birthdays on our trip, with two substantial ages…18 and 60. So all in all, it was a good day. But we were all sad to see our last night in Paris crumble away.
So we’re back to Perigueux. I managed to embarrass myself tremendously at dinner today. First, I couldn’t get the salad on my fork. Here, they usually cut their salad, so I tried it….but the entire family had fun watching me try to stuff an entire salad leaf into my mouth! Second, I thought I knew my utensils, but I clearly don’t. Nevertheless, they’re so nice about….yet, I’m still pretty embarrassed. The food here in Southern France is definitely eccentric; they put cheese in everything. That’s along with an entire course of cheese. My eating capabilities are great, as you know, so I have no problem. In fact, I noticed that I eat really fast, so I’m kind of working on that at the moment.
We’re heading to Bordeaux tomorrow, which is known for its wine. Unfortunately, being underage and all, I can’t try any on the trip….but after Italy, I guess I don’t really like wine that much. Hopefully I’ll keep updating! [I have two more video blogs, but Youtube isn’t letting them upload…so I’ll work on it!]