Seven Hills School France 2016
July 13, 2016
Today the class and I went to Jardin du Luxembourg. The gardens were very pretty and the scenery was breathtaking. As we are sitting on a bench waiting for the rest of the group to rejoin us, I notice three boys playing volleyball. I see this as an opportunity to play a sport that I enjoy and also enrich myself in the culture and daily life of Paris. Although we are all not fluent in French, we approach the boys and ask them in French if we could play with them and this made me feel very happy and content. We all began to play and it was a lot of fun for everybody. More people began to join, and numerous smiles appeared in the crowd. This made me feel apart of the daily life and very welcome. I am very glad I was able to step outside of my comfort zone and make an effort to bond with the inhabitants of France, as well as directly placing myself into the shoes of a typical French child around my age.
July 14, 2016
This morning found us dining upon pastries in the restaurant at the hostel we reside in. Near a rather randomly placed church spire, many planes flew overhead, loudly and low.
Our small group of a mere ten split further, four people answering the call of palaces and glass pyramids to the Louvre, and six embarking upon an adventure to a former train station, the Musée D’Orsay. I, personally, went to the Musée D’ Orsay and enjoyed it greatly. My group and I saw the collections of impressionism art by people such as Monet, Renoir, and others. A personal favorite was a sculpture of a man with a forehead to rival Brendon Urie’s, and a Monet painting depicting waves crashing on rocks.
After meeting up with the Louvre group, we walked a short distance to un café, where we ate lunch. We then walked through la Jardin de Tuilleries, and came out on le Champs-Élysées, far away from the Arc de Triomphe. Accompanied by macarons, we traversed down the road to the base. Due to long lines, we chose to not climb to the top. However, we did take the Metro home, an enjoyable, not to mention speedy, experience. After a brief rest at the hostel, then we were out again to a restaurant for dinner, and to see Bastille Day fireworks, much more intricate than American displays, from a boat on La Seine. (Don’t tell America I said that.)
July 15, 2016
Today we started the day walking to the Picasso museum. I really liked it because I got to navigate and it was weird because the street signs are different. We went into the museum and broke into groups and looked at art. I really liked how abstract the paintings and sculptures were. Then we went to get falafel and it was so good. We then visited the park and ate our lunch. Then we went on the bus and it was fun because we saw the Eiffel Tower up close! We went back to the hostel to have a great dinner and then we went to Notre Dame and walked all the way to the top!!
July 16, 2016
Saturday marked the end of our time in Paris, but it also marked the start of our time in Avignon. We woke up, packed our bags, ate breakfast, and left in order to make it to the three hour train to Avignon. On the TGV (France’s equivalent of a bullet train) some people slept and some listened to music. What we mostly did to pass the time was talk. It was a good experience to bring us closer together and I felt like I understood everyone a lot better. The countryside was very beautiful and extremely different from the U.S, which made it interesting.
After we visited the Palais des Papes, where two popes known as the anti-popes lived. Then we did a scavenger hunt and this was the highlight of the day! Everyone had fun conversing with the locals and exploring the area. We had to take pictures with non-anglophone tourists and street performers, as well as a photo of a cigale, which could be a cicada, a play, or a beer. (We were supposed to find a cicada). Overall it was a fun day with lots of unique experiences.
July 17, 2016
Today was our first (and last) full day in Avignon. This was an exciting and adventurous day that allowed me to surpass my comfort zone. We began the day with a light breakfast of croissant and baguette, and began our daily adventure. We first took a bus to the charming town of L’isle-sur-la-sorgue , which hosted a diverse “marché en plein air” or open air market. We had a minor scavenger hunt, that revolved around the components of our lunch. This experience allowed me to excel as an adventurer in a foreign country. Once done at the market, we took a scenic drive to embark on our hike (which was extremely exciting for me).
The hike featured cavernous mountains and canyons that were extremely appealing right to the eye. However, we of course dined on our collections from the market first. The hike was hot and arid, but beautiful and Katie was urging us to drink water. We then visited the lavender farm, which was one of the most amazing sights. I LOVE lavender , so this was an exciting experience for me. The only thing visible, were the fields of lavender that extended to the horizon. Of course I was in heaven considering my love of lavender. I bought numerous products (as memorabilia). Today was my favorite day because I could adventure and embrace the versatility of France. Au revoir Avignon.
July 18, 2016
July 18th was our trip to Carcassonne, the town where we will be meeting our host families. After packing up and leaving Avignon, we took a bus ride to the Pont du Gard. We went swimming and ate lunch there. The Pont du Gard was an aqueduct in the time of Ancient Rome and it is the tallest structure that the Romans built after the Colosseum. Now that the structure is not in use there is a river underneath in which you can swim. Afterwards we had a picnic lunch of sandwiches and popsicles before heading Back on the bus for the 3 hour drive to Carcassonne to meet up with our families. When we arrived, we got to know our families by chatting and doing la bise all together before parting ways to spend the night with our hosts!
July 19, 2016
Today we all started off the day by eating breakfast with our host family’s for the first time. We ate thing such as baguette and apricots. Next we went on an hour long bus ride and listened to music on our way to restore a Capitelle. A Capitelle is a small stone hut that is found throughout this region. These huts provide shelter during one’s long journey on the Way of St. James, or for those that work in the vineyards or olive groves. However these stone houses have been falling apart and covered in moss and bushes. Our job was to fix them and clear out the brush around them and we accomplished this goal when we left at 12:00 and went to tour and shop at the Carcosone Castle. We enjoyed ice cream and learning more about France’s past.
July 20, 2016
Today was our second and last day of the restoration service project. Our group, myself included, met once again with Bernard and the other volunteers to clear the brush surrounding the site. The improvement was amazing!! One of our volunteers worked to clear the dirt off of an old set of stone stairs that had been hidden. I’m a bit disappointed that we didn’t have a chance to rebuild the capitelle after taking it apart, but I’m still proud of the work we were able to do together.
After a picnic lunch by restoration site, we boarded the bus to go to an olive oil factory. Our tour guide tilde us about how green olives are good for eating because they’re firmer, whereas black olives are better for making oil with because they’re juicer. There are no specific trees for green olives or black ones; since green olives turn black around November, the trees are the same. We tasted some olives and olive oil, then spent some time shopping for various olive oil products.
Madame Brinkerhoff and Katie came to my host family’s home tonight to say hi and chat a bit with us. I showed them my bedroom and introduced them to the dogs and cat. Later on, I taught my french family how to play Spot It, a favorite of mine. It’s safe to say that I am completely comfortable here and fairly confident in my ability to speak French with my host family. Though I only have a few days with them, I have tried to make the most out of this homestay as with the rest of the trip.