Monday, September 29, 2008

Castles and Elephants

I had a packed but excellent weekend! I spent Friday evening with my host family—we had dinner at the house and then went out for a drink. Still, I wanted to get to sleep early because Saturday was going to be spent visiting castles with the group, and we would be leaving at 8am.

We met Saturday morning and took a bus to the Castle of Chenonceau, which Henri II gave to his mistress, Diane de Poitiers, so there were lots of interesting historical details about it. It’s built on the water, so it’s really stunning. We wandered around there for a few hours, then got back on the bus and headed to the Castle of Chambord.

Before we visited the castle of Chambord, we had a little picnic outside the grounds. Our host families were responsible for sending us with lunches (which was kind of reminiscent of elementary school), and French lunches are enormous compared to American lunches, so we had fun comparing our bags of food. A couple of girls had an entire baguette and a tray of meats and cheese, just as an appetizer. If families sent sandwiches, they sent at least two. Some people had up to three different desserts. One family even offered to send along a bottle of wine. We finished up our feast and went to see the castle. Chambord is also really beautiful. The structure of the castle itself is interesting—there are a whole bunch of towers, and the staircase at the heart of the castle is in the shape of a double helix. Again, we did some more wandering (it was truly a day filled with history and the taking of photos), and then headed back.

The day felt pretty long, but it was still relatively early in the evening when we returned to Angers. I met up with my host family and some of their friends for a drink, and then we went out for dinner at a Moroccan restaurant. Afterwards, I met up again with some people from the group as well as some French students we’ve been meeting with for casual conversation. It was cool to just chill out with a bunch of people, and it was really interesting to hear how everyone was going back and forth between languages, as we really want to practice our French and they really want to practice their English. I think we are meeting up with them again later this week, so that should be nice.

I had another early start to my day on Sunday, as I went with Jean-Pierre, Marie, and two of their friends, Brigitte and Francois, to the city of Nantes. We saw a castle and a chapel upon arriving, and then they took me to see “The Elephant.” I had no idea what that meant beforehand, even though they had mentioned in advance that it would be part of our visit—but it turns out that Nantes is home to an enormous, mechanized elephant that actually walks around (and people can ride on top) once an hour. I caught a little on video (check that out below). Truly fascinating. There was a bookstore right there, where I learned that there are approximately a million French children’s books about elephants. My favorite was “L’elephant qui se cache” or “The elephant who hides himself”—it was about an elephant escaping from a zoo and struggling to find good hiding places.

After the elephant visit, we ate lunch at a nice little waterfront restaurant, and then went to the beach. The weather was incredible (though it’s generally been cold here), and there were lots of people swimming. We walked along the shore and hung around for a while. We left from there and got home pretty late at night. I had dinner, did my homework (yes, homework), and then went to sleep. I was exhausted, but went into my week with many stories to tell!


Martin said...

what is the elephant's name

Christine said...

his name is Le Grand Elephant. his parents were not terribly creative

Kelly said...

how many times did you ride the Le Grand Elephant?

Christine said...

as a matter of fact, my host family suggested that I ride Le Grand Elephant but I resisted the temptation to do so

Kelly said...

i'm disappointed.