I've found that nearly everyday here I'm learning something new. Whether it be about the way of life in France or about myself, it's always fun to see what each new day will bring. (Unfortunately, I have yet understand French transportation schedules.)
This week, I worked on my portion of one of the group projects we've been assigned. It wasn't really hard or anything, but it took quite a bit of time. Lizette, Alois, and I all have something similar to work on, so Thursday and most of Friday we did the responsible thing and finished the homework. Then, Friday afternoon/evening, Joe, Lizette, and I took a train to nearby Chatellerault for a bit of exploring.
Chatellerault was beautiful. We found the town square and from there went to the Office of Tourism, found a map, and headed out to see what we could see. First we visited a cathedral. I think that the facade of this one was restored fairly recently (past 200 years), because it looked quite new compared to the other churches I've seen. Of course it was beautiful. This cathedral was different in that there was no large organ upstairs above the front entrance. Instead it had a small organ against the side wall, and I've never seen that before.
Next we followed the directions of the walking tour in our map and it took us to several other really old buildings, unfortunately, we were only able to see the outsides because they were closed to the public.
We did get to walk down to the river and see a beautiful bridge the spans the Vienne. We walked down and under the bridge, and on the other side was a small, grassy area. It's a beautiful river, but it's no Snake River.
We walked through town a bit more, but didn't really see anything worth mentioning here. (Definitely not a tourist town.) When we first arrived at Chatellerault, we checked the train schedule and saw that there was a train leaving at 9:20. So we decided that we would be back at the station by then. However, we had seen everything and were ready to leave by about 8:00. We went to the station to catch an 8:20 train, only to realize that the train schedule is different on Fridays. The train that we needed to board had left at 7:55 and there wasn't another one going to Poitiers until 6:20 the next morning. Needless to say, we have not yet mastered the whole train thing yet. We went through all of our options, debated taking a taxi, almost took a bus, then finally decided to just hop on a train that we didn't have a ticket for and hope for the best. We had to wait until 9:30 to catch this one. (We had tickets for the TER line, which is local, and the train we rode was TGV, which is for all of France.)
We had a close call because the guy who checks tickets stood right beside us for the first 5 minutes of the ride, but he didn't ask for our ticket, so we didn't say anything! And we made it home safely-- it's all part of the adventure.
It has been pointed out to me that I get giggly when I'm upset/uncomfortable/nervous, and now I know that it's true. I could not stop laughing when we were waiting for the 9:30 train. It was just so comical to me that we were stranded 15 minutes from home. 15 minutes-- that's all the train ride was. Oh my, I'm glad I have excellent travel companions to share these mishaps with.
Saturday morning, I met with Lizette, Joe, and Alois to go to Futuroscope for the day. (It's only about 10 miles outside of Poitiers.) I'm not sure how to describe what Futuroscope is exactly because I've never been to or heard of anything similar in the US. It's a big park with lots of architecturally beautiful buildings and inside each building is some sort of attraction. Some that we went to were "Mission Hubble," "Sea Monsters," and "Born to Be Wild." The attraction itself is usually just a film of some sort.
The first film we saw was "Travelers by Air and Sea" and while the film itself wasn't that spectacular, the theater was. The rows were unusually wide, with lots of leg room, but I just thought that's how they are here. Turns out there was a huge screen under the seating area, so they were showing the film on the big screen in front of us, and then it carried on down onto the one below us. It had an interesting effect. The little kids down the row from us loved that they could look through the floor to watch the movie.
We also watched "Sea Monsters" in 4D. I had never seen a movie in 4D before and it was so cool, and so much better than just 3D. Everything looks so close and right in front of you. I enjoyed this, although I'm not sure what the story was as it was in French.
Another notable attraction was called Arthur, the 4D Adventure. We did this last because there was a 50 minute wait for a 5 minute "ride." Once we got in there, however, the wait was worth it. It was in an IMAX dome, and we were given 4D glasses and sat in special chairs. In the attraction, we were in Arthur's world. Arthur is a small human thing, and lives in the grass with the ladybugs and rodents. We had to travel to somewhere and fight someone, basically. (Arthur explained it to us, but spoke French, imagine that.) So we were traveling down tunnels and the seats were moving like we actually there. Now, I've been in a few of these kinds of "rides" before, but this one beat them all. It felt very real because of the dome, but also these chairs were crazy. On our journey we met a mouse that sneezed on us, and the chairs actually sprayed water in our faces. We made our way through a spider web, and our headrests produced tentacle like things that touched our hair. We encountered some bees, and there were puffs of air at our neck as they flew by. There were huge fans in front of us so it felt like we were moving really fast. It really was quite the experience.
I think the most fun we had all day was in the Kid's area. We climbed a big rope jungle gym until the sun came out, then we had lunch. I enjoyed the park, but I don't think it's something I would want to go back to. There were a few attractions that I would have liked to do, but we didn't get to them. I'm not sure this kind of thing, as it is, would be successful in America. There wasn't a whole lot to do except watch movies all day. (I just think if you're going to build these amazing buildings, you should at least put more in them than just a theater. What a waste!) But, it was a good experience, and I'm glad we went!
We almost didn't make it home a second time, because, I swear, the bus schedules just are not clear about what's going on around here! We arrived at the bus stop early, because we had learned our lesson the night before-- we were not going to miss the bus! (We did.) Out of the four of us, you'd think someone could figure this out, but no. So we sat in the shelter thing, and it started sprinkling a little, then pouring rain. A bus that was going to all the hotels in the area arrived after a few minutes and we asked the driver if there were any buses coming that could take us to where we needed to be. He saw that we were helpless and stuff, so he took us to a different bus stop that had more options than the one we were at. (Such a nice man, and he spoke English!) From that station we made it back, and thank goodness because it was raining pretty hard at this point. Eventually, we'll learn!
Sunday was pretty laid back. I got some more homework done, and did a bit of writing. That evening Joe and Lizette had planned to feed the LDS missionaries from the local branch and they invited to Alois and me to join them. (You might have seen the picture on Facebook.) We had pork and potatoes and corn, and it was good to eat American food. The elders were both from Utah and knew some of the same people that Joe and Lizette know, so it was kind of fun to see those connections being made. Alois had never heard of the Mormon church before he met Joe and Lizette, so he had a few questions that I'm sure the missionaries loved answering.
Monday and Tuesday were study days for everyone, as we all have projects to work on. Tuesday we had French class again, and I'm please to tell you that I now know several more verbs. So, yeah, that's fun.
Here's to many more adventures and mishaps, good friends, and good times!
1 month down, 8 months to go.