Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Small-ish Update


Well, friends, I'm beginning to think that maybe I should have saved part 2 of Spain for this week because again, I have very little to report.

I so enjoyed my week back in Poitiers all to myself. I was totally lazy and I didn't feel even a little bit bad about it. I did get some things done-- laundry, groceries, etc. But really, I was mostly lazy.

Tuesday, Joe, Lizette, and I left for Italy! We plan on spending 2 full days in Venice, then 3 full days in Rome.

Today, we spent the day wandering around Venice. Let me just tell ya, as magical as you may think Venice is, it's better. The little streets and alley ways lined with yellow and orange buildings are so picturesque. Everywhere you turn there's something new to take your breath away.

We went to town this morning with full intention to take our sweet and precious time just enjoying the city. And that's what we did. To end the day we went on a gondola ride. Overall, it was quite the day. Relaxing, and full of beauty.

I'll give a full report of our trip when I get back next week.

Je t'embrasse,


Wednesday, October 22, 2014



Like I said in the last post, our train to Madrid left in the middle of the day, so we arrived at a decent time. (If you're reading this post first, don't forget to go back and read the one about Barcelona next!) However, we spent a few hours just being lazy in the hostel before venturing out into the city. (We were just so worn out!)

When we finally emerged from the hostel, it was with the intent to find authentic Spanish food to really compete the Spain experience. After walking and walking without finding anything (translation: Joe and Alois couldn't decide what they wanted so Lizette and I followed them for blocks), we finally settled on a place called Nebraska. (So much for authentic Spanish.) It ended up being wonderful. Sometimes (often) I crave jalapeƱos and they had a spicy ham sandwich with jalapeƱos, so I was happy. (Very spicy for European standards, not so much for mine, but still delicious.)

Sunday morning, Joe and Lizette wanted to go see the Madrid LDS Temple, so the four of us planned to meet at a museum later in the afternoon. This gave me the whole morning alone, and I spent a good chunk of it at Starbucks (with my Venti Iced Caramel Machiatto and cinnamon roll) reading a book-- a peaceful morning well-spent.

We met at Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia. This museum was huge-- biggest one I'd been to yet. They had Picasso and Salvador Dali as well as many other Spanish artists. Our main reason for going to this museum though, was Guernica. Yes, I actually saw Picasso's Guernica with my own eyes, and it was glorious. Wow, even thinking about it now, I can't believe I actually stood in the room with such an iconic piece of art. We weren't allowed to take pictures of it, but here's what it looks like.

That museum was fun, but the next one was even more amazing. Museo de Prado, just a few blocks from Reina Sofia, was even bigger and even more impressive. It had several of Raphael's paintings as well as many other very famous artists' works. (Lizette is very interested in art and art history, so she could tell you more about all of it than I can.) I do know that this museum was very intriguing to walk through. There was room after room of statues and paintings. Being there was such an emotional experience. There's just something about walking into a large room full of floor to ceiling paintings that absolutely takes my breath away. The emotions on the faces of the characters in the paintings paired with deep red walls and black marble floors invokes strong emotions in the viewers. One cannot help but be overcome with feelings of awe in the presence of these masterpieces. They contain so much history; it amazes that I can take part in that centuries after they were created. We easily spent 3 to 4 hours here, because there was just so much to see.

We then met Alois at a park nearby and sat and people watched for a while before finding dinner. (It always surprises me how much time we actually spend in parks and how much I end up enjoying it.)

The next day, we left the hostel early to take the subway to Las Ventas, the home of bullfighting in Spain. I really don't want this paragraph to turn into an animal rights rant, but how much do you really know about bullfighting? I didn't know much before this tour, but now the whole idea absolutely makes me sick to my stomach. We even wanted to attend a bullfight, but I'm so glad we didn't-- I don't think I'd make it through it. Did you know that every bull enters the arena to die? It's a terribly violent sport. On the tour, there were a few videos about previous bullfights, and it was so gruesome to watch. It's bloody and sad, and the crowd goes crazy for the bull's death. I was nearly in tears as I was watching the videos and listening to the audio guide. They called it "a poetic and vital part" of Spain's history, but my goodness, it's such a cruel sport.

Afterwards, we went to see Catedral de la Almudena and La Palacio Real de Madrid (Royal Palace). Almudena was incredible. (Sorry for another cathedral description.) Construction of Almudena began in 1879, but the project was abandoned until 1950 and only completed in 1993. Because of this, many of the features are very modern looking blended with the Gothic architecture. The ceilings were painted in very bright colors and patterns and the stained glass windows were very contemporary in design. I loved this place.

We then went next door to take the tour of the Royal Palace. It was so incredibly luxurious and ornate. Honestly, it felt like it was meant for royalty. (Probably because it was.) Every room was different from the next. The marble floors had different patterns and the walls had different designs. In many of the rooms, the ceiling was painted to depict some part of Spanish history. It was so overwhelmingly gorgeous. The tour ended in the most magnificent room in the Palace-- the throne room. It was a deep, deep red with black marble accents. There was gold everywhere, and the chandeliers were breathtaking. We left the palace in absolute awe of everything we had just seen. (Unfortunately, there were no pictures allowed.)

By Tuesday, I was ready to go home to Poitiers. (Fun little fact for ya: Tuesday marked 8 weeks since we had arrived in France and we spent much of that time at the Paris airport and on the train just like we did back in August.) Traveling is one of my favorite things, but even this needs to come to an end. I will say that Madrid was not nearly as impressive as Barcelona. I'm very happy we went, because I still got to see so many incredible things, but as far as the enchantment factor goes, Madrid just didn't have it for me. I was sad to leave Spain, but so, so ready to get back to France. I missed my bed and I missed having the freedom to do things alone and for myself without worrying about what three other people wanted to do. I loved traveling with Joe, Lizette, and Alois-- they are incredibly fun to be around and I'm thankful for each of them in my life.

We arrived in Poitiers just in time to make it to our Tuesday night French class. It was so hard to sit there for an hour and a half when all I wanted to do was go home and unpack. Thankfully, this week I have little to do but work on projects.

Is October really almost over? Time is moving so quickly, but at the same time, not quickly enough. I've been missing my real family and my Cedar family a little extra this week. Even now, I'm looking forward to May when I get to hug them all again.

Je t'embrasse,


Beautiful Barcelona


Or should I say Hola!

My goodness, so much has happened since last Wednesday because... I spent the entire week in Spain! It still doesn't feel real to me. I feel incredibly blessed to be in a position where I can travel to these amazing countries. Because I have so much I want to tell you, I'm going to split this blog into two separate posts because one would be waayyy too long. 

Like I said, I spent the week in Spain with my traveling buddies-- Joe, Lizette, and Alois. We left Wednesday afternoon on the train to Paris, and from Paris we flew to Barcelona. Our plane was delayed because of technical difficulties, so we arrived in Barcelona quite late. We were anxious to get to the hostel and find food. 

I'd like to mention that this was the first time I had ever stayed in a hostel, and it was a really wonderful experience and not at all what I was expecting. The picture I had in my head was one of an overcrowded room with dirty walls and slimy showers. This hostel was absolutely not like that at all. It was very modern and very clean. We had to stay in a room with 20 other beds, but only about half of them were full at any given time. I felt very safe, and I felt that the security in the building was sufficient. We had to have a card to enter the building and our rooms, and a card to open our lockers beside our beds. It was good. (Breakfast left something to be desired, but that may be asking too much.)

I've never really known a whole lot about Barcelona. And I'll be honest with you, Spain was not on my priority list for countries to visit, but I am so glad that we did anyway. I fell in love with Barcelona. It is such a beautiful city. I loved walking down the streets because there is nothing ugly. Every single building has character and is different from the one next door. And the streets are so clean. And the people are so nice. Did you know that in Barcelona they speak more Catalan than they do Spanish? I wasn't aware of this when we arrived and was confused my the different languages on all of the signs. But even then, so many people spoke English. 

Anyway, our first full day, we walked a little to see the beautiful and still unfinished La Sagrada Familia. A famous artist/architect named Antoni Gaudi (more on him later) designed the building and construction began in 1882. The predicted date of completion is 2026, 100 years after Gaudi's death. Even in its unfinished state, there were crowds of people waiting to get inside. The line to buy tickets wrapped nearly a third of the way around the building. We decided not to go inside because of the wait, but I fully intend to go back to see that place when it is completed. I've seen pictures of the inside and it is magnificent. (Here's a picture.

From there, we began walking towards other notable landmarks in Barcelona. We stopped at Txapela for a lunch of tapas before going to a museum and cathedral. It was a very delicious lunch. Tapas are just a variety of Spanish snacks, so if you order several different tapas, it becomes a meal. I ordered a few interesting sausage things, a traditional Spanish omelet, and a brie, ham, and asparagus sandwich. It was all very tasty. Joe was a little (ok, a lot) more adventurous than I and ordered octopus and basically a pile of fish on a piece of bread. I'm sure it had a prettier name than that, but all it was was a piece of baguette bread with cream cheese stuff, with cold salmon, then baby eels and caviar piled on top. He said it was pretty good and he really like the octopus (yuck!). I tried a baby eel and some caviar and it was just really salty. I'll just stick with my no seafood policy. (However, I did try some of Lizette's Calamari and I quite enjoyed it.) 

We then continued our walk towards the Gothic Quarter and got to walk down La Rambla-- a market place with vendors and trees lining the street. It was beautiful even if it was overflowing with tourists.  We went into the Mercat de Sant Josep de la Boqueria-- a large food market. They had incredible amounts of fresh fruit and candy and meats. In the back they kept the fish vendors, but I stayed far away from them (the smell, oh my goodness, was awful). Lizette and I bought and tried some dragon fruit. It was a really vibrant pink but didn't have a bold flavor like I was expecting, instead it had a sweet subtle flavor. Then Joe was intent on finding passion fruit, so we asked many vendors until we finally found some. It was nothing like I expected. Have you ever had a passion fruit? It's weird. The only way I can think to describe what it looks like is runny egg yolks with seeds (I know that sounds disgusting, but just look at it-- passion fruit.) It was actually really delicious, it's very tangy.

The Gothic Quarter is a neighborhood with very narrow streets and tons of little stores and markets hidden in the maze of buildings. Walking through the buildings was fun because it's the type of old place that might come to mind when you think of very old cities. The Museu Picasso was nestled in the Gothic Quarter so we got to find our way through the streets. 

Museu Picasso was really incredible. I like Picasso's work, and this museum had tons and tons of his stuff, even before it got weird. It might surprise you find out that he was actually a very good artist-- it wasn't until he got older and decided he could do whatever he wanted that his paintings changed to the more disoriented, whimsical type that he is famous for. None of his really famous works were there, but there was a collection of photographs that close friend took of Picasso's life, and after walking through the gallery, I felt like I knew Picasso a little better than I had before. 

Catedral de Barcelona was near the museum so we headed in that direction. Every time I enter a new cathedral, I can't help but be in awe of it. Alois gets so tired of visiting cathedrals (because he's European and he's probably seen a million of them, but he's a good sport and still comes with us), but for us Americans, each new Cathedral is a new experience. We can't get over the beauty of such a grand place of worship. 

That night, we went to a park near the beach where we could see the sunset and just sat for a while. It was good to relax after such a long day of walking. (Side note, we walked and walked and walked and walked on this trip. I wouldn't be a bit surprised if we averaged about 10 miles each day.) Eventually though, we all got hungry so we set off in search of food. After we were all satisfied, we walked to Arc de Triomf because we'd heard it was beautiful at night, and it didn't disappoint. It wasn't so much that the arc itself was beautiful, but the culture we saw on the mall in front of the park was beautiful. There were people sitting in circles playing their instruments and singing, and a dance crew practicing and choreographing new dances. There was a rollerblading aerobics class being taught and so many cyclists. It was so beautiful to see all those people out living and enjoying their lives. 

Our second day in Barcelona, Joe and Lizette wanted to go for a run to the beach early, but Alois and I opted to stay at the hostel. However, Joe and Lizette got lost on the way back, and told us to go ahead because it would be a while before they would be ready for the day. So we set off to see Park Guell. I told you earlier that Antoni Gaudi would show up again; he also designed this park. Park Guell was fun and bright, with beautiful gardens and colorful mosaics everywhere. 

Alois' priority for the day was to go to Camp Nou, the home of Futbol Club Barcelona. I had never done anything like that, so it was interesting to tour the stadium and walk through the museum. We got to go into the stadium, down by the field, and up into the press box, as well as the guest locker room, and the press room. 

After the stadium tour, we went to meet up with Joe and Lizette at Museu Nacional d'Art de Catalunya. This museum was extremely impressive.
Here is the museum itself on top of the hill.

And this is from the museum looking down over the city. 

We spent about 2 hours walking through the museum. There was so much to see-- from medieval, to Gothic, to modern art-- there was a lot to take in. I thoroughly enjoyed it all. 

Afterwards, we went to Poble Espanyol, which is kind of an outdoor museum featuring architecture from around Spain with little artisan shops and restaurants scattered throughout. (I bought a scarf here, that was made in Spain, and was super excited about that!)

We then went back to the entrance of the museum to watch the Font Magica de Montjuic. We thought it was earlier than it actually was, so we ended up sitting there overlooking the city for about 1.5 hours. (I'm not complaining even a little bit, the view was magnificent.) When it finally did start, it was quite a good show.

Our third day in Barcelona was cut in half because of our train ride to Madrid, but this didn't stop us from seeing one last museum. This time we went to Museu d'Historia de Barcelona. This one was built over the preserved remains of an ancient Roman city. There were so many walls and rooms still intact, so we really got a feel for what the city might have been like.

We went straight to the train station after that to catch our train to Madrid. I was sad to leave Barcelona. I don't think I've ever fallen for a city that hard. I'm not sure I can even convey to you how magical it is to be in such a beautiful, historic, vibrant, and living city. It was completely enchanting and beautiful.

I'll put everything about Madrid in the next post!

Je t'embrasse!


Here's the link to the Madrid and Barcelona photo album:  
Click here
(I'm switching up how I share my photos)

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

A Little Mundane


Alas, I have no exciting stories to tell from this past week. Since last Wednesday, I have only had classes and group projects to occupy my time.

This week's class has been Branding: How to Get What You See. It has been the most interesting course thus far. The teacher is funny and interesting, but also knowledgeable and prepared. I don't even mind sitting in class all day long with him as the teacher.

Our assigned group project for this class is a critique of the brand of our choice. My group chose LEGO and it has been fun to learn about the company and what it stands for. Instead of presenting our findings to the class, we only have to make a video to send to the teacher. This is both a relief and a burden. A relief because I hate making presentations, and a burden because making a video takes more effort and is more time consuming.

Since I have no real news this week, I thought I'd just give you some thoughts about life in general.

Thought 1
I've been away from home for 1.5 months. Some days it feels much longer and others I feel like I just got here. Only 228 days until I return.

Thought 2
It's funny the thoughts that sometimes come up when I forget that I'm on the other side of the globe from home. Last night, I was doing some homework and eating M&M's and I dropped one on the floor. My immediate reaction was to pick it up real quick before Lizzie could get to it! (Lizzie is Gracie's dog.) Once I had picked it up, I realized that Lizzie probably wouldn't find that M&M any time soon. (Also, side note, French M&M's taste different than American M&M's, but I'm coming around to them after snacking on them for three days straight. Although, you can imagine my disappointment when they were not the delicious reminder of home that I was hoping for.)

Another unguarded thought came Saturday morning while I was lying in bed before starting the day. I was on Pinterest and saw some kind of food that looked delicious, and I thought, I should go to Roberto's for a breakfast burrito today. (Roberto's is in Cedar City.) It still sounds absolutely divine. (Which is odd, considering I've only been to Roberto's 5-ish times since living in Cedar.)

Closing Thoughts
Sorry this week's update was incredibly boring. It'll be so much better next week, I promise! We've got 3 big trips coming up, so that'll keep me busy and give me plenty to write about.

Je t'embrasse,

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Always an Adventure


What a week it has been! I mentioned last time that I was meeting with the Russians (Kate and Natalie) to plan a trip, and Lizette and I traveled a bit with them this last week. They wanted to go to Bordeaux this week and asked if anyone else was available to go with them. Well, Joe had class Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday, but Lizette and I didn't and we didn't really want to stay in Poitiers and do nothing for those three days. Alois might have gone with us, but Kate and Natalie wanted it to be an overnight trip, and Alois was afraid he had to much homework to justify going on a two day trip.
Lizette, Kate, Natalie, me

The four of us left early Thursday morning so we could have two full days in Bordeaux. We booked an apartment with Airbnb (something I've always wanted to do), and it was an interesting experience. We found the apartment, and it was in kind of a sketchy neighborhood. We met the girl there and she took us in and told us where the sheets and towels and stuff were, gave us the keys, and left. Lizette and I were a little skeptical when she took us to the front door, because it looked like she was taking us to a warehouse or something. In my mind, I was busy planning an escape route in case something was wrong with the situation. Turns out, there was just a metal door covering a big glass front wall (for privacy, I guess?).

I decided that I felt safe enough here (three locks on the front entrance and a tall, locked gate), so we took a minute to settle in, then set off to find the Tourism Office. On the way we stopped for lunch at an off-brand KFC. (Actually it was FFC-- Fast Fried Chicken.) I had a deee-licious burger, so yummy.

We made it to the Tourism Office in time to book the last four spots on a wine tour. (It was crazy, we got there 30 minutes before it left, it was cheap, and they had the perfect number of spots open.) This tour took us to two vineyards in the Medoc (famous for red wines). The first was Chateau Cap Leon Veyrin. They showed us how the grapes were picked, sorted, and then made into wine. They took us to the cellar where all of the barrels were, then gave us samples of wines from 2008 and 2003. (I thought 2003 was better.)
 Natalie, me, and Kate

The second was Chateau Lanessan. They took us on a tour of the grounds and let us taste the grapes that go into the different wines. Our guide here was very knowledgeable about the work that goes into producing wines, so she was fun to listen too. We got to try another two wines from 2003 and 1998 (1998 was better).

Round trip took about 5 hours, but it was fun to leave town and go out to the actual vineyards to see how everything is done. When we got back to Bordeaux, we started walking towards the river and got sidetracked by church towers that we could see above the buildings, so of course, we went that direction, but eventually we made it to the river. It was dusk now and everything was so beautiful. The town lights next to river were magical. There was still so much going on it town, but we went back to apartment because it had been a long day, and we wanted to be ready for the next!

Thursday we checked out of our apartment and started towards our first attraction. Natalie was great and mapped out the whole day for us, so we only had to follow her. (Since Joe and Alois weren't with us, I anticipate we will be back to Bordeaux, so I was content to do whatever Kate and Natalie wanted to do.) She took us to more churches and a few monuments that Bordeaux is fairly famous for. One such monument was the Mirior d'Eau (Water Mirror). I was looking forward to this in particular! It's just a great big slab of concrete that is kept wet and when you look across it, you can see the reflection of the buildings and people. There were so many little kids playing in the water in their swimsuits (or just running around naked). Every so often, a mist comes from the fountain things on the ground. It creates a really neat foggy atmosphere for about 7 minutes. Then the fog dies down and the mirror area floods itself (about an inch of standing water) for about the same amount of time. It's a fun cycle.

We also went to Tour Pey-Berland. It is a bell tower beside the Cathedrale Saint-Andre (kept separate to protect the church from the vibrations from the bells). The tour is the highest point in the south of France, and they were letting people climb to the top! There were 231 stairs to the upper platform-- it was a spiral staircase, barely big enough for one person, but there were people going up and coming down, so it sometimes got a bit cozy. The view from the top was amazing-- on one side was the cathedrale, and on the other three sides we could look out over the city and see the spires from other buildings, and the river in the distance. It was amazing!

We ended the day with a nap in the Jardin Publique. We laid down in the shade of a tree, but when I woke up I was in the sun and it was gloriously warm. We spent about an hour there-- I never expected that I would consider napping in the park as an acceptable pass-time, but now that I know the pleasure of such a nap, I'm all for it (within reason). 

Our train was scheduled to leave at 8:28, so at 7:30 we caught a bus to ensure that we would have plenty of time to get to our platform at the station. When our bus stopped at the end of the line in the opposite direction of the train station, we knew we had made a mistake. Thankfully, this bus stop was next to a tram stop, so we bought tickets and caught the next tram back to were we needed to be. We had to switch trains at one point and the four of us had to make a mad dash across a park to catch the tram before it left. We ended up at the train stain at 8:30. Honestly, we missed our train by 2 minutes.

If I have learned anything at all here, it is that in the future, I will never, ever book the last train out of anywhere. There was absolutely nothing we could take, because there wasn't anything else going anywhere near Poitiers. Fortunately, we were able to exchange our tickets instead of having to buy new ones, so hey, silver linings. 

At this point we were faced with deciding what to do until 6:24 the next morning. We checked all of the hostels, but they were full, and the only hotel room we could find was way too expensive. We had all resigned ourselves to the fact that we would be sleeping in the station, but then we learned that the station is closed from 1am to 4am. We were looking for a 24-hr McDonalds, or a bar that stayed open really late (there probably was one). Lizette remembered that some friends of ours from FBS happened to be in Bordeaux too, so she messaged them to see if there was anyway they could take us in for a couple hours. They were amazing and let us stay in their hotel room. 

I was praying at this point, mostly for our safety, and that we would figure something out. I know Lizette was too, and I absolutely believe that God was taking care of us that night. The only way we knew that our friends were in Bordeaux was that they had recognized my hair earlier that day and messaged Lizette to say 'hey'. They were riding by on the tram when we were walking down the street when they saw us. There was just so much coincidence about it, that it was anything but coincidence. God knew what he was doing and took care of things for us!

We probably got about 2 hours of sleep on the hotel floor and left at 5:30 to go to the station. We caught the train without a problem and arrived back in Poitiers at 8:15. We were all so exhausted and felt nasty-dirty, but we were happy to be back.

I only slept for a few hours that day because I didn't want to screw up my sleep schedule, so Saturday was a long day for me too. I got a phone, though!! I was so excited to finally have a French phone and number! Unfortunately, I was forced to choose a non-Apple product (actually it's a Wiko-- a brand that doesn't even exist in America), but I think I can deal with it for eight months. 

Sunday was spent entirely in my pajamas, but Monday and Tuesday held some nice developments. Even though we have our visas that allow us to be here, we had to get them validated, and since we're here for so long, we had to register with the French Social Security system (OFII, if you're interested). We started filling out this paperwork the first week we got here, and have just now finished the entire process. Monday we had to go to a radiologist (all the way across town) to get a chest x-ray (because I guess our lungs are important?). We had to do that before we went to the actual doctor for a check-up on Tuesday. The doctor was very nice, and thank goodness he spoke english. It was the easiest doctors visit I've ever been to. He asked us all the basic questions about smoking/pregancy/heart problems, etc. and that was all!

From his office, we went to the OFII offices with a long list of documents for them. This was also fairly simple. I guess everything I gave them checked out ok, because they gave me my residence permit within 15 minutes! I'm so happy to have this done. I think it should be the last thing I have to do to live in France. Hallelujah!

Tuesday night, there was a meeting at Hotel de Ville for international students who wanted to meet French families. Lizette and I went and we met this really lovely couple-- Alain and Corina. They gave us their e-mail and phone numbers, so it's nice to have that contact here. I'm hoping we can become good friends with them. 

It has rained here the last three days (you may know that rainy weather is my favorite weather) and it has been glorious. As I'm writing, I can see the sky out my window and it's overcast now, so maybe we'll get some more rain today. 

Until next week, 

Je t'embrasse, 

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Tourists in Tours


I cannot believe it's already October. September absolutely flew by.

This week has been much like the others so far-- a little lazy time, a little class time, a little travel time. It's nice.

Last Thursday we (finally) had an actual class that we had to attend all day. This was Services Marketing-- the one we had to write a paper and make a presentation for. For most of the morning, our teacher talked about himself and the basics of marketing (which was good for me because I've never had a marketing class). That afternoon we started presentations. There were 8 groups who had to present and each presentation was supposed to be no longer than 15 minutes plus a short question and answer afterwards. This shouldn't have been hard, but let me tell you, some of these groups presented for around 25 minutes (I timed them), then had 15 minute Q&A's. It took forever to get through every group! Thankfully, our group got to go second (we stayed within the time limits, by the way), so we didn't have to wait until the next morning to present.

Friday, the teacher had to leave town early, so we had to show up to class early so we could get everything done. The last two groups presented, and then he just talked and talked and talked. Later, two "lucky" groups got to do a second presentation (that wasn't even for a grade, but every group had to have one ready just in case he picked your group). That afternoon we took the exam for the class. It was two essay questions taken from a video we watched about Cirque du Soleil (super easy).

Friday night I got to Skype with Annie and Gracie. I've talked to my parents a bit since I've been here, but I've only chatted with my sisters briefly on Facebook before now. It was so good to see their faces! After living with them all summer and seeing them everyday, it's hard to not see them at all. We talked for a good hour. It was early, early morning for me and only late afternoon for them. I'm still not used to the huge time change. I'm so thankful for the technology that enables me to keep in contact with people.

We had planned all week to go to Tours on Saturday. We made it there by about 3:00 in the afternoon. There were no trains scheduled for a more convenient time, so we took what we could get. (We didn't however, have any train mishaps-- although that may be because Alois was in charge of transportation on this trip.) This time it was only three of us-- me, Lizette, and Alois. Joe decided to go to Bordeaux for a church thing.

Tours is bigger than Poitiers and everything felt roomier. Like, in Poitiers, the streets are super narrow especially in City Center, but in Tours city center, the streets were very wide and open. There were also more trees everywhere. It was nice to see the leaves changing and falling.

We started walking in the direction everyone else was walking (this is often our strategy) and the crowd took us to the Tours Hotel de Ville (Town Hall). There was a wedding or a protest (maybe both) or something going on out front, so we crossed the street to get a better look at the building. It was magnificent. The building itself is pretty, but what makes it great is that it's adorned with bright flowering plants, and a fountain across the street. The buildings around it are curved to give attention to this building. The whole setup was really great-- there were so many different aspects reflecting the beauty of this place. It wasn't just visually appealing; it felt beautiful. (I'm not sure that makes any sense, but I'm sticking to it.)

We walked around the corner from there to a street where shops lined both sides. I hadn't seen this many pedestrians since coming to France. There were so many people. There was train system that ran down the middle of the street, so there was quite a bit going on. It's always so fun to see the different stores and what's available. We didn't stop at any of them because we didn't have time, but I could have spent the whole day on this street. 

We made our way to Cathedrale Saint-Gatien de Tours. (I hope you don't tire of reading about Cathedrals, because I don't think I'll ever tire of visiting and writing about them.) The facade of this one was so spectacular. There were extremely intricate details on every inch of it. And it had flying buttresses! Ever since I learned that term in art history class, I've been fascinated by them and wanted to see them in person. I don't know why, but I love this feature on cathedrals. There were several rose windows and stained glass everywhere. The organ was gorgeous. So far, this has been the biggest church I've been to. The ceilings were tall, and the columns were clean and white. I love the feeling of being in the middle of that history. I like to touch the walls and wonder about the hands that built them and marvel at the handiwork on every column and beam. Whoever designed these cathedrals were thorough and I think (judging from details here and there) they had a sense of humor about them. 

Cathedrale Saint-Gatien de Tours was the highlight of the day for me. I loved it! At one point Alois laughed at us and said, "You girls look like tourists!" Well, Alois, for the next 8 months, I plan on being a tourist as often as I can, thank you!

We went to the river from there. We decided to cross it in search of an abbey that was built in 372. When we got there, we discovered that we had in fact walked to a boarding school. The place was completely empty, but the chapel was open, so we went inside. It was tiny, but still beautiful. There was a door in the hallway that was cracked open. We found the stairs! (In every cathedral, I look for access to the upper floors-- I would kill (figuratively) to have a chance to go up there. Especially up to where the organ sits! Sometime this year, I'll make it up to one of them!) Lizette and I figured, there was no one around, so we might as well take the stairs. On the first floor, it took us to an art classroom and another hallway. On the second floor there was empty rooms... and a door that led to the balcony of the chapel! It wasn't locked, so we took this as permission to go on in. We felt so sneaky. Honestly, it probably wasn't a big deal, but it was a fun little adventure. (We wrote our names in the dust, took a selfie, and headed back down.) 

It was quite a walk out to the abbey, so once we got back to city center, we only had about 40 minutes to get back to the train station. Once we arrived, we had time to go to McDonalds for a quick dinner before boarding. 

Sunday was a pretty relaxed day for me (of course). I cleaned my room a bit and took care of some stuff I had been putting off. I know I've mentioned that the big cathedral here is right across the street from my residence, and I think I've mentioned that there is a small cathedral a few streets behind the big one. If I hadn't, now you know. The reason I tell you that is because this small cathedral is one of my favorite places in the world to sit and think and write. It's called Eglise Sainte-Radegonde. That "e" on the end of Sainte means that it's a woman saint. 

Radegonde was a born a princess. However, she was captured on a raid by her kingdom's enemies and taken to be the King's wife. As queen, she was very kind and was always tending to the poor and sick. It is said that she wished for martyrdom. Eventually, she was released from the King and given permission to become a nun, and later founded a nunnery. Her sarcophagus is actually in the church beneath the altar, and visitors can go down to see it. I don't know what exactly it is about this place, but I just love to be there. It's not as well known, or even as pretty as the other cathedrals in Poitiers, so there aren't a lot of visitors. There is a bench along the walls, and I like to sit there. It's quiet and cool, but comfortable. It isn't as well preserved as the others, but it still has so much beauty and character. I was excited when I learned the history of its namesake. I think it's a beautiful story. All of that to say that I spent a good chunk of Sunday afternoon in the cathedral with pen and paper and it was wonderful. 

Monday night I went to the Mark Bible Study again. Unfortunately, the past two Mondays, I had completely forgotten about it until it was already over. This week, I really wanted to remember, so I set an alarm to remind me. I'm glad I went. They were in Mark 5, where he talks about the woman who touched Jesus' garment and the little girl that was healed. I'm so thankful that there's someone here who is willing to host weekly studies!

I only had one real class plus French class this week. Tuesday afternoon our Market Research class met to present our survey questions and conduct a mock focus group. It was actually fun to talk about our topic and hear what the other groups came up with. Right after class, we had to go to French. Our teacher is really funny. Not purposefully, just in how she leads the class. It would be interesting to go to a class like this for foreign students learning English. I'd like to sit in on one to see what they teach and how they teach English. I wonder where they start and where they go from there. 

Today (Wednesday) Lizette and I are meeting with two Russian girls to plan a trip we're taking later this week. (I'll write about it next Wednesday!) 

Have a good one!

Je t'embrasse,