Colleen suggested that I should post something since she hasn't been able to. Keep in mind that as of yet, most of our "adventures" do not coincide as we are living in different towns, but we are hoping to have some simultaneous adventures soon. We were able to spend Christmas together and I will tell a little about that later.
To catch everyone up on the Bordeaux portion of the France adventures here is a brief overview:
Sept. 7th, 2007
I arrive in Paris, France, took a train to Chartres and spent a week with a host family there. Highlights included seeing Chartres Cathedral, the gardens of a Chateau (the name I don't remember, but it is the President's summer residence) and playing in the garden with the children. (In England and France they call the backyard, the garden. ) Immediately apparent is that important food items(daily) include bread, chocolate, cheese and wine. All vegetables are called legumes and at Mass no one goes to Holy Communion in a dignified orderly manner. They just go, so don't wait your turn, just get up and go. This was very disconcerting. Also they don't fold their hands, they cross their arms.
Arrive in Langon and am picked up by 3 nuns at the train station. Meet the Mother Prioress at the school and get settled. ((See my photos on Myspace. Sorry if this hurts anyones sensibilities, but it was the only place I know how to put photos on. If you can't access it, ask Stephanie. She can show you how. )) I was given my schedule and duties and given a French class to attend. There are 3 American students and one from Wales, so I was able to speak English with the parents until they left, before classes started.
Feast of the House/School Our Lady of the Rosary
They invited all the families of the students, gave a big dinner (pork stir fry and rice, salad and bread) the students put on a play, etc. I met more of the students and parents. It was very nice.
The town that the school is in had a Medeival Festival. It was mainly a play enacted in a stadium/arena type setting, mostly on horseback. Beforehand they showed birds of prey for quite a while, jousting of course, then at the end there was trick riding. It far surpassed the St.L Ren Faire in skill and keeping the audience engaged. The booths and crafters were to a bare minimum, but the display of weaponry was really good. The horsmanship and acting was very skillful for the small venue. Even tho it was much smaller and only for one afternoon, I would say it was much better than our American (St. L ) version. Sorry Rennies.
Feast of Christ the King
I went to the motherhouse in Fanjeaux for a long weekend. There happened to be an American girl there that I know. We were thrilled to see each other and we took walks each day that we were there together. We walked to the neighboring medieval towns. One was Fanjeaux. It took about a half an hour to walk there. She showed me the house where St. Dominic lived when he lived there. Also the lookout point where he saw fire and ice come down from heaven which signified where he should put the first (Dominican) convent which still stands. She also showed me the spot where heretics tried to seize and kill him. He ended up converting them. I was also able to speak to some novices. It was a refreshing break.
All Saint's and All Souls
I went back to the school for the rest of the break. On All Soul's Day we went and cleaned a grave. Literally. They took brooms, bleach and scrub brushes. The graves aren't in grassy yards like ours. They are concrete slabs in gravel lots. They also put fresh flowers on the concrete and said a quick prayer. Besides from the Masses said, not much else was done. Halloween is not big in France in general so I guess they don't have to combat it with All Saint's parties. It really goes by without much notice at all. Before that break ended we also drove to a big warehouse and picked up a crate of apples. I think these people donate the apples.
On the Grand Sortie (weekend when boarding students go home) of December, I went to the home of a very nice family. They owned a big old house that had been built in the 1800's and they were remodeling some rooms. They had a working fireplace in the kitchen and they wanted to show me an old fashioned French meal cooked over the coals. It was very nice. It was kind of like what we would call ham n beans(white beans) but no cornbread. They did toast slices of bread on the fireplace. Then you butter it and put the beans on the bread and the ham was small cut up bits. They also had an American style pool table, so I played billiards with the father and one of the sons. He taught me two new games. Before I only knew the one where you put the 8 ball in last.
They had friends over on Saturday night and served before dinner drinks. The father of the family insisted I have some whiskey since I am an American and that's what Americans always drink (in the movies.) I asked for soda to put with it and he said, "No, on the rocks!" Also, I must confess, I was kissed by a French boy that weekend. The French greet each other by kissing both cheeks, sort of like you Argentinian people. But the men do enough international business to know to shake my hand. I know some American ladies don't shake hands, but I am comfortable with that. It's better than having strange men that you just met kiss you. But I guess the teenagers and young people don't think anything of it, because Colleen said she got kissed too, but I will tell you about that later. Also, we went to a friends house for tea on Sunday afternoon/evening. The French sometimes tend to have a big meal at lunch on Sunday or a big Gouter(that's what they call what would be the equivalent to an English tea) and so they don't eat much but a snack on Sunday evening. If it is a big feast day, you may end up eating all afternoon.
For Christmas, not everyone puts up a tree, although this family did. They also had a creche scene, which is more common to see and much more elaborate than our Nativity scenes.
The students did have a program before the Christmas break began and they sing beautifully. I didn't know most of the songs, but they did sing in French Come Divine Messiah, Silent Night, and Carol of the Bells (Ukranian Carol). They also put on a "Christmas Eve Dinner" surprising the younger boarding students by decorating the refectory/cafeteria. And we ate by candle light. They all received a beret as a Christmas present from the Mother Prioress.
I didn't go anywhere on my own on the All Saint's vacation as a means of saving money, but for Christmas I definitely was ready to strike out on my own. I realized I am not a nun(not presently) and I needed to get out. So I arranged to visit my friend and yours, Colleen, in Nantes. She is working as a nanny for a French-American family there. We went to midnight Mass together and slept in on Christmas. The parents of the America spouse were there also, so it had mostly an American feel, but we were served Fois Gras (Goose liver spread) and lamb. Also, we were given chocolate and violet flavored candy as well as several other delicacies and candies that are special to Nantes. We were both sick(with head and throat maladies) most of the vacation, but we did manage to get out and go to downtown Nantes one evening. We saw three churches and a Chateau. We also went to a cafe and Colleen ordered in French! It was very exciting. We also rode the bus downtown and we didn't get lost or anything!
I left Colleen in Nantes and flew to England. My cousin picked me up at the airport. We went to London one day. We had to drive an hour and then take trains for an hour. We walked around, went to 2 free museums. One was archeology stuff and the other was art. Then we walked to see some Christmas lights, but there wasn't much. We did see the London Christmas tree which was donated by the Norwegians. And we saw the former Texas Embassy. It is now a steak house. Friends of my cousins threw a New Years Party which was very nice. They played games and several couples went home before midnight as they had kids at home. Whoa! I went to an old people's New Year's party!
Another day we went to Cambridge and saw another museum and all the colleges they have there (King's College and all that.) Also, there was some sort of mound or hill that was historical. Friends of my cousins took me to the sea on another day. He surfed, in very cold weather, and she and I walked along the beach. They loaned me a pair of Wellingtons. We drove around a bit and saw birds that like the marsh. Then they took me out to a very nice restaurant, all organic and all that. Then we headed back to the town they live in. The sun goes down around 4:00 pm here, so it feels later than it is.
Jan 5th I head back to France and back to the school.
I almost forgot. Colleen has been working for the family and in her free time, she has gone to a young peoples group(Circles Jeaunes) at her parish which is called...St. Louis. Coincidence? I think not. At the meeting she went to, she was greeted by all the young men there with the signature French cheek kissing greeting. She said she had never been kissed by so many guys. She is getting good at riding the bus and navigating downtown Nantes. She will be visiting her friends, the Michaux family for a week starting Sunday. She said there haven't been too many highlights yet. The family is going to start speaking French when the Grandparents go home in Jan. Then she will be polishing up her French.