How many times have you heard the saying, ‘a picture speaks a thousand words?’ If that was really true, I should have about half a million words to say (I’ll let you do the math). Last weekend, I returned from my solo spring break trip to the Loire Valley and a few cities in the south of France. While I left Paris with a full right pocket, it was conspicuously empty on my return journey. Any guesses as to why? Yes, I lost my phone on the train. Unless someone turns it in, it’s gone girl! Because of the modern times we live in, I also lost my camera, map, alarm clock, and of course, music! Let’s just say I wasn’t too thrilled on the last couple days of my trip. My main concern was that all my pictures from my travels were gone. I know, I should have backed them up…yeah that hindsight is crystal clear. But enough about the negative! Just know that these few pictures are the only ones you are getting from my spring break. They're pretty good for an amateur though, right?
I think you know that j'apprends le français (I am learning French). I am studying in France after all! While my professor is great, and always has us practice speaking in French, 2 classes per week is not quite enough. Because my famille d’accueil (host family) knows English pretty well, I had been cheating a little bit, and not practicing French as much as I should have. This is why my spring break in la vallée de la Loire was incredibly helpful, in addition to being beautiful.
Ever since I was young, I have been fascinated by knights, castles, and kings. When my professor showed us some pictures of the châteaux (castles) of the Loire valley, I immediately said, “I’m going there on spring break!” Although I went solo on spring break, I had ample time to practice my French. In the Loire valley, I stayed in an Airbnb with a couple who spoke almost no English. While we couldn’t communicate perfectly or very much in depth, they told me I improved dramatically over the time I was there. They insisted on driving me to and from the train station, and even invited me to have une raclette with them for dinner.
Instead of all the pictures I originally had, I’ll just briefly describe my excursions. I first explored the chateau Blois, which was right next to the town I stayed in. The châteaux Amboise and Chinon were impressive—packed with history. After château Chinon, I obviously had to stop at the crêperie and order a crêpe flambée. The owner and waitress were more than happy to talk to me (in French) about my studies in France. Château Chenonceau is gorgeous as it stretches out over the river, with gardens on either side. The real stunner though, and my favorite château was Chambord. It impresses, as the largest chateau in the Loire valley. I didn’t meet many other travelers on my trip, because of the time of year it was, but I met an American family on top of Chambord and took a picture for them.
If you want to see an amazing ancient city, visit the city of Carcassonne. The walls surrounding the city tower over you, and there are multiple paths to enter. You can walk all around the city on the ramparts and tour the chateau. Inside the city you find chocolate shops, restaurants, and nice views (Château Chinon my favorite views though). The city of Nimes is so warm and inviting when you arrive, probably because it is in the south of France. It took me a while to get my bearings, as many streets are curved and confusing, but after a while even I could get around. Make sure you visit the Jardin de la Fontain, as it is an impeccably designed garden, great for relaxing.
I guess all this is to say you should branch outside of Paris and Bordeaux when you visit France. I still need to go to Euro Disney while I’m here, as well as visit more museums in Paris. This weekend I am working on my core project for the semester, in which I give a presentation in French!
Bonnes Pâques (Happy Easter!)