I was so excited this week because I noticed a distinct improvement in my oral comprehension skills! Every week at school during my oral modules, I listen to French recordings and answer questions about what I heard. For me, oral comprehension was extremely difficult and I would struggle to understand most of the recording. Suddenly during this week I felt like something just clicked in my mind and I was able to answer almost every question correctly after each recording! In addition my conversations with my host family at breakfast and dinner has improved as well and I find myself more confident speaking in longer and more complex sentences.
My weekend trip to Bordeaux to view the Ireland soccer match was cancelled, so for the first time I had no weekend plans and was in Tours by myself. On Saturday I woke up very early to stroll around the town and explore new nooks and areas I had not visited. The town was quiet and relatively empty until 9 AM and suddenly people were flooding the streets and tents covered the streets with outdoor markets for flowers, clothes, accessories, food and more. I spent over four hours meandering through the colorful stalls until I came to one very large indoor market, Les Halles, selling fresh spices, meats, cheeses, seafood. The French residents come to this market weekly to do their special shopping for groceries or gourmet items. As my host mom explained to me, the French almost always eat fresh food. On the weekends, they visit the outdoor markets and buy ingredients for meals for the upcoming week so as a result, meals are almost always composed of fresh ingredient and rarely processed. I then discovered an outdoor flea market, with the most random and miscellaneous items for sale. I loved reading the vintage but used post cards, written in French and imagining the stories and travels behind the writer’s message.
Since this was also the first weekend without some rain, I decided on Sunday to not visit Angers but to return to Villandry to view the famous gardens again on a sunny day. I rented a bike so I could ride along the famous Loire à vélo bike path and found myself awestruck by the biking route. In fact I was having such a wonderful time, I never made it as far as Villandry. For four hours I biked throughout the French countryside and discovered new treasures around every turn. My favorite was a community experimental garden called la Plaine de la Gloriette where I stopped briefly to converse with an older French gentleman about the garden. He explained to me that the garden was a celebration of the relationship between man and nature.
I realized how my time at L’Institut had unexpectedly prepared me for this weekend. I am not sure I would have been able to interact so easily with the merchants in the markets and the gentleman in the bike path four weeks ago.