Bonjour from Tours!
I’ve now been here in France for two weeks, which is still surprising every time I think about it. The time has flown by, and even though I still have five weeks left, I know I’ll probably be heading back to the airport before I know it.
Since arriving off the train and taking in all the old history painted across the architecture of the city, I’ve learned too many things to count on both my hands, so instead I’ll just narrow it down to a list of ten:
- It’s polite to always say “bonjour” and “au revoir” when you enter and leave a business.
- Sales tax is already included in the listed price of the item.
- There are boulangeries everywhere (at least one on every street), which is always convenient since you never know when you might crave a pain du chocolat and need to stop to purchase one.
- Fromage (cheese) is always served at dinner with my host mom, and it’s fun to both stick to old favorites I’ve discovered and also try a bit of something new every night.
- I find new places in the city everyday that can sometimes be hidden treasures (like the Kilo shop in the plaza where you can buy clothes based off their weight—quite an interesting thrift store shopping experience).
- Be prepared to eat dinner late and expect it to last at least an hour, if not longer.
- At breakfast, first butter your bread, then add jam on top for a yummy French wake up.
- Expect to see lots of well-trained dogs off leash throughout the city as their owners walk about, shop, and sit down for a meal.
- Orangina is essentially a sparkling orange juice drink (that can potentially explode like any carbonated drink if shaken too much).
- The Fête de la Musique (Festival of Music) is a country-wide event where bands of both global fame or local origin come out onto the streets and perform the night away. It starts in the afternoon and lasts until the early hours of the morning.
In addition to constantly realizing how different (yet also sometimes similar) France is from the United States, I’ve also had the opportunity to bike to Villandry (one of the nearby chateaus of the Loire Valley) and attend French mass. The Villandry gardens were beautiful—it took us two hours to wander through it all while taking pictures—and French mass was much different than those hosted by the French club on campus.
The Villandry gardens
My host family lives right next to a cathedral, and once when I was walking to a different basilica for a Saturday mass, I heard organ music from the cathedral next door. Families were dressed nicely and heading inside, so I changed direction to follow them as well. I ended up attending a mass that was also a first communion service which was very cool to see, only there were no hymnals or worship aids to be found which made joining in a little more difficult; the French congregation participated in the mass by memory, whereas I only knew bits and pieces of the liturgy in French. The feeling of not quite knowing what exactly to say, but still understanding the concept of what was occurring in the cathedral helped me to better appreciate the tradition that underlies Catholicism around the world. Even though I’m time zones away from my home in the States, the familiarity of the Catholic Faith is still present here in France right outside my window.
Literally, the view from my window.
So that’s my first two weeks in Tours in a very small nutshell. I look forward to sharing more of my adventures in the weeks to come!