Carcassonne Castle, Toulouse
Friday afternoon and evening the group of 56 Purpan exchange students went on our second “field trip” for the first week in France. I was so excited to visit one of the oldest castle cities in Southern France. The drive on our bus was right around an hour to get there and back; something interesting about their coach buses is that they have around 3-4 less inches of space between the seats for leg room. Which means that sleeping for Morgan and I was rather difficult, even trying to cross my legs was a challange. Once we got to the Carcassonne Castle though we met our tour guide who was a little old lady that spoke in a heavy French ascent with a rather squeaky voice making for the commentary to be quite laughable.
She first took us around the guard wall that protected the town and castle. The wall had so many tiny holes and slits to shoot arrows out of. Then our tour guide took us inside the city which was now renovated with different shops, resturants, inns, and even a 5-star hotel. Our first stop inside the city was the chapel, which is still used today as a active church. The stain glass windows in the church were stunning. I took so many photos of the windows, but they simply don’t do it justice. The castle itself was closed off to the public, so we unfortunately couldn’t go inside to see the castle itself.
Pyrenees Mountains, Southern France
Gavarnie, France | June 7th
To say that Gavarnie is the place where my soul belongs is an understatement. The pure, natural beauty that God created here has pulled me in with each step. We started our way up to Gavarnie with an hour and a half bus ride up the mountain side. There were so many winding road with rather scary views going straight down a couple hundred feet to the river below. As many of you know I am terrified of heights, but here I felt so calm and at peace with my surroundings that it didn’t even bother me. That’s saying something about the landscape on this mountain range, because the idea of a large coach bus driving up and down steep curvy roads in one-way traffic is a terrifying thought, but I definitely trust this driver now.
We drove up through Gavarnie to get to our refuge where we were going to stay the night. The refuge was a stone building with a dining room on the first floor and many bunk rooms at the far end and second floor of the building. I stayed in a 6-person bunk room that was smaller then my single room in Toulouse, so it was a bit cramped but we also didn’t spend much time in the rooms. Once we unloaded our bags, we had a picnic lunch outside on some benches. Then my favorite part, we loaded up the bus. Went back into town. And started our hike up the mountain side to the larged waterfall in Europe!
The hike up was exhilarating, and the views were breath taking. It was a tiring 3 mile hike up, but it didn’t really seem like that far of a hike because I was contantly looking around and taking it all in. This place really and truly was made by the hands of our all powerful Creator, and with each mountain peak and stream it showed true. Toulouse, France is a great city, but its just that a city. I’m an outdoors person so Gavernie was much more my scene, so many of our friends here kept saying how they wanted to all stay for at least a week to really get to dive into the different ranges and sights here in Gavarnie. But as all good things, our stay in Gavarnie had to come to an end so after the hike we went back to the refuge for the night (which was in pouring down rain) and in the morning we went to town to do a little souvenir shopping and I found these amazing roasted almonds; just thinking of them makes my mouth water. After an hour of walking around the town we loaded the bus back up to take an hour bus ride to Lourdes to spend a couple hours.
Lunch was packed for us as a picnic from the refuge, but the only thing I was really hungry for was the apple.. Duck liver sandwiches aren’t that appealing to me. So Morgan and I started off the afternoon in Lourdes by wondering around the town looking for the Basillica. After about a half hour we finally got pointed in the right direction. Once we got to the Basillica we walked up to the front of the church to tour around it, and it was gorgeous. Such beauty in one area. Now I am not a Catholic, but I am Christian so it was still a really neat experience just to be in this city. After the Basillica we did the Way of the Cross High Station which was a long walk up a mountain with groups of golden statutes that tell the story of the crucification of Christ and His resurrection. It was a very moving walk to go on; the whole time I just thought how difficult it must have been for Jesus to carry the cross up a mountain relative to one this size. Morgan and I were both tired after that hike, since we had spent all afternoon yesterday hiking, but both were so glad we went on it to see that story. At the end of the hike it took us to the Bath where we were able to walk in, feel the cool rocks, and see the running Holy Water. As we exited, Morgan and I both touched some of the water seeping down a crack and then made our way over to the Holy Water fountains. So many people were filling up gallon jugs, decorative glasses, and washing their feet and hands in the water. It was really neat to see such a spiritual place like that.
As we left we ran into a couple of our friends from Kansas State who are also studying at Purpan with us this summer. One of the guys, Cooper, came to eat a late lunch with Morgan and I since we skipped out on the duck liver. Then we loaded back up on the bus to head back to Toulouse for the night to get ready for our second week of classes.
Updates and Previews:
Tonight once we got back to the residence Morgan, Darcie, Lindsey, Cooper, Wyatt, and I booked our train tickets for our “free-weekend. Now we are hoping we get accepted into the condo so we have a place to stay. Coming up this week I will be taking an all day field trip to a local blue cheese factory and this weekend I will be going to Barcelona, Spain!! Loving all that France is shaping up to be.