New Beginnings

Monday June 29th,

  My host home in Queyrac, France.

Train Ride:

Yesterday I spent most of my day either in a train station or on a train travelling to my host home. Another girl in the program was on the train with me, Mingyu, who also goes to Purdue with me. I had never really talked to her until this train ride and it was fun getting to know her better and learning about her life in China. Towards the end of the ride she was getting really nervous about meeting her host family for the first time and for the internship in the winery. I surprisingly wasn’t nervous at all. I had met my host sister, Elise, twice and other then that I didn’t really know much about my family.  Elise was very nice and spoke amazing english so I figured no matter what it can’t be that bad, I will have least have one person to talk to. But as the train neared I started worrying about my stay in another family’s home and interning at a winery when I don’t really know anything beyond 3 weeks of French lessons and 2 weeks on viticulture. And with that in mind I did the only thing I knew would ease my burden and I bowed my head, and spoke to the big man upstairs. 

I haven’t really talked about my faith much in my blog yet, but I think now is the perfect timing. Before I left for Europe I went over to my good friend, Kristin’s, house and had dinner with her family. At the end we were talking about both of our internships; her’s in Haiti, and mine in France. And her step-dad Moo said something that has stuck with me this entire trip. In remark to me also applying for the internship in Haiti he said, “You may not be going to a third-world country to serve God’s people, but I know His plan for you in Europe will show you more about God’s love and will strengthen your faith just as much, if not more so than if you were in Haiti.” Now I was still longing to return to Haiti and didn’t really believe what Moo was saying to me at the time. But now, six weeks into my life in Europe, I can say he was right. As I prayed on that train nearing Leparsse, France I didn’t know what I would be walking into but I knew I had Him on my side and because of that I would be just fine for the next month. 

Internship Day 1:

Let me just start off by saying that anyone who takes in a stranger for a month and treats them life family right off the bat deserves a gold medal. My host family, the Uijttewaal’s, are one of those families. I walked into the house greeted by huge smiles, a gorgeous room, and comforting conversation. My family gave me my own room and bathroom to get ready in, showed me where everything was and told me to help myself to whatever I needed. I don’t remember the last time an American family was ever this nice to me right when meeting me. They held no skepticism or doubt; just positivtely and joy that I was there with them. Adrien and Fabienne remind me so much of my parents that it makes me feel right at home, even if I can’t quite speak to Adrien yet due to my lack of French language skills. Fabienne and I had a great talk today at lunch about her life before now and about some things that I am used to doing differently in the states. Elise, my host sister, is the nicest girl I’ve met here in France. She has already taken me under her wing at the house helping me figure these out and answering my many questions. Today even, she took me with her and her friends to a lavish winery to show me another Château wine. It was so much fun and a great chance to see everything. We even got a tasting of a 200 euro bottle of wine… for free! I really do love France. 

  My room for the next month.

But to get back to my actual internship, I started working in the vines this morning at 7:30 am. My body has already become accustomed to getting up at the crack of dawn so that wasn’t a problem for me. I had my usual breakfast of a pomme (apple) and d’eau (water). Then got ready and was out the door to go to the fields with Adrien. We didn’t talk much on the way since he knows very little English and I know even less French but we passed the time and got to the field in no time. Then the fun began, back home in Indiana I’m used to hoeing pumpkins, pulling weeds, and picking sweet corn; but raising vine wires was completely out of my element. I caught on pretty quickly from watching Adrien pull the wires up and attach the two wires with a white clip to keep them close together so you could put the vines inbetween the wires. The idea behind it is to make the vines grow up vertically to make mechanical harvest easier, but vines naturally want to bush out.. see the problem here. You also then keep the wire tight by attaching it to elevated posts every 4-5 vines. 

A good way to decribe it this morning was like picking sweet corn in the terms of I was soaked from the dew, then once it warmed up it wasn’t so bad. My hands are a little raw from the wires, but I figure after a couple days they’ll toughen up. I’m also feeling muscles in my arms that I have never felt sore before so that’s kind of neat. The motion you could proably best visualize is shoulder shrugs combines with lifting a bar from your waist up to your chest while struggling with the vines attached to the wires. Yes it was probably as comical as your envisioning it. Hopefully tomorrow won’t be such a struggle. I start tomorrow moring at 7 am and go till noon when I have a lunch break, then back to work for the afternoon with highs of up to 104 degrees Fahrenheit. I am severely praying it doesn’t get that hot, but I guess we can just wait and see and hope for a breeze. 

I’m gettting used to French life and starting to really enjoy different parts of it. I can’t wait to see what all comes of my internship this next month. This post was a little short, but I promise to be back with more details soon. You all willl certainly be kept in the loop here on my blog so stay tuned for more about my life in Queyrac, France!
-Bre

A Little Learning. A lot of Wine Tasting.

Saturday June 27th,

Latelier de Cuisine Gourmande:

Earlier this week on Tuesday I went to a resturant in town Toulouse for my morning class called Latelier de Cuisine Gourmande. It was a little place that took in groups of people and showed them how to cook and prepare a tradition French meal. The food we had prepared was nothing like what we had seen in resturants, but we also hadn’t found very many tradition resturants in the Capital of Toulouse. My cooking group was put on desserts. We were given the recipe to prepare a muffin like dessert called a Madeleine. I had had chocolate and vanille Madeleines from the vending machine at school but the one we were making was not quite as sweet. The ingredients were eggs, flour, yeast, shredded cheese, blue cheese, and walnuts. 

  Chef Morgan and I baking our Madeleines.

It was certainly an interesting combonation of ingredients for me, but I found it to be quite tasty. It was really fun getting to be a Chef for the day and pretend like I knew what I was doing in the kitchen; now if they would have put me on anything besides the desserts then people probably would have came up sick in a few hours. Cooking is certainly not one of my strong points. Although last night I managed to make some pasta.. boiling water and throwing in noodles can’t be that hard, but I figured I would mess it up somehow. To my surprise it came out great. There’s one more thing to add to my short list of things I can cook, that is add it to things like grilled chicken, hotdogs, and cardboard pizza. 

Château Plaisance:

Yesterday we visited the Château Plaisance winery and vineyard located in Vacquiers, France. This was certainly different from the rest of the tours we have been on so far. The operation has a total of 70 hecters of land for growing organic grape vines. They don’t use any chemicals or mechianical machinery in the fields when prunning or harvesting the crop. This was our first time at a vineyard that was ran organically and it was very much so an educating one. The farmer was a very sweet, older gentleman who cared deeply about his wine. He grows several different varieties of wines and prefers the more original amoras and flavors then the traditional Merlot, Chardonney, and Cabornet that you can find just about anywhere. 

  

The hands on learning that I’ve recieved here in Toulouse has been amazing.

I feel in love with his Rosé wine. I can’t drink dry wine and generally prefer a wine with a more fruity flavor and one that isn’t quite as persistent as dry wines typically are. This rosé wasn’t as fruity as what I was used to but had a better balance to it. It wasn’t overly fruity, and it wasb’t dry but it was something inbetween that hit my taste buds just right. And the best part was that the bottle was only 6.70 euro.. I mean you can’t complain about a price like that when it comes to French wine. Sure you can find wine for 2-3 euro but it certainly wouldn’t have the quality nor character that this one did. I walked away a happy camper after that wine visit and tasting.  

 
 

Château Mémoires:

Château Mémoires is a lovely small family ran winery located just outside of the city of Bordeaux. For those of you who do not know, Bordeaux is the wine capital of the world with very famous wine cellars and wineries located in and around the city. I have been lucky enough to have been placed at an internship in the regional area where Bordeaux wine is produced. Now back to Château Mémoires, it is a new winery when it comes to bottling it’s wine on scene. It used to ship it’s wine to a different location to be bottled but in the last 10-15 years it began bottling it’s own wine. They sell most of their wine in Bordeaux where it goes global and is sold all around the world from the US and Canada to other countries in the European Union. 
Next we visited the nusery that was just down the road. There are very few nurseries in France for producing baby vines which has become an issue since the past couple years a lot of farmers are on the cycle to regrow their vineyards in plots and the nurseries are able to keep up with the demand for new vines. 

 The winery is one of few to use glass corks as seen pictured in the middle left photo.

This process was new to me so I’m going to try and explain it to you. The vines are not just put in a pot, grow, and send off to the farm to be transplanted into the vineyards. After the disease of Phylloxcpa swept across France in the 19th century, killing 90% of the vines in France the french started grafting their vines. French grafting is when they use an American woodstock for the roots and shoot to protect the plant against disease, and then graft the french vines into the woodstock to produce a new baby vine. This is a very tedious process for the people in the nursery, and even with all the precautions they still can only keep 80% of the vines grown in pots and only 50% of those grown in a field. A wax is put over the grafted woodstok and plant to help to grow into one through the growth time of 18 months in the nursery before the vine gets sent out to the vineyard to be planted.

   

 The nursery where they grow vines, they even had a good ole John Deere.


Vignobles et Chais:

The next winery we went to was Vignobles et Chais, a gigantic wine operation in Bordeaux. I have never seen anything like the cellars, tanks, and storage systems that they had at this place. It was so amazing to see a huge factory operation like this in real life. We had to get rushed through our tour because we took longer than planned at the other two places so we didn’t learn a lot of statistical facts about this place but I think you will see that the photos that I have speak volumes for the winery.  

 This is just one wall in their 1st cellar of barrels, ost of their wine is stored and fermenting in steel drumbs that hold over 800 HL.

Preview & Updates:

Classes at Purpan finished up yesterday with our last final for the term in Viticulture which is my class on winemaking. Today we had the day off to go explore Toulouse, shop around the markets, and get any last minute neccesities before we all go our seperate ways and start our internships in the wine industry or animal production. Today was also the national day in France where everything in department stores goes on sale so the girls here all went shopping for some fun “French clothes” for a cheap price. 

I’m sure many of you have heard that there was a terroriist attack on France yesterday, it happened at an American-owned factory in Lyon which is far, far away from me here in Toulouse. No one has really said much about it so I don’t think it will affect me in anyway which is a good thing. 

Tonight I will be up late (around 3 am France time) to stay up and watch the Miss Blueberry Pageant that is going to be occuring back home at Argos High School at 7pm. I’m very excited to see who I will be passing my crown down too, and I can’t wait to be getting updates and Facetime footage from my Mom during the pageant. Then I will be getting up and leaving for Queyrec, France tomorrow at 1pm. I am really excited to be living and working with the Uijjttewaaal family on their winery. I met my host family’s daughter, Elise, yesterday which was really exciting. She is also 20 years old and will be living at the home this summer so we will be able to hang out and get to know each other, and the best part is that she speaks English! She told me that her home is 15 minutes from the ocean and that they have a swimming pool at their house, and to think that I thought I wasn’t going to get any sun this summer. I can’t wait to start this next chapter in this little book I like to call my life in Europe. Many more updates on my host family and internship to come.

-Bre

Never that far away.

June 19th,

Wine Visits and Tastings:

This past week at school in Purpan we went on a lot of visits to different wine operations and vineyards. This was also the first week that I began really studying and getting into the history and chemistry behind the French Wine. In class we covered everything from the history of how wine was first made back in the 14th century to the niddy griddy details with the differences of each wine and the grapes used to make them. We also learned about the processes of making red, white, rose, and iced wine. It was certainly alot to take in; in just one week but I only have one more week left at the campus to learn everything I need to know for my internship next month. When we actually visited the different wineries and vineyards we got to see everything from their shops full of all different kinds of wine ranging in price from 5 euros to over 45 euros a bottle, to their distillery tanks, to the fields full of hundreds of hectors of grapes. Here in France the land size in measures in hectors where about 1 hector is equivalent to 2.5 acres of land. The second wine operation we visited had a total of 4,000 hectors of grapes that fed into it’s winery. Now let me repeat that in US terms, that’s 10,000 acres of grapes going into 1 single plant to be processed into wine. That is crazy! And to think that they say French only have small operations.

   

During the wine tasting I stood beside one of the Programming Assistants (PA’s), Anais, who showed me how to properly taste and access wine. We first looked into the color and fat content of the wine, then the smell, and finally the pallet. After about 20 wines later, I guess you could say I’m officially a wine conosor. 

French Life:

Now lately I haven’t really shared much about everyday life in France, mainly just my adventures and travels. I’m become very close with several girls here on the trip, and oddly enough three of them are from Purdue which will make keeping in touch after we get back to the states alot easier then I was expecting. The people from Mizzou, Kansas State, and Colorado Universities are all really laid back, fun people to be around and take on this new adventure here in France with. As I had stated earlier in a previous blog post I am living with Darcie, a girl from Purdue, and three other guys from Mizzou, Mexico, and Lebanon. To be honest and didn’t think I would be the mom on the trip but it has turned out to be that way when you have two girls living with 3 college aged guys. Darcie and I jokingly refer to our flat as the “Frat House of Toulouse” considering how disgusting the guys leave the apartment most days. Mom you’ll be proud, I’ve done more dishes and cleaning this month then I probably ever had at home! I guess no matter how far you travel in college, the frat life is sure to follow.

I’ve started getting used to living at the residence more now and it’s seeming more like a home then just a place where I sleep, which kind of sucks since I’m moving back out in 1 week and starting all over again. But oddly enough there have been a few things that remind me of home. One that always comes to mind is how French make a husk sound deep in the back of their throats when pronoucing certain words, the first time my French teacher taught us this it instantly made me think of my dad haulking up a big lougy! As disgusting as that is, I found it to be conforting being over 1,000 miles away from home and still “hearing” my dad. Another thing that reminds me of home and the people their is the agriculture here in France. A farm is a farm, whether is a dairy sheep operation or crop farm some little thing never fails to remind me of Indiana. Then there are the fresh produce markets, that are so much like the one my family, grandparents, aunt, and cousins go to back home in South Bend. You can see that look in the farmer’s eyes and feel their sense of pride when talking about their produce, it’s one of those things that a language barrier can break through. 

  The dairy farm at Purpan Experimental Farm from a visit last week.

July Internship:

I know where I will be interning at this next month here in France! I’m a little excited, okay I’m very excited if you can’t tell. Next weekend I will be parting ways with several of my new friends and taking a train to Queyzac, France to move in with the Uittewaal family (I still don’t know how to say their name). I will be living and working with the family on their winery which is less than 1 hour from Bordeaux, a world renound city for wine making. (Mom I may have to send home a case of wine from Bordeaux) The town is right off of the Atlantic ocean on the west side of France. I will be aout 2-3 hours from Toulouse which is where I am currently living. The best part is that my friend, Darcie, got placed in an internship just a 1 hour car ride from my host family. Even if I get homesick and scared out of my mind because no one speaks English, I can rest assured knowing she isn’t that far away. Speaking of communication, I am praying hard that someone in the family can speak English fluently. Many of you don’t know this but I studied 4 years of spanish throughout high school and college and I’m far from being bilingual so you can only imagine my stuggle of trying to learn French in 3 weeks! Praying hard that I won’t have to be mute for the next month, this isn’t an over exhaguration either. 

  
Travels:

As I am writing this post I am currently on a train heading east towards Beziers for a weekend on the beach, but getting here was no easy ride. Our trip started off as expected by riding the bus and metro to the train station. After at the train station we couldn’t get the kiosks to work to print our tickets, so we got in line at the ticket office, took a number and waited. It was 10 minutes before our train was set to depart and we still hadn’t been called up, and their were 6 of us needing to print our tickets off. I quietly said a little prayer that we would all make it on the train, and walked up with Morgan to print our tickets.. Just to find out that Morgan booked our tickets for the wrong train, so we had to buy a new set of tickets and run down the hall to find our terminal and get on the train. And we got on the train just in time to get delayed for an hour before we even left the station. 

  First day at Valras-Plage beach 

June 21st,

Our weekend away has come to a close. We spent two days relaxing on the beach in Valras-Plage, and eating some delicous food on their main stip. It was a great weekend away with my new close friends. We made it to the train station to buy our tickets for the trip back to Toulouse, one pointer for anyone traveling to Europe, make sure your credit card has a chip in it! I had to rely on my friend Lindsey to pay for my train ticket back to Toulouse because the ticket machines wouldn’t except my card since it didn’t have a chip. Morgan and I are going to have to make sure we have every ticket paid for before our week of travel by ourselves. 

  Lindsey and I at our condo.

  The Mediterranean will forever be a peacefuly place for me.

  Purdue gals through and through. {Darcie, Lindsey, Morgan, & I.}

Today was Father’s Day back home in the states. I had a two hour break to wait for my train that would take me back to Toulouse so I pulled out my phone and gave my old man a ring. As many of you know my dad and I are the except same, but with completely different views on life so we get in arguements all the time. But after hearing his voice after being away for a month without any contact I started crying a bit, I don’t know if he could hear it in my voice but I sure missed him. Something about being away from everything you know makes you get a little emotional here and there. I can say that as much as I’m loving my time in France, that week before I go back to school when I’m at home will be throughly enjoyed. I can’t wait to share my internship experiences with you all in just one short week when I move to Queyzac, France! 

-Bre


Barcelona Beaches and Spanish Wine

Barcelona, Spain — June 12-14th

Friday night we rode into Barcelona; the air was cool and we were all excited to start our weekend of fun. To say that Barcelona is a large city is an understatment, it’s huge. The sites are all very spread out and unfortuntely for Morgan and I the beach was a ways away from our hotel, Transverssa Hotel which was located near the top of a hill just a block or so away from Park Guell. 

 

The view from Park guell overlooking Barcelona, Spain

The night started off with Morgan, Darcie, Lindsey and I all unpacking our bags. The three girls go to Purdue University with me, yet this trip is the first time we had all met. It’s kind of crazy how we went from being total strangers to seeing each other everyday and becoming close friends. After we all settled into our rooms we starting getting ready for our first night out in Barcelona! We were all so excited to experience the Spanish night life which first started with sipping on some lovely sangria before we went to dinner. In Barcelona the bars don’t open up and get going till late and they close down around 2, which is when the clubs open up and then go till 5:30am. We went to a bar that one of our friends had heard great reviews for and then headed out for the club. To say I was completely shocked was an understatement, I had never seen anything like this club before. It was packed to the brim with anyone ranging from 18- over 50. It was like a heat wave when you entered the door, after only a few minutes in there Morgan and I both started feeling overheated and sweaty. We hopped outside and enjoyed sometime just watching the waves roll in and everyone staggering around outside the club, it was quite a sight. The two of us ended the night deciding that it was one of those once in a lifetime must sees, and knew we would never go back. 

Saturday was much more relaxed. I took a taxi with Morgan down to one of the beaches to the south of Barcelona Beach. The lady at the front desk of our hotel advised us it would be less crowded and more relaxing so we took her up on her advice. The two of us girls spend the afternoon soaking up some sun, relaxing to the sound of the waves rolling in and people watching. I think one of my favorite past times while traveling has become people watching. You notice so many differences in the cultures and way of living within the different countries in Europe. One thing that holds tride and true though is the carried over theme of topless women. I don’t think I will ever truly get an understanding has to why people feel this acceptable in public. I just don’t get it, so when at the beaches in Europe I just close my eyes and act like everyone around me is fully clothed.

 

 My pottery from La Rambla

After the beach we walked through La Rambla which is a street market place that I was told is a most see in Spain. It was certainly a touristy spot, there were so many people crowded down this one street, so instictlively I clutched my bag and watched my surroundings closely. I have never felt threatened while traveling nor have I been in the presence of pick pocketers (that I know of), but I still like to be proactive and keep my guard up anyways which has proven to be effective so far. At the end of the market we found a resturant on the marina where we stopped for dinner. I was dying to have some crab, but it was apparently out of season so I went with a lobster instead since I had never tried it before.  The waiter literally carried out a tray of three live lobsters and told me to pick which one I wanted to eat for dinner, the unfortunete fellow that was choosen was named Charlie. The poor guy looked alot better grilled up then he tasted, I was glad I had stepped out of my comfort zone and tried lobster but I think I will be sticking to my crab and shrimp for now on. At the end of the dinner the waiter brought us out each a glass of Champegne on the house which was quite tasty.

Sunday morning we woke up and headed over to Park Quell to tour through the park and museum, we got there a litttler before 10 am and were told we would have to purchase tickets now to come back at noon to get to see the park, so we got our tickets and hailed a cab to go to the La Sagrada Familia. The church is expected to be competed in 2026, 100 years after Antoni Guadi, the architect died. I didn’t go inside the church due to the long lines and time crunch but I did walk around the outside and get to see the difference in the arcetecture of the modern styles and those from past centuries. 

A little afternoon we made it back to the Guell Park on Carmel Hill and for me, the 8 euros were so worth it to get to go inside the park and see the famous works of Antoni Gaudi. I loved seeing the famous lizard monuement that Gaudi designed and the multicolored tiled mosaic seats that were absolutely stunning! I loved the nautral elements that Guadi incorporated into the entire park. It was definitely my favorite part about Barcelona, well maybe second to the sangria. It’s definitely hard to top Spanish wine! 

  Park Guell

The drive back home was a long 5 hours in a bus, but it was well worth the bleacher butt to get to spend the weekend in Spain! I am slowly falling more in love with Europe with each stop. I keep finding new things that amaze me and take me back by their beauty, but I guess that’s what it’s like to travel. I see knew things, experience new people. and learn a little more about myself with each stop. I’m constantly being amazed by the world around me and I find that to be so exciting and invigorating. I once read a quote that said 

“The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.” – St. Augustine

I find this to be true in my adventures here in Europe. Just today I spend the day at a vineyard and winery, and had my first wine tasting. My summer has been full of firsts, lasts, and so much more that I can’t express in words.
Preview:

My good friend, Morgan and I, have planned out most of the large plans for our week of travel after our winery internships are over. The plan is looking like we willl be heading to Athens, Greece and then to Geneva, Switzerland. We are planning to go to Italy a weekend or two during our interships if our host families allow us to and can get the plans figured out. Tomorrow we will be taking a field trip again for the second time this week, but it will be to Cave de Fronton. Then later this week we will visit the Purpan Experimental Farm, and participate in another wine tasting. I never thought I would be getting college credits to taste wine, but I’m all for it! Then Friday night Morgan, Darcie, Lindsey, Cooper, Wyatt and I will be heading off to spend our free weekend in Valras-Plage for some relaxing time on the beach. 

I’ve been so blessed with the many friendships I have already made this summer and I can tell the goodbyes are going to be hard. I started missing home my first week here and it made me sad that I wasn’t enjoying every minute of my time in France. But now I see that as someting different. I was missing home because home is a place that I will always have and always love. But here and now my heart can enjoy a different home, and can come back to Indiana fuller than ever with such rich times and beautiful memories in it. So here’s to making France my home away from home. 

-Bre 

Bleu Cheese and Milking Sheep

Tuesday June 9th, 2015

My day started bright and early at 5:30 this morning with a yummy Belgium chocolate muffin to wake me up and motivate me to get ready for the day. Shortly after I made the trek to the Univeristy to catch the bus for a two and a half hour drive from Toulouse to Roquefort. Aveyron, France is home of the famous Roquefort Bleu Cheese  which is made solely from unpasteurized whole milk from the Lacaune ewe. This was a really neat operation to experience since they still mature their cheese the old fashioned way which is in caves in Aveyron. The cheese cellars are kept at 10 degrees Celsius, which is rather cold if your in summer clothes. I have never seen a cheese operation; let along one where the rippening of the cheese took place in caves. I would highly recommend this as a fun stop if your passing through Southern France. Now I personally was not a fan of the bleu cheese taste, but enjoyed the tour through the caverns and Societe store. 

 Darcie, Me, and Ben exploring the cheese caves.

After the bleu cheese factory we went to a farm about 45 minutes away which is where the Lacaune sheep are raised and ewes are milked. A young man showed us around the farm and explained their twice daily milking routine, upkeep of the herd, and their breeding system to us. I was rather shocked to say the least to see the condition of the farm. One thing that has been stressed to the American students so far in France was that animal welfare is a huge priority to French farmers. Yet, at this sheep farm the flock was dirty, and crammed into a small space without much room to move around. As a whole the barns were looking worse off then the sheep farms I have seen in America. The facility was also sworming with flys without any form of preventative or solution to this issue. I am taking into account that this was just one farm so I can’t judge all French sheep farms off of this, but I was definitely not impressed. 

  The sheep barn at Roquefort Farms | They did supply sanitation booties, although the rest of the facility was not up to par.

While we were getting a tour of the main barn with 200+ head of sheep in it I saw something run into the sheep pen. I looked towards my friend, Morgan, and told her that I thought I just saw a rat run into that sheep pen. With a mordified look on her face, she spun around just as the rat ran back out of the pen. I don’t think I’ve ever seen someone jump that fast and latch onto me. The best part was that while I was busting up, no one else saw the rat, thus giving Morgan a couple funny looks. All and all I don’t think she was a big fan of the sheep barns. 

Besides that hilarious moment at the farm, my favorite part of the day was surprisingly just walking up to the hay barn. I promise I’m not missing hay season that badly (sorry Dad); but rather the interior design of the barn was what caught my eye. Like many of the older buildings here in Southern France everything is built from brick and mortar. With a great brick wall outside, the interior also possessed several gorgeous ceiling arches contructed of bricks. I had never seen a barn like this before, and it was amazing. The simple beauty in it is unmistakable. 

  

To end the trip we watched the start of the second milking of the ewes in a connecting barn. The process is very similar to what you would see in a dairy operation back home, but with sheep instead of cows. Then we made the two and a half hour drive back to campus, getting in a little before 9pm making for a long day. 

 The milking parlor and first round of ewes getting milked

Preview:

Laundry has certainly made it to the top of my list as I begin thinking of what I was to pack for my weekend trip to Barcelona, Spain this Friday-Sunday. Also on the agenda is to book a condo/hotel for our “free-weekend” coming up in two weeks. This is proving to be a bit more of a struggle then we anticipated but, I think we will get it figured out by the end of this week and be good to go and soak up some sunshine on the Mediterranean. I am hoping to hear where I will be spending the next month here in France soon, I’m hoping to stay in Southern France. But the students last year didn’t find out their host families and internships till a couple days before they left the school so hopefully we will know sooner this year. 

Fun Tid-Bits:

-French people say “forbidden” not “not allowed” 

-You have to pay to pee is most public places (I’ve found a free bathroom at the Capital though).

-I think the French love their dogs more then other people; dogs are literally allowed everywhere.

-Several farmer’s tile their fields which really surprised me. 

-When I tell people I’m from Bourbon, Indiana they think it’s the coolest town ever.. Little do they know that it’s not really where Bourbon is made. 

-I have never smelled anything worse than a crammed metro car during rush hour. 

Hope everyone is enjoying reading my blog as much as I’m loving sharing my time here in Europe with you all! If anyone has any fun topics they would like to hear about with life in France let me know. 

-Bre

Weekend Travels

June 6-8: 

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. 

Lourdes, France

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.

-Bre

Field Trips in College 

Who would have thought I would be going on a field trip in college?? But it’s true; for class yesterday we took a trip into downtown Toulouse to tour the Capital Building, Cathedral of Saint Stephan, Church of Les Jacobins, and to mosey around the market that was in the town square. I guess you could say that afternoon was one of my favorites here at Purpan so far. 

  Purdue Sorority girls take on France

We started our afternoon taking the train, then hopping off to get on the metro which is the route I always have to take to get into downtown Toulouse. Surprisingly the metro’s here in Southern France are less venalated than Northern France and London; even though the weather here has heavy humidity and an overall stronger heat. Yesterday  afternoon it was 90 degrees, and we were warned that it is only going to get hotter. After getting nice and sweaty we walked over to the Capital Building which is where they historically held all important government meetings, but now it is mainly used for what American’s would call “Courthouse weddings” and it’s halls can be rented out for receptions and formal wedding ceremonies as well. 

 Capital Building | Toulouse, France

Next we toured through two famous cathedrals in Toulouse; the Cathedral of Saint Stephan & the Church of Les Jacobins which was rebuild from the ruins of the Cathedral of Saint Thomas Aquinas. The first, the Cathedral of Saint Stephan, had gorgeous natural stone detail, it was unlike any of the other cathedrals I had been through in Europe. There were pretty hues of pinks and creams that gave it a calm and inviting appeal; a perfect look for it since it is still a working Catholic Cathedral holding mass throughout the week. The second cathedral was Saint Thomas Aquinas acquiring an entirely different look then the first one we stopped at. It had high ceiling with beautiful stain glass windows towering at 214 feet high with a unique structure to the ceiling and building, as it was in the shape of a cross when viewed from the sky looking down. This particular cathedral is the only one in the world to possess a “palm tree” pillar and ceiling structure at the far end of the church which has a remarkable view. It is incredibly refreshing to see the individual uniqueness in so many of the cathedrals among Europe. 

 Morgan (Purdue University, and Cooper (Kansas State) are featured in the top and bottom photos at the Cathedral of Saint Stephan.

 Saint Thomas Aquinas  

  

 “Palm Tree” in Saint Thomas  Aquinas Church of Jacobins

After the tours through the cathedrals we went to the Town Square to look around their Market where they sold anything from Africa wood carvings to clothes to homemade food (not sure I trusted that). The Market was fun and lively with all of the townspeople coming in to shop. The market happens every morning/afternoon and is all day Wednesday so I am sure i will be back before I leave Toulouse!

Later that evening we stopped by a bar right off of the large bridge connecting the two sides of the city; it’s definitely a great perk to be able to stop by on a hot afternoon, get a fun fruity drink, and relax with new friends! Not going to lie, I was starting to get a little homesick after my Mom first left Toulouse. But now I am starting to really enjoy this fun new home of mine, amazing wine, and the company of other young Agriculture students looking for new adventures.  

  Morgan, Wyatt, Cooper, and I trying out the night life in the Capital.

PREVIEW:

This is a new section that I am starting at the end of my blogs to give you all a small hint into my upcoming plans and other blog ideas that I’m having to keep you more informed with my life abroad..

Friday afternoon we are going on another day trip to the Carcassonne Castle in Toulouse (castles are my favorite) they  make me feel like a princess! Then this weekend we are going on our first weekend excursion as a group! We are making a trip Saturday morning to the Pyrenees Mountains which run between France and Spain. 

A group of about six of us from Purdue and Kansas State are planning our free weekend trip at the end of the month. Soon we will be getting our train tickets and renting our a flat for the weekend and finalizing everything.  Morgan and I are still working on our travel plans for after our internships in July! All prayers are greatly appreciated as we begin venturing out of Toulouse.

-Bre

First Day of School

It’s the first day of school here at El Purpan Univeristy in Toulouse, France for everyone here in the summer program. The walk from our apartments was about a ten minute walk from the class building which we had to be at, at 9:00 am this morning. It was refreshing to not have to be in class at 7:30 am like I was used to at Purdue University. We started the day going through the itinerary for the program, recieving our lunch cards and dinner stipins, and getting a tour of the class building where all of my classes would be. Then at noon we were off to our lunch; the cafeteria area was back on the other side of our apartments, about a 15 minute walk from the campus buildings. Here in France the lunches last about 2 hours with a wide variety of fresh, tasty food on the menu. This gave us plenty of time to eat, socialize, and go back to the apartments before we had to be back at the building to go through an info. session on the library and technology. For the end of the school day we had a summer study abroad afternoon coffee break to get to know everyone in the program better.

 Darcy and I first night out 
Now to rewind a bit, last night I arrived in Toulouse and was taken to the apartment buildings where we would be staying. I am in a flat with 8 rooms total, a kitchen, and a patio. There is another girl from Purdue, Darcie, who I have become friends with these past two days. We also have roommates who are from Mexico, Lebanon, and Missouri  which definitely adds some variety to our apartment. So far I have become close with some girls from Purdue, and the students from Kansas which was the group that I went out with last night to experience the town. The summer in Toulouse is shaping up to be a very fun, excitment filled time full of learning and creating many memories. 

 Morgan and I on our first day of classes 
Right now a group of us including Morgan, the girl I am traveling with after the program, are working on planning out our free weekend with where we want to go and obviously for the cheapest price we can find! Morgan and I are also trying to plan out our week of travel after our internships are over which is proving to be very stressful and hectic. Prayers while we try and get these plans rolling will be greatly appreciated. 

-Bre

Beachy Paradise | Marseille, France

The past two relaxing days in Marseille have been great with my Mom. We have slept in, gone to the beach, explored this cute little town, and just really soaked up all that Southern France has to offer. To say that this stop was a great way to end our trip this summer would be very accurate. 

There have been some very memorable times during these past two days that I think I must share. First off is our beach experiences, to say that the women of Southern France are comfortable with their bodies is an understatement. Our first day on the beach we had just got our towels rolled out, I was mid suncreen application, and BAM! Boobs. And I don’t mean just one lady, I mean half of the beach is topless.The range was easily from 75 years old to newborns (which shouldn’t be at the beach anyways but that’s another point entirely). I told my mother that I think I had seen enough stranger’s topless to last me a life time! And then it was the same thing the next day.. I think I’ll stick to my bikini tanlines. 

  
After our afternoons on the beach we spent the evenings strolling down the fun and winding streets of Marseille. Much like the rest of Europe that I have seen this far, the streets go every which-a-way and can be very easy to get lost or turned around in, luckily we didn’t. But our evening walks showed us a very fun and pretty side of Old Marseille that we hadn’t seen yet, with the large port and old museums. 

 Marseille was certainly a great end to my trip with my mother, but only the beginning of my time here in France. Tomorrow I will be hopping on a train, saying good-bye to my Mom, and heading to Toulouse to get ready to start my first week of classes on Monday! This summer has already been so memorable and impactful; I can’t wait to see what Europe brings my way next. 

-Bre

Au Revoir, Paris

My time in Paris has come to end. My mother and I have now traveled down to Marseille, France to spend a couple days relaxing at the beach, moseying around the town, and simply taking a break from the hustle and bustle. In reflecting I would love to share with you all my many observations and interesting little tid bits about Paris.

1. I have grown to not like Paris that much- 

Its true, I am not a fan of Paris. I loved my little time at the Eiffel Tower, Love Lock bridge, and the Monet gardens but other than that I just thought it was okay. I would come back and visit again, but not for more than a weekend passing through to visit other cities or countries in Europe.

  
2. It’s dirty-

Now I’m not just talking the ground, although that was also dirty. But there was constantly smoke being blown in my face and the number of prostitutes we saw walking down a “family” shopping area was crazy! Now don’t get me wrong it is a safe and cleanly city when it comes to the food and hotel we were in, but the other aspects of the city were a little sketchy.

3. The Metro-

We had a great experience on the tube in London traveling around to the different major sights and it was great. The metro in Paris also got us everywhere we needed to go, including Monet’s Gardnes and Versailles, which were both outside of the city. It was fast and a safe way to travel, but at night the stations were poorly lit and crawling with homeless people which were kinda scary. Now we were both safe the entire time,  but in general the travel systems in London seemed to be better..

4. The carbs-

From pizza to bagettes the French know how to do bread, and the fact that I’m this excited about bread  is saying something. It’s my sister, Bethany, is who normally obsesses over her carbs not me. As most know I am a very picky eater and thought before I left Indiana, that I would easily be able to slim up this summer while in Europe. Well if the bread keeps tasting like this I don’t think that is going to be the case. 

  
5. The French police-

The police are at all major sites, but other then that I hardly saw them just out and about patroling. And when we did see them, they were in these tiny little cars that just made me laugh when compared to the police vehicles we have in the states . Plus a fun little tid bit, the people often call the cops “poulet” (chicken), but warned us not to say this to their face for obvious reasons. 

My travels have been fun and I’m certainly learning  a lot about Europe and myself as a whole which has been really eye opening. I’m excited to start my time in Toulouse where I will be studying at a French University, taking in the culture of that small city like a great glass of wine; enjoying every last drop.

  
-Bre