Friday, November 9, 2012

Frolicking around France : Toussaint period

The Toussaint vacations were more than welcome to arrive the week after my birthday week.
Every student up to the lycée (high school) level in France eagerly awaited the first two-week vacation of the school year, and I was no exception. To get an idea of what I did, have a look at this map.

See those pins? Those are cities I found myself in within this two-week period. Yup. So, in chronological order, let me recount my adventures to you, dear reader.

On Monday the 29th, I went to Angers to see my good friend Aurore. You may or may not remember me mentioning her in my first blog entry, but she is the girl who spent her exchange last year in my city in Oregon, Tualatin.

This time, it was me who went to see her in her home city. We were extremely happy to meet up again (I hadn't seen her since shortly before she left in early July), and I even got to meet her parents. We got to see the castle in her city Monday night. I spent the night at her house, then Tuesday morning we went to the art museum. Admission was free because we were students; it's like that in heritage sites in France. How cool is that? They really encourage appreciation of history and the arts here. It was great to catch up with Aurore, and it's pretty amazing to think that when I first met her, I didn't really imagine I would meet her again in her home city in France! I still fondly think of the moment when she went and picked me as an outbound to go to France on the February ski trip, the only moment in my life I have cried tears of joy...

On Wednesday the 31st, I welcomed to my home two of my best inbound friends, Aarohi from India and Brooke from Canada. For the afternoon, I showed them around Parthenay (the medieval quarter, the cute boutique quarter, and the little historical artifact museum that I didn't know existed), and then we went to the Hyper U and bought four bags of chips. We spent a part of the evening sitting in my room, pigging out on them, talking (just like what teenage girls do in movies, which is cliché # I've lost count).

The next day, November 1, we went to Futuroscope!
Futuroscope is a theme park that is kind of hard to explain. To put it in one phrase, think of big screens, special effects, and futuristic style buildings that look way too modern and out of place to be in France. Some highlights were:
The 4D showing of a side story of The Little Prince. 4D means that the video was in 3D, but the floor moved in time with the animation, plus when the dragon (which was already in your face due to 3D) breathed, you felt it as a brief gust of air. Special effects like that.

While walking around the park, the three of us spotted these cool-looking contraptions from afar. We squealed and immediately rushed towards them wanting to try them out. Behold, the water bikes. Bet you can't say you've ridden a bike on water!

Here's the three of us looking pretty.

On Friday the 2nd, Aarohi left, but I took the return journey home with Brooke. We got dropped off at the Gare de Poitiers by my host dad. Our train was an hour late, so we had time to kill. We went to the gare restaurant and decided to order a burger. I was a bit skeptical at first, because coming from the United States I know what a good burger tastes like. I decided that mediocre burger was better than no burger, so I agreed to it. When the burger arrived, we split it, and it looked promising.
One bite, and it had me.

The burger was BEYOND HEAVENLY. With two nicely seasoned patties, no tomatoes (I do not like tomatoes), a bed of goat cheese, lettuce, and authentic dijon mustard, it was the best burger Brooke and I had ever tasted. We could have cried out of how delicious it was. It was extremely easy and clean to eat, without anything dripping from it (which added class because this is France). Definitely worth the 14 euros it cost...hahaha.
We had quite the adventure rushing through the gare at St. Pierre des Corps after our late train arrived, messing up our original plans. However, I was able to get things together by talking to the one of the gare attendants and planning the rest of our journey, in French. We ran to the next train to Tours and barely made it on time.
Getting off that train, I was greeted by the magnificent sight of the Tours gare. I think it's safe to say I'm a bit obsessed with it. I mean, just look at it! This is the classic image of an old French train station.

From there, we took a train to Château du Loir, where Brooke's host dad picked us up.
On Saturday the 3rd, we went to Le Mans to hang out with our Brazilian friend Leo. Leo is one of my ukulele buddies. That afternoon, we had drinks and desserts at this very chic café.

Leo showed us his city a bit. We saw this small cathedral, then sat on a bench near it. Since I brought my ukulele, Leo and I took turns playing it. Living the Bohemian life!

On Sunday the 4th, I made the return trip back to Parthenay by myself. I was happy that one of my stops was the Tours gare!
Here's what a train looks like inside, and what I like to do on train trips by myself.

The following week, the only foreign people I saw were Australians.
On Monday the 5th, the Taylors, longtime family friends, stopped by my house in Parthenay because they were on vacation in France. We drove around looking for a place to eat, but finding no place open in the random villages we drove to, we ended up eating at McDonald's.
The Taylors first became acquainted with my family about ten years ago in the Philippines, when my mom was head of a company called Australian Business Volunteers. Since then, we have seen them in Australia and in the United States. Now here they were in France. Who knows where in the world I will see them next?

On Wednesday the 7th, I went bowling in Bressuire. The bowling alley was the classiest I have ever seen. There was nice ambient lighting, comfy furniture, and instead of a concession stand, there was a bar. It was all modern and a nice place to hang out. (Pictures are from their website,

On Thursday the 8th, I took the bus to Niort to hang out with Aussie Joe. It was International Hug an Exchange Student Day, so we were glad to hug each other several times that day (us being the only people we got a hug from). If you hugged an exchange student on that day, good for you and thank you! I'm sure they appreciated it. If you didn't, then keep the date November 8 (hey that rhymes!) in mind for next year. Exchange students (especially the ones in France where hugging isn't that common) are always happy to receive real hugs.

I am now approaching the end of the vacations and will be back in school on Monday the 12th. After six full weeks of school, I will have my next two-week break, Christmas break. I'm quite looking forward to it. More time to travel and spend with Rotary exchange students, yahoo!
See you all on the post on the 19th.

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