This past weekend the Sewanee crew headed to the North-West coast of France to visit the historical sights in Normandy. We left Paris early on Saturday morning to get the most out of the weekend that we could, stopping in Honfleur and a Cider brewery on our way. Honfleur was a beautiful and small village with lots of boats and color. We spent close to 3 hours walking around to stretch our legs and lunch on some good seafood. We arrived at Christian Drouin, the Cider brewery, that afternoon and got the grand tour followed by some tasting! It really brought the fall out for us in France with the overwhelming smell of fresh apples. We arrived at our hostel for dinner and quickly hit the hay to rest up for a day of walking and sightseeing.
We rose with the sun on Sunday and headed straight for Omaha Beach which houses the American Memorial and Cemetery. It was a surreal feeling stepping onto U.S. territory all the way over here in France. With over 9,000 headstone it was hard to not feel overwhelmed with gratitude to be an American. After being free to walk along the coast, through the cemetery, and into the chapel, we piled back onto the bus to see Pointe du Hoc. Immediately we were able to see the the craters in the ground and the bunkers created to halt the invasion of the Army Rangers. It was a very cool experience to see the beauty of the present day coastline filled with animals, such as goats, in contrast to the harsh reality of what events took place there only some 60-70 years ago. We finished our trip with a stop on our way back to Paris in Caen to visit the Memorial Cité de l’Histoire pour la Paix. An immense museum that included not only history and memorabilia from WWII but also WWI and post war life throughout all of the countries involved. All in all it was a weekend of appreciation, knowledge, and fun!
It has now been nearly two months since our arrival. When we first arrived on the 23rd of August, already in front of us were 2 weeks of orientation filled to the brim with tours and sightings. From la Tour Eiffel to Sacre Coeur to the Moulin Rouge, every day checked something off our study abroad to-do list. One of my favorite memories has been our first sighting of Notre Dame. Our tour guide, Benjamin, led us from the metro on the way to Le Marais, with little to no introduction to the area. While we walked, he casually said, “Oh yeah, there’s Notre Dame,” with a nonchalant head nod toward a church several hundred years older than the United States.
On Monday the 28th, we ventured on a bike tour of the city. The views were amazing, and it was a good feeling to have biked 15 kilometers around Paris, but I don’t know that I’ve ever felt so sure I was going to get hit by a van.
Later that week, we visited Montmartre to see Sacre Coeur and the just-as-impressive view of the city. Despite the pickpockets and steep climb, this was certainly one of my favorite orientation field trips.
During one of our first weekends here we took a group trip to Burgundy, a countryside town just an hour away from Paris. Still exhausted from our first weeks in a busy city, it was refreshing to retreat into a calmer environment and see some new sights. We don’t have class on Fridays, so we were able to leave that morning to tour the town of Dijon, famous for its mustard! We saw the local cathedral, walked past countless boutiques, and touched the “chouette” (French for a female owl) which allegedly gives you a vision if you touch it with your left hand. The next day was full of activity. We got an early start and toured the Musee Zervos, a small modern art museum. After lunch (escargots, ratatoullie, boeuf borgogne, and the like), we traveled to a vineyard for a wine tasting. We got a great lesson on distinguishing different qualities of wine, and then got to taste several for ourselves! The next day we toured Vézelay, a tiny rural town famous for its medieval churches. Our tour guide showed us what it would be like to be pilgrims during the crusades by taking us underground to places where they could spend the night. While the town receives millions of visitors each year, Vézelay is only home to about 400 people – mostly those who work in the church. Looking out onto the French countryside during such beautiful weather made me wish for an afternoon visit to Greensview! My personal favorite part of this weekend was stumbling upon a huge outdoor market where I bought a handmade scarf and a big bag of dried apricots.
With the world cup approaching just next summer, it was only appropriate that we attended a qualifier game. The last time I was in Europe, it was the summer of 2014 and the world cup was going on, but I never actually got to see a game. The ambiance centered around the world cup is something that is so uplifting and positive. Even though we obviously aren’t French, we couldn’t help but to put lots of passion and energy into cheering for the country that we have called home for the last two months. The stadium was huge and a lot more modern that I thought it would be. It was located just outside of Paris in an area that looked similar to parts of the US…it was a weird feeling. We grabbed a burger and bought an official scarf before entering …yey! (I’ve always wanted one of these!) We went along with all the crowds which were singing “La Marseillaise” as we entered the Stadium. We had amazing seats and they gave us French flags that we could wave around. In my opinion, the mood and atmosphere is a lot more fun than football games in America. Also, I think the game was much more entertaining because it was shorter…American football games tend to be like four hours. When someone would score a goal, the crowd would go crazy and it was fun to watch the players celebrate their accomplishment. Since “le foot” is a lower scoring game, it just seemed to be a bigger deal when the French would score a goal. Happily, the French came up with the win against Belarus! It will be a night I will always remember!