Le GRAND Weekend!… encore?!

Are you ready for another big weekend post? Hidden beyond the Read More button this time, you’ll find marvelous things, like a garden festival, Leonardo da Vinci’s house, La Guinguette, a giant sale, and my first pharmacie adventure… Did I mention there are a TON of photos, and quite a few are super artistic?! I used the day headings like I did last weekend. I hope that helps!
Vendredi: 31 août 2012
Went to bed at 10 again, but I still felt like I wanted more sleep. I noticed there was a tiny hole in the pair of flats that match the purse I usually use back in America (I’d packed it in my Paris luggage), and showed it to Madame. I noticed a shoe repair place yesterday on the walk home, and she told me to stop by there today with the shoe. That’s usually a problem they can fix on the spot. Left the house at 8:20, made it to l’Institut at 9. I was feeling pretty great by the time I got there. I decided to listen to my iPod on my walk today, and “On Your Feet” by Stop Motion Poetry came on. Allow me to be a little hipster for a moment; they’re cool mais oui, but they aren’t that well-known yet, and I’ve listened to them from the start (they’re from the same part of California that I am). They only JUST got an album on iTunes (which means you should go buy it right now)! Anyway, that song is a great pick-me-up, and I had this dumb American-esque grin on my face the entire time I was on the bridge. It went well with the “balls out” mentality that I’ve decided to take on. Anyway, maybe I was walking slower because I was wearing different shoes today, but I’ve got to find a way to speed up since I’ve got to be there before 8:45 next week…
We finished up the homophones in class, and then we went back to the subjunctive (Pardon-moi, il faut que je vomisse, and that means exactly what you think it means). Surprisingly, I did a lot better than I did a couple days ago. Thank you “balls out” mentality… I guess all this subjunctive has been locked in my brain from when I learned it way back in high school, and now I’m starting to recover it. I’m thankful that my brain didn’t erase it entirely! Talked to Joan and Kyle (friend of Joan’s from her college that’s been hanging out with us, I got “balls out” from him) during the break. Went back to class, and Fabian had a “test” for us. He said if we did poorly, we could retake it. That didn’t make me nervous at all (sarcasm sarcasm sarcasm). We had to write a letter to our fictional boyfriend/girlfriend detailing problems we had with them, and things we wanted them to fix using the subjunctive (since you can use it to express desires as well as obligations). Of course, when he handed me the paper (I sit toward the front of the class), I face-palmed and made a face. He smiled and told me to breathe. I wasn’t too worried about the subjunctive as I was writing a proper letter and coming up with good issues! He DID say “it’s a letter, there’s a format.” I put the date in the upper left hand corner of the paper, then addressed the letter to Cheri, and continued. I didn’t want to write problems like you’re fat, you need to lose weight and things like that. Instead, I had a little more fun. I told my fictional boyfriend (Dear REAL boyfriend, none of these problems are based on real problems we have, because we don’t have any, so please don’t read into this!) that he shouldn’t spit out his food when he doesn’t like it, and he should tell me he doesn’t like something instead so I can make him something else, then I told him he’s always late, so he should get an electronic calendar (and actually use it), then I said my friends actually told me he smells bad and could tell he doesn’t shower regularly, so I said he needed to shower ever day, and then I said he needed to get a real job (since playing video games wasn’t a job) because I couldn’t afford to pay for our dates anymore. I ended the letter saying that all of these things were easy to do and I hoped he’d make the changes because I’d dump him if he didn’t.
We talked about family-related things in oral expression today, but not OUR families. It was more about divorce, living together without being married, adoption, surrogacy, things like that. The “balls out” mentality worked quite well here, I talked a lot, certainly more than yesterday since I had more to talk about. Apparently in France, surrogacy is illegal. That’s kind of unfortunate… When we got to talking about the whole living together without being married thing, I brought up how one of my professors worked on the Boston Couples Study and he found that living together without being married doesn’t necessarily replace marriage, it only speeds up the relationship in terms of either getting married or divorced, at least in terms of the participants of the study (which was done 40 years ago). Mme. Geai found that interesting. She asked if we were living with our boyfriends and he wanted to get married, if we’d want to. I know for me, the ultimate goal is getting married, but for one of the girls in our group, she’d rather not. I can understand why, both marriages AND divorces are very expensive… I found out the the divorce rate in America is only falling because there are more people living together and not getting married. There’s no statistic for those people breaking up! Mme. Geai also told us about a big sale called la braderie that’s happening for the end of the season all over France on Sunday! It reminds me a lot of Black Friday back home.
The people in my group needed to go to Carrefour to get lunch, but I had mine, so I went along. After we had everything we needed, we went back to l’Institut to eat, but we ate in the garden this time. After that, we tried to go to a bank to exchange my traveler’s checks, but I found out that they’ll only do that if you have an account with them, and the only place you can exchange traveler’s checks (in Tours at least) is the train station. I found it alright, and I completed the exchange just fine, except for the fact that I’d put my name in the “pay to the order of” area as well as the signature areas… The teller told me “YOU MADE A BIG MISTAKE!” and freaked me out, and then said “mais… pas de problème!” and stamped the name of the train station over my name. I apologized and told him my bank told me to fill them out that way. Whoops! You can’t put white out on traveler’s checks, can you? I stopped by Eurodif on the way home and bought the gloves I wanted for Paris. After that, I stopped by FOUR different pharmacies looking for acne wipes, contact lens solution, and razors thinking those were things I could grab off of shelves. Stopped by the shoe repair place and showed the guy my shoe. He actually said the shoe was “dead.” There wasn’t anything he could do, so he told me to buy a new pair this Sunday. Big bummer for me, I actually bought those shoes the day I got my visa, so they’re not even all that old! PLUS THEY’RE SUPER CUTE! I’d told Madame that I’d be home around 4 so that she could make sure she was home to let me in, but it was only 3:15 by the time I reached the river, so I sat down and rested a while.
I got home and told Madame about the shoes (she told me to keep them to wear around the house, and to fix them with duct tape when I was back in America after I told her that’s what I’d done with previous pairs) and the craziness with the pharmacies. She asked if I wanted her to take me to her pharmacie and I said that would be really nice of her, so we went. It turns out that even for acne products and contact lens solution, you have to talk to a pharmacien. Madame introduced me to the pharmacienne that we worked with, and explained that I was a student, and I was the one that needed help, then let me do the rest of the talking. I said I wanted some solution to put my contact lenses in at night. The pharmacienne left the counter, went to a shelf, got a box of solution, showed it to me and asked if I would like this, and I said that was fine. The acne wipes were a little more confusing. I tried to tell her (using the word lignettes which means “wipes”) that I wanted wipes for acne, and I was making my usual motion for using the wipes. She said was confused because I didn’t have any acne, and couldn’t understand why I needed acne products! Madame said the same thing when she left the counter to find an acne product for me. I laughed, thanked her for the compliment, and said the reason I didn’t have acne was because of my vigilance with such products. I then asked Madame if I could buy razors here, since I couldn’t see any. She got confused, “pour la visage?!” (for your face?!) We got a good laugh out of that one, and I said no, for my legs! She told me that you go to a supermarket for shower-related things. I’m not sure if the pharmacienne understood that I wanted wipes instead of a face wash, or if they didn’t have wipes, or whatever, but she returned with a large bottle of a face wash. It even had English on it… which she pointed to for me to look at… (merde!) I said thank you, and asked if it was okay to use on sensitive skin, since my skin is very sensitive and turns bright red if I use certain products (and the bottle didn’t say “sensitive skin” anywhere on it, in English or French). The pharmacienne smiled and said she understood, and the product she brought me should suit me quite well, because she has incredibly sensitive skin, and she uses that product herself. I paid, and we went off to the supermarket to get the razors. Madame first showed me the men’s razors because of our joke about my supposedly needing razors for my face, then showed me the women’s ones. I grabbed what I wanted, I paid, and we went home.
My friends wanted to go to Le Guinguette tonight, and to not be a party pooper, I figured I’d go with them, since it’d be better for Anna (and Madame) if we left and came home together anyway. Since I was so tired, I took a nap before dinner to get myself ready… and then the cheap ass charger for my knock off broke in half when I went to plug it into the phone! UGH! I guess that means I have to get a new one… Tonight’s dinner involved some meat dishes (tuna with tomato sauce, a type of pork paté that’s famous in this region of France, and some tiny hot-dog like sausages) for entrée, fish and a vegetable that I don’t think I’ve ever heard of before (it’s salsifis in French, and salsify in English, which doesn’t help me) for plat principal, a couple new cheeses, and an apple for dessert. Madame told us that she decided to start taking in foreign students after her husband died so she’d have a reason to get up in the morning, someone to depend on her. I wanted to cry… she’s so special!
Anna and I got ready, and then headed down to the Guinguette. She showed me where it was, then I met up with my friends at L’hôtel de ville. Rouge and Joan had bought 1,50 euro champagne at Carrefour earlier today, and brought it with them. When we made it to the Guinguette, there was someone waiting at the door that said we weren’t supposed to be bring in outside alcohol, so we went down by the river to drink the bottles before we went inside. A whole bunch of Sweet Briar people were drinking bottles of things they’d brought as well. Apparently, BYOB is an American thing. We passed around the bottles of champagne in our little group (and for cheap champagne, it was really good) until we finished them, and we went inside the actual bar area. Having the small amount of champagne that I’d consumed was enough for me, I decided I didn’t need to buy any drinks. Quite a few of the people from Sweet Briar were really drunk, like “I understand why the French people think all American students drink themselves silly and hate us” drunk. One of the guys from my class was near the bar area (where I was leaning up against a post waiting for Kyle to buy himself a beer), and he saw me, then said, “Oh my god! You’re in my French class!” I was sober enough to say “No, dear, I’m in your math class” in my head, but I played along, “Yeah!” “We haven’t formally met, have we?” He shook my hand, and gave me his name, which I knew from class. “Where are you from?” “California.” “Oh, cool! I’m from New York.” “I thought so!” “Really? How’d you know?” “Your accent gave it away a little.” “Ohh… your hair is SO. RED.” Rouge, Joan, and the rest of the girls went inside this tiny room with strobe lights and a pole where you could buy shots (I think it was called “THE CUBE”). I didn’t really want to go inside since the only other people I could see entering and exiting were creepy looking older men. Once Kyle finished his beer, we went inside to go “rescue” the girls. They were dancing near the pole in the room. There was this creepy old guy who was wearing a black blazer, but no shirt underneath it, who was staring at Sheila the whole time we were in the room, and when she touched the pole like she was going to dance on it, he pounced on it (and her) like he was going to join in. Nasty… I didn’t want to be in there after a while, so I left with Kyle, and we went outside to sit down with Charlotte (another girl from the same school as Kyle and Joan) and Sandra. This random guy came up to us after a while and gave us this story about how his phone didn’t work and he’d pay us if we’d let us use one of ours. I never fall for this scam back home, so I tried to tell him that I left my phone at home in French. Next thing out of his mouth was “you speak English?” so he retold the story in English (dang…) and I told him I left my phone at home. At closing time, the people that worked at the bar kicked us up and out of our table, so we tried to find Rouge and the other girls to get them to leave with us. Charlotte and Sheila live near each other, so they needed to leave together, so we all left the bar area together. When we left, there was yet another creepy guy that was hovering near us, and asked “Mademoiselles?” to get our attention, so we just ignored him and continued speaking English. Anna had gone to another bar, and was on her way back to meet me so we could walk home, and that creepy guy wasn’t leaving (he even tried speaking to us in English! So scary!), so thankfully Charlotte and Sheila stayed with me until Anna found me, and we all left at the same time. I guess all of those blogs warning girls about creepy old French men weren’t lying…
I’ve got an excursion in the morning to a couple more châteaux (Chenonceau and Amboise), so we’ll have to see how I do on six hours of sleep… Oh boy…
Samedi: 1 septembre 2012
Definitely wasn’t happy when my alarm went off this morning, but I figured I could sleep on the bus. Got dressed, had my breakfast, and Madame warned me it might be a little colder than she had originally anticipated when we discussed the weather over dinner last night, so I put on a warmer cardigan and a scarf. I was kind of bummed out that Rouge and Joan didn’t make it to the excursion today, but I’d heard they were out much later than I was last night, so I guess that’s understandable. I napped a bit on the bus before we got to Chenonceau (by the way, I forgot to mention that this is the name of my Sweet Briar château). Chenonceau is also known as the castle of the queens, since there were a lot of them there. It’s very pretty, and there’s a lot of history (some funny, some sad) that goes along with it, so you might want to look it up. It’s a very pretty castle, even though it’s not all that big. We had a bit of a catastrophe with our lunches. Mme. Grée told us to bring them with us and have a little picnic before getting on the bus to go to the next château. When we tried to go into Chenonceau, there were signs posted that said we couldn’t take our picnics inside, and the ticket-checker told us to go put them back on our buses… so that was a little annoying… Madame made the rice salad for me again, but the bread I’d bought a week ago had gone moldy (I thought about that a couple days ago), so she made my sandwiches with the rice cakes, and it actually worked just fine. Here are some of the pictures I took at Chenonceau.
Left to Right: Me, Sandra and Sheila.

We drove to Amboise after that, but we found out later that actually going to the château there was never the plan. Instead, we visited Clos Lucé, which was the home of Leonardo de Vinci, and has a lot of information about his inventions, which is really cool. It’s got a huge park where you can play with models of his inventions (like the Archimedes screw to draw up water, etcetera), or just walk around and admire them. When we went into the first room in the house, we noticed a cat on the bed, so all of us were like, I wonder how they trained a cat to sleep on the bed, completely joking, since we all knew it was a fake cat… until it moved! That was one daring cat… it snuck into the house just to take a nap on the bed… Here are some of the pictures I took at Clos Lucé.

Once we got back to Tours, I stopped by Orange to see if there might be a chance that I could find a charger for my knock off. NOPE! I had to buy a new phone, so I bought one that looks a little bit like a Blackberry since it has a full keyboard. The same salesperson that helped me last week helped me today, and he showed my knock off to the other person working today, saying things like “Looks like a real Samsung, right? Look at the branding! Now look at the plug! When I opened it, it’s got slots for two large SIM cards, not a microsim like the real ones have! Where did you say your friend got this?” “China.” “YEAH! China!” We all got a good laugh out of it. Lucky for me, this one actually has a Twitter app that works! I wish I would have done this from the start… I walked home, and Madame wasn’t home yet, but another lady let me into the building, so I set up my new phone sitting outside of Madame’s door. I (unintentionally) scared her when she walked out of the elevator. She apologized for getting home a little later than she meant to, but she had to buy another packet of galettes du riz to replace the ones that she’d nearly used up making my sandwiches! We talked for a bit about the châteaux, then I went into my room to finish working with my new phone, and consolidate all of the little gifts and things I’d bought today. In total, I bought some simple trinkets to take home and 18 post cards… my right hand is going to fall off by the end of this week… I addressed all of the post cards for all of the people I have yet to send one to, and I actually have some left over… so if anyone wants a post card… I have them… Once I got my new phone working, Orange sent me a warning text that said I only had a little over a euro left of credit on my mobicarte (the no-contract SIM card deal). Three texts later, POOF! I can’t do anything on the phone, and since all of the tabacs (tobacco shops where I have to buy réchargements for the phone) are closed until Monday, I’m stuck. I’m still trying to decide if the fact that the knock off was a smartphone was a bit of a credit suck, especially because I kept trying to use that faulty Twitter app, or the Twitter app on THIS phone might be the cause. I used it twice since I had the phone (for the hour I had it before the “no credit” text came in), but I made my tweet, and shut down the app immediately after. I’ve found out that all of the texts I GET are free (I’m still getting some, I just can’t send replies), and I can activate unlimited texting on nights (after 9 PM) and weekends, but I think that actually costs a little bit more… I tried buying credit with my Travelex card, but I couldn’t understand all of the prompts and I kept getting stuck. I’ll just buy credit on Monday.
Dinner was nice. Madame made a Parisian potato salad for entrée, and a roasted chicken dish for plat principal. She added the Saint Maure cheese to the cheese plate, which really got me excited because I really like it (I tried it during the wine tasting), and a flat nectarine (we call them donut nectarines) for dessert. I asked Madame how to do laundry (since there’s a machine in the bathroom), and she showed me. Hooray for clean clothes!
I’m really freaking tired. Six hours of sleep does not cut it for me. Tomorrow, I need to go to the braderie down the main roads of Tours to see if I can find a new pair of shoes to replace the old ones…
Dimanche: 2 septembre 2012
Getting about ten or eleven hours of sleep last night was just what I needed! I got up, had my breakfast, and much to my delight, Madame had bought more than the galettes du maïs (she couldn’t find the rice ones) yesterday! There were plan shortbread cookies and what looked to be rice krispie-like treats with chocolate between them in the gluten-free box she puts out at breakfast. I haven’t tried any of the new things yet, but I will soon. I got dressed, and headed down to the braderie.
I was expecting it to be a lot more like Black Friday; chaotic, scary, and dangerous. It was much more like a street fair. The whole idea of a braderie is to let the clothing stores get rid of all of their summer season (relevant to this time) stuff to get ready for the winter season. While I was walking down Rue Nationale, I noticed a jewelry store that I pass every day had already changed its windows! Just yesterday, it had a beach scene displaying coral watches, and today it had emerald topped mushrooms as accessories to display next to the new royal violet watches! The shop was closed, but it still kinda freaked me out. Most of the mannequins in the windows of the lingerie stores were either half naked or totally naked, which both cracked me up and scared me at the same time. At any rate, even though you’d assume this is a clothing store-oriented event, there were plenty of vendors selling books, bed linens, “as-seen-on-TV” gadgets, and ethnic goods (like spices, I’m not kidding) that you wouldn’t think would/could go “out of season.” I walked down Rue des Halles for a while, and there we plenty of shoe stores that were selling things, but I couldn’t see any flats that I liked to replace the ones with the hole. I figured I’d continue down Rue Nationale, since there was one shoe store right by where I turn off to go toward l’Institut that I thought had super cute shoes and see if they were participating in the sale. They weren’t, so I kept walking. I knew Rue Jean Jaurés was going to have a lot of vendors, so I figured I’d find something there. I found a vendor with flats for only 10 euros! They didn’t have any flats that looked like mine, and I have a pair of black ones in my Paris suitcase, so I narrowed my choice to a brown pair, and since the “holy” shoes were textured/patterned, I wanted a pair of flats with a pattern. I ended up buying a pair of brown cheetah print flats with a black bow on the toe. While walking back toward Madame’s, I found a book vendor, and I picked up a copy of Les Secrets de la Bonne Cuisine for only 10 euros. A book like this usually sells for at least 30, so that’s a steal. It’s all in French, and in that measuring system, so I’ll need to buy some plastic measuring cups before I go home (and I’ll have to get a scale when I’m home, Alton Brown should be ashamed that I’ve waited so long to get one) so I can properly make the things in the book. What I found amazing about this cook book (and typical delicious French cuisine) is that the best food has 10 ingredients or less in the entire thing and that doesn’t mean you count buying pre-made puff pastry as one thing, and everything only takes a few minutes to make. I’m looking at a recipe for rolled crêpes with spinach, and including everything to make the batter for the crêpes from scratch, the recipe calls for eight ingredients. You make the batter, cook the crêpes, mix some spinach with cheese, put the spinach in the middle of a crêpe, roll it up, put the rolled crêpes in a casserole, put some cheese on top, put it in the oven to melt the cheese, and serve. That’s done in all of half an hour, start of batter to out of the oven. Fry up a cut of pork or beef, and there’s your plat principal. Tell me that’s not easy, and that’s true French cooking. None of this million and four spices you see in an American cook book. Putain de merde. Back to the shopping. I noticed a really cool vendor who made his own jewelry on Rue des Halles, so I stopped by on my way home and bought my mom her Christmas present. Yes Mom, I know you read my blog. I realize you now know at least part of your Christmas involves handmade French jewelry. That doesn’t mean you know what it looks like, so don’t complain that I’ve somehow ruined Christmas, because I haven’t!
Back home, showed Madame what all I bought. She agreed that the shoes I found were cute, but not as cute as the ones I had to replace. They should go with all of the same things the other shoes went with since they’ve got the same basic colors (browns and a little black). She asked about my Mom’s taste in jewelry and when she wears it, so I explained where I wanted her to wear the piece I bought for her. Lunch involved the radishes I’d had for my first entrée here (not my favorite, but I’ll still eat them), haricots verts and a cut of pork for plat principal, the usual cheese, and a white flat nectarine for dessert. While we had our café, we talked about the school systems in our countries. I have the most vacation time (but only for summer), Anna has the least. Madame talked about le bac (the test French students have to take in order to go on to college) a lot, so I brought up the fact that I did something similar with the IB program. Madame and Anna had never heard of it, but when I started explaining the tests, Madame said it sounded a lot like the usual bac and prided me for doing something above and beyond the usual American curriculum. Anna knew it was hard for American students to complete college, but she didn’t know why, so I explained how some of the courses at the public colleges are impacted (since YOU HAVE to do them to graduate or complete your specific major), and it’s hard for people to get into those classes, so some people end up taking five years to graduate instead of the “expected” four. She asked if that was going to happen to me, and I said that thankfully, because I go to a private college, I would be able to graduate in four years, then j’ai touché le bois. You don’t “knock on wood” in France, you just touch it! Anna laughed.
Madame originally wanted to take us on a boat tour of la Loire, but after some phone calls, she found out it was closed. Instead, she took us to Le Château de Chaumont-sur-Loire but not to see the château! We went to check out the Festival des Jardins (Garden Festival) instead. This festival runs between the last week of April and around the third week of October every year, and every year the 30 some gardens are different! They’re all designed by guest artists! I find it hilarious that I “know” everything my camera does, but I’ll be somewhere and see something, and realize that this would be the perfect place to play with this special setting that my camera has… le Festival des Jardins was my “selective color” playground… Anna LOVED watching me take pictures with this picture mode! Here are some of my favorite pictures from the gardens. You’ll be able to find all of the photos (as always) on my Flickr page.
Madame and Anna reading a description of the bridge.

I’m on the left, Anna is on the right.

Can you see the face?

For dinner, Madame brought out a soup that looked like it was made with spinach and chicken broth for entrée. I couldn’t quite hear Madame because all I could focus on were the noodles. I asked if they were gluten-free. Madame looked so horrified. She’d completely forgotten, and asked if I wanted something else (for the record, the broth was gluten-free). Considering how full I usually get, I told her not to worry, so I ate the broth carefully. She was apologizing all dinner over that one soup! Poor thing… I didn’t feel bad about it. Plat principal was a pair of omelets, one with mushrooms, the other with onions, and a small salad. Madame asked if we’d eaten enough when she brought out the cheese, and Anna said yes, I said maybe. I was worried we wouldn’t get the fruit for dessert, I didn’t realize that saying “maybe” meant she’d bring out something else to go with the cheese! She asked to make up for the soup thing, and to give us a little something extra because of all the walking we’d done at the gardens. We had a couple slices of prosciutto to go with our cheese. Lesson learned, always say you’ve eaten enough, because that doesn’t mean you won’t be served the courses you’ve come accustomed to being served! I had a nectarine for dessert on top of all of that… oh dear… I’m so stuffed…
I’ve got to get up nice and early tomorrow, but I’ve got a tour of the Musée de Beaux Art tomorrow. Madame says she won’t be home when I’m done with it, so I’ll probably head back to l’Institut and play on the internet some more. That’ll probably be a good thing, since I’ll need to upload all those photos to Flickr (hint: if that link is clickable, the photos I’ve mentioned in this post will be there).

C’est le ton qui fait la chanson.

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