Saturday, July 25, 2015

A big THANK YOU to the best host family ever!

I am writing this as I just left the Franc de Ferriere family and am on my last train ride of this trip back to Toulouse. I am reflecting on how I felt just a month ago when I was on a train going the opposite way heading to live and work in what I saw as a great unknown. I was nervous and excited and preparing myself mentally for any situation. I am happy to report that I don’t think I could have had a better family to take me in! The Franc de Ferriere family is more than amazing and invited me right into their life. It took no time at all to fall into the life and really become part of the family. I am so blessed to have been given this opportunity and I would not change it for anything. I am eternally grateful for the hospitality, acceptance, and love I was shown and all the opportunities I was given by living with them.

This month has really taught me so much about life and about myself. I was challenged and put out of my comfort zone so many times and each and every time I felt myself grow. I came to know and experience the beautiful French culture as well as given the chance to dive into the wine culture. I put blood and sweat (literally) into work that I never would have done outside of this experience and I am better for it. I met so many people from all over the world and each conversation brought something new to my life. I felt the love of a family and felt at home even when I was half way around the world from my real family.

Wilfred, Jacquie, Pierre, and Louisa: Thank you so much from the bottom of my heart for taking me in this month and making me part of the family. Thank you for introducing me to family and friends from all over the world. Thank you for sharing the most beautiful Chateau in the whole world with me. Thank you for listening to me talk about my love for peanut butter and bananas. Thank you for the food and the desserts and the wine and more desserts! Thank you for teaching me to like (almost black) coffee and having so many fun foods for me to try. Thank you for letting me nap every day after lunch. Thank you for giving me so many opportunities to do things I never thought I would do. Thank you for trying to teach me some French and German even when I could barely remember any of it. (Also, can you tell Dominique I say thank you for the lovely French lessons during work as well… I couldn’t really find a way to tell him the last time I saw him) There are so many more things about your family to be thankful for and I don’t think I could ever write them all. Thank you most of all for welcoming me in and teaching some of the biggest life lessons I have learned thus far. You guys and my time with you has had such an impact on me and I know I have become a much better person thanks to my time with you. You have all taught me more than you could even imagine and I will always treasure this time I have had with you! I cannot wait to see you all again either at your place or when you come visit Cincinnati!

Last week of work

Last week of work. Very bitter sweet because it means I am so close to going home but also my time here is quickly coming to a close. I have has such an amazing experience here and it's just starting to become real that I have to leave soon.

Monday at work I FINISH EMPAMPRAGE!!!!! 80,000 vines, 10 sore fingers, 3 blisters, multiple cuts and scrapes and bug bites and sunburn later, all 20 hectares of vines have been cleaned up! It is quite a feeling of accomplishment knowing that I completed such a big task. It was a lot of hours of labor put into the job and in the end, I ended up somehow finding enjoyment in it. It gave me a lot of time to think. It grew on me and in the end I decided it was okay… but also still happy to be done! Also today, I got stung by a wasp while working in the vines…. I'm not going to tell you where but it’s a very funny story! If you want to hear about it I will tell you when I see you next but I don’t think I can do it justice in writing. Please do ask, it's very funny.

the vines and my trusty tool

With empamprage finished, it left the rest of the week to label a big order that is going to be sent out to Germany. Over the course of Tuesday and Wednesday, I labeled and boxed 508 cased which is 3,048 bottles! Another big job that gives such a feeling of accomplishment when it is finally finished!
the labeling and boxing room

Thursday morning (my last day of work) I worked with Dominique to water all the baby vines which means I got to ride on a tractor which was fun! You normally are not allowed to water the vines but if they are within the first two years and therefor not yet producing fruit, you are allowed to water them so that they can grow.

Wednesday night was my last night at the house and Lousia and I made dinner! We first adventured to the supermarket to pick up all the ingredients we needed and then took over the kitchen and cooked (and danced and sang and jammed to American and German music). We made burritos and banana fosters and it was delicious. It was such a wonderful last night with the family and it is going to be very difficult to leave them tomorrow. I have loved my time here so much.

Louisa and I making dinner

Third week of work

This work week was a short one with the holiday on Tuesday. It was also very typical and full of empamprage and labeling. Nothing out of the ordinary but the heat did break a little bit so that was very nice!

The weekend brought a nice break from the early mornings meaning that I got to sleep in! I read and napped and sat by the pool and relaxed. I also helped out in the tea room Saturday and Sunday. The tea room is so charming and relaxing and I love when Louisa and I get to work in there together and then sometimes sit and enjoy a cup of tea and a piece of Jackie's AMAZING cake! Louisa and I also filled up the time in the tea room this weekend by playing Blockus and word games on paper. It is such a marvelous atmosphere and I know I will really miss that room when I have to leave. Saturday night, Pierre took Louisa and I along to a friend's house for a Bachelorette (think high school graduation) party! It was so much fun to meet more French kids and get to know Louisa more. The French had a lot of fun teaching me French… all the words that I probably should not say! I love every opportunity I have here to meet new people because each and every one of them give me a new insight and teach me something whether big or small.

It is very sad to think that I have to leave this family in less than a week. I am loving it here and I feel right at home! Next Thursday is going to be a sad day. 

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

J'aime Paris

On Monday while working in the vines, I just got this stir crazy feeling which grew into the idea of traveling to Paris that coming weekend. The plan stuck in my head and I found myself looking up transportation and travel tips that night. I then found out two other girls from my program were already planning on seeing Paris that weekend and then plans really began to take shape… I was to go to Paris Friday after work and return to Bordeaux Monday!

This trip was terrifying and exciting all at the same time. After many recommendations from my host family, I decided to take a Bla Bla car to and from Paris. Bla Bla car is basically uber for long distance travel. I signed up for my rides and messaged them to see where I was to meet them and just hoped I would be able to find them and go with it. Friday's ride went very well and I arrived in Paris around 9pm right outside my hostel. I was here alone until Saturday around 3 when my friends would get there. I checked into my 8 person room in the hostel (which I had all to myself Friday night but was full Saturday and Sunday night) and set out to explore a bit. The hostel was in a perfect location just minutes from the Louvre and the river. I just walked around and found some dinner (and of course ice cream). I wondered upon the river and I spent some time just sitting on the bank watching the sunset and seeing the city light up. I fell in love with the city right there and the love just continued to grow all weekend. After meandering around a little more and stumbling across the famous glass triangles of the Louvre, I headed back to the hostel and called it a night in preparation to get an early start the next morning!

Saturday morning after breakfast, I headed out into the streets of Paris with no particular goal other than to get lost and see what I stumble upon. It was amazing. I just walked and walked and when I found something cool I explored it. And when I found something that looked good to eat, I ate it. I was so content and felt so independent and just happy. I also ventured over to see Notre Dame and the love lock bridge which was pretty cool. After a wonderful morning, I headed back to the hostel for a quick nap and then to wait for my friends Navada and Kim to get here! From there we walked and saw some more sights… we started at the Louvre, walked through the park and up the big shopping street to the Arc de Triumph and ended up at the Eiffel Tower. From there we were all so hungry so we searched the surrounding neighborhoods for food and settled on takeout pasta and ice cream which we ate sitting underneath the Eiffel Tower. We sat there and watch the sunset. We also got some good people watching in and even with the relentless vendors coming up to us selling "beer, wine, Champagne, cigarettes" we were able to relax and enjoy the view. We also got a nice surprise that night when a 17 year old magician came up to us and, after assuring us that he was not asking for money and he just wanted to practice, entertained us with incredible magic tricks! We were all so amazed and he was so kind it just made our night. We took the metro back to the hostel because we were all very tired of walking and fell asleep as soon as our heads hit the pillow.

Sunday morning we were up early to get a jump on the lines at the Catacombs… we were told that the line gets long very quickly which it did so going early was a very good move! After waiting about an hour and forty-five minutes, we were admitted to descend into the ground where we were greeted with an artistic display of the remains of 6 million deceased Parisians. It was really cool, in a grotesque way. We then found a café to buy sandwiches and pastries for lunch and took them to the Garden of Luxembourg for a picnic in front of the grand palace. It was such a beautiful park and filled with people lounging and eating everywhere you looked. We stayed there for almost 3 hours eating and lounging and people watching. We then continued our journey to the Notre Dame and love lock bridge so the other girls could see it. We stumbled upon some really cool street performers that were roller blading to swing music so we got an ice cream and sat and watched them. We ended that day with another dinner picnic back at the Eiffel Tower and stayed there to see it light up and sparkle. It was so amazing and all I could do is just sit there in awe of the beauty. I was so content and happy.

I ventured back to Bordeaux in another Bla Bla car Monday. It took us 7.5 hours to make it back to Bordeaux though because this car stopped every single hour so that the driver and one of the passengers could smoke. We also stopped and ate some awful lunch at a truck stop. But the passengers were nice and very good at English so that helped. After hearing why I was here, on of the passengers proceeded to say to me: "You must be crazy or brave or a little bit of both to come to a country where you don't know the language and hop in a car alone with complete strangers to spend a weekend in Paris." Upon thinking about that I guess that is kind of true… it was crazy and brave at the same time but I enjoyed it so much. And I know that this trip to Paris did have an impact on me that will effect me for years to come. I was so content by myself and I loved my independence. I did it all by myself and even loved every minute. It was a really cool weekend.

After my car finally got back to Bordeaux, Bre was waiting for me there so we could spend the day together! We had about 2 hours to see the city before our trains were to head out for home, so equipped with a map and a determination to see it all, we set out to be sprint tourists. We saw wonderful statues, amazing churches, and breathtaking palace squares. We ended the afternoon enjoying a glass of wine on a table outside because you cannot go to Bordeaux and not have wine! It was so nice to see Bre again to be able to catch up with her. I also know she really enjoyed the bit of time where she could speak English all the time considering her family does not speak much else than French. It was brief, but wonderful.

When I arrived home Monday night, Jackie took Lousia and I to see the fireworks for the 14th of July in the neighboring town. Tuesday, being a holiday, I got the full day off so I enjoyed it by sleeping in, going on a run, and sitting by the pool relaxing. I also was invited to go into St. Foy with Wilfred and the German from their German sister town they are currently hosting for a dinner with the delegation. I once again found myself in a new crowd of mixed cultures and languages that extends far beyond France. I sat across from this sweet German lady who after talking for the length of dinner, she gave me her address and phone number for the next time I come to visit Germany! I'll be keeping that one for sure! After dinner, we were treated to another fireworks show which I highly enjoyed.

It was an amazing weekend and I cannot believe I only have a little more than none week left! I am very excited to go home and get back to my family and friends there along with some of the food and costumes I really miss but also know I am going to miss the friends and family I have gained here. It's bitter sweet but I am trying to keep myself enjoying every single minute of life here and embrace everything that is thrown at me. Ce la vie.
night time view over the Seine River

the Louvre 

Notre Dame

Eiffel Tower at sunset

my new friends in the Catacombs

Night time Eiffel Tower

Bre and I take Bordeaux!

14th of July celebration

Vines, Cows, and Tea

Second week of work went like this: wake up at 5:45 every morning. Work 6-8. Break at 8 for breakfast and coffee… must drink coffee. Back to work until 1. Lunch from 1:30-2:30. Nap from 2:30-4:30.

After that it varied a little. Some days I would spend a few hours labeling and boxing wine, some days I would be free the rest of the day until dinner at 9:30. On free days, you can find me reading by the pool or sleeping by the pool. On Tuesday, Louisa and I were both free so we hopped in her car and went exploring for a place by the river to relax and swim. We found a pretty good one after a bit of searching. On Wednesday night I went with Pierre to eat dinner with some of his friends at a little river side restaurant in town. The food was good and the company was really fun even when they all spoke to each other mostly in French… I sit there and search for words I know and just make up a conversation they may be having in my head. I laugh when they laugh and sometimes I am lucky and the person next to me with quickly translate and fill me in. It's entertaining and also very humbling. Also this week, two baby cows were born in the property which was pretty cool! I watched one try and learn to walk. Another upside to work is that I have begun to listen to audio books while working the vines which makes the whole job so much better and actually gets me excited to go to work because that means the story continues! The work I am doing is very mindless and repetitive so it is perfect for getting lost in a book.

So that was my week… but now lets flash back to the weekend before! I spent that Friday afternoon helping Wilfred to set up his stand for the Saturday market in St. Foy. And then on Saturday, Louisa and I adventured out to the market in search of tomatoes and herbs for Jackie. Once we found what was requested, we spent some time walking around enjoying the market before finding some yummy Asian street food for lunch which we consumed while sitting on a doorstep with a view of a picturesque small French town street. On Sunday, my host mom had a big High Tea event in her tea room so I was recruited to help out with that. Louisa and I spent the day setting up and then serving the guests when they came. It was lovely. The tea room here is adorable and I could spend hours in there enjoying the décor, tea, and Jackie's amazing cakes and scones (her Chocolate Guinness Cake is to die for!) I also decided to attend the church service with Wilfred on Sunday morning. It was Protestant but I thought it was better than nothing and was very excited to see what their services were like and learn something new! It was all in French and mostly solely focused on the readings from the Bible. I didn’t understand much language wise, but I could still feel and understand God's presence. I also stuck out like a sore thumb but the other parishioners were so excited to meet me and all said hello! I got to practice some of my awful French but it was fun and they were all very sweet. It was a good weekend of catching up on some sleep and also enjoying the property and family here. 

the market in St. Foy

I only pretended to drive this big tractor 

the tea room

Louisa and my creation! 

adventuring on the river

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Vines, vines, and more vines

Hello all! I am writing this post from my new home with my host family in Bordeaux, France! Yes, I am working on a vineyard in one of the best, if not the best, wine regions in the world. Oh but it gets even better… My family is the most wonderful family I could have ever imagined!! I have been here for a little more than three days now and already I feel right at home and a part of the family! I am already learning so much about vineyard management, wine, and most of all the French culture. I cannot wait to see what the rest of this month has in store for me! But before I get ahead of myself, here is what I have been up to the last four days:

Sunday was a travel day. I began in Toulouse and was able to actually go to a Catholic mass for the first time in almost four weeks due to traveling with groups and it was even in English!! I was so happy and excited, I was practically skipping to the church in the morning. It was just so nice to be back somewhere that will always be familiar and feel God's love. I was especially happy that I could make this Sunday before I moved to my family in order to calm and center myself again. After mass, it was last minute packing and cleaning before checking out of my dorm and heading off to the train station with two of the other students that happened to be on my same train. The whole time I was just so excited to meet my host family and did not start getting nervous until about 30 minutes out. At that point also the train for some reason got stopped on the tracks and was delayed 30 minutes. With a stomach full of both excitement and nerves and a bit of worry for how I was going to even find my family, I arrived at my stop and lugged my huge suitcase of the train and to the main train station. Luckily, my host father (Willfred) was standing there waiting and could pick me out due to my abnormally large suitcase and lack of looking very French.

It was about a 40 minute drive through the countryside then to get to the house… I mean Chateau. The house is gorgeous both inside and out! Half of it is run as a bed and breakfast and the other half is the families private house which is where my room is. They have two amazing kitchens and my room is darling. Outside there is a huge terrace that overlooks a little pond and a garden next to a pool. There are flowers everywhere and a lovely tea room that they call the "Glass House" and is open on Sundays. The house sits right next to the vineyard and also their cow pastures, chicken coop, and winery. The whole property is so lovely and I feel like I am living in a dream.

The family welcomed me immediately and made me feel so at home with tea and cake and wonderful conversation. Living here right now is me, Jackie (the mom), Wilfred (the dad), Pierre (the son who is 24 and just graduated from Purpan), Louisa (a German 20 year old who is interning with Jackie for the bed and breakfast who I get along with very well), and the always full house of guests at the B&B that are from all over! Not to mention the consistent visitors that seem to always pop in and say hello or share a meal with us. (Even met an American family today that lived in Germany for 10 years but grew up in Detroit and now living in San Francisco!) They also have two cats (one whose name is Carter and is mischievous and the friendliest and happiest dog I have ever met named Donut. It is a  very fun and welcoming bunch and they have made me feel so welcomed and just like a part of the family.

That night I had my first meal with the family and I thought I was dreaming… three courses including the most amazing dessert ever. Lousia quickly told me also that this was the normal every day and  that we ate the same as the guests every night. It was all home made and many of the foods where straight from what they produce on the property. I think I can get used to that.

The work day on the vineyard begins at 6am which calls for a lovely 5:45 alarm clock everyday. I generally work from 6am until lunch around 1 with a breakfast break at 8. Monday we began a processes called ET POM POUGE (that is not at all how you spell it but I cannot find it anywhere so that is a phonetic spelling) which is essentially  pruning the vines to remove all the extra non-grape producing vines so the growth is concentrated in the grapes. It is a long and laboring process… you walk up and down each row and hit the vines with this spade like tool. I have been doing this for four mornings now and my hands, back, and forearms are burning. It has also been incredibly hot with highs up to 104F (40C). It has been tough and humbling and really makes me appreciate the wine I drink even more. These menial tasks also really has me appreciating my education so that I never have to do this again. I also got to help heard the heifers from one field to the next which was new and interesting.

Piere had a friend that was staying with us that he met on his study abroad a few years back from New York so after work on Monday, Pierre, Jason, Louise, Two of Pierre's neighbors around our age, and I went canoeing on the Dordogne River. It was a lot of fun and Louise and I were champions of the canoe! After canoeing, we went over to the neighbors house for a barbecue where I met two South Africans that are my age and here working and an older American couple that are here on vacation and are originally from Finneytown. It was a fun night getting to know everyone and seeing all the different cultures converge into one.

I began with the usually 6-1 shift in the fields followed by lunch, a swim to cool down, and then a quick nap. Tuesday evening brought a string of errands to be run with Wilfred which included the Tractor store, the hardware store and the little grocery in town. I sat in a giant grape harvester that was at least two stories tall, learned the French word for glue in the hardware store, and listened to multiple conversations in French that I had not a clue what was being said… it was fun. After dinner, I helped Wilfred to catch the chickens and put them into their house for the night so the foxes don’t get them…. So I held a chicken for the first time!

Today was a very long day. I was already so exhausted from waking up at 6am everyday to work in the fields and not being able to go to bed until after 11 due to dinner being at 9:30 every night, so that 5:45 alarm clock came really early. It was field work in the morning, then after lunch and an accidental 2.5 hour nap, we worked for another 4 hours labeling and then making a delivery. I was getting very frustrated since I was so tired and currently am a little down and very homesick thinking about a whole month of these long days of work without getting paid. It is frustrating to me to be in Europe and not be able to really see very much of it while I am here. I do really enjoy living with the family and seeing their way of life, but the lack of sleep and the long days are already getting to me. This will be an interesting month.


Today I worked in the fields by myself… just me and the vines and my shovel for 6 hours. Luckily I brought music along to keep me company. This time in the fields has really given me time to think about anything and everything. It's kinda nice, kinda scary. After lunch I was off for the rest of the day which was amazing and what I really needed! I took a nap and read by the pool and finally got this blog posted! Just dinner and one more day of work and then we will see what the weekend brings…

the view from my bedroom window

some vines I have been working on

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Schooooooools out for the summer!

Today we had our final French lesson and a final evaluation. French classes have been fun and I have been able to learn very very basic French but I still do not feel confident at all to have a conversation with anyone… but I am really good at saying I do not speak French, telling people I am American, and slowly figuring out numbers! It’s a start and in only 4 weeks, I would say it's pretty good. I'm hopefully going to keep working on it with my host family and really improve at conversations.

Monday night we went out for Ben's 21st birthday and well it was quite the interesting night. Lindsey and I called it a night at 11:30 so that we could catch the tram back before it closed and quickly fell asleep. But when we woke up, we found out that two of our fellow students had ended up in the hospital… one with a broken arm and the other with a broken arm, jaw, and a fractured vertebrae. They are both out of the hospital now after getting surgery and while one is good to stay for his internship, the other is heading back to the states tomorrow. Please send some prayers for their quick and safe recovery.

Tuesday was a day all about food! It was great! We started our day at a French culinary school right outside of Toulouse for a French Gastronomy workshop. We got split into groups and my team was under the head chief and in charge of the main dish. With the chiefs help, we prepared this duck roll thing with apples and onions and peppers which I do not remember the name for. It was so good and I could very easily make it again! The other groups make 6 different appetizers and dessert. The appetizers where very interesting to say the least…. There was crunchy rice noodle wrapped sausage, anchovies and olive bread, and what looked like a cupcake but what was actually cornbread topped with foie gras (duck liver) and berries. That one was not eaten by many. The dessert thought was amazing! We had a banana mouse topped with mint and apricot. I ate two. They were beyond delicious.

After eating the lunch we prepared with the help of the Chiefs, we were done for the day! That night we had a farewell dinner at the school where each person was supposed to bring some sort of dish that represented their home. This proved to be a lot more difficult than expected…. First, we had no oven accessible for our use and second many of us had a very difficult time finding the correct ingredients here in France. I decided to make a pasta salad but ran into a lot of difficulty with finding Italian salad dressing… I settled for a ceaser dressing which turned out okay but not great. The meal itself was delicious though and had such a wide spread of cuisine. There was corn dip, "buffalo" chicken dip, puppy chow, guacamole, spicy Chinese pork, and the best hummus I have ever had. What made this dinner so great though was that we have people here from America, Mexico, Lebanon, and China so we really did get a wide variety of dishes that were so good. After dinner, we went back to the apartments and just hung out while enjoying French wine and watching the sunset paint colors across the sky.
the appitizers

the duck main coarce



Wednesday brought another wine lecture in the morning and a visit to Chateau Plaisance in the afternoon. I really enjoy the wine lectures and I am learning so much! These lectures have also been really peaking my interest and inspiring me to keep learning more on my own.

The Chateau we visited today was very cool. The vineyard owner was this middle aged man who just had so much passion for what he does and was just a pleasure to be around. His wines are all organic and made very naturally. I really enjoyed his wines we tasted. This visit also got me very excited to be heading off to my host family soon and start working on a vineyard. To see the work that goes into it first hand and to partake in the process is so exciting to me! I am getting very anxious to be there!

Another day, another vineyard visit. Today we were off to the famous Bordeaux wine region to visit Chateau Memories. We started with a tour of the vineyard and their winery. The region is breathtakingly beautiful and again, it made me so excited for my upcoming internship and family stay! After the tour comes the anticipated wine tasting…. At 11 am. We tried 7 of their 9 wines and I must say, their white wines are some of my favorite I have ever had. We also got to try one of their sweet wines made from grapes effected by Noble Rot and it was unlike anything I had every tasted before! It was so sweet and tasted like honey. I was a big fan and will definitely be looking out for more of that in the future.

While in Bordeaux we also got to visit a vine grafting farm. Vine grafting is when two different types of vines are fused together into one in order to make them more durable to some situation or climate. Here in Europe, it is very common and necessary to graft the roots of an American vine with the desired top of the European vine in order to make the vines immune to the killer insects that migrated over from the US a few years back. It was very cool to see the whole process and really made me understand more of how complex this whole vineyard economy is.

Our next stop was the Cave de Sauveterre which is a coop local to the vineyard we visited. While we had already visited a coop the previous week, this one took the cake. IT WAS HUGE. There were multiple rooms that housed wine vats that held 10 hectares of grapes in one single vat. That is a lot of wine my friends! I found it very interesting to see this more commercial side of winemaking and compare it to what I have learned at home with food processing engineering. It was cool.

After traveling home and a quick dinner, one of our PA's had gotten us free tickets to go see a contemporary  dance performance in downtown Toulouse. I really enjoyed it but I also knew what to expect from it after having gone to a few of my roommates contemporary dance performances back at school. After the show, Cooper, Lindsey and I went to the Capitol to find food. We ended up at McDonalds to try their version of the McFlurry only to find that they do not even mix it for you. They even put on the side of the cup "Flurr it yourself"… and they say Americans are the lazy ones. 

LAST DAY OF SUMMER SCHOOL WOOO! Today we had another wine tasting class where we tasted 7 different wines all while learning the proper way to taste and getting some good practice in. It was a pretty good day in class if I can say so myself. In the afternoon, we had our wine final and then we were officially finished with classes! I have enjoyed these classes for the most part and have really learned a lot but I am also ready to take on the next stage of this journey and really dive head first into French culture and wine making.

Friday was also the graduation for all the "seniors" here in Purpan. With graduation came a party at night… at the school. I'm just going to repeat that for clarification: the school hosted a party and dancing and alcohol in their school bar and it was crazy. I don’t think that would ever happen in the US and I found it very interesting. But non the less, a fun time was had by all, memories were made, and I partied in a school.


Today was most of our last day in Toulouse before leaving for our host families. With this in mind, Lindsey and I embrace the French culture and we went downtown in the morning to eat Crepes that were 2X bigger than our heads. I know so French. We then went and ordered baguettes and croissants completely in French. Currently in France there is this big thing going on called the Solde which means that every store is having huge sales or 50-70% off. It only happens two times a year and we had heard the French go crazy for it so naturally we had to check it out ourselves too. After a bit of browsing we both had found a purchase and were also sufficiently overwhelmed and headed home. Before Cooper headed out to his internship Saturday night, Coop, Lindsey, Bre, Wyatt and I went downtown and had yummy dinner. It was really a bittersweet moment for me because I felt so comfortable with them and have gotten so close to them this past month only to all be departing our separate ways tomorrow. But I know these are friends I will keep and there will be many more memories to be shared with them.

Next stop. Bordeaux!!!

Monday, June 22, 2015

The calm after the storm

After the crazy time getting there, we had an amazing weekend at the beach! The little town we stayed in reminded us very much of small town beach Florida filled with families which is exactly what we were needing at this point. The apartment we stayed in was very nice and I am pretty sure we were the first people to ever stay there considering all the cooking equipment was still in its wrappers. The owner was also very kind and helpful… he checked on us a few times throughout the day to make sure we were okay and we even got to meet his wife and play with his dog! On Sunday, he also called a cab for us since none of our phone are really usable over here. Saturday we spent the day on the beach after sleeping in for the first time since we have been to Europe really and then we went out to a super yummy sea food dinner! The salmon I had was so good! We then went and got some really fun beach drinks and sat and people watched for a bit. Sunday brought another day of sleeping in and then we decided to make brunch which was amazing considering that is definitely something I really miss from home. We hit the beach again where I swam for a long time even though the water was pretty darn cold but super clear. I also built an awesome sand castle that was basically an exact replica of la la Sagrada Familia in Barcelona. All the kids that passed it commented on how cool it was…. Yes I'm 20 and in France and built an awesome sand castle! We called it a day and got ready to leave pretty early so that we could arrive at the train station very early this time to avoid a repeat of Friday…. We arrived more than 2 hours early but just found a little café to have a snack and wait so it was okay. We were all just happy to not be rushed and frazzled like last time. On the way home though, I did sit next to this guy with the worst BO and the air on my car was not working…. It was a very long hour and a half to say the least. But Sunday night around midnight we made it home safely! It was a great and relaxing weekend filled with 9 scoops of ice cream, ocean swimming, and a massive sunburn to remind me of the good times for a few days now…..
salmon dinner Saturday night

Fruity drinks on the beach!

Look at that rocken sand castle!! 

Traveling adventures

Well I am writing this post right now while sitting on the train about to take off to Bezier, France. My hands are shaking and my heart is beating at 100 miles per hour. And here is why:

Bre, Lindsey, Morgan, Cooper, Wyatt and I decided a few weeks ago that we were going to spend our free weekend on the Valaras beach near Bezier. We began to book our train tickets and our condo and seemed to run into problem after problem. Last week we all finally got our train tickets settled (which called for me to make the trip out the train station and wait in the long line to buy my tickets in person). After many frustrating failed attempts, we finally reserved an apartment to stay in on Wednesday. We thought we were good to go and were all really looking forward to this relaxing weekend.

Friday we got out of class early and so took that time to pack and prepare before leaving for the train station an hour and 20 min before it was to depart. We thought that would be plenty of time to get there and print the tickets that still needed printed. Little did we know, we were in for a heck of a time in the train station.

It started when we were trying to find where the other 5 could print their pre-bought tickets at. All of the machines that are made for that were not working for them so we had to go and get in the forever long line to have someone behind the desk help us. During this whole process, I went to retrieve my tickets from my bag and to my extreme embarrassment, I didn’t have them. I forgot that I had locked them in a different folder away from my passport traveling case when we went to Barcelona. I was so mad at myself and all I wanted to do was throw up and cry… Why had I not checked to make sure I had my ticket before I left! UGH DARCIE. That is the first thing I should have done. I can tell you that this will be the last time I ever am this careless again. After about 30 seconds of panic, I grabbed a number and joined my friends in the unending line praying that they would be able to reprint my tickets for me.

The minutes were ticking down and our 19h49 departure time was getting closer and closer. With 7 minutes before our departure time, our line of numbers finally were called to the desk. The guy at the deck was one of the kindest I have encountered and immediately sensed my distress and helped to calm me down. He swiftly reprinted my tickets for me and gave me a pep talk that everything was going to be okay. After everyone got their tickets and we raced to our platform, we saw that the train was delayed 5 minutes…. Truly a gift, God is looking out for us. I am starting to calm down now and can now start to get excited for the hopefully relaxing weekend we have in front of us. I know we can all use that especially after that chaos that just occurred. I think its safe to say that we will be at the train station extra extra early for the ride home so this does not happen again.

We are still not sure how we are going to get to the train station to our apartment but hey we will figure it out. Wish us luck…

Here's to learning life lessons! 


Today we had our internship presentation where we finally found out where we are going to be spending the month of July. I will be interning at the Chateau-Carbonneau Winery located in Pessac sur Dordogne. This is very close to Bordeaux which is one of the most renown wine regions in the world! My host dad's name is Wilfrid Franc de Ferriere and from what I have been told, he has a wife and children that are around my age. On of his sons actually studies at Purpan (where I am studying now) but I have not met him yet. Their winery and bed & breakfast looks amazing and I am so excited for all the learning I have in store for me working for them. I also found out that there will be another intern there that I will be staying with and she is from Germany! That makes me so excited especially with how much I loved Germany and the people there! I am very eager to meet them and to absorb everything I can in the month to come. Here is their website if any of you are interested in learning more about where I am going to be!

A week of vineyards and wine!

Monday morning came early after the weekend in Barcelona with a 7 am bus ride to go visit the Abbaye de Fontfroide near Narbonne. The first part of the day was dedicated to touring the old Abbaye and learning the history behind the use of the building. Hundred of years ago, there was a cloister of around 15 {} monks and a couple hundred brothers. The monks and the brothers did not interact due to the monks vow of silence and since they were cloistered, and the two groups were separated into two different living courters. The brothers were in charge of working the land that the cloister owned where they grew much produce but focused mainly on wine. The building itself was beautiful and settled right up into the hills. The Church was lit by magnificent stained glass windows and the gardens on the groups were some of the most beautiful I have every seen. In the rose garden, I can now say I have officially found my favorite flower… it is a beautiful mix of soft pink and yellow and orange and smells so sweet and heavenly. The signed that marked it in the garden named it "Rose des Cisterciens (Delbard)"… I will be on the look out for more of these! After our tour we ventured into the old kitchen where we were treated to a wine tasting of three of their fabulous wines they produce there on sight. They had us try a Chardonnay, Rose, and a spicy red wine. Given this was our first tasting, we were  somewhat taught the proper way to taste and appreciate wine and began to learn what we should be looking for. It was fun, the wine was spectacular (especially the Rose) and I felt very fancy.

We then had a typical frustrating French lunch break (one where we finish eating in about 30 minutes yet wait around for TWO hours until we get back to business). After our forever lunch, we took a tour of the vineyard and the winery. Unfortunately, we hadn't had any viticulture classes yet so most of the details he was talking about went right ever my head. I still thoroughly enjoyed this visit and it made me very excited for the weeks ahead of me dedicated to learning all about wine. 
courtyard of the Abbeye

The fabulous wines we tasted

I found my favorite flowers!!!!

The vineyards

Today was our first lecture on viticulture! I find these classes very interesting and I hang onto every word in hopes that I learn it all. Our professor has a background in biochemistry and then went back to school at 40 for viticulture and flavor science. He has lived all over Europe and the states teaching and running vineyard and wineries. We have been learning all about wine from its chemical composition to the wine regions of France and the world. We have studies the anatomy of the vine and have gotten into the economics and details about the wine certifications and classifications. I am in awe about how much I have already been able to learn.

In the afternoon we had another winery visit and tour. This time, we went about an hour outside of Toulouse to the Cave de Fronton. This winery is a coop where multiple different vineyard send their grapes to this central winery where they are processed into wine. Compared to the winery we saw the day before, this one was much more industrialized and made for a larger production quantity. I was shocked though by the lack of concern having 30 people walk through the plant… there was no hairnets, not safety or sanitation line to stay behind and we were even left at one point to walk around and explore. I was standing over a fermentation tank and inches from their bottling line with no hairnet or any sanitation barrier. I found that very different from anything you would find in the states. After the tour, we were once again given a wine tasting. They served us four different wines: a very light Rose, a fruity red, a spicy malbec, and a super sweet Rose. My favorite was the first Rose called ines. It was a fun visit and when we got home, it was off to the market to stock up on my fruits and veggies and peanut butter to get me through the next two weeks.
the top of the wine fermentation vats

the single bottling line

the wines we tasted

In the morning we had another field trip to the Purpan experimental farm just outside the city. I was not a fan of this visit given that it had nothing to do with wine and I had very little interest in the farm. Yet, I did get to see dairy cows up close and personal for the first time in my life! They also had this super fancy milking machine that was all automated and allowed the cows to just walk up to it whenever they wanted to be milked. That seemed very human and cool. We then spent a few hours looking at corn and stevia and farm equipment… wooo. After lunch brought another French lesson trying my best to pick up anything I can and presenting a project we had been working on. After dinner, a group of us decided to go downtown and check out this big music festival happening in Toulouse this weekend called Rio Loco. Each day is themed with a different regions music with multiple acts playing on different stages. We got down there pretty late though on Wednesday and didn’t feel that it was going to be worth it to buy tickets for the hour we had left, so instead Lindsey, Audrey and I went and walk around the outside of the festival and enjoyed the music. It was very fun though and made me very excited to come back Thursday to actually go in! It was also a great place to people watch and observe the French people around us.
my new dairy cow friends
I took this on my phone. No filter. Toulouse is beautiful!

Two long lectures today in viticulture in the morning and French in the afternoon. After class was over, we made dinner and then headed down to the Rio Loco festival. Today's theme was America's and was all bands from central and South America. It was fabulous! The carnival atmosphere mixed with beautiful weather and entertaining friends lead to a sincerely enjoyable night. The Latino inspired music just begs to be danced too and the friends I was with were all for dancing! With a night of light, music and dancing outside, how could you not have fun! The good vibes around me were intoxicated and even though I could barley make out any of the Spanish being sung on stage, I could feel it. I loved every minute of it. One of the bands that I loved dancing to is called Bomba Estereo. Here is one of their songs if you feel so inclined:

There was one very strange occurrence in which some French lady tapped my shoulder mid set and shhhed me…. We are at a concert lady, why are you telling me to be quiet?! I am going to cheer for the band when I think they are good. It was strange and happened twice which was very weird. I don’t know if I will ever fully understand the French.  

Rio Loco!

What a week!

Barcelona: June 12-14

After taking a quick quiz over all the agriculture information we had learned that week, we were free to get ready for Barcelona and be on the bud by 1. The bus ride took around 5 hours with a stop in Andora (Wooo another country!) to allow us to buy some duty-free goods. Quite and interesting country. After arriving to our hotel, we got ready and found a local restaurant for dinner (it was around 9 o'clock and we were still way early for Spain's dinner time…). I ordered their specialty, seafood pallea and wow was it good. I need to learn how to make paella because my taste buds could not get enough of it! We then went back to the hotel and waited until 12 to go out to a club. When we got there, we were still just about the second people there. It was not until around 2am that it was starting to fill up. We had a lot of fun dancing the night away and meeting people from all over the world. We also ran into so many American college students out which was very fun. We got home at 4am and went to sleep around 4:30.
my Pallea 

Lindsey and I 

Saturday morning came early with a 8 am wake up call… Lindsey and I wanted to get the most out of Barcelona so we got up early and got at it. After a yummy breakfast in the hotel, we headed out to conquer the Barcelona public transportation to try and find the meeting point for the bike tour we were hoping to go on. Well, we had awful maps and couldn't find very many clearly marked signs pointing the way, but with the help of some very kind random people and a lot of luck, we were able to find our tour in time. Our tour guide was a young girl who was probably around my sisters age. She was originally from Texas and moved to Barcelona four years ago so her English was great. On tour we met two other girls our age from UNC that were studying abroad in Rome and a few young couples from the UK, South Africa, and Scotland. We had a lot of fun talking with them and learning about their experiences and telling them our take on Europe so far. On the 8 mile, 4 hour tour we got to see many of the big sights of Barcelona including:
Arc de Triomf
La Sagrade Familia
Place Reil
The Cathedral
Parc de la Ciutadella and the Cascada Monumental
Music Hall
After the tour, we attempted the public transportation again learned that the metros do not go in loops…. We ended up riding it all the way to the end only to have to get off and get back on going the other way. The inside of the Barcelona metro is great… haha. We spent the part of our day exploring the famous Park Güelle which features the famous and imaginative  architecture of Gaudi. He is the same guy that was behind La Segrade Familia. This park was up this huge hill which took 5 escalators, a large hill with about a 45 degree slope, and several more flights of stairs. But all that work was so worth it when we got to the top and saw the view…. All of Barcelona laid out below us in all its beauty! After the park, Lindsey and I were in desperate need of sleep, so we headed back to the hotel to get a nap before heading out for the night. When we woke up and got ready, we met up with a group for dinner at… with for it… 11:45pm! After dinner we attempted to go out to another club but after getting lost (again) and realizing there was a huge cover fee and already being exhausted, we ended up just chilling on the beach for a bit. Even in the dark it was lively yet relaxing. Also first time in the Mediterranean Sea so check that one off the bucket list! After hanging out for a bit, we made our way back home and fell asleep almost immediately.
bike tour!

Arc de Triomf

Cascada Monumental

Lindsey and I at La Sagrade Familia

The group ready to go out

Sunday we slept in until 9 when we had to get up and get ready to be checked out my 10. After breakfast, we had the whole day until 2 to do whatever we wanted again before the bus took off. Lindsey, Cooper, Wyatt, Maria, and a few others decided to go to the Picasso museum because it was free for students. We looked at art and felt cultured. I hadn't been to an art museum yet in Europe and since it was free I said why not. We were not allowed to take any pictures in the museum and there were security everywhere so no pictures… sorry. After the museum we headed back to meet the bus where everyone passed out on for the whole ride home.
no pictures allowed in the museum so here is me contemplating the sign for the museum... basically the same thing right?!

Barcelona was an amazing city that I will definitely be back to! With only two days there, I feel like I barley saw any of the city and there is so much more to explore. It was so lively and happy there, I loves it! Also, I was really looking forward to using my Spanish there but that proved to be much more difficult than expected… not only do they speak Catalan, but every time I went to speak Spanish, all that I could think to talk in was French. In France I cannot seem to stop speaking Spanish and in Spain I speak French?! I have so much respect for all those people out there that know multiple languages and can seamlessly switch between them. None the less, I loved the culture and atmosphere of Barcelona and even the late meals didn’t bother me… they just reminded me of our summer time dinner hours at home!