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 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!!!