Today's excursion was pretty straight-forward: a day at the movies. Of course we had scheduled the warmest day so far (57 degrees F) to be indoors, but alas we can't control everything. The movie we chose was "La Vache", a heart-warming comedy about an Algerian man selected to participate in the "Salon de l'Agriculture" (the farmers' expo in Paris) in the category of "Best in Show" in the bovine category. The only problem: he had to cross the Mediterranean--with his cow!--and then walk--again, with his cow!--from Marseille to Paris. Those that, ahem, stayed awake, for the whole show really enjoyed the movie and I think our trip now has an official tag line: "C'est la faute à... LA POIRE!" You'll have to ask around about its meaning, but it's especially meaningful given that we're in Angers and its hinterland, the Anjou, which of course is famous for its... Anjou pears!
On Friday we traveled about an hour to the east to visit the medieval fortress of Chinon, where famous names like Henry II of England, Eleanor of Aquitaine and Joan of Arc all once laid their heads. The guide of the castle took place outdoors, but the guide had pity on us in the cold and wind and let us explore the castle after 45 minutes. Fortunately, the castle had great video installations which explained key moments in French history, such as the passing of the crown to Richard the Lionheart, Henry the III or John Lackland. By the time the teachers were done with the visit, we found all 27 students keeping warm in the giftshop trying out the bow-and-arrow sets for sale!
Next we drove a few kilometers down the road and had a nice picnic in a park, followed by an intense game of tag under a strong February sun. Mr. Kimball was quite sore after the game, and was accucsed by some of being too competitive :)
After lunch, we took a tour of the Fontevraud Abbey. It must be said that the Brookline students were getting every question about medieval French history correct (at what age did Eleanor of Aquitaine die, how many children did she have), and then the guide finally caught on that we'd just visited Chinon and therefore the answers were fresh in our minds. In addition to seeing the tombs of the most famous of the medieval kings and queens of France--and England, at the time!--we learned a lot about monastic life between the 12th and 15th centuries. Needless to say, I don't think we have any future monks or nuns in our group.
Lastly, we stopped for a quick walk around the small city of Saumur. The forty-five minutes we planned were long enough for 24 of the 27 students to find the one café in town with free wifi, and then we were back on our merry way back to Angers.
Entry by Rosa Stern Pait
On our first full day in Angers, we visited the Chateau d'Angers, or the Angers Castle. After school in the morning, we took the public tramway to a medieval castle right in the middle of town. It has 17 towers and was built as a fortress in the 14th century by a king of Anjou and then used as a residence in the following centuries. We took a tour of the castle and its well-kept grounds and gardens. Afterward, we visited a tapestry even larger than the Bayeux Tapestry, the Apocalypse Tapestry. It was a fascinating day, and everyone was exhausted by the end of the tour!
Entry by Maya Williams
Angers is a very cool city. It has a very calm feeling while still offering stores, excitement, and overall city life. Our host families have been wonderful to us. We have spent two nights in Angers thus far and we only have positive things to say! We even saw a tapestry in a castle!
We have left Paris and what a great 48 hours it has been. Driving into the northern countryside of France was a beautiful ride seeing how the crowded streets of Paris quickly turned into lush green fields used by dairy farm cows. It was a different pace in Bayeau where we heard the story of William the Conqueror from 1066 while looking at the longest tapestry in France. Then, it was off to our hostel in Cherbourg where we ended our Friday adventures.
Early on Saturday, we went deeper into the villages up north to explore the complicated unfolding of the military plans regarding D-Day. Here we all had a review of what events led to the outbreak of the war and why this battle on the beaches needed to occur. We had an amazing narrated tour after our visit to the first museum in Cain while riding to the American cemetery, and then the group took a trip to one last beach. That location showed us the remains of a "floating road" and some remnants of the temporary docks created by the Allies in order to resupply the troops for several months after June 6, 1944. When your kids come back, ask them about how the code names for each of the beaches were chosen, about the use of "clickers," and/or the nemesis of mobility, the hedges. I'm sure they can fill you in on some of those details.
Sunday is a day for visiting some wonderful castles and then finally meeting up with our host families that evening.
We have been so busy since we've been here (plus wifi is shaky), so this is our first chance to update. We have been exploring all over the city, mastering the Metro, eating delicious food, and taking in all the sights and beauty Paris has to offer.
Sunday, 2/14/16 (Valentine's Day!)
Once we arrived, we dropped our bags at the MIJE (our hostel) and walked around Le Marais, our neighborhood. We had some delicious falafel for lunch (more about food from Simone and Bailey to come) and explored the area a bit. Then we relaxed and had dinner at the MIJE. After dinner, we walked past Notre Dame to Vedettes du Pont Neuf and took a boat tour along the Seine. It was *beautiful* seeing the city lit up at night, particularly the Eiffel Tower. It was interesting to preview a lot of the places we'd be visiting later in the week. This was a highlight of the trip so far for many, even though it was quite chilly.
Monday was an early wake up call to go to the Musee du Louvre. Here, we saw many famous pieces including the pyramid outside, Mona Lisa, Venus, Winged Victory, etc., among many lesser known, but equally beautiful works of art. After the Louvre, we visited some of the Rue de Rivoli souvenir shops before walking to the Opera House and going inside La Madeleine (beautiful church). After that, we took our first ride on the Metro! We went to the neighborhood Montmartre and walked up what felt like thousands of stairs. It was SO worth it! The views from the top of the hill overlooking the city were breathtaking! We spent 2 hours exploring Montmartre, shopping, having lunch, etc. After we all reconvened, we went in to Sacre-Coeur, which legitimately has one of the most beautiful views imaginable. We took group selfies on the steps in front of Sacre-Coeur, and the students rode the carousel at the base of the hill. After our adventure, we took the Metro (since the students are pros) back to the MIJE to relax before dinner there. After dinner, we went to the Champs-Elysees to see the Arc du Triomphe, explore, and shop.
Tuesday we got to sleep in a little more than Monday, which was both nice and needed. We had breakfast at the MIJE and headed out to the Eiffel Tower. The group opted to walk (our FitBits were going crazy!) the nearly 700 steps up to the second floor of the tower for some pictures and views. Then, we hopped on the elevator to the tippy top of the tower ( over 1,000 feet). The 360-degree views were stunning. However, it was very windy and chilly, so once we got to the bottom, we took a few minutes to have a warm drink and a snack before moving on. We grabbed crepes on the go for lunch! Then, the group split into two, and half of us went to Les Catacombes and the other half went to Rodin. The Catacombs were where 6 million people were buried, and it was spectacular to see all of the skulls/bones -- it wasn't as creepy as some were expecting, it was oddly intriguing how neatly they organized all of the bones so long ago. At the Rodin museum, we saw lots of sculpture, including "The Thinker" and also beautiful gardens. After our afternoon visits, we returned to the hostel where some opted to rest, and others continued to explore Le Marais before dinner at the MIJE. After dinner, we left to go ice skating at L'Hotel de Ville. However, we were disappointed when we got there to find that the skating rink was not open this year. The students were patient and helpful as we tried to brainstorm what to do as an alternative. We decided to go back to the neighborhood by Notre Dame and explore shops, cafes, and views there.
Today, we started with breakfast at the MIJE, before heading out to the Musee d'Orsay (more on Orsay from Michee in a moment). After the Orsay, we took the RER (similar to Boston's commuter rail, but much nicer) to see the inside of Notre Dame. The church was absolutely beautiful! Then we walked back to the MIJE for lunch. For our afternoon acitivity, the group split into two again: half went to the Picasso Museum (more from Sofi M on that in a moment) and the other half went to the Tuileries gardens, followed by the Photographie and Orangerie museums. We all returned to the MIJE to rest for a bit before taking the Metro to the Latin Quarter to explore and shop some more. It was so cool to explore so many different parts of the city in such a short amount of time! We ended our night by going out to dinner at La Citrouille in the Latin Quarter. We had a menu fixe to choose from -- many of us even tried escargots! The food was delicious, and we had great company and conversation!
What a wonderful group of students we have! We are all exhausted, but have been having the trip of a lifetime so far! We are about halfway through our stay in Paris -- tomorrow we had to Versailles, and we leave Friday for Normandy. Below, as promised, are the detailed posts by some of our students -- and more to come as the trip continues! Enjoy!
Food - Written by Bailey, picture collage by Simone
Breakfast has been very Francais. Every morning, we'll go down as a group to the MIJE's dining area to get a baguette and orange juice to eat. For lunch, we've been trying all kinds of French street foods like crepes, falafels, and croque-monsieurs. For dinner, we head back to the MIJE and get the daily meat with a vegetable. After all our activities (because we get to do so many!), we head back up to our rooms to head to bed with a beautiful view of Paris. :)
Orsay - Written by Michee
Today, 2/17, we visited la Musee d'Orsay. A beautiful collection of masterpieces, from big names in the art world, to some names that one would not recognize at first glance. The big winner was Monet, with his distinct usage of color and texture, he thrives in the impressionist exhibit. His paintings go from dark and somber colors, to light, faded colors to represent a sunny day. The museum had an abundant amount of variety. Even the architecture was unique in its own way. Having been an old train station, it possessed a lot of industrial qualities that in many instances contrasted the art, but that in itself is art. We went from rooms with metal, rusty pillars to a beautiful room decorated in gold, straight out of the ballroom scene in Cinderella. A few of us embodied the role and became captivated in the gold, crystal, and the luxurious atmosphere. Far from the room was another gem. Van Gogh's self portrait glistened a soft sapphire glow, seemingly lending the artist the ability to float. From paintings to sculptures, to glass work, even furniture, this museum offered a vast cultural experience.
Picasso Museum - Written by Sofi M
Today, 2/17, we went to the Picasso Museum which was not only impressively gorgeous, but the setup of the museum was genius. We started in the basement of the house, which began with his earlier works and continued in chronological order with each floor of the house. I personally love Picasso and was floored by the collection the museum had. My personal favorites were the sculptures of the goats and getting to learn about his family life and the reasoning behind his genius works!!!! I would totally recommend this to everyone!!!!!
We can't believe it! We are leaving Saturday evening for Paris! We will be ringing in Valentine’s Day morning as we arrive in Paris. As you know, students will be in Paris and Normandy for a week, and then will continue on to their host families in the village of Angers for the following two weeks. The seven BHS chaperones will be staggered throughout the three-week trip. We are all very excited! The past two weeks have been hectic, scrambling to string together last minute details, but we're ready!
Students and chaperones have been actively preparing to make this exchange happen since October. We hosted the French students and teachers in the fall. We had a teambuilding event at SkyZone, which was a huge success and lots of bouncy fun! We held two fundraising crepe sales, which were successful and delicious! Students canvassed at local businesses. Students voted on what to include in the Paris itinerary. Reservations have been made. It has been a long journey, but we made it, and we're ready for take off! Thanks to everyone who has supported us and made this trip possible!
Just to let everyone know, our itinerary is packed during our time in Paris and Normandy, so we may not be able to update the blog as frequently as we will while we're in Angers, but we'll do our best to check in at least a few times before heading to Angers! Every student will be contributing to a blog post during our stay there, so keep an eye out!
Hayley Wells (Chaperone during Paris/Normandy with Jen Martin and Lindsay Davis)