Blois is only about 45 minutes south of Orléans, and it has a beautiful château, or castle. We went with a group of 11 other assistants from the U. K., Australia, and the states. Needless to say, we were quite a conspicuous tourist group, but since we all speak French we were (maybe?) less annoying than others. For those who have never been to Europe, castles are cool. Europe, unlike the states, is old enough to have been controlled at various times by crazy monarchs who bankrupted the state by financing gorgeous castles and monuments and parks. Not so nice for the citizens of the time, but wicked cool for us 21st century tourists. There was a lot of cool sculptures and busts, including one of Gaston d'Orléans, the brother of Louis XII (who build the castle, I think). I really dug his goatee and very Frenchy nose, so I gave him a kiss.
There was a lovely Renaissance art museum inside the castle, but there was also some sort of modern photography exhibit on feet, so unfortunately the pretty paintings were ruined by the photos of ugly feet (one pair even belonging to the mayor of Blois, who, much to my surprise, did not look like the Count from Seasame Street). My favorite part about the museum was finding all the random porcupines throughout the castle. They're also spread throughout the city. Porcupines were the symbol of King Louis XII. Other than the castle, the city of Blois was very similar to Orléans, with lots of shopping/walking streets, a lovely riverfront view, and several beautiful old churches. Blois is also built on different levels, so the streets are winding. My favorite church was this beautiful old baroque style cathedral. I really liked the gilded walls and the brightness of it. It was very different than Gothic churches.
We also started sponsored dinner club. We are spelling the word "TEACH," so for the first day everyone brought something beginning with "t." I made chicken tajine in my lovely 3€ tajine.
Teaching is going well, though I am the only assistant in Orléans who has actually started teaching. Most are still doing observation. I'm really happy that I've already started and have my own classes. I've discovered that I really like teaching, and I have so little time with these kids that I wish we didn't have this break coming up so I could continue working with them. As it is, I only see most of my kids once a month! Each grade is divided into 5 groups, and then each group is divided in half, so that I don't get much time with any of them. It's really kind of sad. I also got a second job tutoring two high school boys on Friday evenings. It's only two hours a week, but an extra $50 a week is definitely welcome right now.
Language is coming along, though I seem to make one serious mistake a day. Usually that mistake leaves me feeling really dumb for the rest of the day, but I'm learning to deal with it. I've made several French friends and have some "playdates" for the holidays, which begin on Saturday and last til the 4th of November. No money means no traveling, so it'll be nice to eat yummy French food for free instead of moping around the house lamenting our lack of funds. To be fair, we're not that bad off, and we do plan on doing a little bit of traveling in the area, mostly to visit friends and see more chateaux, but we aren't doing a trip to Italy or Spain like a lot of other people are.
I'm already trying to find ways to stay in France longer. It's so lovely here, and I don't feel that seven months will do it justice. Unfortunately, our landlady just sold our apartment, so even if we find a way to stay, we'll have to move anyway by April 30th. But I wouldn't mind living elsewhere in France, but it's super hard for Americans to get a job here.
Comme toujours, there are more photos to be seen at picasaweb.google.com/nicoledcwallace.
A tout à l'heure!