In this post I'll talk about a few things: my arrival, my first weekend, food, first impressions, and how I (somehow) underpacked.
This first week in Nantes has been amazing. After arriving a day late (my first flight was cancelled), exhausted and still a little sick, I was welcomed very warmly by the IES Abroad staff and my fellow students. My first day was a little hectic since I was plopped in orientation groups almost immediately, but it all worked out in the end. At the end of the day, I met my host family, who I am very excited to spend these next four months with.
The first weekend here in Nantes, all of us headed out to Tours, a three hour bus ride, to tour four castles (hehe...tours in Tours...). I could summarize them in one word: amazing. But nonetheless, I will go into more detail. The first castle, Chateau de Cheverny, is still inhabited by the Hurault family, and includes a rich art and tapestry collection. It is a relatively smaller castle, but the grounds itself was very impressive and large. Next is the Chateau de Chambord, a much larger castle, which is a perfect example of Renaissance architecture styles since it was constructed in 1545. This castle has over 400 rooms and sits on a large lawn next to a park and a small forest. After that was the Chateau d'Amboise, which used to be a large, impressive fortress. However, most of it was demolished after the French Revolution. Leonardo Da Vinci's tomb rests in the chapel in this castle. The last castle was the Chateau de Chenonceau, my personal favorite. Besides the very interesting and numerous kitchens, this castle had the most beautiful grounds, including two large gardens, groomed perfectly, and a incredible labyrinth. All of the castles had such a rich history, with extensive collections of artifacts, tapestries, art, and more.
Each meal we had there (7 or 8 I think) was delicious and felt gourmet and very fancy. I thought that my dietary restrictions would make these meals a bit boring, but amazingly, they were incredible. I had fruits and vegetables I've never had, and ate some prepared in a way I've never even thought of (like carrot, potato, and spinach mousse). Sometimes I didn't even know what I was eating, but I ate it anyways because it was absolutely delicious. I don't think I've eaten a meal here that I didn't like.
Now, for first impressions and major differences in culture. It is completely true what people say about America: Everything's bigger in the US.
One of the first things I noticed here was that their drinking glasses are tiny. LIke they'll hold literally a cup of water. And they usually don't refill their glass during a meal. However, being an American, I found myself refilling my glass over and over again during the course of a meal.
Their serving sizes are also very small. And their breakfast is very small (like a bowl of cereal, or some bread and jam). It's also very popular to have a bowl of coffee in the morning in which you dip your croissants/bread in. Yeah. A bowl of coffee. And no, not like a small bowl. Like a huge soup bowl. Full of coffee.
The French are also very reserved compared to Americans. They won't open up at first and you rarely hear groups of them laughing out loud in the street.
Their homes and buildings are absolutely facinating and ancient. Just being in my homestay's apartment is wonderful. You can hear the age in the creaking wood floors, feel it when you climb in the tiny 2-3 person elevator, smell it in the musty hallways, and see it in the sculptures on the exterier of the building. It's extremely evident that this city is filled with a rich history that I can't wait to learn about. I think this is one of my favorite things about Europe: there is so much history everywhere. I mean, even the electronics store used to be where the Chamber of Commerce was!
And now, how I underpacked.
I was convinced that the best approach to packing was to leave a large majority of my suitcases and carry-ons empty so I could bring home tons of souvenirs. I found out in the first week that I was wrong. I did not have any idea how much layering I would have to do and I forgot to pack some lighter sweatshirts and hoodies, as well as a pair of sneakers that I could beat up and get muddy. I probaby should have packed an extra set of pajamas just in case, but oh well. I guess this just gives me the excuse to do some shopping here.
My fellow IES Abroad students have been amazing. I have made some fantastic friends, and I hope these next four months treat us well!
More Blogs From This Author
<p>I'm Iggy Takahashi, a junior studying biochemistry and French studies at the University of Portland and studying abroad in Nantes, France. I love baking, cooking, travelling, exploring, and of course spending time with my family and cats. I have traveled to Spain, China, and throughout the United States, and I hope to continue to do so after graduating!</p>