Late Nights and Castle Gardens

James Daigler
January 4, 2019

I think I speak for everyone in Nantes when I say that November was a blur!  While school hadn’t been particularly easy up until that point, it certainly hadn’t been particularly hard.  But then, all of the homework hit us!  While he had a few daily or weekly assignments here or there, the majority of our devoirs maison were big projects, which we were supposed to be working on for the whole semester.  For others, and certainly me, the homework crept up a little too quickly!  We all went pretty suddenly from “fun French cultural experience” to “oh my goodness, I’ve got a ten-page paper due tomorrow”!  I’m exaggerating a little, but I don’t know many or anyone in the program who had been actively working on their projects all semester.  The details aren’t particularly interesting—all in all, I wrote about homeschooling, Denis Diderot, the Marquis de Lafayette, and my life’s culinary experiences—but let’s just say I stayed up later (and, more productively for me, woke up earlier) for a few days to work on some last minute essays.  For those who are curious, I did well on all of my assignments; although, we don’t think the gastronomy professor understood that receiving an “okay” on a paper in America is far from okay!

Luckily, November wasn’t all tests and papers!  The most exciting activity for me was our excursion into the Loire Valley to visit some châteaux.  Having no castles in America, I’m a real sucker for imposing stone structures!  But the most awe inspiring part of the châteaux was their gardens.  Each one of them had botanic garden levels of foliage exquisitely organized in geometric patterns, interspersed with patches of more wild, “English” styled gardens.  The water features too were absolutely amazing!  Some castles had medieval looking moats; others had ornate, geometrical channels that crisscrossed courtyards.  The most impressive of all though was the Château de Chenonceau, which is literally built on an arched stone bridge!  It’s no wonder that French royalty valued the place, it projects power that defies nature.

While visiting the château in Amboise, I had my favorite culinary experience of the trip.  A classmate from gastronomy and I separated ourselves from the group, initially to find WWI centennial ceremonies or monuments.  (I’m still a little bummed that we didn’t find anything and that we had a non-WWI related trip scheduled on the day of the centennial.)  Anyways, we found this really funky restaurant that checked all of the quality boxes that our gastronomy professor had taught us, most notably the daily menu written on the chalkboard that assured freshness, both alimentary and artistically.  We were both a little tired of constantly eating deli sandwiches, so a proper, sit-down restaurant (which wasn’t too expensive) got us quite excited!  We enjoyed our three course meals with a wine recommended by the server to pair well with our main dish of fish.  That lunch really drove home how wonderful it is to share good food and good company!

James Daigler

<p>At my school, Lawrence University, we use the word "multi-interested"&nbsp;to describe students who enjoy too many subjects to decide on a single major. Although I finally landed upon an English major coupled with secondary education teacher certification, I cannot think of a better word to describe myself! I have always been curious, and I love to explore topics, whether it is creative writing or mathematics or music or foreign languages. I cannot wait to experience everything Nantes, France, and Europe offer and to share it with you!</p>

Home University:
Lawrence University
Kildeer, IL
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