First Week in France: Castles, Cats, and Ciabatta

Joseph Kalmar
January 21, 2020

It’s been a bit more than a week since I arrived in France, and I have so much to talk about I barely know where to begin. Thanks to staying awake for over 27 hours and then crashing for more than twelve, I managed to exchange jetlag for temporary extreme exhaustion; this, of course, wasn’t exactly ideal for navigating literal planes, trains, and automobiles in a country I’ve never visited before, but I managed to arrive in Nantes only slightly worse for wear. 

I have both good and bad news about my experiences with food in France so far. The good news is that everything my host family has cooked for me and everything I’ve bought from a café or boulangerie has ranged from pretty good to absolutely delicious. The bad news is that everything I’ve eaten in a restaurant so far has ranged from edible to absolutely horrific. The French may be fans of mushroom soup that tastes more like cigarette smoke than any actual food, but I have yet to be convinced. Thankfully, the four-cheese ciabatta sandwich that I typically get for lunch and the delicious coffee flavored éclair I ate the other day have more than made up for various culinary sins I have had to suffer through. 

After a couple days of orientation in Nantes, all the students in my program embarked on a trip to visit three Loire castles: Amboise, Chambord, and Chenonceau. As an avid fan of both history and architecture, being set loose in 15th and 16th century castles for hours at a time was pretty much a dream come true. Plus we got to visit both Leonardo DaVinci’s tomb in the Chateau d’Amboise and his house a couple of blocks away, which was pretty mind boggling. I was most looking forward to visiting the Chateau de Chenonceau because it has the most distinctive location and style, but my favorite place to visit was the Chateau de Chambord simply because I was completely blown away both by its scale and by the grandeur of its architecture.

Classes start this week, and I’m very pleased to announce that the only class for which I’ll have to wake up very early is gastronomy, which meets once a week. What I’m most nervous for overall is figuring out how to commute to the University of Nantes via the tramway (especially with strikes frequently shutting it down), but Nantes’ public transportation system hasn’t let me down yet. Additionally, I’ll only have to go to the university twice a week, once for each of the classes I’m taking there. And once I’ve generally figured out how to navigate my schedule throughout this upcoming week, I’ll have the chance to take a day trip to Mont-Saint Michel through my program next Saturday! My life has been pretty much nonstop since I’ve arrived in France, and although it’ll likely calm down a bit once classes begin, I can’t wait to see what happens next.

Joseph Kalmar

<p>I'm a sophomore in college who has studied French for over seven years. In addition to reading, singing, and playing various musical instruments, I'm an avid fan of birdwatching, watching hockey, and traveling.</p>

2020 Spring
Home University:
College of Wooster, The
Bowling Green, OH
French Language
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