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Field Trip!

Julianna Caskie
March 22, 2022

A few weeks ago, I got to travel outside of Paris for the first time. IES Abroad hosted a field trip for a group of about forty students in which we traveled a few hours south of Paris to visit the Loire Valley. The Loire Valley is a region of France built around the Loire River Valley that bolsters a ton of castles. I always like having my plans pretty much all laid out for things, so I really enjoyed that we had a set schedule for this trip, especially since it was to an area that I think would have been a little tricky for me (and my friends) to plan out on our own.

Since there are no Friday classes at the BIA center, we headed out Friday morning to go down to the Loire Valley. The first leg of the trip was about three hours, so we had to report to the center by around 8:30. Because of the early hour, a lot of students slept through the bus ride; I was, unfortunately, unable to catch any sleep, but I’d brought a book along and got to make some good progress during the drive. We got to take a little break from driving about halfway through and stopped at a rest stop. It was a great little pick me up—we all had the opportunity to grab snacks and drinks and walk around a bit before finishing up the drive.

We finally arrived in Chenonceau around noon and went off to grab some lunch. Since the whole trip was planned out, we went as a group to the restaurant and were served a fixed menu. When I realized we weren’t going to be able to order for ourselves, I was a little nervous since I consider myself a bit of a picky eater, but it all worked out great! It was a traditional French, structured meal—first we got a salad, then our main meal, a dessert, and then a coffee. My friends and I were super excited to discover that our dessert was a chocolate lava cake which was something we’d just been saying we were craving early in the week!

Our first castle was the Château de Chenonceau which is one of the most well-known castles in the Loire Valley, and honestly, I think this castle was probably my favorite of all the ones we got to see. It stretches across the river and has an amazing history. The Château de Chenonceau is typically referred to as the castle of the ladies since there was a considerable amount of female influence on its development. One of the staff members who came along on the trip had been on this same trip many times before, so before we got off the bus to see the castle, she told us a ton of fun facts since this tour was going to be self-guided. My friends and I were some of the last people to get into the castle from our group, so we got to have some time with one of the other staff members; we all loved having her tag along with us…she helped us take some really great group photos throughout our trip.

With the first castle toured, we set off to the hostel in Blois. Our hostel had a cafeteria inside of it, so we got to grab dinner in the hostel as one big group. It felt a little bit like I was back on campus in the states in our smaller dining hall. There was a little bit of variety in our options, but it was by no means a huge buffet of options. Since it had been an early morning, a lot of us were pretty tired by the end of dinner, so while some students hung out in the lobby area where there were games, my friends and I decided to go back up to our rooms and go to bed.

The next morning, we had to get up and going around the same time for a group breakfast. We actually left the hostel around 9:45 to go to the next castle—Château de Blois. I thought this castle was really neat since it was a giant castle in the middle of the town. For this location, the center booked audio tours for us, so we each got a listening device to hear all about the different rooms and the castle’s history. Each wing of the castle was constructed and influenced by a different king or duke which made each section of the castle different from the others. All the variety made this place super exciting to explore. After spending about an hour and a half touring the castle, we walked around the corner to grab some lunch.

Once we finished up at lunch, we drove another half an hour to our last castle. Our lunch ran a bit longer than was planned in the schedule, so we unfortunately only had about forty-five minutes to see the last castle. I think if we’d had a bit more time to explore this castle, it might have actually been my favorite one. It was incredibly grand, and we were able to go up on the roof and look out on the gardens surrounding us. At the Château de Chamord, we also had an audio guide to listen to, but since we were short on time, we had to jump around the rooms a bit and didn’t get to do the tour in the cohesive manner it was meant to be in. Once we wrapped up at the last castle, we made the drive back to the IES Abroad center and went our separate ways. It was a great weekend trip and an amazing opportunity to see a different part of France!

Julianna Caskie

<p>Bonjour! My name is Julianna Caskie (she/her) and I am from Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. I’m a junior at Lehigh University studying political science with minors in both architecture studio as well as women, gender, and sexuality studies (strange combo, I know). In my free time I love to read, travel, dance, and compete in Mock Trial tournaments with my team. I can’t wait to share my journey in Paris with you!</p>

Destination:
Term:
2022 Spring
Home university:
Lehigh University
Hometown:
Bethlehem, PA
Major:
Political Science
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