It’s hard to believe that it’s already been a week since I arrived in Tours for the summer and began taking classes at the Institut de Touraine. Before we know it, we’ll have completed our eight weeks here and be on our way back to the United States with fond memories of the classes, friends, and food we have enjoyed here. This first week in Tours has been eventful and enjoyable as we have begun acclimating to French life and culture and gotten to know the thirty-one students (as well as our professor and graduate assistant) traveling in our group.
Our first full day in Tours was last Monday, and with it came our introductory orientation at the Institut. In order to show me the route to class, my host father Serge drove me the first day. Once we arrived, we had a brief orientation with our MSU professors followed by une chasse au trésor around the city.
Une chasse au trésor — A treasure (scavenger) hunt
After getting a quick bite to eat (which was accompanied with our first time having to speak to French people without them knowing beforehand that we were non-native speakers – though they probably figured it out fairly quickly, especially when some people gave up and tried speaking English to no avail!), we began our “treasure hunt,” which was more of a guided tour of the city than anything. We failed to walk down la rue nationale, the main street in the city with many shops, which caused us to miss a few of the landmarks, but otherwise we began to gather our bearings within Tours. Among our destinations were la gare, the garden at the Musée des Beaux-Arts, and la place Plumereau, the square with many restaurants and bars that we have frequently visited since then. Afterward, we met up as a group to buy our pay-as-you-go phones and bus passes.
La gare — The train station
Tuesday brought our first “real” day of class, which also meant my first day walking alone to the Institut. Despite having multiple maps and a general sense of direction, I managed to turn in the wrong direction after crossing the bridge into the city and made a wide circle around the Institut that unnecessarily added a good twenty minutes of travel time. Luckily, I eventually found my way and got to class with a few minutes to spare. After class, the majority of our MSU constituent went to place Plume for lunch, where I had my first real crème brûlée (while its equivalent from the MSU cafeteria is good, it doesn’t quite compare!).
After my first day of difficulty walking to class, I followed a more direct route to class on Wednesday and have had no issues since, thankfully. It takes about 25 minutes to walk from my house north of the river to the Institut in the middle of the city, but with my headphones on and the French scenery all around, it’s a fairly painless endeavor (not to mention that both the length and road construction make it seem like I haven’t left MSU!). The class schedule here is interesting: while I’m used to starting in the late morning or early afternoon and having classes until dinner at MSU, this month I have class only from 9h to 11h (or 12h15 on Tuesdays and Thursdays). We’ve been informed that that will change in July, when our courses will become more intensive, but for now I’m content to have classes in the mornings and afternoons free to eat, explore, and enjoy the company of my fellow student travelers. The only assignments we have during the first three week session are a 20-minute exposé in-class presentation and a 7-10-page dossier, which means we don’t have regular homework assignments like at MSU, but that I will need to start soon and work gradually each day to ensure I have enough information before I present next week.
Speaking of travel, we will be doing a fair amount of it throughout the trip, particularly on the weekends. After spending the afternoons during the week checking out Tours (except for one day during which I participated in a cooking class, a group of us decided to spend Saturday in Amboise, which takes twenty minutes via train and has a château where Leonardo da Vinci is buried. Upon arriving in the early afternoon, we toured the château and walked around the city for a while; we also briefly visited le Clos Lucé, where da Vinci once lived. We then finished out the day with gelato, a brass band festival (an exciting accidental discovery for me, of course, being an avid trombonist and music enthusiast!) and conversation under a gazebo. Sunday was spent at home, resting both my body and my wallet. This week, our excursions include a group visit to the Château de Villandry on Wednesday and a group of twelve heading to Paris on Saturday to view the Musée d’Orsay and Notre Dame. After our first three weeks here, our first session ends with the Fête de la Musique on June 21, followed by a week off to travel, during which I and a small group plan to travel by train to a few French cities.
While I am fortunate to be able to spend this summer traveling abroad and creating many memories (a big shout-out to my family for helping make it possible!!), I am also happy that I am able to share it with you. I suppose it’s fitting (and maybe just a little corny) that, upon visiting the local FNAC (a European entertainment chain; think Best Buy meets Barnes & Noble) in town to see what kind of musical discoveries I could make, I found a two-disc Francophone compilation from Céline Dion called Avec toi. Though there’s no way I could bring all of my friends and family with me to Tours, I am thankful that I can use this blog and social media to share my adventures here avec toi: with you.