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Another exciting and busy week in France!

October 29, 2013


France 10 31 13

Our Semester in France students began week #5 quietly by attending to our academic affairs. The students were all busy this week making sure all of their classwork is completed so that they can make all of the final preparations for their Paris trip and travel break period. On Monday it was classes as usual.

On Tuesday, the students were required to select an artist from one of the museums we visited in Barcelona and write a paper and make a presentation about the artist and one of his specific pieces of work. These presentations were very good as the students brought forward interesting perspectives about the works of Miro, Piccasso and Dali. Their personal insights were most valuable. What was interesting is that 3 or 4 of the students selected an artist who did not impress them and they reviewed his work. When asked why, they (the students), indicated that they wanted to push themselves a bit more on this assignment and, force themselves to review work that they did not like in the hopes that it might cause them to reconsider their view. Personally, my wife and I found that to be a great testimonial to what some of these kids are learning about art and themselves.

One of the professors here is accompanied by her young son and mother. The students have gotten to know them quite well. The professor’s mother had to leave to join her husband who is experiencing some health issues. So the students wanted to offer a proper good-bye by having a bit of a dance party for her. So after dinner the students put on some music and we all “boogied” for a few hours in the stone room of the monastery. Everybody had a good time including our guests who “strutted their stuff” on the dance floor. It was fun and nice tribute to Joan who was leaving.

On Wednesday it was classes as normal. However, our guests (Dr. Pete Skoner and wife Diane and Mrs. Melita O’Donnell and husband Tom) prepared a wonderful brunch of “cheesy eggs” and ham and pancakes and sausage for all of us. It was quite the treat and greatly appreciated by everyone. In France breakfast is typically limited to cereal or toast. So this band of chefs provided us with our first full American style breakfast since we arrived.

On Wednesday evening we had a special dinner in honor of our guests (Dr. Skoner et al). In addition to all of us and our guests some added folks joined us as well. They included Peter and Margret (who are regular visitors) as well as Ben and Angela who are retired Edinburgh Scotland natives who own a vacation home in Ambialet. For dinner we had canard (duck), Tim’s special mashed potatoes, green beans and ham and the ever present bread wine and cheese. The meal was superb—our resident chef Bernard along with Tim really out did themselves.

However there is more. One of our students (Alix) runs a cake baking service. She bakes wedding cakes and special occasion cakes. So as a special treat, Alix (with some help from a few of her classmates) made two wonderful cakes for the evening. One was a peach cake and the other involved a French twix-like candy bar. Both cakes were delicious and enjoyed by everyone. Thank you Alix!

Thursday is another day for an excursion. We were off to Toulouse to visit the church that was the birthplace of the Dominican order. We also were able to visit the cloister for the convent associated with it. All of this is part of our religious pilgrimage class about the Albigensian Crusade that dominated this area in the early 13th century. Our guests from Loretto joined us for part of the excursion but left for the Toulouse airport and ultimately home at noon. It was nice having the Skoners and the O’Donnells to be able to spend some time with us at Ambialet.

Friday and Saturday were days dedicated to classes and getting things done before we take our break. However on Saturday evening we did have a special event. We had our second wine tasting class . This time we tasted some whites and reds from the Burgundy section of France. We all understand the 5 S method of wine tasting. They are: 1) See –check the color. 2) Swirl to release aromas. 3) Smell-check the aroma. 4) Sip –take a small amount of wine. 5) Savor – hold the wine in your mouth for 2-3 seconds and swallow noting the distinct taste of the wine. It was great fun and educational. We learned a great deal about wine making as well. Our instructor Eric Sepich (aka Eric the younger) did a great job.

On Sunday there was a special event held at the Monastery Chapel. As part of the Sunday Mass the children from the area brought gifts (fruit, chestnuts and other items) to celebrate the harvest. About 20 children brought items as tokens of offering. Brandyn from our group played the keyboard. Margaret led the singing (which included some students and this off key professor and his wife). Peter accompanied Brandyn on the guitar. It was a very cute and touching ceremony.

Also on Sunday we were treated to yet another special dinner produced by two of our students. Tori and Kilee provided a wonderful chicken and noodles dinner (I believe the dinner was a family recipe of Tori’s) as well as a special desert (which was a warm brie apricot pastry that Kilee provided). The meal was excellent! Thanks you Tori and Kilee!

This coming week will be one filled with class work and preparation for our trip which begins in Paris on Oct 28. After 10 days in Paris studying art, religion and culture with Jerry and Eric , the students are then off on their own to tour Europe on their break for 10 days. All of our excursions have prepared them to be able to make travel arrangements, and navigate new cities. They are all going in groups. A few are going to Poland, some are going to Ireland, two have decided to take a cruise, and the vast majority of them will end up in Rome where they collectively have rented an apartment for a few days. They will return on Nov.16 full of stories about their adventures. Since next week is about preparation, I will not have much to report to you. Therefore, for now this will be my last update until we all return to Ambialet in mid November at which time I should have plenty of new and exciting adventures to share with you.

So for this “baker’s dozen of European explorers” it’s off to Paris! Why because we “CAN CAN”. Get it-can can –that’s a joke! If it’s still is a mystery check out the website below—it will clearly explain things.

So until later ---IT’S OFF TO PARIS! OOH LA-LA BABY!