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Published: August 28th 2011
Oh la la!
After three wondrous days in Paris, we finally were on our way to Rennes, which is about four hours south west of Paris by car or two hours by train. On our way to Rennes we stopped in Chartres where there is the most magnificent cathedral I've ever seen. Perhaps even better than Notre Dame. The exterior of the church is all intricately sculpted and all of the sculptures tell a story. Then on the inside, there are columns and stain glass galore. Once again, each stain glass window, and even each section of the window tells a story--either about who bought or made the window, the history at the time, or from the Bible.
Malcolm was our tour guide and he has been giving tours for 55 years and has written 4 books about the cathedral. He was absolutely stupendous. There is such a rich history and he tried his darndest to share as much as he could with us. The church has been around since the 11th century. It was incredible being in a place that was so old but that was still vibrant and full of life. The church has a relic from Mary herself. It is part of her nativity garment. Because of this, Chartres Cathedral is a place of pilgrimage for many--hundreds of thousands flock to this tiny French town every year. Even if the relic isn't authentic, it is incredible to witness the effect it has on others. I saw it myself and was taken aback a little just to see something that has caused so many to travel across oceans to see.
After visiting the cathedral we went out for lunch at a nice restaurant. I ended up sitting next to our bus drivers, Patrice and Vincent, which was a little awkward at first, but after awhile everyone warmed up to each other and we had a great conversation filled with laughter. Once again we had salmon, which I've had 4 or 5 times now, but it was delicious, so I can't complain. We then packed up and made our way to Rennes. On the bus we finally found out who our host families would be. Stacy described my family as "the cool younger couple with two boys, a huge but sweet labrador and the people that always laugh, make fun of each other and have a good time." I was so jazzed! I would have brothers again and I'd be in a family that was less reserved and where joking around was expected. It was funny because the family requested a student who was "vivant" which means lively. So I guess after three days in Paris, my program directors decided that I was the "lively one." I suppose that's pretty accurate.
So we arrived at our university and all crowded into a room where the host families were on one side and the students were on the other. It was quite awkward and a bit like being at the zoo where everyone is looking at the other and trying to decide who's who. Some weren't there because there was a soccer game that was causing some traffic and I had a feeling my family wasn't there. I was right and when I saw a woman in her later 30s with a bright plaid shirt on and cute short hair, I thought to myself, "that's my host mom. I just know it." Low and behold I was right and she was awesome. We finally met up and it was a little intimidating trying to speak perfect French, but I could understand almost all of what she was saying so we made the conversation work.
At home dinner was already prepared, so we ate a delicious meal and sat around the table and chatted for 3 hours. They all said my French was good and that it would only get better. That definitely made me feel a little better that I didn't sound like a complete idiot to them. The sons weren't there that night, so it was just a calm evening with us adults. I was so tired from waking up early and speaking French all day, but it was definitely a splendid day all together.
So have no fear. I have an astounding host family that accepts me for who I am and has openly accepted me into their home and their family. They tell me almost everyday that their house is my house. I'm quite excited to spend a lot of time with them and I know they'll be one of the best parts of this whole experience.
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