It was a great pleasure to work with your sons and daughters — saying goodbye to them for the final time was difficult! I apologize for not being present to greet you at arrivals—alas, I had a flight to catch to Indianapolis! I’ve spent a day resting and I look back on our voyage with nostalgia; they are so talented and industrious… from the first day to the last they amazed me.
For this final post I’d like to share with you the best photos from our trip to Paris. I apologize that the photos lean towards certain students in my Paris student group — we spent Paris in groups of 8+ students with professors (to better let them visit certain preferred sites together) and thus I only had limited moments to capture those outside my group.
The last week has been so busy that I include the pictures here without the general summary that you may be use to (they all come from our final week); they are all from our Paris adventure and I will include as much detail as comes to mind.
Our time in Saumur has come to end with a whirlwind of activities and preparations. Early this past week we had our final three classes, a guided tour of Saumur, and practiced for the farewell show. Yesterday students thanked host families for their warm welcome and put on a terrific show. Next Monday morning your sons and daughters will say their final (sure to be emotional) goodbye to their families and then we will head off to Paris for our three day excursion before returning to the USA. I’ve been asking students how they feel about their final days and I was met with many a resounding: “What! Only three more days in France for Paris? Let’s do another two weeks!”
As usual, here is a brief overview of the week that will be followed with details and pictures:
Final Week of Classes (Monday-Wednesday)
Guided Tour of Saumur (Monday)
Farewell Show (Thursday-Friday)
Final Week of Classes
On Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday final classes were held at the Institution Saint-Louis. Students turned in their final projects for each class and their projects for the program magazine that we distributed to host families during the farewell show. That all sounds perhaps a bit dreary though and it wasn’t: as these pictures below can attest to the fact that students were rather amusing themselves this last week!
Guided Tour of Saumur
On Monday we had a terrific and energetic tour guide who met us at the Chateau of Saumur to give students a guided tour of the city. Students are already familiar with Saumur, but this tour helped to give them details and sights that they may have overlooked. During the tour we discussed the history of Saumur (a city, she explained, that in its early days was prone to flooding and attacks), saw a very old chapel for traveling knights, and climbed one of the city’s original tower defenses.
Since the start of the program instructors have been working with students to put on the farewell show for the host families: songs, sketches, theater pieces, and a magazine. In the first few weeks students selected the songs and plays that they wanted to perform and drafted sketches and articles. They’ve made a lot of progress in French since then and this last week they were prepared to give an entire show in French! On Thursday and Friday we spent the day practicing the performance (with a cookie/candy break of course!) and then gave the show from 8pm to 10pm on Friday evening. The students did a terrific job: they amused the families with their plays and sketches and touched their families with heartfelt song performances. At the end of the show there were more than a few tears shed when the students sang Toi + Moi (You + Me) and descended from the stage into the audience to hug and dance with family members.
I’d like to take a final moment to thank you all for checking out, supporting, and commenting on the blog. Your sons and daughters have grown a lot during their time in France and I’d like to thank you all for making their total immersion experience possible! It’s been a pleasure to work with your students and share their experiences – I look forward to posting pictures and details of our final excursion in Paris next week!
This week we are getting prepped and pepped for the Family Farewell Show. This will happen Friday evening from 8pm to 10 pm. Your sons and daughters having been busy polishing their theater pieces, working on their sketches (which they wrote!), and practicing multiple French songs. I will grab as many photos as I can of this evening as possible to share!
Last week we requested permission for the Accrobranche (A rope course in the forest) and for this midweek post I thought you might enjoy these photos a host mother was kind enough to share!
I’m looking forward to the weekend update and I’ll be sure to provide you with some general details about our upcoming three days in Paris before the return!
We have a busy upcoming week with students in Saumur! It’s an odd feeling to imagine that it will be our last week before returning to the USA. I know that feelings among students are mixed: they’ve settled into a French life with their host families, but they are also very excited to come back home and see you!
This week’s post will be lighter than the Normandy update as the week has been shorter due to the French National Holiday on July 14th and also because we are preparing for next week’s host family farewell show with students.
As usual, a brief outline of the week which will be followed with details and photos is below:
France’s National Holiday on July 14th (Tuesday)
The Dessert Contest (Wednesday)
The visit to ‘Les Sables d’Olonne’ (Friday)
France’s National Holiday on July 14th
Similar to the USA’s 4th of July insofar as there are fireworks, concerts, bands, plays, and national pride/history… July 14th is France’s national holiday. In Saumur, people gather along the Loire river in the evening where there is live music and regional food vendors (they also had cotton candy; comically dubbed in French as ‘Poppa’s Beard’ ‘Barbe à Papa’. I managed to see several students despite the large crowds: Megan, Christina, Cleome… Once 11pm arrived, the street lights dimmed and people gathered along the Loire’s edge or on the bridge to watch the fireworks.
The Dessert Contest
On Wednesday afternoon we had a ‘Concours de Desserts’; an activity where students prepared typical French desserts with their families and then brought them to Saint-Louis to share with other students. We had a good turn-out: two tables full of desserts (which largely disappeared!). We had an apple pie, cookies, Nutella muffins, macaroons, chocolate and yogurt pie, chocolate bread… At the end, students voted for their favorite dessert and we are currently preparing certificates for the winners! We also took this time to celebrate the birthdays of Casey H., Hannah C., and Lydia S. by presenting them with birthday cards signed by all the students and professors. My apologies for not having photos for this section from the event, I forgot my camera alas, but I’m sure some students appreciated not being photographed when eating at least!
The Visit to Les Sables d’Olonne
On Friday we had our excursion to Les Sables d’Olonne, the Sands of Olonne—a port city renowned for its beach about two hours in bus from Saumur. We had a leisurely departure at 9am from Saumur. We arrived in Olonne and (since it was our first expedition to Olonne to test the area for the program) separated into four professor-led groups. My group of students started our visit with a stroll along the port to see the city and shops and then we headed over to the beach.
After a picnic in Olonne, we headed to a beach located a short distance from les Sables d’Olonne (much less crowded and beautiful). Students really enjoyed this day at beach—as we descended onto to the beach I heard more than a few say something along the lines of ‘Que c’est joli ! (How pretty!) I’ll let the photos speak for the rest of this relaxing excursion:
What a pleasure it continues to be to accompany your sons and daughters in France—to watch them move from isolated words to full sentence discourse in French has been a real treat (and the sojourn isn’t even near its end!).
On Tuesday and Wednesday of this past week we had our two-day excursion in Normandy. This has been our longest excursion and today’s blog post will focus on that. I’ve been jotting down my impressions of Normandy as well as taking as many photos of the students as possible to give you a better idea of their experience (there will be 50+ photos in this post alone!).
As normal, below is an overview of our visits and activities in Normandy that will be followed with more detail and pictures:
Mont St. Michel (Tuesday)
Pointe du Hoc (Wednesday)
Omaha Beach + American Cemetery (Wednesday)
Caen Memorial Museum (Wednesday)
From the outside, St. Malo looks like a fortified castle. Inside the walls it resembles a mini, port city metropolis full of shops, a grocery store, cafes, boutiques, and housing. Many students spent their visit walking the streets in groups to shop and some students walked along the ramparts where they could enjoy a view of the ocean and the busy streets of the city below. We only had an hour to visit the city (it would be been easy to spend the whole day here!), but here are some snapshots of St. Malo:
Mont St. Michel
Mont St. Michel is one of the most well-known and most visited attractions in France. After parking, we were shuttled up to the entrance and began our ascent up the steps of Mont St. Michel (there were a lot of them). As we climbed Mont St. Michel, I overheard a few students talking about how the walk up reminded them of Diagon Alley from the Harry Potter book series: there were so many different people bustling up and down the street visiting the souvenir/trinket shops and cafes. Once we entered Mont St. Michel, we visited the monastery, the crypts, the cloister, and also the gardens.
After Mont St. Michel, we headed towards the youth hostel located in Benières-sur-mer where we had a reservation to spend the night. The hostel was very comfortable: we had an entire building to ourselves, each room had its own restroom and shower, and the staff was very welcoming and use to accommodating large groups. After dinner and a pause, we headed to the beach (located less than five minutes walking distance from the hostel) where students had the occasion to relax on the beach or go swimming after our long day of visiting St. Malo and Mont St. Michel. It was a very agreeable evening:
Pointe du Hoc
During World War II, the Pointe du Hoc was occupied by German forces and fortified to protect the coast. During the morning of June 6th 1944, 225 American soldiers landed at Pointe du Hoc and climbed 30 meter high cliffs in order to take back the area. Even with heavy casualties, they captured and defended Pointe du Hoc—helping to establish an allied foothold to liberate Europe.
We visited this important site Wednesday morning. Even to this day students were still able to see the craters left by the artillery and the remnants of the German defenses: rusted iron, bunkers, barb wire, crumbling stone, anti-air battery placements…
It was a very calm and tranquil visit, with lots of wind from the coast and cloudy skies, but still very difficult to fathom all that must have happened at Pointe du Hoc:
Omaha Beach + American Cemetery
We visited the Omaha Beach and the American Cemetery before visiting the Caen Memorial Museum. American troops landed here as part of D-Day and now the area serves as a memorial to the American troops. I felt awed and very proud to come from the United States during our visit here. As you’ll see from the photos, there’s many rows of cross-shaped tombs and other monuments dedicated to fallen soldiers. Many other Americans were visiting the site on Wednesday and a lady asked me in the chapel if I had been looking for someone I knew among the graves—it’s an emotional visit for many.
Caen Memorial Museum
The Caen Memorial Museum is such a formidable experience and it really brought together all the sites we had visited up until then. We could have easily spent the entire day here reading and seeing all the Museum offered to commemorate the past: documentary films, testimonies, photographs, paraphernalia… The memorial seemed to take you through time: from the start of World War I up until the Cold War. It was a very informative and emotional experience that I would not be able to do justice in words:
Thank you all for the visiting the blog this week to see how the students are doing and what they have been up to this past week—I hope you all had an enjoyable 4th of July and thank you once again for raising such wonderful sons and daughters!
Hello to everyone reading! I had some time on the bus ride back from Normandy today to write a midweek blog post and I thought you all might enjoy hearing about the 4th of July picnic with the host families in Saumur last Sunday while I prepare the next big blog update for this weekend!
On Sunday the 5th we had our 4th of July picnic with the host families, students, professors, and onsite coordinator. It went very smoothly and the families and professors enjoyed getting a chance to informally socialize. We had the picnic in Montreuil-Bellay, a small village about 20 minutes from Saumur where’s there’s a beautiful park and city to visit. Each family brought their own picnic and a dessert to share. The students talked or played with their host parents and siblings during the picnic and then visited the city and chateau (our onsite coordinator, Marie-Christine, also created a post-picnic treasure hunt activity!).
Here are some pictures highlighting the 4th of July picnic celebration:
I’ll be putting together a big blog post to show you what the students have been up to in Normandy the past couple days – it should be up by Saturday! There will be lots of pictures—your sons and daughters are always so willing to take a picture for the blog!