One of the cool parts about studying abroad are the class trips. They’re not your typical field trips most of us remember from high school–they’re historical, wonderful, beautiful weekends in places like Loire Valley, Normandy or Versailles.
This past weekend, we went to Loire Valley. It’s a stretch on the Loire River in the center of France, about two-to-three hours south of Paris. We visited three castles: Chenonceau, Castle of Blois, and Chambord. In between castles, we ate French-style meals (so, three courses including dessert) and explored the city we stayed in.
I had never been inside castles before, so I didn’t know what to expect. A friend and I stuck together through them all, and explored every nook and cranny of the mansions. They were regal, and it sparked my sense of childhood wonder. I don’t know anything about princesses. I never wanted to be one, and I still don’t. But, there was something about wandering through endless gardens, winding staircases, small doorways, and queens’ bedrooms that felt truly magical.
We spent the night in Blois, a curious little town that’s been around since the 6th century. The city’s name is pronounced a lot like “blah”, so naturally, that’s what I called it all weekend. It’s survived a lot, and the small cobblestone streets carry its past poetry. The town wasn’t very big, but it had shops, restaurants and old churches (not to mention a castle right in the center!). I loved seeing another part of France and the lifestyle lived there.
The cool part about exploring new towns is also exploring their coffee shops. Whenever I go somewhere, I try to get one cup of local coffee or tea. That way, even if I’m only in a city for three hours, I’ve still experienced a piece of local life (and have talked to one local person…the barista). My friend and I woke up early, ate breakfast, and snuck out for a bit to have an introvert moment with morning tea and reads before heading back to the class trip and castles.
My weekend was filled with wandering, wondering, and fresh air (bye, bye Paris pollution!) through castles in central France. I saw the past in the present, and my only task was to walk through history. I’d definitely do that again.