dimanche 30 juin 2013

Excursion 2: Normandy

Bonsoir tout le monde,

As you are no doubt aware, this past week saw our second (and also second-longest) excursion: Normandy! Having prepared in advance for the various things and places we were going to see, it goes without saying that the stagiaires were eager to see what Normandy had to offer. With that said, let's jump in and get a better idea of what our two days in Normandy were like.


Day 1:

On Thursday morning, we gathered at Place Robien, overnight bags and lunches in hand, and set out for the first of our several destinations.


Mont Saint-Michel

A UNESCO World Heritage site, Mont Saint-Michel is one of the most well-known historical sites of north-western France. (I would say 'Brittany', but I might offend some people in Normandy by doing so, as the fight for ownership continues to this day - a sentiment that this picture demonstrates well.) If you are interested in learning more about the history of this site (which is very interesting!) you can click here.

Once we arrived at Mont Saint-Michel, it was a short hike to the summit to see the Abby. Once we reached the top, the stagiaires split into groups and had a chance to explore not only the Abby, but the rest of Mont Saint-Michel as well. Naturally, before leaving, we took a moment to get a group photo in front of the Mont.

After our visit, before heading to Bayeux, we took a moment to enjoy both the nice weather and a bite to eat. (I think I might have caught some of the stagiaires off-guard with my picture taking!)

After we were fully nourished, it was off to our next destination!



A quaint and charming city, Bayeux has a lot to offer. Although the main attraction is the famous Bayeux Tapestry, our first destination was the Bayeux Cathedral. Known as a "gem of the Normand architecture," the cathedral is really a sight to behold.

After seeing the cathedral, it was off to see the tapestry. If you're not familiar with the tapestry, click here and see what it's all about! Given the fact that the tapestry was made in the 11th century, photos were, regrettably, not allowed. During my search for the previous link, however, I found a site that shows the tapestry in its entirety, panel by panel. You can find that here.

Before heading to the hostel to call it a night, we headed to Thursday's final destination.


La Pointe du Hoc

Having read about la Pointe du Hoc while preparing for the excursions, each stagiaire was familiar with the history of the site. Seeing the landscape littered with craters and bunkers in person, however, is a different experience completely.

After spending some time exploring the site, it was off to the hostel for dinner and some rest. Once we arrived, however, we were met with a pleasant surprise...


Les Brestois !

Shortly after our arrival, the group from Brest also arrived, having just finished their own full day of adventures. Once many a "bonjour" was said and hugs and bises were given, we all headed into the hostel to put away our belongings and eat a bit of dinner. Following dinner, both groups headed down to the nearby beach for a bit of fun. During our time on the beach, some stagiaires played frisbee, others played pétanque, and even a few danced a little Charleston with me (more about that to come in a future post!).

Thanks to Alisha from the Brest group for this photo!

Day 2:

After waking up again early and enjoying a bit of breakfast, we bid farewell to our friends from Brest and started our second day in Normandy.


La Cambe

Our first stop of the day, La Cambe, a German Military Cemetery dedicated to peace, is arguably one of the most important things we see during our time in Normandy. Although we often speak of the many American, Canadian, and English (among others) soldiers who lost their lives in Normandy during the war, what we sometimes fail to realize is that, although the German soldiers were the enemy, they were also young men who lost their lives fighting for their country. In addition to this, seeing the contrast between this cemetery and the American cemetery is truly incredible.

Learning about La Cambe

Normandy American Cemetery and Omaha Beach

After seeing La Cambe, we headed to the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial to pay homage to the Americans who lost their lives during the Second World War. While visiting the cemetery, the stagiaires also had the chance to walk down to Omaha Beach, one of the American landing sites during Operation Overlord.


Caen Memorial

After our time at the cemetery, we headed out to our last stop: the Caen Memorial. While here, the stagiaires had the chance to learn more about 20th century history and see the progression from desperation to hope as the memorial lead them forward through time.

After we finished our visit, it was back to Saint-Brieuc for some well-deserved rest.


All in all, the excursion went very well. Not only was it very informative, but the stagiaires also seemed to really appreciate the importance the sites we visited.

I believe that is all I have for you right now. I will be updating shortly to fill you in on all of the neat activities we've been doing so far, so stay tuned! We also have a couple events happening later this week, including our visit to the Mayor's office and our Breton dance night, so you can expect an update about those as well.

A bientôt,

p.s. There were a couple extra pictures! Check them out here.

mardi 18 juin 2013

Excursion 1: Le Cap d'Erquy et Fort-la-Latte

Hey there everyone!

As stated in my previous post, last week saw the first of our four excursions. Given that our first excursion usually takes place during the first week, we try to use it as a way to introduce the stagiaires to both the beauty and the history of the region that we'll be calling home for the next few weeks. What better way to do that than to visit a stunning cape and an old fortified castle? To give you a glimpse at what we saw during our excursion, I'll discuss le Cap d'Erquy and Fort-la-Latte individually below.


Le Cap d'Erquy

Although Erquy itself has its perks, instead of spending our time exploring the town, we opted to take a moment to enjoy nature. Luckily, the weather was perfect. (Having typed that, I would appreciate it if everyone would please take a moment to knock on wood!)

In order to reach the cape, we had to first do a bit of walking. Given that the cape is amidst a beautiful landscape, however, the treck was definitely worth it. The picture below will give you an idea of what we saw while heading up to the cape.

Once we reached the cape, the view was certainly something else.

After having some time to enjoy the view, we took a moment to take a group photo with the grès as our backdrop.

Following a bit more time exploring the Cap, we headed off to our next destination...



As mentioned above, the second part of our excursion involved visiting an old fortified castle, known as a château fort in French. Although we learned many things about Fort-la-Latte and its history during our guided tour, I will not go into detail here about what we learned here. Instead, I offer you the following link that discusses it in-depth -- History of Fort-la-Latte! -- and the following pictures taken at the château.

Gargantua's finger!

Learning about the castle.
The dungeon!
The view from atop the dungeon. 
Group photo! It was just a bit sunny.
Following our tour and free time to explore the castle, it was back to Saint-Brieuc to start the first full weekend with the host family! Although we were all tired after all of the exploring (and walking), everyone seemed to enjoy themselves on the excursion.


Just as a reminder: our next excursion will take place next Thursday and Friday (June 27th & 28th), when we'll be going to visit Normandy. Needless to say, we are going to see many interesting things, so you can expect a somewhat lengthy post resuming the various things we'll have done/seen while there.

I have also been adamantly taking pictures of the various after-school activities we've been working on and plan on writing a post soonish to let you in on what we actually do here apart from classes the occasional sport. :)

I believe that's all for now!

à bientôt!


p.s. As always, there are more pictures to see than what I've posted in the blog. Follow this link to see them: More pictures!!

jeudi 13 juin 2013

Travel day and a quick update

Hello everyone!

First off, I'd like to apologize for not updating sooner. I'd intended to write up a summary of our travel day the day after we arrived, but things have been a little busy with settling in, testing, classes, a host family meeting, etc. Sorry! That aside, below you'll find a recap of our travel day and then a quick update on what we've been up to the past couple days.



After meeting up with a couple stagiaires in Indianapolis, it was off to Chicago to meet up with the rest of the group and begin the long voyage to France. Before we hopped on the plane, however, we managed to get a group picture in with all of us wearing our dashing teal IUHPFL shirts:

After this, we boarded our plane and headed off, arriving in Paris around 8am. Although we all made it in one piece, three pieces of luggage were not so fortunate. Luckily, they have all since been located (two have arrived, the third is on its way!).

As you know, once we arrived in France, the stagiaire were no longer to allowed to use English (excpet for the phone call home, of course). As one might expect, the first couple hours were more or less quiet. In time, however, everyone was (and still is!) trying their best to communicate in the target language with an impressive level of success.

Following our arrival in Paris, we then hopped on a bus and set off to Saint-Brieuc. Given the fatigue of jetlag and the fact that we had been traveling all day, most everyone (including myself) took a moment for a little well-deserved shut-eye, which the picture below shows quite well:

(There are, of course, other gems like the one above. I'll provide the link to the pictures that don't appear in the blog at the end.)

Once we arrived in Saint-Brieuc, we had a bit of time, so, instead of sitting around, we decided to try and learn everyone's name. Since simply saying one's name isn't all that exciting, we decided to do this in the form of a game in which each person had to say their name and give a French adjective that started with the same letter. Before giving their own name, however, they had to repeat the name and adjective of everyone that went before, which became a bit tough after a couple minutes. Here are a couple pictures of us playing the game, followed by a group picture in front of the sign of the place where we waited for the families:

After a bit of time, the families began to arrive one by one and, after several warm welcomes and a couple awkward bises, each stagiaire set off to start exploring the intricacies of French culture.


Given the fact that we arrived Sunday night, it was decided that it would be better for the stagiaires to spend Monday with their host family and have a moment to recover before jumping in.


On Tuesday, however, we dove right in and passed the day taking the exam, reviewing details about the program, getting to know one another better, etc. One of the team-building games we played is known as the human knot. Below are some photos for your enjoyment.

Although we split the group in two in order to do this activity, we thought we'd give it a go with 33. Until we saw this:

Then we decided it might be best to call it a day.


Once all of that was finished, we went on a guided tour of Saint-Brieuc and learned a lot of neat things about both the city itself and the surrounding area.


The next day, Wednesday, we officially started classes! As you may recall, the stagiaires take four classes while here: communication, culture, grammar, and linguistics. Aside from being a normal class day, Wednesday is also our sports day. Although the rain usually limits the amount of outdoor sports we can do, we were fortunate enough yesterday to have some sun. To take full advantage of this, we took the stagiaires down to the nearby valley, where they had the choice to go for a jog on the trails or go for a nice stroll.

We also decided that it was a great location for a group photo!


Well, I do belive that's all for now. Everyone seems to be having a good time here and seems to be improving by the day! I can't wait to see the progress that everyone makes.

Tomorrow is our first excursion to Erquy and Fort-la-Latte, so you can expect the next blog update very soon.

À la prochaine,

p.s. Click here to see more pictures!