October 16, Tours, France
It hardly seems a month since I left. So much has happened to me since then that it seems longer. Perhaps if you are still getting the New York Times you saw that we had our opening last week. Saturday afternoon there was a ceremony in the town hall. All the local dignitaries were there plus the US Ambassador, President Stirling, and representatives of the French Government. There was an academic procession and many long flowery speeches in French most of which I couldn’t understand.
After this we had a reception at the Centre at which we students were the hosts. It was my first cocktail party in French and after 3 hours of standing and talking to all sorts of people I thought I’d never be able to speak the language again. We served champagne and some of those divine pastries. It was 10 pm before all the guests left and we students were able to go and have some dinner at the restaurant next door. We had steak and beans for 60 cents which is quite good.
I wish you could have seen the Centre on Opening Day. There were French and American Flags on the balconies and two big flag poles with them cut in front. The lobby was full of flowers and we shipped all our rooms in shape for open house. Everyone was quite impressed with it, as am I. Do you realize that we have maid service – and even if I attempt to make my bed she rips it apart later and makes it again. Needless to say, I don’t argue with her. Maybe I told you this, but I can’t get over it.
Last Sunday morning we went to a little Protestant church nearby. The service was all in French – it seemed quite different when we were singing the hymns. It was raining so we spent the afternoon studying etc.
One afternoon last week when it was clear and very crisp outside I stopped on my way back from downtown at a little stand on the sidewalk. It is run by two old women who are just ancient but they are ably aided by a yellow mutt who guards them faithfully. It is just around the corner from the Centre so we all say “Bonjour” now when we go there for the candies and fruit that they sell. This day they were roasting chestnuts and I couldn’t resist the smell as I was going by. I bought some and Gail and I had them in our room that afternoon. If you ever get a chance you should try them, they are just divine.
I went and got a French haircut Friday. It was really exciting because I didn’t know how to tell them what I wanted. By the time I left I had quite a language lesson because they were very talkative and friendly and insisted on writing out all the phrases for me to remember. They even told me how to get my skirts shortened as they are all about 2 inches too long. A haircut, shampoo, styling and set costs $2.00 here. There are no bargains in clothes that I can see in France except gloves.
Yesterday Gail and I went to the flower market which is set up Wednesday and Saturday. Stalls of flowers are set up in the market place and you can walk along just to look or to buy. We finally ended up getting a small bouquet and a pansy for our balcony. It was fun to talk to the people and see all different types of flowers. In the afternoon one of the girls here who has a car took us out to see the country house of Balzac. It was so good to be out in the country because the surroundings here are just inconceivably lovey. I wish I had a camera to show you some of the views we passed. There was a quaint old bridge on a peaceful stream with an old water wheel and I’ll a little ways away with a thatched cottage beside the stream. In some places we saw the peasants farmyards. They have the wine in caves in the hills and ins one places I think they live in the caves because we saw chimneys sticking out of the hills, with doors leading into the cliff. I would love to have gone into some of these places but we don’t really know enough French to make sense to the people yet. We stole some apples off a tree by the road. I felt guilty because I know how some poor farmer feels but they tasted awfully good!
Since we were spending the whole weekend here, two French girls took us for a ride out to a chateau this afternoon. Gail and I talked in French to them all afternoon – or tried to – but at times we had trouble making each other understood. Catherine de Medici furnished all of the rooms of the chateau. It had been restored to a great extent and was very interesting. One floor was brought from Florence – we were afraid to walk on it, it was so ornate. It was on top of a hill with a moat around it. There was a date by the draw bridge which was 1551. The view was splendid because we could see miles up and down the Loire. There is so much to see here that is new and different, I just can’t assimilate it all.
Gail and I have both been feeling fine – all the kids from California have been dying in this cool weather we have been having. They don’t mind it as long as the sun is shining but they can’t feature clouds all winter. I think the weather is a lot nicer than what I’ve heard it was going to be like. The towns are cleaner than I was led to believe also. Sometimes we go down the quaint old back streets which are wide enough for one car only and even they are clean – except that the buildings are so very old.
Guess what? I’ve signed up for. Course in French cooking!! We haven’t’ started anything yet but I can hardly wait to see what it’s like.