Thursday, August 8, 2013

This is It

I made it! It was a long day of travelling on Wednesday, but I finally made it home!

So I think I left off with last Thursday. So last Thursday I took the train, metro, and bus from Gaillac to Toulouse. It wasn’t too bad getting to our new residence but having to carry all of my stuff with me made it a little rough. But anyways, I got to see everybody from the program again and we spent the afternoon walking and shopping around Toulouse. On Friday we had our presentations, so we had to sit through about 7 hours of students speaking about their experiences.

On Saturday we finally left for Germany! We had a layover in Paris so we didn’t get to Munich until around 6:30pm and by the time we got to the hotel we were so tired. We lugged all of our baggage through the city, which we thought was a good idea, but then it ended up being 98° so that wasn’t so great. So once we got to the hotel we decided to have dinner, we walked down the street and found a Thai restaurant. So my first meal in Germany was Thai food haha, it was really good, but super spicy.

My first German dinner!

On Sunday we did some quick sightseeing in the city. We visited about 3 churches including the famous one with the 2 onion domes. Since it was Sunday, mass was being said in every church we visited so we didn’t get to walk around inside the churches but they at least let us walk in and see it from the back. We also got to see Rathaus, which is Munich’s town hall I believe. It was a very pretty building. After we did that we stumbled upon a beer garden so we decided to stop and have lunch. We both got a beer and a huge pretzel!!! Then we headed to the Residenz which is the palace in Munich that was home to many Bavarian kings. It was huge and there were so many rooms!


Marienplatz! (Rathaus is on the left)

My giant pretzel!

The Residenz

The King's bedroom

Monday was our day trip to 3 sights outside of Munich. We visited Linderhof Palace, Oberammergau, and Neuschwanstein Castle. The Palace was amazing! It was small, but there was so much pretty detail in every room. I loved it! Then we headed to Oberammergau which is a cute Bavarian town. They only gave us 30 minutes there so I didn’t get to see much unfortunately. Then our last stop was to the castle and this was amazing too! King Ludwig II started building it but was unable to finish before he died, and about 6 weeks after his death it was opened as a museum. So it’s been a museum for a long time now. It was beautiful!!! I can definitely see why Walt Disney used it as a model for Sleeping Beauty’s castle in Disneyland. Once we got back to Munich we decided to go to a pub for dinner. I had my first real German wienerschnitzel. It was so yummy! And for dessert I had Bavarian cream, which was pretty good too.

Linderhof Palace

I want to live here!


Tuesday was our last day in Munich. We decided to go visit Dachau the concentration camp. It was definitely interesting to see even though it was a bit creepy. We got to see the camp and there was also a museum set up in the main building. After visiting the camp we decided to go to another beer garden. This one was the Augustiner beer garden which was much nicer and bigger than the one we went to on Sunday. I got sauerkraut and some sausages. It was delicious! After we ate we decided to go the Olympic Park. Unfortunately there wasn’t much to do there except look at the buildings. We could’ve gone roof climbing but that would’ve cost us a small fortune so we just walked around and looked at all of the cool buildings. After that we took the subway back into the center of Munich and found the Hofbrauhaus pub. This is probably the most famous pub in Munich and I could see why. The building was gorgeous and the atmosphere was so much fun. They had a brass band playing while we ate which was very cool.


Augustiner beer garden!

Olympia park!

Olympic stadium


Pig knuckle for dinner!

On Wednesday, we got up early to pack and then we headed to the airport. I was very sad to be leaving even though I was excited to see my family again. It was about an 9 hour flight and my dad picked me up at the airport.

These past two months have been amazing! I have learned so much not only about wine making, but about different cultures and how to communicate. Some days were more challenging than others but I enjoyed every bit of it. I was able to visit so many different places and see so many different things and I can’t believe it’s all over now. I really enjoyed these past two months and I hope I will be able to do some more traveling like this in the future.

Thank you to everybody who has read my blog. I hope you enjoyed it! I know my writing isn’t the most exciting but I hope the pictures made up for it! Thanks again and I hope all is well with everyone.  

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

My Last Week with My Host Family

So I thought I would post one more time before I leave Gaillac to head back to Toulouse.

I have had the most amazing time with my host family here in Gaillac. They have been so nice and considerate and they did everything they could to make me feel comfortable in their home. I really appreciate everything they did for me and I am really going to miss them.

I missed having Quentin and Pauline around this week, but it was nice to have some time with Dominique and Steve. On Monday, Steve and I went to work at 6am again because it was supposed to get really hot this afternoon and we didn't want to be working when it did. So we lifted vines and ran errands. Then that afternoon Steve took me shopping! I got a few more souvenirs. Hopefully I can fit them all in my suitcase :) Then that night for dinner Dominique wanted to make me a very French dinner. So I helped her make Salade de Périgourdine. It was absolutely delicious!!! It had three types of duck, pine nuts, potatoes, tomatoes, and bread. It was yummy!

Salade de Périgourdine

Me and Dominique after making dinner!

Tuesday was a nice and easy day. My host dad took me to visit seven vineyards in Gaillac. He had to collect wine for his sensory evaluation and for lab testing so I got to tag along. We visited some bigger, fancy wineries and some smaller, independent wineries. It was really cool to see all of them! Then this morning we did the same thing. We collected more bottles for testing. And this afternoon I helped label the bottles for his sensory evaluation, which I think he's having this Friday. After that, I packed up most of my stuff, and then some of Steve's colleagues came over for a swim. Some of them spoke English so I got to talk to them for a bit and have them make fun of the way I say Harry Potter, Plato, and intern. It was a good afternoon! Then I helped Dominique make my last dinner here in France. We made a big salad with some bread and hummus on the side. Then I had my last serving of bread and cheese :'( I'm really really going to miss France's amazing breads and cheeses. After dinner I gave my host family one last gift. I got my host parents a bottle of wine and a picture of all of us. I was nervous about the wine, but they said I picked out a good bottle, so thank god! I was afraid I'd give them a bad bottle. After that, we started to say our goodbyes.

I really had an amazing time with my host family, and I don't think I could ever thank them enough for everything they did. I'm really glad that I was able to spend the month with them, and I appreciate how kind and caring they were. They're a wonderful family and I'm really sad to be leaving.

So I guess that's it. I'll be heading back to Toulouse in the morning, giving my presentation on Friday, and then I'll be off to Germany on Sarturday. Hope all is well with everybody and hopefully I'll be able to post again sometime soon.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Discovering the Rest of France!

Sorry it’s been so long since I posted my last blog. I haven’t had Internet for almost a week because I’ve been on vacation with my host family. So I’ll try to catch you all up.

So last week was another hard week of work, but it was nice and short because my host family didn’t come home from their weekend trip to Champagne until Monday night. So I only had to work Tuesday-Friday, which was very nice.

Oh and I forgot to make a shout out to Farmer Trent in my last post. I worked on Farmer Trent’s farm (Green Gardens Community Farm) a few years ago and he basically taught me everything I know about farming. So I don’t know if you’re reading my blog, Trent, but if you are thank you for teaching me how to be a good farmer. Since I don’t really know the French language I think my work would’ve been a lot harder if you hadn’t taught me everything I know. But since I know about farming vegetables I can figure out what my host dad and his co-workers want me to do so thank you!

So this past Tuesday we raised vines all day. It was almost 100° and I thought my arms were going to fall off by the end of the day, but it was a good workout. After work, Pauline (my host sister) showed me her book of plants and animals and taught me how to say everything in French. I’m going to be pro at French vocab by the end of this trip; too bad I can’t form sentences. I also tried Camembert cheese for the first time today. It smelt pretty horrible, but I loved the taste!

Wednesday was another hard day. We went to work at 6am so this way it wouldn’t be so hot while we lifted the vines. We thought it was a good idea, but then it started to rain. So that plan kind of backfired; we were still soaking wet but with water this time instead of sweat, but we had a good laugh. So we lifted vines until 2 in the afternoon. Then when we got home I helped Pauline and Dominique (my host mom) make brownies. They were yummy! Then Dominique asked if I would make an American dinner for everybody and of course I said yes. So we ran to the supermarket and picked up a few things. I decided to do an American summer cookout kind of thing. So I grilled some hamburgers and hot dogs and I made a potato salad and three-bean salad. Dominique and Steve loved everything; Dominique even asked for the recipes. The kids loved the hot dogs and hamburgers, but they didn’t seem to like the salads too much, but at least they tried them.

After our American dinner we took some pictures!

Thursday was a big day at work. It was their open house; so many farmers and vineyard owners from the region came to see the company’s work and research. I helped set up for the open house in the morning, then in the afternoon I got to attend the open house. Unfortunately all of the presentations were in French so I didn’t understand most of it, but it was still interesting to see. After work Quentin (my host brother) and I played tennis again in the pool and practiced counting in French and English. We’re going to be pros at that by the end of the month. I also got to try chocolate croquants for the first time today. They’re a French dessert that are only found in this region; they were good!

On Friday I finally got to try some Abbaye Saint Michel wine. This is the wine that’s produced from the grapes they grow at my internship. My host dad was holding a sensory evaluation of a few of the Abbaye Saint Michel wines. So I helped set up for the evaluation and then I got to taste them as well! Then that afternoon we lifted more vines and we went home and packed for vacation!

Abbaye Saint Michel

The sensory room

Julien (my host dad’s co-worker), me, and my host dad

Workin hard!

On Saturday morning we left for my host family’s summer vacation. We are spending the week in Champagne visiting their relatives and going to Nigloland (an amusement park). The car ride took all day so by the time we showed up at the Nigloland hotel it was time for dinner. So we ate at the hotel’s restaurant, which was a buffet, and of course I wanted to try almost everything. I picked a few things from the appetizer table to try and I grabbed something called boudin noir. I had no idea what anything was so I just sat down and started eating. Then my host dad looked over and asked if I just ate the boudin noir. I said, “yes, why?” He turned to my host mom and said can you explain to Melissa in English what she just ate. And my host mom told me it was blood and onions blended together. I was like oh great, but I guess I liked it because I ate the whole thing. Then it was time for the main course. For the main course they had everything laying out uncooked and you had to tell the chef what you wanted. My host mom said to try Andouillettes because they’re a specialty of the region. I didn’t think anything of it and I ordered it from the chef. He looked at me and said are you sure because it’s definitely something special, and my host dad said, yeah it’s fine she can have it, she eats everything. So after I tried it my host dad told me that I had just eaten intestines. So I had a very interesting meal that night, but at least I liked everything!

The lobby of our hotel

Us hanging out at the hotel after a tough game of foosball

My Andouillettes (they’re the round things in the front)

Sunday was our day at Nigloland. Nigloland is just a small amusement park in Champagne that my host family likes to go to every summer. So we spent the day there and went on rides all day. Quentin (my host brother) and I went on an indoor rollercoaster 10 times! We had fun!


On Monday we drove to Dominique’s sister’s house and I got to experience a different type of cuisine. It was interesting to see how different the cooking is in the north of France from the south. Even though they’re sister’s they use local produce so their cooking styles are very different. My host parents also took me shopping today. They took me to their outlets. So I got to shop around there for a bit and see some French stores as well as American. They had a Nike store so I ran in real quick just to see what the prices were, and it was definitely more expensive than in the US especially with the exchange rate. Oh and we spent the night in a chateau!! It was really pretty!

The chateau!

My room!

Us at the back door of the chateau

Quentin, Pauline, and I showing our boilermaker spirit!

Then on Tuesday we drove to my host dad’s parents’ house. They live in Champagne as well but they live in a different area so we had to drive for about an hour and a half until we got there. We stayed at their house for 3 days. Steve’s mom was really nice and made escargot for lunch one day because I have never had it before. I absolutely loved it! It was so good! I also got to try a whole bunch of Steve’s dad’s homemade wine! He showed me his wine cellar and explained how he makes it. It was really interesting!

Me and Steve's mom with the escargot! Yum!

Me and Steve's dad with some of his home made wine!

On Friday we visited Dominique’s church in the town where she grew up. It was a small church, but it was very pretty. Then they took me to the city of Troyes. It was a quaint city! It had lots of little shops and restaurants and it had very pretty architecture. So they took me to one of the cathedrals and then we went out to dinner for our last vacation dinner. I also said good bye to Quentin and Pauline today :( They're staying with their relatives for a few weeks this summer so they didn't come home with us. I was sad to say good bye. I'm going to miss having them to hang with. They were fun kids!
Dominique's church in Longsols

The cathedral we visited in Troyes

Troyes! It's so pretty!

On Saturday we drove home. It took about 9 hours with about 7 hours of driving. We stopped at a cute little town on the way home and saw the cathedral and a celtic band playing. 

The cathedral

The celtic band

And today was a lazy day. We mostly hung around the house except for this morning Dominique and I went to the local market to pick up some food. I was very jealous of their market. They have a stand just for bread, just for cheese, just for meats, and just for fish. It was very cool! So I think that's it for now. I'll be leaving to go back to Toulouse this Thursday and then I will be off to Germany! Hopefully I will have internet at some point or another during the next week so I can keep you all updated. If not, I will update you all when I arrive back in the US. Can't believe my program is almost over. It went by way too fast and I think I'm really going to miss it here (especially all of the bread and cheese haha), but it's been a great experience!