Bonjour to all! Welcome to the third installment of Laura’s Epic Life in
France. It’s been a fabulous week, and I want to thank everyone who’s sent me
email lovin’ during the last week. Getting emails is about the closest thing I
get to hugs around here…
So new in the world this week. I started my new class on Monday. I’ve
traded 5 hours a day of French language classes for 6 or so hours of day of region
history (meaning the history of the Franche-Comte region, in which Besancon
is located). It has been a wonderful change. Grammar was about to kill me,
so I traded it in for something I love. Monday we had a couple hours of
lecture on the basics of prehistory after which Abby (the only other girl in the
class with me (and we have two professors, go figure)) and I were set loose in
Center Ville with the assignment of locating traces of the ancient
Gallo-Roman city. Wahoo! We spent two hours wandering up and down Grand Rue, while I
poked at such oddities as the Porte Noire, Square Castan, a couple of random
stone urns, etc. I was having a blast, although I think Abby was either
bored or annoyed. She doesn’t talk much, and I can’t figure out what her
interests are. Kinda unfortunate since she’s usually the only company my age that I
have, but we get along well enough.
Tuesay we took a guided tour into the depths of Square Castan, which should
have been absolutely thrilling for me, but thanks to our guide, I ended up
more cranky than enlightened. The woman, a local of the area whom I believe
works for the Office of Tourism, spent the entire two hours of our trip talking
exclusively to Prof. Chase. The one time I ventured to ask a question, she
looked kind of startled then turned and gave Prof. Chase my answer. Grrr…
Another thing I’ve noticed is that when French people talk about their
history in front of (or to) Americans, they talk as if we have no idea what’s going
on. “Did you know that French wasn’t always the language spoken in this
area? It came from Latin, actually.” Yeah thanks, learned that in French 101.
But anyway. The tour was interesting. Square Castan has a rather mysterious
past as well as a series of aquaducts that runs through it. With the guide,
we got to poke around inside them. We also got to visit some Roman floor
mosaics that were dug up in a parking garage.
Wednesday we took a trip out to the Saline Royale of Arc-et-Senans.
Incredible architecture by a guy named Ledoux who thought he could make a Utopian
society out of a salt factory. The result of this little outing was a two page
paper I had to write on why people continue to think that Utopias will work.
If I hadn’t had to write it in French, I might even have said something
worthwhile… Oh well.
Thursday Abby and I were on our own with the task of exploring the Citadel
and a couple of museums inside. The Citadel is a big ol’ rock complex that
sits on top of the mountain between the two sides of the river Doubs. (The Doubs
is shaped like a C.) It was built first by the Romans, and later completely
redone by our good friend Louis XIV to all it’s present splendor. The weather
was miserable, so after hiking a million miles up a very steep hill in the
blowing rain, Abby and I opted to skip the grand tour and stick to the museums.
We had to go through the Musee Comtois, which is basically regional history
again – very much similar to what you’d find in the Journey, for those of you
who have had the pleasure in SD. The other museum we were required to visit
was the Musee de la Resistance et la Deportation. That just put me in a bad
mood. Besides being an utterly depressing subject, half the museum was
dedicated to the French resistance to the war – a subject I don’t have half enough
education in French history or politics to really appreciate. And then I had
to write a paper on it. I asked Marie-T to revise that paper after I wrote
it, and came out of the editing session in the worse mood I’ve been in since
arriving. I’m very frustrated with my inability to *write* in French, much
more so than my inability to speak French. I expect to be bad at that, but
I’ve always thought I could write reasonably well… There again, I’m working
on it. That’s why I’m here.
Today has been a bit bizarre. I haven’t had class at all yet (it’s 12:45)
and don’t until 3:00. I managed to pry myself out of bed at 9:30, and spent
the morning wandering around Centre Ville. By now, I’m oriented well enough
that I feel confident I can wander without getting irretrievably lost. The
problem is that all the streets are crooked, so you think you’re going one
direction and you end up someplace completely different. I managed to invent a
new route from my bank to the CLA that only takes 3 times as long as the one I
normally take. Hehehe. It was a nice morning, in any case, and I’m getting
pretty good at window shopping, even if I don’t feel quite brave enough to go
into the stores yet. 😉
I don’t really have any weekend plans yet, although I think I’m going to meet
a couple of friends for “drinks” after class today. Oooh, yes I do have
plans! I forgot. Marie-T is going to a dance tonight, and I’m going to go
along… I’m kind of afraid, actually… Scary french men might ask me to dance…
but I miss dancing so much I figure it might be worth the risk, and if it
turns out to be too scary I can always relegate myself to a dark corner and just
watch. I’ll let you know how it goes.
Okay. Time to wander off and find some lunch. I’m sending best wishes to
all of you – send me a note if you get a minute and let me know how life is on
your respective ends of the world. Family – I want full details on the
Denver/Greeley adventure. Until then, much love, and I’ll write again soon.