France Journal: June 5, 1996

ChambordOkay, the day is not over but feels as if it should be.  We have had a very busy schedule.  First, we had breakfast which was wonderful.  We then got on the bus and went to Chambord.  The chateau was quite marvelous.  The top was so intriquet.  There were so many places to go and many things to see.  I enjoyed it very much and ran into Mme Dobbs and one out of her group around every corner.  I started getting the feeling that they were following me.  At the next chateau, Chenonceau, the feeling was more free but more inhabitable.  There was a gallery which was in a long hall.  It had a very airy feeling and was free.  It was a much less eventful chateau than the first.  Next, we were off to Tours where we went to the Château d’Amboise.  It was very beautiful with several stained glass windows and gargoyles.  The windows showed many feur-de-lis, which also could be found throughout the chateau.  They also had a symbol on them which nobody knew what it was.  It was like a star with rays of light beneath.  After that we went to the Hotel de L’Europe where we stayed.  The lady at the desk was surprisingly kind.  The Evian machine was not working, but she helped.  I am spending $2-$3 on cokes because I really want them.  However, most are orange flavored sodas.  Par example, Orangina, Fanta Orange, Oasis, & two other ones that I have seen.  I am running out of money from coke — I may just eat a bagel for lunch tomorrow — I brought some.  I waited 20-30 minutes for the elevator because only one person would be able to go at a time.  The balcony is a 2-2 1/2 foot wide slab of concrete on which you can stand and a rail to hold you in.  Not real exciting.  We now must go eat and go to some show thing, but first, Arnaud.  He is very cool; he reminds me of Julien Gabriel.  I am just glad we didn’t get a courier who was very strict or was a complete airhead.  We ate at a very nice restaurant.  I never thought I would order from a wine list.  I had a red wine and it was aweful.  I hate it.  It was so gross.  I’ll never drink wine again.  The light show was relaxing.  We walked by one of the chateaus in the area.

» 28 August 2007

This was an extremely busy day on the trip.  The first chateau, Chambord, had an elaborate roof of many chimneys.  It was a beautiful building.  This was the first day that I felt really alone on the trip.  The rest of the group I had come with were hanging out together on the lawn and the Idaho group had continued on to look at the chateau.  I remember passing an open door where a man was doing some sort of work in the building while listening to Aerosmith.  It made me happy.

Chenonceau was rather boring, despite being beautiful.  It sits atop the River Cher and has a very unlived-in feeling.  I had more fun hanging out with Kamal, Arnaud, and a couple of girls from Cincinatti at the bus than I did at the chateau.

0605 Chateau d'AmboiseThe Chateau d’Amboise was lovely — my favorite chateau of that day.  Its massive gargoyles hang over the town below the chateau and the windows still have much of the original color in them.  The fleur-de-lis patterns were amazing.  It was at this chateau that I purchased a fleur-de-lis charm for my cousin.  As we were leaving, Arnaud pointed out (in passing) that Leonardo da Vinci’s grave was off to the side in a chapel.  We rushed over to the monument that had seemed hidden until pointed out and took pictures of it.  It seemed unreal — in fact it still does.  Unfortunately, the chapel was not open that day and we were unable to get any closer to the tomb.

I had taken bagels from home on my trip, which somehow seems wrong.  They did serve me well in those first few days though, saving money for future days when I would certainly need to eat.  That inital wine experience was rather traumatic.  I still don’t like wine or wine-flavored things such as coq au vin.  That was a great meal though — not the food, but the company.  Everyone was having a great time that evening.  It was nice.

» 1 September 2007

Julien Gabriel was the only other French person I knew to that point in my life.  I think Arnaud was very little like him, but as another French person I was reminded of him.  Also, they are the only two French people I have known in my life and I developed a crush on both of them.  Maybe it is that they are French… probably, in fact.

» 31 March 2016

As I said before, children should be educated in finances and budgeting.  If I had learned those skills before I went to France, my experience would have been more defined by the moments and experiences, and less by the things I bought.  Rarely did I give thought to what I was buying; I just threw my money at things and took them with me.  And did I need to waste so much money on orange soda?  No.  I remember feeling like I was exploring, discovering for myself those things enjoyed by the real people of France.  And at sixteen, I clearly knew everything about everything.  I knew far too much to ask for advice from those around me, deciding instead to do a trial and error test of things.  That is really a way of exploring that might be completely antiquated now.  With a smart phone, I may have done the research myself and found which sodas or stores or whatever were locally popular.  I still wouldn’t have better understood to not spend money on things that ultimately did not add to my experience.

0605 ChenonceauI wish I had written much more in my original journal than I did.  This was a huge day, full of history and beauty.  Each chateau could have taken an entire day of our attention, but we visited three different places.  I’m struck now with how different each experience was at each of the chateaux.  My immaturity at sixteen is to be expected, if disappointing, but I have previously annotated this portion of the journal and I find my lack of real insight or knowledge fascinating eleven years after the trip.  I’m not sure what I thought a revisit should be.  It seems fairly clear that I did not want to take away too much from the original by having too many opinions.  That was a mistake.  Brian at twenty-eight was thoughtful and poetic, none of which is reflected in these notes.

The hypothetical comes up often: if you could go back in time and do something differently, what would it be?  Of course, hindsight is such a convenient lens to view ones past through.  I think I’d probably tell myself to focus more on learning about history.  I was defiant when it came to history.  I found the memorization of dates and names to be absurd, I still do somewhat, but I wish I could tell my past self how amazing historical context can be to everyday life and how that can enhance everything.  It seems like I’m overstating here, but I don’t know if I’m even going far enough.  If I had known how interesting war can be, turning abandoned French chateaux into storage for art or into a hospital ward.  Visiting these places, things seem so peaceful on a warm June morning, but there were lives lived on the grounds, in the rooms.  These places were bombed, flooded, partially destroyed in fires.  These places were alive and after centuries of activity, rest quietly in picturesque villages, visited by tourists who will never understand them.

0605 Chateau d'Amboise da VinciThere is something so familiar about Europe.  European Americans have built for themselves a cultural heritage that really starts with the American Revolution.  It’s as though there had been nothingness and in the 1770s America sprang into existence.  Sure, there are a few stories of before (Plymouth, Jamestown, Roanoke), but they seem like myths in our infant culture.  250 years is still young, and part of the story is missing.  That story is one of the things I found in Europe.  I don’t know that I learned exactly what pieces filled in the gaps, but there was definitely a feeling that this country was a cousin to my own, a much older cousin.  Finding roots I didn’t even know existed, that feeling that these were at the very least the peripheral stories of my people, was a very interesting feeling.  I’m not sure I can even clearly articulate my feelings about it.