Archive for the ‘art history’ Category

Mont Saint Michel

Wednesday, December 31st, 1969

It’s going well! Class is actually pretty amusing, and my teacher is tough but interesting and very helpful. I’m beginning to notice improvements in my speaking ability. Of course, I’m also beginning to notice how nuanced all the different sounds in French are. Oops. So Tours in French isn’t pronounced like tours in English? Okay. There’s a difference in the sound between la rue and la roue? Okay. I’ve commenced serious work on my vowel sounds.

Life at L’Institut is not all work and no play though. Thursday, we took a trip in the afternoon to see Chanonceau, at chateau in the Loire valley and we also toured a winery. Despite a voluble tour guide and the entire world visiting the castle at the same time as we did, the Crusaders had fun and learned a lot too. Anne de Poitiers and Catherine de Medici built the chateau on a bridge over the Loire, a construction idea I had never seen before. But with all this excursion excitement, I most looked forward to Mont St. Michel on Saturday. An enthusiastic art history major, I had heard so much about the magnificent church precipitously perched atop a small mountain surrounded by the foaming ocean. Now, I finally had a chance to see it.

Waking up before the sun, I boarded the bus and tried to sleep for some of the four-hour bus ride. And without question, the end result was worth my stiff neck and burning eyes. After eating the picnic my French dad packed us, my friends and I ascended the steep slopes of the little mountain, and waited for our tour to begin. The building, breath-taking from far away and up close, mixes Romanesque and Gothic architecture to great effect. Even with our same garrulous, francophone tour guide and excess heat, I loved it. To get a brief repose after a fair share of climbing, our group headed to St. Malo, a popular beachside town situated not too far from Mt. St. Michel. We dined, watched a Michael Jackson impersonator go through five costume changes during his street performance, and walked along the beach. We even found a public bathroom we didn’t have to pay for. Not bad for some St. Malo neophytes.

Frenchies Veronica Forsythe, Sarah Cicchetti, myself, Caitlin Hodson, and Claire Borzner  all posing for a Kodak moment in front of Mont Saint Michel.

A view of the beach at St. Malo with fortifications in the distance.

Touring Around Tours

Wednesday, December 31st, 1969

Somehow, I did it. All of it. Everything, except one winter coat, which will have to be shipped, fit into my allotted luggage without exceeding the weight limit. I checked my bags and siphoned through security at Dulles International Airport without sustaining any injuries (physical, emotional, or otherwise). I proceeded through customs and collected my luggage easily when I arrived in Paris. By the time I finished carting my luggage on and off the tram to the railway station, my friend Caitlin already stood waiting for me. I even managed to have two full French conversations to obtain my train ticket to my final destination. Seventeen and a half hours after leaving my house, I finally made it to Tours, France.

My French father, Bernard, picked me up at the train station and brought me to the house he shares with his wife Colette. Built in the 1700s, the four-story home offers everything from fourteen-foot ceilings to WiFi and my own bedroom complete with courtyard and bathroom. This is going to be my home for the next three weeks? All this and a five-minute walk to school? Yes, I could very easily get used to living in France. My family here accommodates for pretty much all of my needs, including my vegetarian diet, which I certainly had a few qualms about. My French dad cooks some of the best tofu I’ve ever had.

All French students from HC, whether they study in Strasbourg or Dijon for the year, begin their year abroad in Tours at L’Institut de Touraine. The school is kind of like French boot camp. Early Monday morning, the professors talk with all new students and gage their French-speaking abilities. This evaluation, compiled with an hour-long test we completed online before arrival, allows them to place us in the appropriate level. Fortunately, I ended up in a level with three of my other friends. Each day, we have about five hours of class, as well as two hours for lunch. Approximately ten students make up my class, and any language but French is forbidden, though this rule is almost moot. Coming from all different countries like Switzerland, Japan, Brazil, South Korea, Spain and the United States, the students only share one common language. Luckily we haven’t had any drill sergeants yet, and with any luck, this won’t be a problem. Of course, if I can’t get my prepositions straight soon, one may just be in order


L’Institut de Touraine where I have classes everyday.

The Government Center for the City of ToursThe view on the way to one of the shopping districts. All heat and no air conditioning makes Crusaders want to go swimming in the fountain of the Tours center of government.

Back to School

Wednesday, December 31st, 1969

Dear Université de Strasbourg,

I’m so glad to return to school finally! After a whole month here in your home country, I really looked forward to stepping back into the classroom. I want to thank you for letting me study at your school! It looks like it should be a good year.

I must say, though, you certainly didn’t make it too easy. Back in America, we sign up for classes on the Internet. We receive an electronic version of the course list that includes a comprehensive list of all the classes in each department. I will say I do appreciate the way your system works though too. I certainly worked off a lot of those bread and cheese calories walking to each individual department located in various buildings scattered across the city to pick up the paper copy of that subject’s course listings, and then returning the following week to stand in line so that I could register for the classes I wanted to take. (Out of breath after that sentence? So was I.) With a lot of help from our academic advisor over here (and good walking shoes), I finally completed my enrollment. I found some great art history classes and an interesting course on Guy de Maupassant.

Now, I never would have guessed how keen you were at keeping your students on their toes. I suppose all the schedule and classroom changes make back-to-school that much more exciting. I didn’t know you pushed back my French literature class one hour. But, I did learn a lot about the mathematics of literature when I sat in on that other course in the same classroom at the time my Maupassant lecture was supposed to start. I know you just want to expand my academic interests and deepen the profundity of my life experience. However, I do wish you had told me that my Renaissance discussion group had moved. My French is okay, but my ancient Greek has become a little shoddy recently. Can you give me a hint as to where I can find that Renaissance class? My Greek professor didn’t know.

Well, I’ve learned you like to do things a little differently than I am used to back home at Holy Cross. But despite these Jedi mind tricks, I actually am looking forward to the classes I’m going to be taking. My professors seem smart, nice, and they don’t speak too quickly. The students I talked to have been incredibly helpful and good-spirited. I might just get the hang of this after all.

With anticipation, curiosity, and newly-minted, yet particularly defined calf muscles, your friend and student,

Mark Weyland