“We must go beyond textbooks, go out into the bypaths and untrodden depths of the wilderness and travel and explore and tell the world the glories of our journey.”
- John Hope Franklin

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Au Revoir America, Bonjour France!

For all of you wondering, I made it to France! These have been a crazy past few couple of days for me, so I'll briefly bring you up to speed...

My family at the Inner Harbor

I said goodbye to Westfield early on Tuesday morning (8/23) when my family and I flew into Baltimore to spend the day and break up my long trip. We toured the Inner Harbor on a high-speed boat, during which a 5.9 magnitude earthquake struck just outside nearby Norfolk, VA and consequently sent Baltimore into a panic, although from the boat we had no idea that it had happened. Thankfully we stayed safe and enjoyed our day despite all the chaos.

Chaos following the earthquake, all buildings were evacuated

A damaged building after the quake

Stones fell from the spire and littered the street, causing police to block off the square
The rest of our afternoon was spent exploring all of the little shops and sights that Baltimore has to offer, ending with a delicious meal at Bertha's Mussles - of course I had the crab cakes, it would be a sin to be in Maryland and to not have them! 

Then on Wednesday (8/24) we moved on to spend my last day in the States in Washington, D.C., as my flight was leaving from Dulles later that evening and we wanted to cram in some sightseeing before my departure. So, in continuing with the touristy vibe, we took an iconic Duck Tour of the city so we could see lots in a short amount of time without having to trek all over creation on foot.  

A view of the Capitol Building from the Duck Tour
After a quick meeting at the airport hotel, my study abroad group said goodbye to our families & headed to the airport to await our red eye flight to Paris. We arrived in France on time & with all of our luggage - what are the chances that 65 people with multiple bags all end up finding every last one at the airport? A bus was waiting for us and promptly whisked us away to the city of Tours, about 2 hours southwest of Paris, where we will spend the next two weeks taking refresher grammar, conversation, culture and other classes to accustom us all to living in France before we head off for life in Paris. Here, we stay with temporary host families - I'm living with a 35-ish year old woman named Aurélie in her very small apartment on the edge of the city. Check out my neighborhood & city here!

I'm quickly settling into a routine & finding life not all that different from home as of yet. A few things I've noticed that are different & take some adapting to: drinking my morning tea out of a giant bowl instead of a mug, using a handheld shower (as everyone knows I am lacking in the coordination department!) & eating considerably smaller meals at odd hours of the day, just to name a few for now. As far as culture shock goes, however, I am fortunate to have traveled before and have been exposed to such differences in small doses, so I'm not feeling too overwhelmed as of yet - this may change as I transition into life in a huge city like Paris!

I had some nice visitors last night, as my Uncle Dave was visiting his fiancée Ana in Paris and they both drove down to Tours to take me to dinner last night! We went to a delicious restaurant, Les Pierres Fondus, where we had - you guessed it - fondue! We had a leisurely evening chatting over some yummy Bordeaux rosé and I ended my meal with the best profiterole ever.

Posing for pics with the camera balanced on the car's roof!
On our way to dinner

Enjoying our yummy fondue!

I'm just getting ready to set off on an excursion with my group today - we're headed to the Château d'Amboise this morning, as the city of Tours is situated in the heart of the Loire river valley where all sorts of these Renaissance castles are located. More to come soon!

And in case you were wondering, the title of my blog, "La Vie Est Ailleurs," means "Life is elsewhere" and comes from a contemporary French song I love by a French-Canadian artist who goes by Coeur de Pirate (Heart of a Pirate). Check it out here!

Feel free to comment below with questions or post whatever you like!


  1. That's so funny that you didn't feel the earthquake at all when you were so close to the epicenter. Your meal out sounds amazing, I bet the wines are delicious too.

  2. Hey Rachael,
    Very cool blog, I am looking forward to following your adventures. Looks like you are off to an excellent start, albeit the earthquake.....food and drink look yummy, very cool about meeting up with Dave and Ana. Love and hugs to you

  3. hope your having fun...sounds like you have been way more productive this past week than me haha. Westfield is currently preparing for the "hurricane"...aka everyone in town was at the liquor store this morning. Gotta be prepared! Love the pictures, miss you!

  4. Hi Rach,

    Looks like you are having a great time and your blog looks really nice. Make sure you get out and so everything you can and have a great time. Love you tons and tons!! :)

  5. sounds good so far. looking forward to more. have fun and take lots of pics.

  6. Denae- Yes, I think I've consumed my weight in wine since I've been here & they're all absolutely delicious - & cost under 2 euro per bottle!

    Allison- Glad you like it! Hope everyone has as much fun reading it as I do posting to it!

    Lisa- Happy I'm far away from hurricanes, weather's been sunny and in the mid 70's every day so far, hope you stocked up on alcohol to get you throught!

    Mom- I'm walking my little (or big, as it were) feet off, discovering all sorts of cool stuff & places off the beaten path.

    Mike- I think I'll need a bigger memory card at this rate! haha

    Thanks for all the love everyone :)

  7. Hey Rach...amazing pics already-and you left just days ago! My prediction is what- a million pictures by the time your return? Keep up the good work.
    Love ya-
    Aunt Wen

  8. Hi Rach... So happy for you! It's an adventure you will always remember. Make the most of every day and ENJOY!!! Before you know it MOM and DAD will be there to visit. I'll keep tabs on you along your journey with everyone else. We already miss that never ending smiling face of your's.
    You take care and be safe!
    Love Ya-