The Cheshire Cat lives in Poitiers . . .

. . . and the (well, not anymore) White Rabbit is for tomorrow’s dinner:

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My host family only eats the meat, although it’s not uncommon to eat all of the rabbit; it just depends on the family, they said.  I was also told that this rabbit was so fresh that “he had been alive until yesterday evening”.

Meals have been really good, since ma famille like to cook, and everyone comes home for lunch. So far, we’ve only eaten outside in the very large garden which, if you go follow a path behind some trees in the back, also includes la cave.  There are even hazelnuts all over the ground there, which you can eat if you stomp doucement! as host dad said. Formerly a bomb shelter (Petit E., my little host brother, told me it was the only one in Poitiers during “the War”), the cave is now a storage room and wine cellar.

Now, how could there be a cave in someone’s backyard?  If they happen to live just inside the ancient, original part of Poitiers!

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The cave is a little behind the trees on the right, and so are the hazelnut trees. Petit E. also insisted that I try les framboises (rasberries, which are the plants growing along the wall to the right), and then he picked the rest for all of us to have with lunch.

After lunch, my host sister, (C.), and I went around Poitiers and saw the facade of la fac for Art History, which fortunately is a very ancient, beautiful building in the center of town.  I say “fortunate” because la fac for Language is ’60s architecture: modular and uninteresting at best; also, it’s a little farther out from the center of town.

We also went shopping, mostly of the window variety, followed by ice cream and a trip to Monoprix for the exciting purchase of shampoo.

Later, I learned how to play Yams and came in second (essentially, Yahtzee).

It seems that classes won’t truly start until at least the middle of September, according to C. Two of the four kids in my host family, who are not at university, start school around the middle of next week. However, I have intensive French class starting Friday, for a week.

So, with what’s left of les vacances, Petit E. and I play soccer in the backyard while he talks a mile a minute about rugby and handball, and all the bugs he can see in the tree he’s just climbed; C., B. (another host sister), host mom and I play Yams, then host dad comes home for lunch, C. and I walk around Poitiers and finally, around 8PM, we eat dinner.

Where we spend most of our time while it’s 23C outside (note the two cats; the white one is Zamal) :Image

The neighbors over the wall:

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I didn’t talk too much about getting from Charles de Gaulle airport to Poitiers, mostly because it was a very uncomfortable (and unusual, according to Mère), but hilarious, over-two-hours train ride from Paris to Poitiers. Very quickly, I will say that I found the train with someone who happens to be part of the same program, and we met two other students on the train, too.

It turns out that there are no baggage limits for the TGV (high-speed train), so for my 54,00Euro ticket I stood with my backpack on, crammed in between two train cars with at least fifteen other people, right next to les toilettes.  Eventually, as the train stopped in smaller towns (end point, Bordeaux), we had enough room to sit down–on the stairs leading up to the top floor of the train car! Two French guys took up part of the staircase but made room, and somehow my program friends and I were able to fall asleep, only to be woken up by people climbing up the stairs to use les toilettes.

Weren’t there toilettes downstairs, you ask, since we’d just left there? You’re correct, but oh–yes! Now I remember . . . I forgot to mention that some people returning from Provence had some “souvenirs” (seafood, although allegedly they were “nuts”) that had been sitting between the cars (where us fifteen people were wondering what the smell was, besides the obvious). Unrefrigerated. In addition, it was very hot on the train. Eventually, once people could leave and the rest of us were perched on stairs, some conductors came through, yelled at the women with their cacahuèts”, and took the two large coolers into the toilette cabinet, where the unbearably nauseating smell seeped out through the vent, which was–you guessed it–directly opposite those of us sitting on the grimy staircase.

Needless to say, the time difference did not help us look our best when we got to Poitiers, but neither does traveling on a late, overcrowded, hot and smelly train! At least I can wash some clothes and then add them to the clothesline of ma famille (Zamal encore)!

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3 thoughts on “The Cheshire Cat lives in Poitiers . . .

  1. Justin says:

    That was quite an adventure kid – glad you made it!

    I’m sure your host family was wondering why America sent a pungent fish to live with them (then again, maybe your odor fit right in?!?). After seeing the delicacy that is a skinned rabbit, I can’t imagine that smelled like fresh peaches either. I mean, what do you marinate that thing in? formaldehyde?. I would have dipped in the ole bag o’ tricks and fed my helping to the nearest living four-legged animal.

    Keep these posts coming. Loving the pictures.

  2. Jeremy says:

    Great first entry! You are an outstanding writer. As I’m sure you’ve quickly realized, your experience will never be boring. I can’t wait to read more.

    *Big hug*

  3. Jim says:

    Glad you made it Molly with an adventure no less. If they try to feed you the dog make sure you call for a pizza!

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