After spending one week in France, I already have a plethora of experiences to reflect over. Upon arriving in Toulouse I noticed several differences between American culture and French culture. The first observation was the amount of graffiti or "street art" scattered about the city. The people here view it as a form of expression and it is tolerated if not mildly approved. I can understand calling it street art when the design is will thought out and appealing. However, the scribbles spray paint everywhere its difficult for me to consider art. The greetings also differed drastically from America. Rather than a good ol fashioned handshake, almost everyone in France greet each other by kissing both cheeks! I heard this was common here, but I was nevertheless astounded by how often it occurred, even among the men. The cuisine in Toulouse, France was another surprise, especially the price. Since the cost of producing food here is significantly greater for most meat than in Texas, the price of meat is high. However fruits and vegetables are much more abundant than any other of the food groups causing their prices to be low. This is likely due to the massive amounts of farmland covering the countryside.
On my first morning in Toulouse I woke up before the sunrise and explored the town, giving me one of my favorite experiences of the trip thus far. From the farmer's market along the street with its fresh fruits and vegetables to the merchants outside the cathedral with their unique goods, Toulouse was full of life and history. The most memorable part of the exploration was walking along what I call main street and watching the rising sun's rays shine through the the green tops of the perfectly aligned trees creating a glorious golden sheen. To any future visitors I highly recommend waking up early and seeing the city as it begins its Saturdays. After roaming around the city I stumbled on some locals who thought I was German. Luckily, a couple if then spoke some broken English so communicating wasn't too difficult. I hung out with them for about, learning valuable lessons on the Toulouse locals: nearly everyone likes to drink and smoke. One other important culture tendency in France is most of the people do not speak English. They may know a couple words or phrases, but overall it is relatively difficult to verbally communicate with the locals.
Over the weekend, I ventured to Collioure with some fellow students to find a beautiful little tourist town with some delicious local beverages. The city settled on the Mediterranean coast with the chateau at the center, and it was organized so invaders would have a difficult time attempting a siege. The beaches were a little too rocky for my preferences, but the weather was phenomenal and the scenery brought everything together perfectly. All in all, Collioure is worth visiting. Plus the majority of its citizens spoke English.
The following day brought more adventure as we traveled to Luchon. Located in a valley, Luchon was surrounded by mountains that were covered in mist and a perfect location for hiking. After spending many hours adventuring around the mountainside, I relaxed at a fantastic little tea house in the center of town. The tea was delicious! At the end of the day we were all exhausted and ready to get back to Toulouse.
Through my field trips to Carcassonne, vineyards/winery, gardens, shall towns and other historical places, I have ascertained a greater understanding of the French culture and people. These experiences are building lifelong memories I will forever cherish. I cannot wait to build more in the next few weeks