Monday, June 23, 2014


It has been a week since the end of the study abroad. While the trip was amazing and a lot of fun, I sit here and enjoy my peace and quiet. While I am still in Germany, I have no schedule to keep and no immediate plans. I set thing at my own pace and even take time to just lay in bed ALL DAY! I have a few things to still get used to being in Europe and still another few that will change my life forever but the experience of this study abroad has definitely made a huge impact on my view of home and of the world.

I have come to realize how much a person like me needs personal time. I need to be able to sit alone and decompress all the information I have received in a day and sort it away in my memories or else i just might go crazy.

I have decided to make some changes to the way I live back home and really think about what I can do to contribute to society. This study abroad has brought up some puzzling questions that i feel i need to answer soon. The fun, the excitement, the education and the camaraderie are just pieces of the experience and i am not left longing for more. I need to figure out how i am going to live my life so i can create even more memories like this study abroad.

I want to send my thanks to everyone on this trip.
 For Matt
 For Brianne
 For Casey
 For Julien
 For Katrina

For Kyle
Thank you everyone. You made this trip a blast and i look forward to seeing you all in CS!

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Yeah dude, go to Paris

Paris, Paris, Paris. What an amazing city. After spending three weeks hearing how much I wont like Paris because the people are stuck up and the city is dirty I am happy to report that Paris might just be added to the “favorite city” list. The city itself was astounding and don’t even get me started on how beautiful some of the people were, one stereotype about Paris that is true is the fact that no matter what socioeconomic class you are apart of, you dress well. And boy did they. But I am not a fashion blogger so all you need to know is that the people are gorgeous, nothing more and nothing less. I really want to talk about the city it self though, there are so many important historical monuments that reflect on different events through history. Whether you’re going to visit Notre Dame, the Louvre or Arch de Triumph you’re going to see a lot.

We were busy from the very minute we arrived, the train ride was rough to say the least after our final night in Toulouse where the whole crew went out with our good friend Elie. The trip from the train to our hotel was more annoying than anything; I don’t think they have figured out escalators in Paris yet so lugging a 57 pound suit case half way across the city was…a work out. But once we finally arrived everyone’s spirits lifted almost instantly.

Out of all the experiences we took part in during out stay in Paris I want to reflect on just a couple. First is Monet. Ok well that may not seem like an experience per say but it seems like everything I enjoyed the most he had a hand in. We visited his home in Giverny and what a place, I had no idea that he was such a passionate gardener. He seriously created one of the most elaborate landscapes I have ever seen; everything flowed almost poetically. But seeing the landscapes that he painted so many times over and walking through the same hallways that he did really took me away. A few days later we visited an art museum that featured a large number of his paintings and I would not have appreciated it nearly as much as I did if we had not visited his house first; where he found so much inspiration.

Now I want to talk about something that I think students sometimes lose sight of while on a study abroad. GET OUT AND MEET PEOPLE. I can not even tell you how tired we were some days because of all the traveling we did, but it never once stopped us from going out to dinner, a bar or for a walk around the city. Whenever we wanted to go somewhere, as long as it wasn’t across the city, we walked and if we had not walked I don’t think I would have had the same opinion of Paris. Yeah the street vendors can be kind of annoying sometimes and yes there are a lot of homeless people, but once you look past the small things the city and the people are magnificent. I could probably walk around Notre Dame and the Louvre all day if I had the opportunity. When people notice you’re not from Paris or even France for that matter they want to know what you’re doing in the city. I talked to so many different people and really had some incredible experiences just because I (hopefully) wasn’t walking around mean mugging people all day. The most important thing I’ve learned from this trip is to keep an open mind and don’t not talk to someone just because you’re afraid/embarrassed/shy. Get out there and be out going and act like you want to meet people because they want to meet you; and these people are like little keys that open doors to a whole other world that I would have never experienced without being a little outgoing and taking a chance on someone.

Don’t listen to the stereotypes of other countries, they will only taint your view of the world. You can never form an opinion of something unless you’ve actually been there and done it. If I would have listened to everything I heard about France I would have had an awful time; I had the time of my damn life on this trip! People in other countries want to meet you and they want to hear about your life, and believe me there are some incredible people out there.

Get out an experience life, take a chance, be outgoing and get off the stupid internet.

If this blog changes just one persons view of traveling it will have been a success.

I’m going fishing now (imagine my fishing pole coming to me like Thor’s hammer) and I’ll be in Northwestern Ontario for the next two months eating, drinking and fishing; some things never change.  

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Till the next time my friend...

I have continued my trip from pairs and have ended up in Germany. Internet has been hard to come by as I'm still settling in here but I have managed to find the elusive WiFi and will continue with this blog.


Just kidding. The difference between southern France and northern France would be subtle to someone who just visited for a few days. But to me the difference was almost palpable. I noticed the standoffishness and self-interest I first felt from the people in Toulouse (brought on by there pride of themselves) was replaced by scheming and greed. The entire place was a tourist trap. While the scenery was beautiful, it seamed like every shop, every restaurant was trying to find a way to take more and more of our money. Things were beginning to get tight as my budget was getting depleted and the touristy Paris seemed not to care as food and drinks became more expensive. I mean seriously, a can of Coke for 5 Euros?

While this feeling of getting screwed over was common, there were occurrences of true generosity. Versailles was such an example. The tour was fantastic and the guide seemed genuinely pleased with our presence and very passionate towards his work. His boss had the same pleasant attitude and was a blast to be around even though he didn't speak a word of English. A man like him would make it far back in the states. 

The gardens we saw were amazing. I find it difficult to imagine these types of plants doing well in the Texas heat but they are something I have always wished for in my own landscape. The colors and precision of the gardeners was inspiring and I will definitely bring back some ideas for my personal use at home.

Overall This trip has been a blast. I learned a lot. I ate a lot. But most of all I long for home. The time abroad has allowed me to think more openly to new ideas and has also strengthened my own opinions. It has been a reinforcing experience that makes me happy and proud to call a place like Texas my home.

Oh did I mention I got engaged?!?!

 The obligatory Eiffel Tower picture. This thing is hard to get all in one photo.
Gargoyles are awesome. I bet Katrina will get sick just from looking at this picture. I won't drop my phone I promise!!!

Monday, June 16, 2014

France...An Adventure To Return To

    This week’s events could not have been a better way to conclude our study abroad here in France. Museums, gardens, and national monuments were the primary focus of this week. All of our visits could not have been possible though without the Paris museum pass.
    On Monday we went to see the Louvre which is famous for Greek sculpture, Italian paintings, and other relics from early civilizations. The Louvre also has the most well-known painting the Mona Lisa. From what everyone else told me I thought the painting would be really small but after seeing it I consider it normal size. We also saw the sculpture of Venus de Milo which was my favorite piece of what we saw that day. Afterward we made use of our museum pass again and went to the top of Notre Dame. We could see all the major landmarks of Paris from up there.
     On Tuesday we took a train to Monet’s garden in Giverney, and our tour guide gave us a very nice explanation about the structure of both gardens. My favorite of the two gardens was the water garden which had Monet’s famous bridge that is seen in some of his paintings. In the afternoon we had a picnic in the nearby town.

      Wednesday we went to some botanical gardens and we got to see five different gardens that represented every period of plant evolution. My favorite of the five gardens had plants from every mountain range on six continents to represent the global differences. Then we had lunch at a mosque and I ate pork cooked with almonds and prunes. Then we went to another museum after lunch where I found my favorite painting in Paris. The painting was of two chickens engaged in a fierce battle of dominance with two people watching close by. One day I will hang this picture in my house.
      Thursday was my second favorite day of the entire trip, visiting the Versailles castle and gardens. Our tour of the castle was too short I thought because Versailles has over 6000 rooms and we only saw about twenty five of them. After a small lunch we went to meet the gardeners that take care of Versailles’s 34000 hectares of gardens. We were very lucky to get to see some of the gardens because they are only open to the public in late summer. These gardens had very different tones based on who build each one. We didn’t get a chance to go see Marie Antoinette's gardens but hopefully I will come back to see them. After the tour we got to go back to the main gardeners building and we got to drink champagne with him. He told us that previously no Americans that went to see the gardens really enjoyed them. He was a very fun spirited man that didn’t speak much English but could convey his meanings with hand gestures.
     On the last day of the trip we were allowed to go anywhere we wanted in Paris. After waiting in line for the Eiffel Tower for two hours and getting nowhere we decided to go to lunch at a nice restaurant. Then we decided to make one last use of our pass so we went to the Arc de Triumph just down the road. This was very cool to see in person because of its significant role in WWII and the French Revolution. In the evening we had dinner together with our professor at a very nice restaurant that had live band and nice dancers.

      Saturday I took a train to the airport. Since Wednesday the train unions had been on strike so after a certain point I had to take a taxi because there were no more trains running to the airport. Once I got on the plane and watched France disappear below the clouds I used the rest of my flight to reflect on the events of this past month. I met so many new people and formed several lasting friendships here that leaving is most assuredly bittersweet. This will certainly be a trip I will never forget, and hopefully one day I will return. Au revoir for now!


Sunday, June 15, 2014

"Louis, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship."

           After a trek to the train station, a trip in a cab, and a long talk on the plane, I am back in Texas.
France sent us away in style, including several different forms of transportation, as if making sure we were culturally sound before leaving.  Train strikes are something that personally annoy me now.  Before, they were just something that happened, affecting other people, another person’s problem, not mine.  However, on Saturday when the train was supposed to take us to the airport, and we had no idea when or if it was going anywhere, I personally made it a point to put “train strikes” on my
short list of annoyances.  All turned out well, however, when the three of us whom had flights around the same time decided to take a cab to avoid playing Russian roulette with the trains and missing our flights.    All in all, we made it; I had time to get a few macaroons; and the macaroon stand had my favorite “citron,” which is “lemon” in English.  A job well done, I’d
            This week was one for the books.  I got to see many historical pieces that, before, I had only known to exist in history books or a classroom.  My eyes were on masterpiece overload after seeing sights such as the beautiful Notre Dame, Monet and Van Gogh paintings at d’Orsay, the Louvre with Mona Lisa, the gardens of Versailles, and believe it or not everyone, the Eiffel Tower does exist, and it twinkles at the beginning of every hour once it gets dark.  A sight worth the trip if you are asking me.
            A recurring theme to my trip has been disbelief in how old everything is.  I mean, centuries do not tread lightly.  There are wars, natural catastrophes, and human wear and tear on these masterpieces, yet, they are still with us today.  Maybe not in their prime condition, but in a condition we can appreciate and still see with an artistic eye of how and why they are considered something special.  It was not until Versailles that I really understood France as a whole.  The head gardener gave us a private tour of the gardens, and at one point he stopped and explained that many new people whom come to work there want to add or change things in the garden to “change it up a bit,” since it has been the same for hundreds of years.  He went on to tell us that Versailles had already been designed; and this garden that is still considered a just as much of a masterpiece now as it was in the past did not need to be redesigned, it needed to be maintained.
            I think this mentality is what I could sum my trip to France up with.  The people there know how beautifully there country has been shaped and built.  They know they have some of the greatest architecture, art, and landscape in the world, and they know it is their duty to preserve it, not change it.  It is this mentality that makes France so archaic and truly a one of a kind place.
I could not have asked for anything more out of this trip.  It was my first time out of the country, I got to see world-renowned sights, and I owe lots of this to a great group of Aggies who made it a trip to remember.  

The End of an Adventure

Wow. The past four weeks have been life changing. I have seen some of the most beautiful places in the world and made some of the most amazing friends I could ever ask for. This last week in Paris has just been the cherry on top of an unforgettable adventure.

We did everything I wanted to do while we were in Paris (except go to the Eiffel Tower, but I have to have some reason to come back, right?), but the best part was Versailles. It was absolutely one of my most favorite days of the whole trip. We took a tour of the chateau in the morning and in the afternoon, we got a private tour of the garden from one of the assistant directors of the garden. We got to see parts of the garden that were locked to regular tourists and hear about the way gardeners manipulate perception to make everything look perfect, although it's actually not. It was so interesting, and incredibly beautiful.

After our private tour, we went back to the gardener's office and hung out with the head gardner of Versailles. He spoke no English, but the language barrier was not a barrier at all. It made things light and fun and his animated personality made it simple to understand his good humor. I don't know if I have ever laughed so hard in my life, or met someone so hospitable. He even invited us to the Marie Antoinette Masquerade Ball that they are having on June 28. Looks like I will be heading back to Paris sooner than I thought...

 I learned a valuable lesson that day while I looked out at the canal, which looks like it is the exact same thickness all the way to the end, but in reality it gets progressively wider because if it did not, it would look much smaller at the far end than the near end. Not everything in life is at seems, and physical perception can easily fool the mind of a simple man. I am so blessed to have had this opportunity to learn so many new things. I now feel a new kind of intelligence and desire to learn growing inside me. This desire is to learn about all things, not just those that I would normally be drawn to. I am excited to start the next chapter of my life, sad to close this one, and delighted to have introduced such beautiful new characters into this story that we call life!

Friday, June 13, 2014

The End of a Journey

My final week in France had come to an end.  Spending it in Paris was the perfect way to conclude the journey.  The week began with a journey to the Louvre.  The subway system is pretty efficient here and I arrived there quickly.  Walking up to the Louvre I was astounded at the sheer size of the palace.  It was gigantic.  The line to enter the pyramid wound around the structure for what would likely be an hour long wait.  Fortunately we were able to skip the line and go directly into the museum.  The amount of relics and paintings in this place is ridiculous.  I spent over 3 hours in it and only viewed about a fifth of the total amount!  Weaving my way through the dense crowds was entertaining, especially since I was able to see the Mona Lisa and other great works of art.

Later that evening, I went with the group to Notre Dame where we traveled the arduous climb to its top.  The view was phenomenal.

I also visited a few other notable museums like the modern art museum and one which had Monet's and van Gogh's works of art.  Both were exquisite and worth visiting.

The day before visiting the impressionist museum I took a trip to Giverny and visited Monet's house and garden.  His garden was remarkably beautiful with a plethora of flora and so many various exotic species that it is no wonder he spent most of his evenings painting there.

After admiring his garden I noticed a heavy focus of nature in his art and could easily decipher which works were his in the museum.  It was interesting to paintings of the garden I had recently visited, and I recommend others visit his garden before appreciating his artwork.  Another quality I observed of Monet is the influence of Japanese art I'm his life.  He admired their appreciation of nature and one can see the impact it had in his art.

The gardens in Paris are beautiful and soothing.  The botanical gardens was another one of these gardens I enjoyed visiting.  It had a wide selection of plants from across the globe.  The garden had a section for each geographical landscape you could think of and plants/flowers to go with it.  Inside the greenhouse was a mass of prehistoric plants that created a jungle-like atmosphere.  This garden also had an exhibit showing the evolution of plants.  If you're in the area this garden is worth a visit and it's inexpensive.

The last and best trip was the the Chateau de Versailles.  The best word to describe Versailles is amazing. The palace itself is enormous, but it paddles in comparison to the size of the garden.  Each room in the palace is decorated witty great works of art either on the walls and/or the ceiling and are extravagant enough for any king.  One could spend half a day in the palace on its own, but the real attraction is the garden of Versailles.  The garden is immense.  It has so many sections you could spend a whole day exploring them all and still have more to see.  I was able to go on a guided to with through the gardens, which gave me access to sections only available to gardeners.  Once our time with tour was up we went back to the gardeners headquarters and enjoyed some refreshing beverages with the master gardener.  My time at Versailles was cut short ,and I was unable to see all of the gardens I wanted to.  However, this means that I will have to come back and visit it again!

This trip has been a wonderful once in a lifetime experience.  I have enjoyed every moment here and am disappointed this journey is nearing its end.  However, as one journey ends, another begins, and I will enjoy my next journey as much as this one.  Although I feel as if my time here was cut short, I will forever remember and cherish this adventure.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Last week in Toulouse!

Our last week in Toulouse went by entirely too fast. On Tuesday we crammed into a car and drove to Roquefort, France. Here we learned about all the specialized processes that go into producing Roquefort cheese. Cheese is something I am very interested in so I had been looking forward to this trip most of all. The place we went to was called Societe cheese. Here they produce three different kinds of Roquefort cheese along with several further processed products. Along the tour we learned the legend and history behind the cheese. Deep in the cave where the cheese grows for three weeks it was cold and you could see the mold growing on the rock walls. When we finally got to the growth room it was breath taking to be able to see all the cheese lined up wall to wall. We were allowed to go inside the growth room and talk to one for the cheese masters of Societe. He showed us how he digs into the core of the cheese wheel to make sure there is adequate growth throughout the cheese. At the end of the tour we got to sample the Roquefort cheese and purchase some freshly wrapped. This was definitely an experience I will be crossing off my

bucket list.
This week we also toured several other caves including one with cave paintings from over 12000 years ago. We took a boat tour along an underground river that had different types of stalagmites and stalactites. And we viewed two water plants that purify and recycle the water supply for Toulouse. For our last week here in Toulouse we made sure to sample as much food as we could, we even had a delicious fondue with mushrooms floating right in the cheese.

We got to Paris yesterday and have already seen so many sites. In one day we walked around the city and viewed the outside of several famous landmarks. We have seen the Louvre, Arc de Triumph, the French embassy, and of course the Eiffel tower just to name a few. Later this week we are going to see parts of the Louvre but it will be too big to see it all even in the short week we have. I also tried escargot for the first time and loved it. Time to immerse myself in Paris’s history, this last week is gonna go out with a bang!

Off to Paris

So we have managed to make it to Paris finally. The 3 weeks in Toulouse were definitely eye opening. There are many beautiful places we had a chance to visit. One of the most touching things i saw would have to be the day we went to the underground river and prehistoric caves. it was amazing to think about how long ago humans created images of what they saw. The number of years before recorded history. The ancient tools and techniques and how far we have come along with the technology we have today and what might be accomplished in another 16000 years. I'm looking forward to what Paris has in store for us. So far during our free time we have see some great things, noticed the massive lines, and had some food that brought us home for just a little bit. Home sounds nice about now and its hard to believe that we only have one more week in France.

The hotel we are in will be a challenge. It seems strange to me how accepted no air conditioning is here. Back in America a/c is essential to life it seems. I can hardly imagine living in Texas without a/c. Back to the hotel, as you can guess we have no air conditioning in our rooms. The windows would be nice, if the room didn't back into a closed off ally with no airflow. The wifi is bad and we will see if I will even be able to post this blog.

Out trip has been a journey that will not be easily forgotten. We have learned and loved, yelled and shouted, we have been saddened, we have been overjoyed, but most of all we have been given the chance to experience things that we would not be able to experience back home. The people, the food, the sights and weather. all of these have added up to an adventure for the ages.

(sorry not pictures this week. unable to upload images from my phone, will post some when able.)

Small Transportation, Big Destinations

        It is hard to believe that we only have one more week in France. Right now I am on a train headed to Paris, sitting with six other Aggies. Some are sleeping and others, like myself, are wishing they could sleep, which has been a recurring scene this week. We covered many miles around southern France this week in a rental car that had seven seats exactly...but unlike the United States, a seven seater does not have the leg room of a Suburban. But shoulder to shoulder and knee to chin, we trekked over and around the green French country hills. We saw chateaus, caves, and various other facilities, but my two favorites of the week were Roquefort Cave and Montsegur Castle.
        Roquefort is a town built around the production of their famous Roquefort cheese. It spends about two weeks in the actual cave, maturing with the help of a fungus to give it a specific and renowned taste. So far, the simplest way I have found to describe the difference in how cheese tastes here is to say that they are strong. There are probably so many different elements to assess, but I feel like this sums them up. Cheese and bread are staple food items in France, and they are even offered as a substitute for dessert at the end of meals. Since I arrived, it seems to me that the goal of everything is simplicity, not necessarily the simplest way to do something but definitely the more natural way to doing things. And this goes right down to the style of food they have. Bread and cheese are as old as time it seems, and yet it is something France takes pride in and makes extraordinary. Simplicity with some integrity mixed in is truly the best way to make something beautiful.
        If anyone ever asks me if I have toured all of France, I will have to say “no,” but if anyone ever asks if I have ever seen all of it, I believe I can say “yes.” The view from Montsegur was breathtaking. You could see villages nestled within valleys, winding rivers, and billions of trees. And I have to say I am a little envious of the people who lived there so many years ago. They got to wake up and see that everyday...they also had to climb up to it, but I would do that hike five times a day for that view.
         I am learning, especially through what we saw this week, that people are incredibly smart. And I know that sounds silly because yes we all use our brains and have since time began, but looking at all of the architecture here and the tools developed, it is inspiring to see our capabilities. I am in awe of what the human mind can imagine and what the human body can build. Next stop, Paris!

Au Revoir Toulouse, Bonjour Paris

This week was the last and best week in Toulouse!  It started out with a tour of Toulouse by Julien.  During this tour we visited multiple churches.  Each church had unique elements from different points in history, and each one was beautiful.  The architecture and paintings were incredible!
After visiting some churches and eating lunch we went to a high rise parking garage where we could see the city from a different perspective.  The view was remarkable; I now know why it is called the pink city.

The next day we traveled to Roquefort to learn how their cheese is made.  This is one of the two best experiences I have had on this trip.  We were given VIP treatment! Not only did we learn the process from the cheese master himself, we also had complimentary samples of all of their cheeses.  Needless to say, the cheese was delicious.  One thing I have learned is their cheese making process is precise and time consuming, but it is worth it.

The best day I have had pin this trip was on Thursday.  It started out with a relaxing boat tour of an underground river.  From there we has a delicious lunch at a local restaurant.  I do not think I will ever get tired of eating duck; I wish it was more common in the states.  After the meal we headed toward our main destination, a cave containing prehistoric drawings.  This cave was fascinating! It was completely dark (except for our flashlights), which added to the effect.  The drawings were interesting.  My guess is the cave was used as a celebration area where people would go to relax and converse after a hunt.
  From there we traveled to some castle ruins.  After a nice hike to the top of the hill I could see a breathtaking view of southern France.

On Saturday we departed for Paris by train.  Upon arrival I was greeted with massive clusters of impatient people.  Once everything was organized and checked into the hotel, I headed directly to Chipotle.  Since chipotle uses local ingredients at its restaurants I thought it would be an interesting comparison. It was more expensive but just as delicious.  After chipotle we made our way to Notre Dame.  It was a remarkable sight.  From there we traveled to the Louvre for a quick look.

 The next morning I went with the group to see the Eiffel tower.  We were unable to go up it due to the amount of people in line, but just standing near it was a worthwhile experience.  Once we were done with pictures we explored that part of the city. Although I have only been in Paris for a little over a day, I can tell it is going to be a great week.

How does one person have so much fun!?

I don’t think life gets any better than it is right this moment. I’m sitting outside of a small French café eating and drinking; watching the people stole by. This past week has been, by far, the best week in France yet. The things we’ve seen and the people we’ve met have been simply incredible.

With our final days in Toulouse we traveled, ate amazing food and hung out with some very cool people. Probably one of the most interesting moments last week was when we traveled to Rockford cheese to learn about the rich history and unique process they use to make their world-famous cheeses. Seeing the caves and all the cheese wheels wasn’t nearly as unique as meeting the master ager of said cheese and the head of international business. I was very humbled by the fact that two of the most important people at the facility would take time out of their busy day to meet us and talk with us for a few minutes, they are masters of their respective fields. I had a very interesting conversation with the lady in charge of international business because for once I final could finally hold a interesting conversation about something we were learning about, biodiversity is a little over my head. I would love to be their business partner and bring Rockford to Texas! (Like that’ll ever happen! But a man can dream..) Another unique experience last week was visiting the cave paintings in the mountains, I was again very humbled to see something that was 14,000 years old. Who gets to do that!? I like that we spent a lot of time outside the classroom last week, I learned so much more walking around than I ever did in a lecture. Our last night in Toulouse was spent out on the town with our good friend Elie, man did we have a good time eating Lebanese food and enjoying the night life one last time.

Okay now we are in PARIS! Holy crap I never thought I would fall in love with a city so fast, well aside from Barcelona. Everyone I have talked to so far has been incredibly nice and willing to help me get through the language barrier; still kicking myself for not knowing more French. So far we have seen the Louve, Notre Dame and parts of the Eifel Tower; man is this city beautiful. I really enjoyed visiting the outside of Notre Dame, I could probably sit there all day in the sun and people watch like I did yesterday. I look forward to see what the rest of this city has to offer and I’m sure that I wont have a shortage of things to write about as the week continues.

Fair well for now,
Anthony Bourdain (I wish)

“I eat, I write, I drink and I’m hungry for more” 

Friday, June 6, 2014

Au Revoir, Toulouse!

I don't know if I could have had a better time in Toulouse these past three weeks. I have taken this last week as an opportunity to reflect on my experiences and time here. I have learned that the French have strange toilets, pomme means apple AND potato, and that everything is not exactly as it seems. 

I came to France afraid that the people would be rude and dismiss me for being American, and some people did, but others were friendly and interested in our lives. It was so refreshing, and I realized that France was not as different from America as I thought. There are all kinds of people, all over the world. You can't say that all French people are stuck-up, the same way you can't say all Texans are friendly. It's just possible to make such a general stereotype!
We had a lovely last week in Toulouse, between exploring the city's hidden treasures and traveling to Roquefort to see how they make their speciality to cheese. I even tried some of the stinky cheese! I have never had cheese where I can physically see the mold on it, but when in France! It was different from any other cheese I had ever eaten, and I probably will never eat it again. At Roquefort, I had the opportunity to meet the manager of international business. It was very cool to hear someone in another country talking about the same things I learn about in my classes at Texas A&M. She discussed expanding their target market and creating a marketing mix that will interest more Americans in French luxury cheeses. I guess money speaks the same language in every country! I enjoyed the chance to have a discussion about something that applied to my career, but also involved the agricultural aspect that plays a big role in the culture and economy of not only France, but also Texas.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Canard and Barcelona!

  Wrapped up our second week here in France with  an extended weekend trip to Barcelona. The first part of the week we experienced some lectures on poultry production, the difference in GMO's and transgenic plants, and tropical plant production. My favorite experience though was definitely the tour of the poultry farms.
  On Wednesday we went about two hours outside of Toulouse on a bus to tour a poultry farms. The interesting thing about poultry production here is that unlike America the farmers can make a living off only a few thousand chickens. They also have a much larger access to free range and have a longer growth period. The farm that we toured raised guineas, turkens, and ducks. Guineas and the turken chickens are consumed in about the same amounts in France. The barns that they are reared in are also very similar to those back home. In the duck barn we got to see the machine that assists in the force feeding of the ducks for making foix gras. The process used by the feeder ensures that the duck is not harmed or given to much feed at once. The mechanism used to force feed the ducks does not hurt them it only helps to administer the required amount of food to produce excess lipids in the liver.
   Wednesday night we had a send off dinner for the students from UGA. While they will be sorely missed their time here had drawn to a close and all were ready to go back to their families.
   On Thursday we began a four day weekend by taking a train to Barcelona, Spain. It was difficult to get there because our first train was canceled and we had to make a few quick and unplanned transfers but we got there safely. We checked into our hostel that evening and proceeded to go out on the town and try tapas which are like appetizers. The next day we explored the city and all of the shops that looked interesting. I noticed that a lot more people in Barcelona speak English than those in Toulouse. There is also a much higher unemployment rate there which lead to protests in some parts of the city at night. We were lucky enough to witness one of these protests while walking back from a nights meal. On Saturday we toured the Picasso Museum and saw his abstract works as he progressed throughout his career. We also went to the beach to enjoy some of the sun and the local atmosphere. To wrap up the weekend there we went to a small restaurant at the marina and had some of the best food of the entire trip. My favorite part was the goat cheese ice cream which may sound gross to some but it has a very unique flavor if you give it a chance. I'm glad I did.
   On Sunday we headed back to Toulouse on a straight shot train from Barcelona. As exhausted as we were a good long nap was in due order on the long ride back. I am excited for our comming week discovering what France has in store next!