When I was little, I often dreamed of being a princess of some faraway land, living in a castle surrounded by a moat and an enchanted forest. I suppose that dream always seemed a little more distant because there is not a castle to be found in our young country. But a few centuries before the Pilgrims settled in humble log cabins near Plymouth Rock, the French elite were living it up in abodes like this...
It's weekends like this past one I'm reminded that I'm studying in the middle of European splendor. IES took us on a 2-day to not just one, but 5 castles in the Loire Valley, all dating back to the 1500's. They were still furnished with many of their original tapestries, furniture, art, and other luxuries. And the first one we visited still houses the royal descendants to this day!
There were moments from this weekend that felt strangely surreal: crossing a footbridge to enter in the shadow of a dozen stone towers, wandering through trees under sunlight that makes everything feel enchanted, or stumbling upon the grave of Leonardo da Vinci in a little chapel near an edifice where kings once lived.
(But in reality, not all was perfect like a fairytale. Castles have no insulation, and so I wore my coat constantly the whole weekend. Putting 63 American students together in 2 buses inevitably crumbles into the vast majority speaking English. And needless to say, our late return Sunday evening resulted in little homework getting accomplished!)
Nevertheless, it was quite a pleasant weekend full of history, jokes, and even Heidi's birthday. Oh, and a rainbow appeared just before the buses pulled out of the final parking lot for the 3-hour drive home!
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