Kristina Kutsukos ’14

Hello Puppets. Would you care for a spot of tea? Doesn’t that have a nice ring to it? It’s addicting actually, when you begin to try and speak in a British accent and then you realize that after a bit, you’re really not even trying anymore, you’re actually attempting to conceal the horrible non-native tongue that you so very much envy and adore. For the past few days, I spent the entire time failing to do just that due to my long-awaited presence in the United Kingdom! I know this is beginning to sound repetitive but I love England! Long live the queen! While I only made it to Oxford to visit some dear friends, I must say that it was an extraordinary visit with so little time and so much to do/eat. British gets a really bad stereotype as being a country that has very heavy foods, lots of meats, and an addiction to tea that might be unsettling to some. What I found is that not only are there so many lovely veggie options and delicious Indian cuisine, but the tea producing factories there have actually won the key to my heart. I even discovered Greek cuisine, for all of you who don’t know me, is my true homeland. It’s this event that leads me to create this blog a food and culture devoted blog because I have to express my opinions on the variant cultures of Europe, the UK, and the states.
DIET: This word is used so often in American culture that people hardly know the significance of its actual meaning. What can we say about the American diet? (If I had a penny (or even a pence) every time someone asked me what exactly the American diet consists of) To be honest, I really have no accurate response. Is it sad that here, when I’ve asked people what they think of Americans, they think of barbeques, Yoga-loving hippy freaks, obesity, or George Bush. Is this really how our country is being displayed?! Then in France, I know I’ve been giving the impression that all people eat is bread and cheese…while this may be true to an extent, the French are actually very healthy not just in terms of what they eat (which is only the freshest, most natural ingredients from the root form such as cows, vegetables, fruits, and free-range meat and fish) but HOW they go about consuming food. If there is one thing I am going to take away from the French lifestyle, it is their importance on daily meals, especially when dining in a leisurely style to enjoy the wholesome company of others. While they may even consume lots of sweets, their desserts are a lot fresher and naturally sweetened than the ones in the UK and the US which are saturated in sugar and artificial junk. That and the idea that everything is consumed in moderation, with wine and cheese only pair with these smaller, less donut-affecting portions. Therefore, is it really all just what we’re eating or how we’re eating it? Did I mention that the French have no shame? Of course they can eat a croissant with butter and jam for breakfast every morning and consume an entire baguette in the course of one day while still looking good…because they don’t care! They aren’t stressed out about dieting like the majority of Americans, and are actually using that energy that they would have been stressing about going to the gym and punishing themselves for eating something “rotten” by walking miles to get other things accomplished (like shopping for their wonderful figure). This is another reason why I think it’s so important that we are with host families. As an American student, I am trained to prepare, sit, and eat like a normal French child and help the mother in the kitchen, play an active role in the ability to dine in good company, and appreciate the love and nourishment going into every bite of food. They do this all while having intellectual dinner conversations that don’t involve screaming at a football game on the television. Yet are French the only people who happen to behave this way? Of course not; Germany, Japan, Italy, Greece, and Scandinavian countries are the world’s healthiest people because they all share a common bond: wholesome living.
I promise I got on this rant for a reason: I’ve got it! This all came from my revelation in England where I realized that I have been urging to get back to my roots! Yes, this means being as veggie and gluten-free as possible in France. (I know none of you probably care but this is my blog so you can stop reading whenever you wish…) Another thing I’ve noticed is that if I have picked up a fake British accent in a matter of 4 days, then a French accent should be a piece of cake right?! (Or pie, which btw my host mom made a delicious pumpkin pie for dinner and I can’t stop thinking about the high-quality of the freshness and the idea that I probably just killed Cinderella’s pumpkin) Dommage! Any who, I really hope America can someday get on board with the more relaxed, stress-free, chain/market controlled food product less, self-confident, family-loving, happy as a whistle type lifestyle. One day if we’re really lucky, maybe our society will become de-globalized and finally move forward with Eastern traditions….*sigh. For now, I should get some sleep because I’m running off too many cups of English breakfast and I need to get up early for German and my first day of work tomorrow (an English tutor for a group of sci-fi loving French boys) what could be more exciting? Tootaloo! (Did you know that actually came from the French word “a toute a l’heure?” Love my urban dictionary)
Ps. Oxford was an absolute ball! Walking the grounds of Shakespeare’s roots and visiting the Duke’s palace and the birthplace of Winston Churchill was all just smashing good fun! November is a beautiful month. Peace.

Bonjour, bonjour, bonjour mes amies ! I would just like to start off by saying that two days back in Strasbourg is hardly enough time to recuperate after a long voyage. However, I may add that this voyage was the longest one I have taken since arriving in France and may also have been the most eventful. Not only did we conquer the main attractions of Paris in less than four days, but we survived our first adventure in Spain! For those of you who may have forgotten, the five of us went to Zaragoza, the fifth largest city in Spain to visit our dear friend Javier, who of course we know thanks to our lovely month in Tours. But to start from the beginning, I would like to compare this long vacation to the movie “Planes, Trains, and Automobiles” with John Candy and Steve Martin. Not only did we use all modes of transportation in one week, but we also had no idea what to expect when we signed up for the grand tour.
Starting with the train, we set off for Paris Friday afternoon with ONE back pack for an entire week full of clothes. I don’t know how I did it, but after realizing that we don’t actually have to have a new ensemble every day, I settled with multiple layers. We arrived in Paris Friday night and settled into our apartment with Pizza, a couch, My Big Fat Greek Wedding, and good company! In the next three days, we hit all the main sites and attractions which included le Sacre Cœur, Montmartre, La Sainte Chapelle, Le musée d’Orsay, le Louvre, Moulin Rouge, l’Arc de triomphe, La Tour Eiffel, and of course le champs elysee! The best part of this was that we got to enter all the museums FREE! (Ok, so technically we’re supposed to be FRENCH students who live in France, but I think a Visa should suffice). We just got used to the phrase “Oui, nous sommes francais!”Even though this was my second trip to Paris, it was my first time visiting the Musee d’Orsay where I rediscovered and fell in love with French impressionism! C’est joli, non? The best part of the apartment was that we were also able to cook all our own dinners! This was a blessing and a curse. Our first night, we attempted to make Spaghetti Bolognaise. Considering we had only one small stove, no spices, and the minor detail that we accidentally bought tomato paste and not tomato SAUCE, our pasta dish turned into a lovely beef and noodle tomato soup…It was an applauded effort. The great part about cooking our own meals was that we didn’t feel so guilty when we spent money on extra “treats”. Now, if anyone has ever been to Paris, you may have heard of a chocolate shop called “Angelina’s” which supposedly makes the best hot chocolate in France. My mother introduced this place to me when we first visited France, and I felt obligated to share this with my four American friends. We even invited our Holy Cross foreign language assistant who is currently studying in Paris. After waiting in line for about 55 minutes, we finally entered through the golden doors, smelled the lovely aroma of hot cocoa seeping out of every room, and settled into the tea room, where we each ordered a small cup of hot chocolate. It wasn’t until we received the bill, that we realized this cup cost us a grand total of 7, 90 Euro per person. Essentially, we paid more than 11 dollars for a cup of hot chocolate, but it was without a doubt the best hot chocolate I’ve ever tasted in my life. When in Paris!
So, after visiting our favorite sites, and Kelia overcoming her fear of heights (I have to add that I am very proud of her for going all the way to the top of the Eiffel tower and for climbing l’arc de triomphe), we left Paris on a high note, ready to conquer the city of Zaragoza. This involved part 2 of transportation: our 12, 50 Euro flight on Ryan air. While this airport was extremely small and only allowed enough room for one small body and one tiny carry on, we managed to mount the plane and arrive safely on Spanish territory! Should we have been concerned that we didn’t even have to go through customs? Perhaps…yet, we took the bus and finally reached Javier’s house! At this point, we were on Spanish time! (This involved sleeping until noon, lunch at 3pm, sightseeing during the night, dinner at 11pm, and going to bed when the sun rose the next morning) Noteworthy highlights: Grandma’s home Spanish cooking, scary movies in Spanish, Halloween festivities (yes, we were the perfect portrayal of the spice girls), grocery shopping with Barbara in a Spanish supermarket, and of course Laser Tag! We even had time to enter inside the beautiful basilica in Zaragoza, which might have been one of the prettiest churches I’ve ever visited. I am even beginning to easily differentiate among Spanish, French, and Italian architecture! So, after three days of being the motley family of six, it was time to go our separate ways and head back to Strasbourg…and so we commence the bus ride. I have driven to Florida many times in my lifetime, but I never expected to take the exact same route on a different continent. When we bought a bus ticket back home, we were expecting the trip to be 11 hours; yet, when we arrived in Spain, we realized that 11:30 was am, not pm, and that this bus trip would be a grand total of 21 hours! Hey, we took the scenic route! During our trip, we conquered fears of heights, overcame car sickness, learned how to get by with several words of Spanish, and made it back to Strasbourg in one piece, but extremely sleep-deprived. At least in this rendition we arrived before Thanksgiving! On a brighter note, the Christmas tree in Strasbourg is now up in the center of Place Kleber, ready to be decorated! Imagine the Christmas tree in Rockefeller center, only bigger. The Christmas market is so close that I can smell the pine needles! Tata for now!

Bonsoir Mes Amies!
I would like to apologize yet again for the late blog entry, yet this time I do have one valid excuse…I WAS WITH MY PARENTS! Yes, the rents took the great journey across seas to come visit me in Strasbourg (although, I’m still thoroughly convinced that I was just an excuse for them to take yet another vacation). They arrived last Saturday, and even had energy to do some sightseeing, which after one day here; I think I convinced them to move. They loved the food (my dad is now obsessed with this Alsatian dish of meat and potatoes), the sights (my mother thought she was Hansel or Gretel), and even the host family! Sunday, they were invited to my house for a traditional French Sunday lunch, which consisted of a five course meal, two families from two different countries, and a language barrier that I thought would be an extreme obstacle. To my surprise, my parents (even my dad who can say all of three words in French) said they understood about 5 percent of the conversation, which I would have never guessed after observing the intense conversation he was having with my host mom (all in French of course). Somehow, they managed to make it out alive, and not too exhausted to later climb the Notre Dame Cathedral (Strasbourg not Paris) to the very top!
Monday through Thursday, we scheduled many rendez-vous with friends, which included a trip to Baden Baden! This day in particular was noteworthy for three reasons:
1. I ventured into the black forest! Ok, well technically Baden-Baden is a village surrounded by the black forest in Germany, and although we only walked next to the big dark trees, I still officially went inside. Next time, I want to walk all the way in, see a wild boar, get lost, and then try and leave breadcrumbs to find my way back out.
2. Speaking of wild boar…For dinner, Kelia, Barbara, my parents, and I went to this wonderful little German restaurant where I was force-fed wild boar, deer, and potatoes. According to Malou, it would have been a TRAVESTY if I went to the black forest and didn’t order venison. Mind you, it was delicious, but I solemnly swear to never eat Bambi again.
3. We went to the nude roman baths! In Baden Baden, there is a “Spa” that offers hot spring baths, one in which bathing suits aren’t allowed…NO, we did not go into these baths because we weren’t quite ready to be that close with foreigners, but give me one more trip to Germany and I’ll be there. When in Rome! (I guess the large area that requires bathing suits would be fine too)
Finally, the end of the week came and I thought I had to say goodbye to my parents as they would venture off to Paris to walk hand in hand on the Champs-Elysee…but then of course, I came up with the brilliant idea that instead of leaving me in Strasbourg, we should all vacation somewhere together for the weekend! So, after several words of convincing and a minor trip to the train station, we traded in (their) tickets for three train tickets to Brussels! Neither my parents nor I have ever ventured to Belgium before, so it was the perfect adventure for the three of us! We ate and drank our fill of chocolate (in the forms of bars, waffles, hot cocoa and free samples), enjoyed many of the shopping districts, and visited several museums in which I rediscovered the sound of music (only instruments, not related to the beloved film) and a taste for modern art. It was so nice to see them, and even though I was sad to say goodbye, I realized that this was the half-way point from the time that I left for Tours until I come home for Christmas break…ummm WEIRD! C’est fou. This is when I panicked, realizing that I have so few weekends to travel this semester and so little time! Behold, I am now in possession of two tickets to the UK! Details TBA. This week, I am still trying to play catch up on sleep, attempting to figure out what’s going on in my classes, and enjoy my last week/ weekend before our big exciting Parisian/ Spanish extravaganza! Current status: very happy to be in France (even though I still hold a place in my heart for Germany), and so thankful for friends, family, and cows. I would also like to go shopping this week because it’s getting very cold here and I am really trying to figure out why I did not pack a winter jacket. A bientot!

Guten Tag !
So I know it’s been a while and I apologize for the painful weeks of waiting for contact from me, but I would like to reassure you all by stating that I survived Oktoberfest! I just needed to get that off my chest. First, I would like to start off by thanking Holy Cross for making it all happen- well, at least they contributed. Before coming to Strasbourg, you may all remember that there were once the seven Americans who began their adventure in a little town called Tours. I really wasn’t expecting much out of this place, but looking back, I realize how fortunate we were to be given the opportunity to stay there for a month. You may also recall that we made so many new friends and memories in the Loire Valley, which allowed me and my fellow Crusaders to embark on a journey to Munich this past weekend! One of our German friends, Louis, offered to let us stay with him for the weekend, and how could we turn down our own personal guide to the city and Oktoberfest? Kelia, Jess, and I spent the weekend in Munchen, and I hate to say it, but I have decided to move to Germany. It’s a beautiful place! The city was magnificent, the people were so welcoming, and I even love the sound of the language! Friday night, we arrived, and before going to the festival, Louis’ mom had a surprise for me…Yes, she had a spare traditional German dirndl dress that happened to be just my size! Could I really turn down the opportunity of looking like a Bavarian girl in the prime festival season? “Absolut nein!” So, finally all the German lessons (well, three to be exact) paid off. We rode the roller coasters, feasted on the German specialties Weisswurst and Bretzels (yes, I ate meat yet again), and even ran into some other friends studying abroad from Holy Cross!
Now, for all you parents, administrators, and those who care about my wellbeing: you would be happy to know that we did not spend the entire weekend at the festival. In fact, we spent all of Saturday exploring the city with Louis’ 11 year old sister, who, by the way, does not speak any English. Nevertheless, with our German alphabet knowledge, the four of us spent a wonderful day together, walking around the main shops and squares, ordering ice-cream and soup, and learning how to count in German (let me just say, she is a very strict teacher). At the end of the day, the weather decided to play a little prank on the rest of the Oktoberfest goers and it began to rain nonstop. Not only was I thankful to not be sleeping in the pouring rain, but i realized how fortunate I was to be able to be in Munich with my friends, in a house, and in the company of a family who we just met but were so warm and welcoming. We finished the night watching the devil wears Prada (in German) and stayed up chatting after ordering pizza at midnight. I felt like I was back at Holy Cross! I think that’s the main reason why we had such an unforgettable weekend, because it’s not where you are in life, but it’s the people you’re with that make everything worthwhile. This event also made me ten times more anxious for the month of October! First, my parents are coming this weekend!!! GET EXCITED. Perhaps I will finally get to go to the black forest and my fairy tale dreams will be realized! Then, for our October break, the five of us will be visiting our Spanish friend (from Tours) in Spain! I’m telling you, this traveling and meeting people is getting to be exhausting.
In case any of you were interested in what I’ve been up to in Strasbourg the past couple of weeks, we did end up going to a concentration camp. A brief history lesson, Alsace used to be German territory during World War II which is why there is a concentration camp in France: Struthof! I thought I also wanted to go to Auschwitz in Poland, but I came to terms with the fact that one concentration camp is enough to last me a lifetime. It was very depressing, and the cold rain did not make the experience any brighter. However, later that same day, the sun did come out and we went hiking in Les Vosges (it’s just the name of the mountain). It’s almost like the French version of the Underground Railroad because this is how the Alsatian rebels escaped from the Germans at night during the war! Also, to all you Holy Cross French students who remember our Foreign Language Assistant, Elsa, we all met up for tea together last week! She’s doing well and would like to move back to America so if anyone needs a roommate I don’t think she will take much convincing. As for now, I really decided that I need a job. Tomorrow I start my first day tutoring a student from Strasbourg who needs my help speaking English (which I hope I still remember how to do), and Friday I have my medical appointment which will determine if I can stay in the country or not. Let’s pray I didn’t eat any bad sausages in Munich…well, that’s all for now! Ciao!

I would like to start off by sharing a horrifying childhood experience. When I was about seven years old, I was an expert on a bike. I mastered the training wheels and knew what it was like to ride a standard “big kid” bicycle around my neighborhood without a care in the world. I loved it! The wind through my hair, the sun beaming down on my princess/ Gymboree shirt, I was living the life! And then one day, when I got very excited to go on a bike ride and show off my skills to my cousins, I took a turn for the worst. It was since that day of a horrible bloody nose and scars that took months to heal that I decided I hated biking and would not venture on a bicycle again…
However, life is always full of surprises, and no one would have expected that I would spend my junior year in Strasbourg, a city where a bicycle is a rite of passage into society (and the central mode of transportation). That leads me to make my very own Sophie’s choice: to purchase a bicycle and overcome my childhood fear, or to not purchase a bicycle and miss out on physical excursions with my friends. Last week I chose option two while, Jess, Colleen, and Barbara all purchased bicycles with our wonderful advisor “mama” Malou. At first I thought I was making a wonderful decision and that Kelia and I were better off walking/ running/ riding the tram anyway! That was before each of them came back with a new means of transportation, ready to take a ride at any given moment of the day (jess even has a basket in hers which has always been my summer at the cape dream). So, after a week of sulking, Kelia and I decided that we would buy a bicycle! Saturday morning came around again and the two of us met Malou at the bike sale, spent two hours testing out new bikes and waiting in line, and at noon, the three of us walked away with two new bicycles…No, I did not chicken out, frustrated me just decided that pairing myself with a bicycle is like pairing fluff with jelly! Quel catastrophe! This time, the only problem was that Malou already booked a biking excursion with the five of us for Sunday and I was not about to be left behind! After a couple hours of convincing, I graciously accepted Malou’s offer to borrow her second bicycle for the day. Let me just say, it was a good decision.
Finally, Sunday arrived and the six of us greeted each other on a beautiful fall afternoon and finally rode our books through Strasbourg to a bike bridge where we crossed the border into Germany!! (Surprisingly it only took fifteen minutes from our meeting spot). I felt like Mandy Moore in “A walk to remember” as we straddled the border over the bridge and came to the realization “We’re in two places at once!” Then, we took our bikes along the river into German country and I just couldn’t resist the urge to sing the soundtrack to “Oklahoma” as we passed a plethora of corn fields! While the bike was just a wee bit uncomfortable (I need to get used to the wooden seat), it still wasn’t so bad! It was like a roller coaster only less dirty and there were no screaming kids behind me (apart from Kelia <3). To top it off, we stopped and ordered ice cream cones in which I got to practice my German! Danke! (This was after trying to order in French like a fool). At the end of the day, I was a happy camper and decided that even if I never ride a bike again, I can at least say I have ridden a grown-up bicycle!
As far as everything else I’ve been up to…I’ve eaten Indian food, Vietnamese food (delish), rhubarb, black currants, Alsacian sweet bread, bread, baguettes, and bread! But hey, at least I’m changing it up here and there! Classes are also going swell, and we’ve been busy up to our elbows in work…who knew that planning our October break could be so exhausting!? We also even found a great Café (Café Michel) where we’ve gone literally every day just to grab a pastry, tea, or just use their internet access…the owner and I are now on a first name basis. I will keep you all up to date on our hope to be finalized plans next week, as well as our exciting excursions I’m looking forward to! Can anyone say Holocaust and a symphonic orchestra? (I’ll explain later). A tout a l’heure!

Salut mes amies!
So, I thought I would just brush everyone up on this past week’s agenda….
First, I arrived in Strasbourg last Saturday, met my host family in the train station, and went home to a new house where I will be staying until June. Sunday, I had a day to relax, watch French television shows with my host brother, eat a grand feast “dejeuner” with the family, and finally nestle into my relaxing low-key French lifestyle. ..Then Monday happened.
Flash back to College in the year 1980 and you might get a better idea of what course selection is like in France. The French system is what one might call “special” in that it there is no rhyme, reason, or basic online organization to guide you through the process. In fact, my host sister was just telling me today that she woke up at 5am to stand in line to register for a course that opened at noon! C’est fou! As far as our course selections go, Holy Cross just knew that we could never do this alone, and that’s why we have Rachel, our advisor to guide us through the whole process. When I say guide, I mean sitting in a classroom for three days straight, calling different departments asking them what courses they offer, figuring out if they are “first year” courses, and signing us up, regardless if we are actually interested in the courses or not. “Just try it” has been the tag line. I guess we can look at this experience and term it “the great escape” considering this may be what kind of obstacles we might need to face in the real world and not just in our College bubble. Regardless, I do miss my bubble and can’t wait until our course approval forms are submitted and finalized.
On the bright side, I am signed up for two classes in particular that have my name written all over it (literally, my name is now on their door). When the year is over, I will be fluent in French, Greek, AND German! While I realize I may be using the term “fluent” a bit loosely, that doesn’t mean that when I travel to Munich for Oktoberfest or to Greece for spring break, I won’t be able to converse with the natives here and there. Besides, my grandfather is going to be so ecstatic to know that I have not only eaten meat (lamb doesn’t count), but that I will also be learning our fruitful language, and who knows, may even have the courage to try an olive while I’m at it! Speaking of eating meat, I may just throw out there that my host mother made a rabbit stew the other night. For those of you who don’t know, I’m going to tell you the short tale of my beloved deceased rabbit Nibbles Sunshine who brings tears to my eyes every time someone offers me a carrot (there were even carrots in the stew, ironic?). Regardless, I did eat it, and yes, I could hear the cackle of Breir Rabbit between one ear, my palette, and the other. Was it good? That my friends, is like uttering the name of “he who must not be named” but I think you all know my answer…
Saturday, however, after all the course selection was complete and I tasted the forbidden fruit, we went with Malou to a wine tour of Alsace! We woke up early Saturday (a little bit too early if you ask me considering Friday was our first night out), bright eyed and bushy tailed, and made our way to the office of Tourism where we had our own van and driver to take us on a tour around the region of Alsace. I felt like I was right at home in good old new England as we drove through the pine tree forest/ mountains and visited several beautiful(you know it’s coming) CASTLES, only several miles away from the Black Forest and the border of Germany! These castles, however, are much different than the Loire Valley, in that they are actually real-life versions of fairy tale abodes. I thought for a second I was in Disney world, and it took me a few minutes before I realized that this is the real thing! Essentially after visiting these castles and walking around what I believe may have actually been Hansel and Gretel’s village, I was sure that the gingerbread house would find me. We are however, in Alsace region, and instead, it was sausage, sauerkraut, macaroons, Bretzels (giant sized pretzels), and six different types of white wine that found me instead. I guess I no longer have anything to complain about. Well friends, it is Monday night and I am slightly exhausted by my first day of classes (that, and the fact that I really want to watch the dubbed French version of Sherlock Holmes with my host parents).
Auf Wiedesehen!

Bonsoir America!
I’m so sorry; it’s been far too long since I’ve written to you all-my avid readers whom I love so dearly. My only excuse is that I was visiting more chateaux, packing up my life in Tours, moving in with a new family in Strasbourg, and just beginning orientation at the University. There’s also the petit problem that I left my battery converter in Tours so I have not been able to charge my computer. However, before the great migration to Strasbourg, I need to point out that during my last week of Tours I accomplished many things. First and foremost, I discovered my future home! It’s a beautiful Chateau called Villandry that has a plethora of exquisite gardens and is situated in a small village surrounded with woods, farmland, and more! The best part is that it is not owned by the government, but was purchased by a man and his wife who actually raised their family there! Now, the only thing I need to do is seek out the remaining family members and see if there are any French bachelors looking to share this home with an American girl (I realize this may not actually happen, solely due to the fact that there may not be any male single children in the family, but I can still dream can’t I?) Besides visiting castles, I and two other girls had the opportunity to cook dinner one night and it was sensational! Together, using our three very different traditional recipes from home, we managed to pull together a rather tasty meal of spaghetti and meatballs, accompanied by a delicious chocolate cake that Jess’s host mother taught us how to make! All I can say is that many memories were made and I may have eaten more this night than I had in a week #homenostalgiaproblems
Before we knew it, it was Friday, our last and final day in Tours. We finally had the opportunity to go to this amazing Italian restaurant in Place Plume (the town square, which is always poppin) called Leonardo Da Vinci and the seven of us dined together for the last time. A very bittersweet moment needless to say, as we Strasbourg chicas said goodbye to the pair headed to Dijon and gave a final toast to our beautiful adventures together. Later that night, my host mom prepared my first French meal of duck and chocolate mousse, and I finished off my Tours experience at la good old ganguette. It also happened to be extremely cold that night, which is exactly why I came up with the brilliant idea to wear two scarves, my combat boots, and winter gloves (the others were totally just jealous). This brings us to Saturday morning where I yet again packed up my life and headed off to a new land! As for my main problem for not blogging: I resolved them all today when my dear amigo Kelia and I went shopping after orientation this afternoon and decided that it was time to invest in a few necessities:
1. Battery converter: very important considering my computer has been dead for the past two days and I have had anxiety attacks over not being able to check all my very important holy cross mass e-mails. I may just suggest that they put those who study abroad in “special folder” and perhaps find the meaning of a filter 
2. School Supplies! This was also tres important because we start school next week and I have been using the same splotchy ink pen for the past month. Being American, we also come from a school system where “back to school supplies” are as big a job as renovating a new house.
3. Two words: Long champ. I really despise “blending in” with the crowd in terms of wearing the same clothes and having the same brand names as everyone else. HOWEVER, this is France and having a long champ is almost equivalent to owning a baseball cap- mainly because at the same time it is so practical! It was a necessity, which is also something that my new Strasbourg family and I one hundred percent agreed upon. It also costs less here than in the United States, is a super great investment, and is just so pretty… (Mom, if you need more convincing just talk to my host sisters)
Speaking of my new host family…I LOVE THEM! Not that I wasn’t very happy with my host mother in Tours, but there are just so many little things that bring joy to my life here. I decided that living with a family with children is something so special that every study abroad student should have the opportunity to experience. My family in particular is awesome. They are very welcoming and we already have so many things in common! For example, they don’t own a microwave! (Friends and family, you know all you have to do is say those words and you have won the key to my heart). They also read and watch Harry Potter…ok, so it was on tv and who doesn’t own a harry potter book? But still! They also just love films in general and I think they have already taught me a few things about American classics. There are also TONS of elephant paintings, sculptures, and knick knacks, which just happen to be my favorite animal. Then, there’s the kicker: FOOD! My host mother is a fantastic chef and has already made some wonderful dishes…tonight we had soup! Need I say more? Just one last note about my host family before I get carried away…my host brother. We watched Glee together the first night here and I need to just thank him for making this transition that much easier. He’s just a teddy bear!
Tonight, I am mentally preparing for the week ahead which involves registering for classes. If only it were as easy as Holy Cross…unfortunately France has not yet made the transition to registration online and still has to do it the old fashion paper sign-up way. Luckily for us, we have help! I will let you all know how this goes, and if I’m not crying in all my photos next week, you will know that I survived. Wish me luck! Bisous
Ps. I have booked my ticket to Oktoberfest. I think this investment was almost as important as my long champ purchase. YOLO!

The bells have sounded, the fire has burned out, and it is now time to say goodbye. Pardon my French but where the heck did the time go?! We are now entering our last week in Tours and it is a bit of a bittersweet moment. Last week, we not only said goodbye to our lovable little eighth amigo from Spain, but we also had to shed tears for our classmates who we only knew for three weeks and are now being shipped back to their native homelands. Ok, so this isn’t exactly a Pocahontas scenario, yet it was still very sad to finish our three week program at the institute. The bright side, however, is that, in times of sadness, you make certain promises without thinking such as: “My aunt lives on an Island in Italy; you must SWEAR that you will stay with us!” Needless to say, my petite Americans and I have several lovely vacations planned for the rest of the year…
Before we said goodbye, however, we did have one lovely final excursion with our faithful tour guide Florence, to Blois, a little town which is very famous for, wait for it, LES CHATEAUX! This time, we decided that the best way to stay engaged and keep up with the stories is to be aware of the history upon arrival, answer the questions that Florence asks us about French verses Italian architecture, and impersonate all the historic people in the photos! (Don’t worry; we do this very discretely without screaming the name “obnoxious American”. Plus, the Spanish boy partook in these games by his own will so he’s guilty too!)
Side note: Does anyone recall those delicious Walker’s butter/ sugar/ flour cookies that just melt into your mouth so fast that before you know it the entire box has mysteriously vanished? Well, if you haven’t, no need, because we have now received a wonderful French recipe for them that we tested out at our cooking class on Tuesday! The institute has a fully stocked kitchen yet no cafeteria…comme c’est bizarre?
As far as food goes, I am still eating baguette after baguette after goat cheese after baguette. It still tastes as wonderful as it did the first time, yet the girls and I thought we needed to switch things up a bit. Low and behold, we embarked on a journey to a Lebanese restaurant where something inside of me became reborn. It may have been my Greek roots screaming at me that I need to eat more grape leaves, but regardless, it was one of the best meals we have had so far. The waiter amazed us with his mad dash to and from the kitchen, bringing Fatoush, Taboule, Dolmades, Rice, Eggplant, Babaganoush, Hummus, Falafel, Stuffed Zucchini, PITA BREAD, and more! Somehow our plates turned out to be completely spotless…some would even say they took on a more glossy, polished look post-feast. But don’t fret mes petits americains, for today I went back to my Sunday morning Pain au chocolat with extra Nutella (I have discovered that I was a five year old French girl in my previous life). This was also a bittersweet moment because yesterday I said goodbye to my Italian host sister and we no longer will be eating breakfast together every morning or picnicking along the river on Sunday afternoons. She has now been replaced by another host student from America (and you know how those filthy Americans can be) Just kidding, she’s actually very nice and it’s great to have conversation with someone else who doesn’t laugh uncontrollably when I tell them I’m from the state of CONNECTICUT (They pronounce it “co-nect-i-coot” and you would think I just told them that I grew up in a nuclear waste dump over in the town of Goober, Idaho).
Last but not least, yesterday was our first day as free birds! The seven of us took a train to the town of Amboise to see yet another chateau (we still haven’t had our fill) and it turned out to be one of our best days yet! We walked around the town, saw the burial site and residence of Leonardo da Vinci (No, unfortunately I’m talking about the painter, not the teenage mutant ninja turtle), and made unforgettable memories taking pictures in the gardens. The view from the chateau, overlooking the Loire River, the grassy fields, and the French style houses was truly breathtaking. We still have those moments where we look around and say, “We are living in France, is this real life?” I know I definitely had that same reaction walking through the French market yesterday morning, and then having to stop in the middle of the street due to a toddler pushing a wallaby in her stroller who was obstructing our path. This sight took a few minutes to comprehend before the baby took the banana away from the wallaby and shoved it into her own mouth. Umm….what? I could comment on this further but I think the picture does justice. Vive la France!
Alas, the Sunday church bells have once again sounded and it is now time to go experience my last week in Tours before departing for Strasbourg on Saturday morning! So much to do, so little time! A dimanche!

We are rounding week 3, people. THREE! TROIS! Or as our international friends would say: “TRES”, “DREI” “TREI”, or “THRAY” (I realize that this is not a number, but the Irish students should be included because they have the coolest accent). I have just finished my second wonderful week in Tours and needless to say, it was fantastic. Not only do I now feel comfortable with Tours, know my way around the city, and have settled into my “home away from home” with my host mother, but my 6 fellow Holy Cross/ American friends and I have now made other friends! And no, ironically, not a single one of them is French…but that is great because the institute of Tourraine is a place for students from all over the world to come together and learn all about the French culture, the language, and meet students with backgrounds all around the globe! The world has now become our oyster! (I never truly understood that expression, and still don’t, but I think it may apply here.)
So what did we do this week? Hmm, what didn’t we do this week? Monday and Tuesday we went to school like normal children, broke for lunch with our typical baguette of choice, and then at night we congregated at la ganguette for a lovely rock music fest (that for some reason included a belly dancer?) and wound up dancing with a bunch of other French folk of all ages to Grease’s “Summer Nights”, Latin-American salsa, and “Kung Fu Fighting”…hence it was a wonderful night for all of us. Wednesday, however, we skipped school! MUAHAHA (Ok, so the fifteenth of August was a holiday and we didn’t have school, but just go with me). Thanks to Holy Cross, the Institute of Tourraine, and our cute little French Professor who, on holidays and weekends, has a secret identity and becomes Tour Guide/ Chaperone/ Story Teller for all the school excursions, we were able to see some wonderful sights! We caught the bus at 9am and drove to a beautiful village, called Loches, where we discovered the Abbey, toured the old prison, and learned the history of Joan of Arc. Normally, I am opposed to tours, mainly because there are too many people who walk too slow, it’s always 100 degrees when anyone tends to go, and because I have the attention span of a gold fish, I get bored of the tour guide within seconds. However, taking a tour with our French professor is definitely a sight to see in itself. Upon entering the abbey, she made us sit down on the ancient floor right in the center of all the other tourists, and literally just started telling us the life story of Joan of Arc. Her facial expressions, alarming French accent (inside voices apparently aren’t a thing), and grandiose gestures are just too good to pass up. I think the best part is mainly that she keeps track of everyone by segregating us by our country of origin. Upon walking from room to room, all you can hear is “Allons mes petites Américaines”, “Venez mes petites Italiens” or “ou sont mes petites Japonais?” She definitely does not know a single one of us by our first name but, hey, it’s entertainment.
After Loches, we made our way to le Chateau de Chenonceau, a beautiful castle that was only created to please royal women such as Catherine de Medicis and Diane de Poitiers, and then finally, to LES CAVES! Where do you think these people get their wonderful wine from? We toured the caves, (which are kept at about 18 degrees Celsius) saw how the wine was bottled and stored, and even got to sample some wine ourselves. When in France! Because the French are really particular about their wine, we had yet another completely different wine lesson on Thursday, where yes, carnivores; I sampled the plate of cold cuts. If I have not already mentioned this, I am a vegetarian (or at least I was.) But, if it makes a difference, the meat here is so fresh that one could never even compare it to Oscar Meyer’s sliced “ham” or a can of “spaghettio surprise”. Therefore, I tasted some of the ham for the soul purpose of having the ultimate wine tasting experience. Just to add to the list of things I have never eaten…raw muscles and snails! My host mother invited some of her friends over for dinner and she served us these French delicacies accompanied with a delightful piece of baguette with butter, and of course, more wine (I promise, all this wine tasting is not intentional). We then finished the excursion week with our day trip on Saturday to Mont Saint Michel, and a casual beach day at Saint Malo (we also picked up a Spanish boy along the way who has now increased our group of seven to “table for 8”). So, exhausted from week numero 2, I decided to lay low today and had a picnic lunch next to la Loire with Francesca, the Italian “host sister.” Did I mention the heat wave they are having here? Apparently it’s not just Americans who get crazy obsessed with extreme weather conditions. I think it’s now time for me to watch Anastasia in French…what can I say? Old habits just never die. Merci mes petites! A bientôt.

It has now been exactly one week, one day, and 7 hours since I have arrived in Tours. What can I say….IM IN LOVE! The city, the place, the people, the food, it’s all just wonderful. So, it may have taken a few days to become so comfortable but if you don’t have difficulties, what would be the fun in that?
Day 1: Getting from the airport to Tours: Not our finest hour. Colleen, Jess, Kelia, and I arrived in Paris Sunday morning after having slept a grand total of 20 minutes due to our 9 hour connecting flight. After claiming our baggage and going through “customs” (basically just walking past a couple of security guards and saying “bonjour”), we realized we had to wait 4 hours until our train to Tours. So, naturally while waiting, we decided we would have our first baguette in France. Just like the phrase, “once you start smoking you will never quit”, I have realized that after eating my first baguette, I will never again eat a meal that does not contain this crispy, French delicacy. Just the sound of it when breaking in two is so harmonious. So sitting in the airport, for only 20 minutes, we already inherited French customs. The real hard part, however, was not the waiting, but the moving with our cumbersome baggage. Ok, even if perhaps we have inherited French culture, we are AMERICANS by heart. We all packed WAY too much and never exactly tested out moving our entire luggage onto trains. Luckily, in the airport we met these lovely Irish students who were also studying in Tours for a couple weeks, which were kind enough to watch us fall over our suitcases and help us drag our bags (and ourselves) safely onto the train. We then missed our connecting train to Tours because not even 7 of us could carry everything off the train in the allotted amount of time, and finally caught the next train to the Tours station. All our host mothers were waiting for us upon arrival, and just like that, we went our separate ways.
Somehow, I managed to get here, on this very comfortable floral bed, relaxing with a wonderful cup of tea (which we found out today, is rare for the French), looking at my empty suitcases and my beautifully organized closet. This only happened of course after a week of classes at the institute, getting lost and figuring out my way around the city, and multiple cheese-consuming nights later. I am now content!
I may also just comment on the fact that my group is wonderful! I love all my Holy Cross amies qui sont si belles et si amusantes ! The idea that we are all here together and are experiencing the same thing is truly a wonderful gift. There are currently seven of us in Tours, and then 5 of us will venture to this fantastic city called Strasbourg! (past the sea of swirly twirly gumdrops) But before doing so, we must first take as much time exploring every little piece of Tours as possible! This includes our weekend visits to the Cathedral, the botanical gardens, the Loire River (which is right next to my house), the Museum des beaux-arts, Place Plume (an awesome restaurant and café square where I may or may not have had my first legal glass of wine) and of course, la ganguette! La ganguette is basically THE place for students, as well as other tourists and tours-natives of all ages. There is live music every night, and the whole restaurant is right on the Loire river. C’est super! So, I suppose I should do some homework before school tomorrow, but for the record, I am in love with Tours, and can’t wait to find many more adventures here. A bientôt!