Friday, April 27, 2012



Stop 2 on the tour of Southern France is to Carcassonne! After a few days in Bordeaux, we hopped on the train heading southeast to find ourselves in this terribly historic medieval castle town. It is so cool here.

Basically, about 5 centuries before Jesus was born, some ancient tribes built a little fortress thing on the top of a hill in Southern France. Then, about 3 centuries after Jesus was born, the Romans built a bigger, stronger castle, which was expanded even further in the 12th century, by the French kings and, eventually, St. Louis. There is a lot of history contained within these walls, which is just fascinating. Considering Carcassonne's proximity to Spain, the area has gone between Roman, Spanish, and French rule for centuries. It finally came under permanent French rule in the 17th century, and was restored in the 19th. In 1997, Carcassonne and its incredible castle were named as UNESCO World Heritage Sites. It is a massive castle, with about 3 kilometers of walls, and a total of 52 towers.

the Basilica of St. Nazaire and St. Celse

St. Dominic preached here during Lent in 1213!

We took a boat ride along the Canal du Midi--a canal built in the 17th century to link the Mediterranean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean. Lovely views, even with all of the wind.

one of the locks we went through

The castle is so cool. We are staying in a hotel at the very foot of the hill, so we are super close, and we can see it all lit up at night. I feel like I'm living in the 13th century! We leave tomorrow, but the history lessons will continue in Avignon!

pax christi.

Thursday, April 26, 2012



The weather was not great in Bordeaux. That put a bit of a damper on the whole "tourist" bit that I normally try to avoid anyway. We saw some cool things, but overall, the rain was not much of a motivator to explore as I normally would a new city.

In all honesty, wine was the biggest motivation for visiting Bordeaux. I knew it was a beautiful city, but it has never really stuck out to me as a must-visit spot in France beyond the fact that it is the capital of wine country. I was not quite sure of what exactly was here other than châteaux--I knew the Cathedral was pretty, and pretty old. And that Bordeaux is also one of the stops on the Camino de Santiago, from France. Other than these fun facts, I was rather ignorant of other significant monuments or buildings, leaving exploration, a map, and some wine to guide me and my mom through the city.

cool fountain in the place des quinconces

cathédrale de st-andré

saint andrew's cathedral on the camino!

st andrew's from above

city hall

this is a movie theatre

st. peter's

a large clock

a lonely archway

a fancy castle vestige

my mom in the park--recreating monet's gardens

I wish the weather had been nicer for our jaunt in Bordeaux. But we made do, and enjoyed wine all the while. Therefore, it was no failure.

pax christi.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012



Wine is sacred in France. Especially in Bordeaux, wine reigns supreme. It is everything from a very basic table drink to the fanciest beverage around. And it's just fabulous. Being in Bordeaux is a whirlwind of wine and walking! When it's not raining...

fountain in Bordeaux

Yesterday, we toured two wine châteaux in the Bordeaux region. The first, the Château Reynier, was a quaint, family owned and operated vineyard on breathtaking property. The château, which is also the family's home, was just beautiful and the vineyards were picturesque. We toured the property, saw the fermentation and bottling processes, and tasted some wine.

château de reynier

wine being bottled and sealed with a cork

wine fermenting in oak barrels, in a cave

baby grape vines!

The second château, the Château de France, was a much bigger production, yet with less-stellar wine. We briefly toured the property and buildings, followed by another wine tasting. But the first château remained an easy winner.

château de france

It was a day full of what makes Bordeaux Bordeaux. Wine!

pax christi.

Monday, April 23, 2012

the weekend with maureen.


My mom got here on Friday! Within a matter of hours Friday morning, I taught my last English class (ever...) and then welcomed my mom into Paris! It was an eventful morning--bittersweet (and exciting) to be done teaching, and then super exciting to see my mom right here, in France, finally!

We have had a lovely weekend. Starting off with the grand tour of Evreux on Friday and Saturday morning, Maureen got to taste just how awesome life is in this sleepy town. We saw Roman ruins, the river, the gardens, and much more. She was impressed.

Next stop, on Saturday, was Deauville-Trouville! After some issues with a rental car that did not actually exist...we hopped on over to the coast via train. These neighboring towns (Deauville on one side of the river, Trouville on the other) are a popular coastal destination for many French vacationers as well as tourists and international movie stars. Deauville is home to an annual summer film festival that attracts famous people from all over. Even with a slight chill in the air, we had a beautiful blue sky and friendly sun to light up our day. I had never been there before, so we got to discover these beautiful little towns together!

the boardwalk in trouville

i'm in the ocean!!! i'm so happy!!!

along the river

Again, with our original plans nixed by a lack of vehicule, Sunday's agenda was altered as well. A few times...We had planned on visiting the American Cemetery, the World War II memorials, and the D-Day beaches but that was all rendered impossible, unfortunately. So we improvised, and I cannot think of any better way to spend ANY day than in PARIS! So we took the train in for the day (and night...) to explore my beloved city.

First stop, Montmartre and Sacré Coeur.

Next up, Notre Dame! Very briefly.

Then we walked through the Luxembourg gardens, one of my favorite spots to sit, bask in the sun, and people watch. Those are basically required Parisian activities, and the Luxembourg gardens are the perfect backdrop.

We ate dinner in an adorable little Swiss chalet restaurant near St-Germain-des-Près, but ended up missing the last train back to Evreux! Lucky for us, there was a miracle train at 12:20am (the same miracle train that appeared when I came home from Rome...I know I'm being looked after!). That also meant that we had 3 extra hours in Paris!!! There really is not much more beautiful than Paris at night. The City of Lights truly shines at night. Reflections off the Seine, the sparkling Eiffel Tower, churches and monuments glowing with spires, statues, and windows. Paris is truly magical at night.

We took a Seine river tour, and I actually learned quite a few facts about the bridges that I had not previously known. That was quite pleasing. And even though we were rained on a bit, and shivering in the cool spring air, it was a lovely little cruise. I had never taken a boat ride on the Seine, so it was a new perspective for me as well!

And now, this afternoon, we just arrived in Bordeaux! The next few days will be filled with wine, walking, and (hopefully) better weather. We are staying at a gorgeous apartment, and I am excited to discover a new city! And, of course, drink plenty of Bordeaux :) Cheers to more French adventures with my mom!

pax christi.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012



I could rave about French food until the cows come home. And chances are, even with my belly happily full of Chipotle and deep dish pizza and corn on the cob and all of the other delicious foods that are so incredibly American, I will always save a little part of my heart for the way that the French eat. There is a completely different mentality when it comes to food, and enjoying what you eat, where you eat it, and with whom. Meals are a sacred production--the French meal has been deemed a "world intangible heritage" by UNESCO! That means that, even though it is not a place (which normally receive the status of "world heritage"), French gastronomy sets itself apart as a cultural icon.

Before meals, one of the most treasured customs is the apéritif. From the latin word "aperire", meaning "to open", the apéritif is the official start of a meal, without actually yet sitting down to eat. It consists of drinks and appetizers--anything from crackers to veggies to different meats or sausages. The apéritif can be rather simple, or very elaborate, and will last anywhere from 20 minutes to an hour, if not longer. Part of why a real French meal takes so long (I have had 5 hour dinners from apéro to after-dinner coffee) is the time spent enjoying every course and the company. The apéritif is simply the very beginning of that!

L'apéritif is a ritual that I have come to love. It sets a convivial mood for the meal and acts as a great transition to whatever is on the menu. It's just wonderful, and I am planning on instituting l'apéritif in America!

pax christi.

Monday, April 16, 2012

lisieux, one last time.


I have been to a lot of places this year. I have seen many beautiful things, and I am super blessed to be living where I am. Normandy is a part of France that is just teeming with culture and history, and I have been able to profit from that considerably. One of my favorite little corners of Normandy is Lisieux, the home of St. Thérèse. I have been a few times this past year, thanks to the quick train ride from Evreux, but today was the last time that I would be able to go for a very long time. I spent the day revisiting all of my favorite spots, saying goodbye to St. Thérèse and her hometown!

St. Thérèse's childhood home, called "Les Buissonnets"

the Basilica, from behind

the front of the Basilica

inside the Basilica

vive la normandie!!!

St. Thérèse, pray for us!

pax christi.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

let the countdown begin.


Or continue...I have been counting down my days of teaching for a few months now, so although we are finally in single digits, it is not particularly novel to be anticipating my last days here. That said, it certainly does not make anything any easier. Goodbyes are goodbyes no matter what circumstances they are under!

I will be at home, in America, in three weeks. And I only teach three more days. Three is the magic number right now, apparently. A lot is going to happen in the next three weeks, including more good-byes than I will be able to handle. BUT it just means that another adventure is starting!

evreux in september--over 7 months ago!!!

On another note, today is Divine Mercy Sunday! In 2000, when JPII canonized St. Faustina, he also sanctioned the first Sunday after Easter to be Divine Mercy Sunday, in honor of St. Faustina's visions of Christ and His Mercy. She was a Polish nun who felt the call to become a nun when she was just 7 years old, in Adoration. She was finally allowed to enter her order (the Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy) after she ran away to Warsaw at just 19. Like St. Thérèse, St. Faustina became very ill at a young age. Shortly after she contracted what was thought to be tuberculosis, she began having visions of Jesus. He transmitted His message of Divine Mercy to her. He also wanted her to have a specific picture painted of Him wearing white, with white and red rays emanating from Him. This picture is known as the Divine Mercy image, and is commonly seen in churches accompanied with the Divine Mercy Chaplet, a prayer that Christ asked her to pray.

The first time I went to Rome (three years ago), I went to the church where St. Faustina's heart is preserved. It's the Church of the Holy Spirit, and it's right next to St. Peter's. It's quite incredible to pray in front of her heart--a heart that knew Jesus so intimately. She is a model of modern holiness! St. Faustina, pray for us!

st. faustina

pax christi.