Terrasson Lavilledieu Woot Woot

Trip Start Nov 04, 2008
Trip End Mar 15, 2009

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Where I stayed
Mark's Place

Flag of France  , Aquitaine,
Monday, November 10, 2008

I'm sitting in the new apartment in the school, next to Mark who hasn't done his lesson plans over the holidays, so is scrabbling to figure it out by tomorrow (by the way, if you have any connections to anyone at the Lycée St Exupéry or the Jules Ferry College, Mark is hardworking and always has everything prepared all the time in advance and well.  So there) :D
So, anyway, I was sitting here in contemplation over whether another chocolat chaud would be excusable, when I realised that I should probably live up to my promise and actually write something in travelpod. 
I've been here for...four days?  Today is my fifth day, I think.  The plane trip over was equally interesting and boring.  The first plane was Qantas from Sydney to Singapore.  I hopped on at about 3pm, then we were grounded for an hour as they tried to work out a problem with the engines.  I read the Qantas magazine while studiously ignoring all those media stories of ill-fated planes and mechanical problems. By the way, the place where Australia was filmed looks like a very nice place to visit. 
Finally, we got off the ground.  I was too busy trying to get my little screeny thingo in the back of my seat to work to really notice.  It turns out, you know, that those things don't kick in until you're actually cruising.  Who knew?  Anyway, I was off!  And the plane didn't crash, so apparently those engineers are actually able to fix things.  (Sorry, Dad) 
Plane food isn't actually that bad.  There's just heaps of it.  Or at least that was Qantas.  Just a huge amount of food and then icecreams and then a second meal and then apples and then...It was crazy.  I found myself throwing away good airline food.  It was shameful.
Anyway, we arrived at Singapore and it was a 3 hour transit or something so I found the terminal, then wandered.   Changed money and bought a phone card, then wandered around the phones for half an hour before realising I was putting it in upside down.  By the way, I still have $5 Singaporean on a phone card, if anyone has a way to spend it?  Called Mark and told him to meet me at 8:40 the next morning at Bordeaux.
Anyhoo, finally got through the scanners and re-packed my back pack.  Taking a computer is useful, but irritating.  I tried to communicate in French with a little French boy who was travelling alone, but I don't think he was very impressed.  He looked at me like I was a bug.  Perhaps I am - who knows?
The Air France flight was really crowded, in contrast to Qantas where I'd had 3 seats to myself.  I was pretty exhausted by then, though, so I just snuggled up to the Portugese security guard next to me and went to sleep.  He was really nice, actually.  He had very little English, and I had no Portugese, so we did a lot of sign language.  He gave me his blanket and eyemask, and showed me photos of his family in Australia.  It was really funny, actually - he was pretty much a billboard for Australia.  He had a Wallabies jersey on, Australia pillow, Australia jacket, his bag said 'Australia' and as he was disembarking he showed me that it was full of koala and kangaroo plush toys.  In the middle of the night he was stepping over me every hour or so (I'd lucked an aisle seat) because his leg hurt.  The med student in me pricked up its ears and yelped.   "When did it start hurting? Has it hurt for long? Have you been moving it? Does it hurt when you walk?"  None of which were at all communicated given that he didn't speak English.  I was wondering whether to call the flight attendant or just wait to see if it was DVT and he'd have a pulmonary embolism when I finally got that it was only sore when he wasn't moving it so it was a cramp.  Crisis over.
So anyway, I arrived in Paris with 45 minutes to get to my next flight.  Turns out my next flight was on the other side of the airport, through customs and through this bizarre, deserted little room where there was no clue how to get out.  My gate was 55 in D2, but all the signs to D2 lead to this little room.  And I couldn't figure out how to get past this little room.  I asked the lady nearby and she just kept pointing and I was just walking in circles around this room staring at the walls and finally, after about ten minutes, I realised that one of the walls had a whole heap of sensors in it and was divided into a lot of sort of door-like passage things, so I stood in front of one.  It started bleeping so I pushed it and set off the alarm.  Then I asked the lady again, and she pointed again, and I stood there again and it opened and I went through.  Stupid door.
Anyway, I finally soared down to Bordeaux, checking out crop markings and imagining old Roman villas and actually seeing old castles and getting all excited (Thank you, Time Team).  Headed out, picked up my luggage and looked around.  To the left: happy couple embracing.  To the right: people leaving.  For me: nothing.  Hmm...I wandered for a minute, then asked the lady where the phones were.  Turns out all the phones were credit-card-operated, so she let me have a minute on hers to berate Mark.  He was on the bus.  Holy crap! 9:30, didn't you say?  Nope.
So anyway, Mark finally turned up and hugged me until I stopped yelling at him, then we headed to Bordeaux on the bus.  The buildings in Bordeaux are just exquisite.  All carved curls and Shakespearean architecture and grand doorways and cobbled streets and narrow alleyways and...Oh it was beautiful.  I was very excited.  We dumped our bags and headed off.  We wandered through the streets and I got very lost, but for once Mark had a better sense of direction.  It turns out, I think, that we have complementary inner compasses.  I can work when the streets are parallel, his forte is when the streets are cogwheeled.  Thank goodness.
Anyhoo, I love France.  Anywhere where every third shop is a patisserie or a chocolatier couldn't fail to win my heart.  And given that all the other shops are wine shops, Mark's neither.  In between the gastronomic delights, there were a wide variety of beautiful clothes shops as well.  I thought, for ages, that the presence of Gucci and Hermés et al meant that it was just heaps exclusive.  Then I realised that it was probably just pretty run-of-the-mill.  They are, after all, French.  It's pretty bizarre.
So Mark and I wandered around looking at all les belle choses and being amazed, then stopped off for lunch at this little restaurant which served us seared beef with Spanish onion, chips and salad.  The people there were lovely, and Marky impressed me very much by maintaining a conversation for ten minutes with the locals (Yes, upon rereading, he requested that I add that in).  Just around the corner there was a huge cathedral which tickled the clouds, so we decided to go in and check it out.  It was amazing.  Huge arced ceilings, beautiful stained glass and a massive pipe organ, mosaic floors and carved stone.  I reached for the camera...only to find that we had no batteries.  C'est la vie.   In one corner, there was a round annex called Le Chapel de ...something female.  It had all these gilded boxes and beautiful display cases, each with a number.  On the grille next to us, there was a list of names next to each number.  1: Saint Jean Baptiste, 2:...etc etc.  We wondered at them for a minute.  Then we realised.  That round brown thing in the display box number twelve...yep.  That was actually the skull of St Whateverhisnamewas.  As in, his bodily remains.   Mark said "Creepy".   We left.
So then we headed back to the streets and wandered more.  I bought bread and cheese from some shops around the corner for dinner.  We'd bought pastry earlier and were still full.  Refer to Dylan Moran.  French pastry really is that good. 
Next morning, we got up at 6am to make the 7:30 train - only to find, once we'd dragged 20kgs of luggage to the station, that the 7:30 train was actually at 6:30am and we had to wait till 10:40 for the next one.  Oh well.  We went back to sleep, and made it on time this time.
Terrasson Lavilledieu is beautiful.  Really amazing.  It's actually two towns - new Terrasson and old Lavilledieu - condensed into one.  It's glorious in a different form to Bordeaux.  Where Bordeaux has grand majesty and beautiful details, Terrasson has quaint features and crumbling bricks and ancient pavements with insignia carved into them and incredible topiary in flourishing patterns.  It's amazing.  Everywhere there's these lovely old houses with steep rooves and little attic windows.  There's old stone blocks at the base and darling balconies and sweet window seats and lovely chimneys with curls of smoke drifting in the wind.  It's everything you'd want from a provincial French town.  We went for a walk to the old town and ambled through beautiful archways and delicate buildings, with dark wooden beams holding up thatched rooves.  At the top, there's a big old church which Mark tells me was originally a monastery since the fifth century(?)  It's been through various rampagings and rebuildings, and all the time has looked over the town from its prime position on the hill.  We went to the top and the view was incredible - you can see almost to the next valley, and down to where the two bridges cross the river.  There is the old and the new bridge - the old's medieval, the newest is 19th Century.  The old bridge is gorgeous - the arches aren't even, and it has little pointed tips to part the water against the flow. 
I haven't taken any photos yet, because Mark assures me that he's photographed everything possible in this beautiful little valley, and that I can steal his photos, so I'll figure that out and post them soon (I may even have posted them with this message, who knows how efficient I am?)
French has been...interesting.  While you become accustomed to listening and it becomes more understandable, I'm suddenly acutely aware that my pride in passing without attending a single lecture and less than 80% of tutes while not owning the textbooks was perhaps a little misplaced.  Hopefully it will pick up soon and I'll know more.  I'm learning so much every day.  It gets more comprehensible with every new word I learn.  I love it.  It really is such a beautiful language, but sometimes people can be very rude when it becomes evident that you don't speak well.  One of Mark's housemates is a bit like that, which threw me a little.  Oh well.  C'est la vie.
Yesterday we went to Brive and to a book fair.  Or rather, we were meant to go to a bookfair.  It had a huge line, so we gave up, but on the way we visited a honey fair and a few markets.  We had lunch at the markets - 'kebabs' in thick bread and a nutella crépe and waited for Virginie to finish in the bookfair.  I bought a bag from the markets - just €10 - to supplement, because for some reason I'm neurotic about my day bag being damaged.  It's silly, I know, but at least now I have two bags, and one's bright red and multicoloured and made in India and now has butter smeared inside it from our shopping trip on the way home. 
Righteo.  I'm sick of writing.  I think you've got pretty much the drift of the place, and hopefully some photos should speak far louder than my silly words, so I'm going to head off.  I want hot chocolate, but Mark's making me learn the rules to Tricket in the hallway before I'm allowed to have any, so the sooner I head, the better.
Much love to all,
Maddi (and Mark)
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