Bonjour from Sarlat-la-Canéda!

This is Alena, Fiona, and Grace, and we’ll be taking you through our excursion to the prehistoric caves of Lascaux and Font-de-Gaume.

From left: Fiona, Grace, and Alena – your blog team!

This past Saturday, we jumped on a bus and traveled 2.5 hours to the town of Sarlat-la-Canéda, in the Périgord region of France. We spent the first few hours of our excursion exploring the town and checking out the market.

Market on the beautiful streets of Sarlat

On Saturday afternoon the group visited La Grotte de Lascaux, a cave famous around the world for its elaborate, colorful, and breathtaking cave paintings. The museum visit started with a tour through an exact replica of the prehistoric cave of Lascaux. The actual cave had to be closed to the public because the carbon dioxide emitted by hundreds of thousands of visitors which disturbed the fragile natural balance inside the cave and was causing damage to the artwork. However, this intricate reproduction was extremely realistic and made us feel as if we were inside the real cave! The group learned about the meanings of the different cave paintings, such as the Licorne, which translates to unicorn. This was a painting comprised of different animal characteristics such as a hippopotamus stomach, human legs, and two large horns, an example of what they call a fantasy animal. After the tour, we enjoyed a visit to the second section of the museum where we studied other reproductions of specific cave paintings in greater detail and learned about the history of Lascaux.

The reproduction of a cave painting from Lascaux depicting two horses in motion, and a geometrical symbol whose meaning is still unknown.

The paintings of Lascaux date back to 20,000 B.C., and the cave was discovered in 1940 by an 18 year old and his dog, after a storm had uprooted a tree and left a small opening exposed. The artwork here is from the Magdalenian era, which dates from 23,000 to 14,000 B.C. The black colors in the cave are made with manganese, and the red and yellows made with iron oxides, sometimes mixed with water. Paintings were made with brushes or by blowing pigments. The paintings in the cave exclusively display animal figures, and are dominated by the wild bulls of the time, called aurochs.

A photo from the second section of the museum, a replica of La Salle de Taureaux (The Hall of Bulls)

After exploring Lascaux, we hopped back on our bus to went to our hotel. We stayed in a beautiful little Villa called “Hotel Renoir.” Our rooms looked out upon a small courtyard. It was very homey, and definitely helped give us the feeling that we were indeed staying in perhaps one of the cutest french towns yet.

After getting settled into our rooms, it was time for a group dinner at the restaurant “Le Mirandol.” On our way to the restaurant, some of us ran into a parade of people who were dressed up as various animals and characters. These costumed people were playing drums on the street for the children of the town who were also all dressed up. We couldn’t figure out what this apparent holiday was, but that didn’t stop us from clapping along to the celebration for a little while.

A beautiful view from the town of Sarlat

The restaurant we went to was unique in that it was built in the front of a real cave. After our dinner, the waitress led us to the “grotte.” It was fun to see, though this cave surely did not compare to the Lascaux stimulation we had seen earlier.  

Alena and Sarah discovering the cave that Le Mirandol was built in front of!

Pictured below is an appetizer many people had. Infamous “foie gras” (it’s infamy is due to the way the fatty duck is prepared through continual force-feeding, a frequent topic of discussion from our class) served with raspberry jam and bread. There were mixed reviews, the most popular opinion being that it tasted good but because we know how it was prepared, it would be too immoral to eat it often. The second dish pictured is the restaurant’s specialty dish of duck and scalloped potatoes.

Foie Gras with Raspberry Jam

Duck with pepper sauce, scalloped potatoes, and cauliflower

We had a lovely Sunday morning breakfast provided by our hotel, then we toured the Musée Nationale de Préhistoire. It’s crowning jewel were the pieces of art found in the shelter of La Madeleine. It held some of the best Paleolithic art from the Magdalenian period. It was surreal to see the art along with the skeleton of a young girl from so long ago (11,000-17,000 years ago)!

Musée National de Préhistoire

Julia, Charlton, and Cate enjoying the view from atop the Musée National de Préhistoire.

A beautiful café where many students ate lunch in Les Eyzies, right in front of the Musée National de Préhistoire (above).

After lunch, we headed to our final destination – the cave of Font-de-Gaume. This is the last prehistoric cave in the Aquitaine region with polychrome (multicolored) cave paintings that is still open to the public. These paintings were discovered in 1901. The Font-de-Gaume paintings have been preserved over all of this time because of the Rubicon, a very tight corridor about halfway into the cave. This special entryway has protected the artwork from erosion and other elements from the outside world. The paintings in this cave are another example of art from the Magdalenian era, and they are about 2,000 years more recent than the paintings of Lascaux. It was intriguing to see the difference between the stylistic style of art in Lascaux, and the naturalistic and more realistic style depicted at Font-de-Gaume.

It was really fascinating to explore a true cave and actually stand where the prehistoric people stood. One of the highlights of this cave was a handprint, which the prehistoric human had created by pressing his or her hand to the wall and blowing paint over it, creating an image in the negative.

A large group of students and Dr. Caldwell standing outside the entrance to the Font-de-Gaume.

It was an amazing weekend filled with prehistoric art, good food, and a lot of learning. Many of us remarked on how much we’d love to live in a beautiful, small French town like those of Sarlat and Les Eyzies.

Another beautiful photograph of Les Eyzies. There’s something so magical about a small French town!

Until next week, à bientôt and on s’adapte!

Grace, Fiona, and Alena

Paris, 2

Les Musées

Paris is a city rich in culture and history, during our week we visited several museums in which we saw renowned paintings and sculptures that many of us had learned about in art and French classes. Our first museum visit was the Louvre. Of course, as fate would have it, the wing displaying the French paintings that we had researched was closed off on Mondays, forcing us to cancel our prepared presentations. But, in the spirit of our group motto “on s’adapte,” instead of being discouraged, we used the extra time to explore the rest of the Louvre and visit exhibitions such as African art and the underwhelmingly small Mona Lisa.

Images from outside the Louvre. The infamous pyramids, and an even more infamous

In addition to the Louvre, we also went to the Pompidou Centre, the Musée d’Orsay, and the Musée Rodin. The Pompidou features modern art, where we got to see works by Henri Matisse, Picasso, and Kandinsky. We were supposed to visit the Carnavalet museum, but with our luck of course, it was closed for renovations. Once again true to our motto, “on s’adapte”, we went to the Rodin Museum instead, where we saw “The Thinker” and a collection of sculptures from Auguste Rodin’s career.

The famous statue of The Thinker, poised above the gardens at the Musée Rodin.

Our last museum, the Orsay, was a group favorite since it had sculptures, a wing full of impressionist paintings, and a temporary exhibition on Degas. Despite some occasional bad luck, we enjoyed learning about art and spending time out of the frigid streets of Paris.

Cate checking the time upstairs in the Musée d’Orsay.

Hallway of the Musée d’Orsay which used to be an old train station, since converted into a museum. 

Zach presenting his painting by Auguste Renoir at the Musée d’Orsay, while Professor Caldwell and the rest of our group looks on in admiration.

Les Spectacles

Being in Paris, a city famous for its culture, there was no way we could’ve missed out on the many shows it provided. As a group, we attended a modern dance show at Gymnase M. Bell, and although we did not get the best seats, it would be a lie to say we did not all enjoy it immensely. We went to see short plays at the Théâtre de la Huchette, and while these plays were a little bizarre to some of us at first, we grew to be fond of the shows as they went on. Dr. Caldwell also got us tickets to see the play, Le Petit-maître corrigé at one of the oldest theatres in Paris, La Comédie-Française. It was a unique and entertaining experience, to say the least.

The spectacular decor and paintings found in La Comédie-Française

The playbill for Le Petit-Maître Corrigé at La Comédie-Française

Inspired by the modern dance show we saw, some of us continued to pursue that interest and bought tickets to see another modern dance called the Trois Sacres. It turns out that although both shows belong to the same genre, the feelings they gave off were completely different; one was light and entertaining, while the other was darker and more thought-provoking. Nevertheless, we enjoyed the spectacle because it presented to us a different side of dance.

Paris is known as a global center for art and culture, and through these various spectacles, we took full advantage of all the city had to offer.

Nos sites préférés

We visited several monuments and famous sites during our stay including the Sacré Coeur and Notre Dame.

The famous towers of Notre Dame

The Sacré Coeur sits atop the hill that houses the neighborhood of Montmartre, famous for its talented street art vendors. Within the Sacré Coeur, we saw some of the most incredible mosaics, full of immense detail. Outside the Sacré Coeur, we lounged on the steps, bathing in the heat from the sunshine and looking out across much of Paris lying below us.

The basilica sitting atop the hill of Montmartre.

All in all, an interesting and entertaining week.

Until next time! On s’adapte,

-Lessi, Cate, Sebastien, Sarah, Macalah, Charlton, and Azlyne


Paris : La Ville Lumière

Vues de Paris

Oh Paris, Paris, Paris! Choosing just one place to start describing this city is hard because there are too many monuments, buildings, museums, and cafés that we could talk about. Although seeing and exploring each place of Paris was amazing, there was nothing like seeing the whole city from the top of places such as Montmartre. Seeing all the beauty of Paris at once was breathtaking and was one of the highlights of our excursion. Neither the time of the day nor the weather stopped us from enjoying the view of the city.

Overlooking Paris from the top of Montmartre-Sacré Coeur

Les jardins et les parcs

The beautiful city of Paris is home to some of the most amazing gardens in Europe. During our week in the city, many of us were fortunate enough to be able to visit a few of the many incredible gardens the city has to offer which include le Jardin du Luxembourg, le Marais and le Jardin des Tuileries.

Le Jardin du Luxembourg is one of the largest in the city centre, covering 23 hectares, and it is home to over a hundred statues, monuments, and fountains, which are all scattered evenly throughout the garden.

Lessi and Cate horsing around, and some immaculately pruned trees, both in the Luxembourg Gardens

Don’t be fooled! This isn’t a scene out of Stewart Little! This is the Palais du Luxembourg where children frequently come to sail boats in its fountain.

Le Marais is an aristocratic district of Paris, known for its well preserved buildings which contain both historic and architectural importance. Within Le Marais there lies La Place des Vosges, a square within the city that holds a commemorative statue of Louis XIII. Situated along the corridors of the Place des Vosges are small art galleries that the group enjoyed exploring.  

These uniform red brick buildings line the perimeters of Place des Vosges. The square is the perfect place for eating lunch, reading a good book, or people watching!

Le Jardin des Tuileries is located at the front of the Louvre and stretches to the centre of the city at Place de la Concorde. Also attached to this park is the Musée de l’Orangerie where many of Monet’s immense water lily paintings reside, as well as the works of several other famous impressionists.

The expansiveness of Le Jardin des Tuileries

Versailles: la grandeur de Louis XIV

On Tuesday morning we took a short train ride outside the city to the Château de Versailles. Upon arrival, we were struck with the immense beauty of the palace that was surrounded by a magnificent golden gate. Once inside, we got to explore the elaborately decorated rooms that were once home to Louis XIV and many other important figures in French history. The château was built in the 17th century and contains over 2,300 rooms, one of the most remarkable being The Hall of Mirrors.

Molly in all of her regalness in the Hall of Mirrors, Château de Versailles

After we had explored the palace we headed downtown for a delicious lunch at an Italian restaurant. After ordering, our waiter complimented our French and expressed his love for our home away from home, Bordeaux! Once we had warmed up and enjoyed some good food we headed back to wander around the famous Jardins de Versailles. This wasn’t an average backyard garden by any means. Stretching over 800 hectares this garden contained meticulously shaped bushes, flowers and trees. In addition, it incorporated beautiful sculptures, fountains and ponds with trails that could leave you exploring for hours!

Macalah, Julia, and Lessi (our freshman crew) in front of Le Château de Versailles, and les jardins.

La cuisine parisienne

Many of us have been taking French classes since elementary and middle school, and therefore we were eager to finally see the monuments and sites that we have learned about countless times in our classes growing up, but had never seen face to face! However, since coming to Bordeaux and learning about how the French culture is deeply rooted in gastronomy, we also made sure that we ate well while we were in Paris. Aside from the always popular street crepes, croque monsieurs, and macarons, we found ourselves at three wonderful group dinners over the course of the week where we all tried some new dishes and practiced the art of conversation- something the Parisiens seem to be experts at!

Our first dinner of the week occured at Le Procope, the oldest café in Paris, founded in 1686 and located in the 6th arrondissement. (Side note: an arrondissement is just a fancy French word that indicates a district within the city. There are 20 of them in Paris and we found ourselves frequently trying to see who was the best oriented with the map of the city. I think we would all unanimously agree that Lessi was our champion navigator.) At Le Procope we enjoyed an entrée of un oeuf poché avec une sauce aux champignons et parmesan, Coq au vin for our main dish, and une tarte citron for dessert. And, of course, wine to accompany our dinner because it wouldn’t be dinner in France without some good wine and some good bread.

Group shot at Le Procope, and l’oeuf poché avec une sauce aux champignons et parmesan.

Coq au vin, and une tarte au citron, both from dinner at Le Procope

Our second dinner of the week was pretty relaxed. After walking around in the cold Parisian air all day and seeing a couple of plays, some warm Italian food really hit the spot. While we clearly did not eat French food this night, this meal turned out to be many people’s favorite. We had a great time together and it made us look forward to our last group meal in Montmartre towards the end of the week!

In Montmartre, we once again escaped the cold and windy streets of Paris into a restaurant called La Bonne Franquette just a short walk away from Sacré Coeur. Moms and Dads out there will be happy to know that we all got in our veggies with a nice salad at the start of our meal. While most of us ate a salmon dish for our main course, the restaurant was very accomodating to our vegetarian friends and everyone headed into dessert quite content. However, dessert got some mixed reviews from our group. Some enjoyed the crème de marrons avec crème fraîche that we were served, while others were either not a fan of the dish at all or were simply downright confused as to what they were eating! Oh well, even in France not every dish can be a homerun!

Group dinner at La Bonne Franquette (left) and le crème de marrons avec crème fraîche (right) that left our group bewildered

 Stay tuned for Paris Part II, Coming Soon!

On s’adapte!

-Lessi, Cate, Sebastien, Sarah, Macalah, Charlton, and Azlyne




The Perigord: Geography, Food, & Wine

Hey! This is blog Team 4: Zach, Tanner, and Emily.

It was a beautiful weekend in Southwestern France, where the sun decided to pop its head out for the long awaited day trip to the Perigord! We took a break from the hustle and bustle of city life and took to the countryside to enjoy fresh green grass and rolling hills. The Périgord is a region in Southwest France known for its rich history, wildlife, and cuisine. Humans have been preparing food there longer than anywhere else in France (due to prehistoric connections in the Périgord). Most importantly, it is the center of truffle production– our main reason for making the trip!

Le soleil!

We began our Saturday morning awaiting our chariot (office of tourism bus) to take us to the countryside. However, the wait was a little bit longer than we expected… Instead of becoming worried and upset our group said “On s’adapte!” and walked around shining Bordeaux enjoying the sun and a café until the new bus arrived; in no time we were on our way to the Périgord!

Cate and Emily with the beautiful countryside home– our restaurant for the day!

It was a quick change of scenery as we drove away from paved sidewalks into vast lands of green. After a smooth ride, we arrived at the Truffle farm where we were immediately greeted by the owner of the farm and home. We didn’t waste any time when it came to eating, and immediately sat down in their rustic countryside home for a meal that can only be described as “the best food I’ve ever eaten” (-Grace Caldwell). As any great chef does, he explained to us how each course was prepared and various facts about truffles or “les truffes!” The first course was a small piece of pain (bread) with a truffle infused spread.

No true French meal is complete without l’eau de vie, which in English translates to the water of life. However, in France l’eau de vie refers to the life necessity– alcohol, specifically wine. With our meal we sipped on a sweet white wine called a Rosette. In contrast, we were served a bottle of red– a 2011 Château de Lys.

A smooth red wine called Chateau de Lys

Next came a dish called “La Brouillade” or in layman’s terms– fancy scrambled eggs. In short, this dish is prepared by whisking an egg, putting it in a container with truffle and leaving it in the fridge for a week. After this delicious dish, we were served les pâtes (pasta) with sauce aux truffes overtop (truffle sauce). On deck was a lightly dressed salad and a signature french cheese plate. To finish the delicious meal, was a small dish of vanilla ice cream adorned with a truffle caramel sauce. The perfect way to end a truffle meal!

La brouillade

Shortly after we began digesting our five course lunch, we joined a group of eager and lively people from all over the world. We were welcomed warmly as the “university students from New York.” Although we were already truffle connoisseurs, we listened to the farmer teach more truffle facts. France, Spain, and Italy are main producers of the truffle, however it was made clear to us that France reigns supreme over the latter two. This may be so, but did you know that parts of the United States produces truffles as well? California, Oregon, and North Carolina are among the truffle producing states!

Emily smells fresh truffles

Though they use dogs here at Pechalifour, pigs are expert truffle sniffers too.

The most important and interesting point of his presentation was when describing how he finds the truffles on his land. There are three methods to truffle hunting: using a trained furry four legged friend, a pig, or the method of “tapping.” This entails using a stick to tap on the ground, if une mouche (a fly) flies away from the dirt, that spot is likely where a truffle is hiding. However, lucky for us the farm had a trained dog to spot out truffles and her name was Lino! Although young, Lino had a great sense of awareness for truffles and served the group well! The SLU group was active during the hunt. Abroaders Grace Wetzel and Fiona Johnson stepped up to the plate and dug up some truffles of all different sizes- with the speedy assistance of Lino of course!

Fiona rejoices, holding her truffle

Grace digs for her truffle, the biggest found by the group

Due to our slight bus dilemma, our trip was cut a little short. However, we saw and experienced everything to make our trip one we will never forget. The day was chalk full of laughs, beautiful weather, (most importantly) a dog, and a once in a lifetime experience. After a quick group photo in front of the picturesque countryside we scurried onto the bus to return to our beautiful Bordeaux with full stomachs and happy hearts. Thank you for reading and following along!

Nous voici!

On s’adapte!

P.S. shout out to Grace Caldwell our student intern for researching and planning this awesome day trip!

Emily, Tanner, and Zach

Toulouse and Carcassonne

Bonjour from Toulouse and Carcassonne! This is Blog Team 2: Charlton, Grace, Alena, and Fiona!

Blog Team 2 hard at work giving you a glimpse into our journey!

This weekend the program took an excursion to the beautiful city of Toulouse, which is approximately two hours South-East of Bordeaux. Toulouse is known as “la ville rose,” or the pink city, due to the pinkish color of the brick buildings.

Toulouse, “La Ville Rose.”

After arriving in Toulouse, we got settled into our hotel rooms and got bundled up to go explore the city. Dr. Caldwell took us on a walking tour where we learned a lot about the history of the city. Most notably, we took a long detour into the Basilique Saint-Sernin, a beautiful Romanesque-style Basilica in the center of the city. Probably because we are an odd-looking group of American teenagers, one of the curators asked if we wanted to see more of the cathedral. Most of us took him up on his offer and were lucky enough to climb up to the second floor, the “tribunal.”

The Basilica Saint-Sernin

    A beautiful sunset at le Couvent des Jacobins

After the basilica, we went to see “Le Couvent Des Jacobins,” a Gothic-style monastery. This was also so beautiful, and there was a garden there that we were admiring when the sky decided to completely downpour on us. Luckily, there was a chic cafe across from the Place du Parlement, so that became the next stop on our tour–we admired the Place du Parliament as we drank some Chocolat Viennois (hot chocolate with whipped cream).

Macalah, Molly and Fiona, all smiles with their chocolat!

The place du Parlement

From there, we went to a restaurant called Le Point d’Ogre where we celebrated Grace’s 21st birthday over three courses – and lots of wine! We hit a record of 3 ½ hours for one meal. Some popular choices for food were: gateau du canard (duck cake) and pied de cochon (pigs feet).

Celebrating Grace’s birthday

Out for dinner in Toulouse

On Saturday we traveled to Carcassonne to explore the medieval fortified city and castle. We spent the morning exploring the corners of the city, the education museum, and the candy shops. In the afternoon we explored the inside of the castle and walked along the surrounding wall admiring the beautiful views of Carcassonne.

A beautiful view contrasting the medieval, fortified city of Carcassonne with its lower, modern counterpart.  

A group shot (minus Sarah) in front of the medieval city

Charlton, Zach, and Julia standing on the castle wall looking out on the city beyond the castle.

After a morning well spent exploring Carcassonne, the group was treated to lunch at the Compte Roger, where we were able to try a local dish called Cassoulet. Cassoulet is a rich, slow-cooked casserole that was initially created by the Romans. When it was first created, Cassoulet consisted of pork, sausage, goose, duck, pork skin and fèves (fava beans). The recipe later substituted fèves for white beans. The chef explained his dishes and the wines offered to us, and finished his explanation by telling us his cooking is so good it can make the sun come out. After leaving a finally sunny Bordeaux just to spend two days full of rain in Toulouse, we were hopeful. And then, what do you know – just as we took our first bites of his delicious entrée, the sun finally peaked through the clouds!

Toulouse’s specialty dish, the cassoulet

Another of our chef’s beautiful plats, chicken and risotto

Back in Toulouse on Sunday, we spent some time in the art museum La Fondation Bemberg at l’Hôtel d’Azzézat (a renaissance structure) as well as exploring the inside of the Place du Parlement’s Capitolium building. Sunday morning hit the group hard after a Saturday night out in Toulouse, and almost everyone was fast asleep as we rode the train back to our lovely home in Bordeaux.

Sebastian, Macalah, Emily, Lessi and Azlyne exploring artwork at Fondation Bemberg

Alena and Sarah in front of some of the artwork in Place du Parlement

We’ll see you next week as Blog Team 3 gives insight into student life at our French universities. As always, on s’adapte!

Grace, Alena, Charlton, and Fiona