One advantage of working with a study abroad program is that you get to go on excursions as part of your job… and get paid for it. It’s a great perk, but it certainly adds a new dimension to travel that I had never really gotten to explore: being responsible for more than just me.
A couple of weeks ago, MICEFA went on its first Spring excursion. The group took a bus from Paris to two highlights of the Loire Valley: the Château de Chenonceau, and a winery called Plou & Fils.
The Loire Valley stretches from just a couple of hours south of Paris all the way to near the western coast of the country. It’s a beautiful expanse of touristic delights, with royal castles, natural parks, and picturesque towns all along the way.
Our first destination: the Château de Chenonceau! Dubbed the jewel of the Loire Valley castles, this medieval castle used to be the living space of kings and queens. It’s built right on top of the River Cher, and the castle’s story will make you believe in life after love: Catherine de Medici, widow of King Henry II and a powerful queen in her own right, built up the castle to most of its current splendor with its beautiful gardens, intricately designed rooms, and natural beauty.
Getting away from the busy Paris life for just a day was a delight. The castle was surrounded by gardens and woods — all recovering from a cold winter, yes, but with a still, calm sort of beauty. The castle itself was magnificent, a taste of medieval opulence. The various royal bedrooms and studies, once the living quarters of French nobility, made for fantastic photos.
All I had to do for my job was make sure that my half of the group got in the castle on time and that nobody did anything too rowdy. I shouldn’t have worried at all: my classmates were all mature enough to take responsibility of themselves. After all, they were all like me: independent study abroad students in Paris who loved culture and travel.
Oh, another job I had: taking a group photo.
After the castle was what everyone was waiting for: the tour of the Plou & Fils wine caves. Built into rock faces in the valley, the caves were home to a variety of wines sitting in wait to develop the best flavors possible. Everyone got to taste some of the finished product, of course: reds, whites, and rosés, all superb. Nearly everybody went home that day with a bottle or two (or eight…).
All in all, it was a pretty fun, interesting, educational day. We all piled into the bus back to Paris with more open minds and a slight buzz from the wine.