I fell in love with France for a number of reasons, several of which involve chocolate, wine, and butter. Even the most perfect of eclairs or the best bottle of Bordeaux, however, cannot compare to two individuals who made my study abroad experience phenomenal: my host parents Marcel and Raymonde. Eight years ago, I lived with Marcel and Raymonde in Angers, France during my study abroad, and I still cannot believe how lucky I was to be placed with them. Not only did they help me with my homework, vocabulary, and pronunciation, they made me a part of their lives. They have lived and traveled all over the world, and every time I think of them, I feel inspired to chase horizons. I honestly can’t imagine my time in Angers without them in it.
When I emailed them to say that we’d be in France for four weeks and would like to see them in Angers, my host dad nearly convinced me to stay with them for two weeks!
You won’t find Angers (roughly pronounced “on-jay”) in every French guidebook, but it is a charming and beautiful city. Of all of the wonderful places Ben and I have visited, Angers is the location I could most picture myself living long-term. It’s large enough to support lovely museums and events, yet small enough to feel easily accessible.
My host parents took us on a few walks around the city, including up to my old school. I loved being able to show it to Ben. Angers is located in the Loire Valley, home to one of the country’s largest wine regions and a plethora of big, beautiful chateaux (large French manor houses or castles, once the homes of nobility). Ben and I visited two on our way to Angers, Villandry and Azay-le-Rideau. Villandry’s gardens were stunning (definitely worth a stop if you ever tour the Loire), but to be honest, Azay looks more impressive in the photos. (Apparently, in addition to developing a hopeless addiction to macarons, I’ve also turned into a chateau snob while abroad.)
Angers is also home to a chateau of its own. I can’t believe I walked by it every day on my way to school when I lived here.
Although the chateaux we visited in the Loire were grand, unquestionably the best part of our trip to the Loire Valley was spending time with my host parents. They are two of the most dynamic, intelligent, and kind people I have ever known, and it was an absolute joy to spend time with them again.
Ben and I felt continually welcomed, spoiled, and full the entire time we were together. We enjoyed two glorious meals in my host parents’ backyard garden, one of which involved nearly one baguette per person. Between the appetizers, cheeses, dessert and THIS spread, I could barely climb the stairs up to bed.
Because Ben doesn’t speak any French, I was nervous about the level of my conversation skills going into our visit, knowing I would need to play the translator for 48-straight hours. I also wanted to remember enough French to be able to have meaningful conversations with my host parents. I’m not sure where in my brain it has been hiding, but I am excited (and relieved) to say that most of it has come back to me.
Despite the fact that my host dad studies English, in order to help foster my French language skills, he never spoke to me in English while I lived with him. He did, however, make an exception for one meal during our visit—Ben and I joined his weekly English conversation group for lunch. I admired the group’s dedication to learning a new language, and I’d love to find something similar in French back home. We also visited the near-by “cave” (winery) of Christian Papin for a full-out tasting of some of the Loire Valley’s finest just outside of Angers. My host parents restocked their cellar, then graciously sent Ben and I home with a red, white, and rose, all of which we have been enjoying before dinner back in Paris. I feel truly blessed not only to have met my host family eight years ago, but also to be able to visit with them again. Next time, I just won’t wait so long to come back to France.
For more France travel updates: Like The Law Student’s Wife on Facebook (don’t forget to double click the “Like” button and select “Get Notifications”), where I’ll be posting quick blurbs of what we are up to each day. I’m also sporadically posting on Instagram when wireless connections cooperate, so you can catch a few shots there too. Disclaimer: I eat a lot of macarons.
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