On Saturday an unlikely group took a train ride together to visit the small ville of Chinon. A man originally from Taiwan, now relocated to Boston where he practices general medicine, a nurse practitioner from Washington DC, Barbara, a Swiss teacher studying in Tours as part of her professional development program (WOW!), and Bill, from Australia, joined us as we ventured to Chinon, a tiny town on the Cher River.
Highlights from Chinon included a relaxed four-course lunch with our new companions, and learning how to geo-cache with Barbara. The view back on the chateaux and the town from the opposite side of the Cher river was spectacular, too. After visiting the chateaux (which we preferred viewing from the exterior, as opposed to the tour inside), and after losing a member of our group who wandered off unknowingly, we all recognized that our growling tummies could be put off no more. Thankfully, on our way to lunch, Andrew relocated Jack enroute to our destination, and our group of 6 reunited. Lunch at Au Chapeau Rouge started with a petit amuse bouche, followed by a fois gras portion for both Andrew and me. For the main course, fish from the river Cher, along with mushrooms and other veggies, arrived bathed in a burgundy sauce. After our cheese plate, my favorite course arrived: chocolate ganache with saffron ice cream.
We all decided that quick spin through town would help us digest our rich lunch and wine, so off we went, me as “madam-guide” as Bill dubbed, and Barbara ever snooping around for a geo-cache treasure. We even took advantage of the Chinon Jazz festival while visiting. Even though rain interrupted the jam session, we enjoyed jazz on the river, too. A lively group played melodic jazz music in the afternoon from a boat parked on the Cher, and when weather threatened to end the party, the group just moved under a cluster of trees, and started again. Most interactively, they proceeded to lead the crowd on a jazz march through town, stopping every 200 meters or so to finish a song, and then moving along through the streets again, so even folks who opted to stay home could hear the music from their windows and balconies.
Most impressively, though our group of wayward traveling friends were almost all anglophones, we managed to speak mainly French the whole day! While Andrew thinks the amount of distressingly poor French might have caused him to regress in his abilities, the comprehension level was just about right for me! Anyway, I appreciate how others are willing to play along with the immersion experience, and recognize that when learning another language, the other second (or third, or fourth) language learners can often be the most sympathetic listeners, and provide the most appropriate input.