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Poitiers: la ville aux cent clochers

Published: July 23, 2019

After a lovely Wednesday morning on the Seine and les Champs-Elysées, we hopped on a train (le TGV, or train à grande vitesse - literally, a train at high speeds) and made our way to beautiful Poitiers!  It was a little nerve-wracking to meet our host families for the first time, but with the amount of français we’ve been speaking for the last several weeks, we were more than ready for the challenge.

Thursday we met up again bright and early for a full day of classes in a local lycée (high school); the work doesn’t stop just because we’re in a new place!  In class, we talked about what we’d done and seen with our host families the evening before, learned a little more about the history of Poitiers, and got some work done on our projets and portfolios.

Friday was our chance to really get to know Poitiers on a walking tour of the city.  Known as la ville aux cent clochers (the city of a hundred bell towers), Poitiers is known for its historical buildings and especially for its churches.  We focused particularly on two of them: Notre-Dame-la-Grande and la Cathédrale Saint-Pierre.  The former dates back to the Roman occupation of Poitiers (then Lemonum), but was rebuilt extensively in the 11th century; the latter is the largest medieval monument in Poitiers, and was built at the behest of Aliénor d’Aquitaine (the only woman to be queen of both France and England - at different times, of course).  It was so interesting to see the evolution of architectural styles between the two churches, each of them beautiful in their own way.  While walking through Poitiers, we also saw a number of hôtels particuliers: luxurious private houses of the rich and famous, many of them still bearing the mottos and crests of their original inhabitants.  We rounded off the day with a special exhibit on les tapisseries (tapestries) of Aubusson, a town renowned for its rich textile tradition.  It was amazing to see the medieval tapestries, and even cooler to see the modern ones: we loved seeing how artists used the savoir-faire (knowledge and technique) of the past to create art with a contemporary twist.

Since then, we’ve spent several days with our host families, exploring the region and immersing ourselves in French culture (and hopefully getting at least a little bit of work done on our portfolios…).  We’ll see each other tomorrow for a visit to the Futuroscope and a chance to share some stories of what we’ve seen and done.  Check out the album here for a few photos of our time in Poitiers - more to come soon!