Sarah Harper Angers
France: Brittany, Normandy, and the Loire Valley
My name is Sarah Harper, and I am studying abroad in Angers France for the Fall semester of my junior year. I am working toward a supplementary major in French, so, of course, France is the perfect place to help me become fluent in French. My primary major is Art History, so I enjoy visiting the different cultural sites such as palaces and museums. I am living with a host family, so I am always surrounded by the French language. During the month of September every student takes an intensive French language course, so this month I have focused on honing my French language skills. I am studying at the Catholic University of the West and meeting people from all over the world.
Angers is a lovely historical city with its very own castle which has no less than seventeen towers! Angers also showcases an impressive art collection. The Castle safeguards “The Tapestry of the Apocalypse” which tells the story of the Book of Revelations in the Bible. The tapestries are very expansive and make quite an impression. Angers is also very proud of one of their most distinguished citizens, Pierre Jean David d’Angers. D’Angers was a sculptor during the early 19th century and he is most known for sculpting the pediment for the Panthéon in Paris. Angers has a museum dedicated to their local hero containing both originals and copies of his works including a mold of the Panthéon’s pediment and a mold of the Gutenberg Monument in Strasbourg. D’Angers also created many busts and medallions of the most famous people of his time, including Victor Hugo and the artists Eugene Delacroix and Theodore Gericault. The ceiling of the museum is mostly made of glass, so the space is bathed in light which creates a dramatic atmosphere for viewing his artwork. Angers also boasts an impressive collection inside of its Museum of Fine Arts. The small museum holds artwork by famous French artists such as Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres, François Boucher, Theodore Gericault, Jean Honoré Fragonard, and Antoine Watteau. I enjoyed walking through this museum and soaking in all of the art within its walls.
During the weekends my program has hosted trips to different locations throughout France. The first weekend we ventured to Mont Saint Michel. Mont St. Michel is an old abbey that is located just off the coast of Normandy. It was created as a very secluded island reserved for prayer. Today it is a stunning historical monument and one of the most visited sites in France. We explored the abbey and saw the cathedral as well as the place where the monks used to work and pray. We also walked around the town. After Mont Saint Michel we traveled to the town of St. Malo in Brittany. There is a wall surrounding the town of St. Malo that people can walk on. It was really beautiful to see the town from above. Crepes and galettes (savory crepes) were invented in Brittany, so of course we enjoyed delicious galettes for lunch.
The next weekend we journeyed back to Brittany, but this time we went to the Golfe of Morbihan. We took a boat ride across the golfe and then picnicked on a beach. The beach was stunning. We had just enough time to take a short nature walk across the beach searching for shells and little critters that washed up on the shore. We also saw the prehistoric Carnac Megaliths. It was interesting to see all of the different sizes and the organization of the megaliths. We ended the visit by stopping by the town of Vannes where we ate crepes and walked around the beautiful gardens.
The third weekend we traveled around the Loire Valley. We visited the Chateaux of Chenonceau. Henri II gave Chenonceau to his mistress Diane de Poitiers, however, after Henri died, his wife, Catherine de Medici, kicked Diane out. Catherine is the one who decide to construct the iconic bridge gallery. Chenonceau is a gorgeous chateau as both its gardens and interior décor are stunning. We then journeyed to the town of Amboise where I was able to see Clos Lucé with a couple of friends. Clos Lucé is the house where Leonardo da Vinci spent the last two years of his life. We then traveled to the chateaux of Chambord. Chambord was built by François I as a hunting retreat. It is famous for its double helix stair case. It is a large chateau and has beautiful grounds as well as a very interesting interior.
So far, my stay in France has been truly amazing! I have seen a lot of incredible art and my French is improving daily. I plan to continue seeking out opportunities to study art and to explore France.