Learn to breathe in a small town
The spring comes to the Loire Valley in its own blankets of florid magic. The flowers, budding vineyards and manicured vegetable gardens all conspire to make each patch of land look more lovely than the last one. And if the overall topography says “tres belle!” in the pristine French accent that’s said to be a trademark of this part of France, the real gorgeousness of this time is seen best in the market towns that dot the rivers Cher and Loire as they snake their way from the center of France to the sea. Our home in the Loire Valley, Montrichard, is one of these towns.
Students who are nervous at first about what being in Europe will feel like don’t stay that way for long once they take a day to wander through Montrichard, a town that was already ancient before Columbus sailed to the Americas. A place of just 3500 souls, Montrichard still boasts a full experience of “world citizenship” that American places far larger cannot.
A Little Global Gateway
This claim to global belonging is not simply because there’s an 11th century Castle at the heart of so small a town. Nor is it because one of the greatest battles in the history of Medieval Europe was fought right by here 1000 years ago. Also beyond the scope of this claim is the fact that Montrichard boasts an international spirit from its river to its historic heights, even offering a helpful road sign in German indicating that the drive to its sister city in Germany is just a 1000 plus kilometers away.
The place has global greatness because of much smaller things. Those include the presence of a train station at its heart, from which you can travel to the Tours in 25 minutes for dinner or to CDG airport to make an early afternoon flight to anywhere in the world. Or to central Paris in less than 90 minutes. And the fact that there are pizza joints, a kebab shop, fine restaurants and seasonally perfect oysters to be found just blocks from where our program lives in this city.
It’s also a global gateway because of the privilege everyone here gives to local products whose greatness is such that the whole world wants to eat what the Friday morning market sells to our students and their neighbors. Chevre that’s known all around Paris at the finest restaurants is ours on the cheap, right in town. And sparking wine that’s uncorked from Beijing to New Orleans in honor of weddings and other celebrations? It’s made a short walk from our program’s home at places like the Monmousseau and Paul Buisse caves.
Your First Home Abroad
Our program goes on from its start to the very greatest cities of Europe if not the whole world. And our students gain the confidence and competence to manage themselves and their academic learning all along the way. And yet for most of our students when November comes to an end, there’s always a poignant looking back to their first home in Europe and how it felt to wander those small stone streets. And hunt down the perfect croissant. Before walking across the Cher and starting a hike to the next town or two. Just because that’s what one does in the European world of a market town like Montrichard.
Where time hasn’t stood still, but where all of us who go to live there with The Village can stand still. And mindfully absorb the fact that literally scores of centuries have been lived here in sometimes brutal and sometimes highly civilized ways