3 JAN 2017
There is a bumpy part of the freeway that jolts me awake in time to see the French countryside pass by through the bus window. It is about 3 PM, Strasbourg time, and we’re almost there. I met some of the other program students earlier at the airport meeting point, or treffpunkt. There are three of us from GSU, five from West Virginia U., and two from Wisconsin. There are other students in the program, but I have yet to meet them. Christina from CEPA greets us and takes us to the bus.
Pulling off of the freeway onto a forested road, we make our way to Pourtalès (pronounced Poor-ta-less). What snow is left seems to be melting. We pass through a wrought iron gate down a one-lane road and find ourselves seeing the château in person. It is grander than in the photos, I think because now it is much more real. Here is where I will stay for the next few months. Here is where Johann Wolfgang von Goethe and Franz Liszt, among many others, have stayed.
My roommate, Fernando, and I get an opportunity to check out our room and get settled in. There are two double beds, two closets, one simple desk, and, yes, a balcony overlooking the courtyard. And, it would seem, it is the only room like it. Fernando and I must have won some unknown drawing for best room possible. The floor creaks something fierce, though. I am thankful that there are no rooms beneath us, just the breakfast hall. A breakfast buffet is served between 7 AM and 10 AM; more to report on that tomorrow.
On the tour of the grounds, we are shown the classroom, the kitchen, the computer room, and the library. Those are where we, the students, will spend most of our time. There are hotel guests in another part of the château. With them, we will share the breakfast hall, Salon Rouge, and the park (the château has its own park). Each of these places will be described in much more detail in upcoming entries. They each deserve more time than I could have given them today.
Typically, we will have to fend for ourselves for lunch and dinner, but tonight being our first and welcoming night, we are treated to dinner in the restaurant located at the château grounds entryway by that wrought iron gate. A small grilled chicken salad with sweet balsamic vinaigrette to start, or as it is called in France, l’entrée (appetizer). Then le plat principal (entree), steak frites: medium-rare beef served with pepper sauce and fries. For dessert, le dessert (go figure), crème brûlée. It was just what we all needed after a long day. We were able to relax and get to know one another a bit better. We joked, we laughed, and we discussed the finer points of American T.V.
Now, back in my room, all is quiet except for the chirping crickets and cicadas just outside. The two pigeons who have taken up residence on the balcony beams coo occasionally into the night.