Tuesday, June 6

The Big Bonjour

Guten tag! Well, ENSICA rolled out the red carpet for us. We started the day off with many presentations. ENSICA was founded after WWII and is a middle sized engineering school with 550 students, but they're more research focused with 1000+ professors and lecturers. We started off with a presentation in the presentation room. I thought it was pretty funny to see a picture of Jacques Chirac on the wall. (As a matter of fact, it's the same picture as in the Wikipedia article to which I linked). By they way, in France, most colleges/univeristies are part of the Ministry of Education, but ENSICA is part of the Ministry of Defense.

They then took us around and showed us the four different departments: Mechanical Engineering, Computer Science, Fluid Mechanics, and Avionics Systems. ENSICA's focus is on airplanes and aerospace because Airbus and many other European aerospace companies are based in Toulouse.

Then we had the welcome lunch. They all had us surprised! It was in a seperate room in the cafeteria so I don't think we had extremely high expectations but we walked in and they had set up the works. Table cloths, 2 forks, 2 knifes, 1 spoon, ect. They literaly wined and dined us. We started off with a seafood dish: mussels from the ocean in a curry sauce, I think. With the silverware you start with the outside and work in. I followed the important French people from ENSICA to see what they did since they've done this sort of thing before. Man, I thought Porta Bella in Madison was fancy!

In France, lunch is the most important and biggest meal of the day and they don't worry if it takes two hours but this was like a French Thanksgiving. The cafeteria waitor guy then removed all our plates and replaced them with round #2: duck and yummy potatoes with little bundles of green beans in some kind of dark red sauce. Very good.

By this point there was only a spoon left. Dessert was next. Peach pie with sauce. Very good indeed. I think I've been ruined forever about cafeteria food. If this weren't catered and it truly originated in a cafeteria kitchen, well, I guess, leave it up to the French. I don't think I'll be able to go back to Gordon Commons, ever again.

They also gave us wallets with calculators that convert Euros. I looked up the rate today, it's between $1.29 and $1.30, which is bad. Two months ago it was $1.20. By the way they switch the commas and periods in numbers.

So then, we took one of Toulouse's two subway lines into the downtown for our walking tour. Although the tour guide wasn't bad, we've had better. Jamie in Munich set the bar pretty high. We saw the town hall which is called the Capitole. It was named after Rome's cityhall because they Toulousers wanted to tell the world that they're from the Romans and not Paris.

We then crossed the plaza and walked to an old house from the 1500's. Then we went to a former Jesuit school, cathedral, and monestary. Then we walked across the city to another church from the 1300's and in the gothic style. The tour wasn't bad; it was just like everything else in the southern part of France; slow, casual, and laid back.

You'll probably laugh, I like their French accents; it's probably my favorite. I thought that our tour guide and the waitor we had last night were both characters. The tour guide, Gilbert, I think, said that it hasn't rained here in a month, which is rather ironic because it hasn't stopped downpouring north of the Alps. Also, he said that it's going to get really hot very soon. It was in the low 80's again today, which without any humidity is really nice.

All the buildings in Toulouse are brick with terra cotta roofes, because the Romans showed them how to use all the clay they have around here.

After the tour, we came back and went through a few more formalities. Here, after 3 is the hottest part of the day because France is too far west for its time zone, which they chose to stick with the rest of continental Europe.

We then made our own dinners. And we went out and tossed around the Frisby my roommate gave me. If you're reading this Paul, it flew like a dream and I'm way better at frisbying now. Well, I better wrap this up, its just about midnight here in France. I'll get the pictures up tomorrow. I see we all managed to survive 6/6/06.

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