Saturday, February 6, 2010

A day at the Abbaye

I used my Friday off to bum along on a trustfundergrad day-trip to the Abbaye de Royaumont, which is about an hour northwest of Paris. The abbaye itself was nothing spectacular, especially compared to those I saw in England (which were better-maintained, steeped in history and exuded that contemplative and timeless "sacred" feeling...this one was pretty uninspiring in comparison). The unseasonably warm and sunny weather made it a pleasant afternoon to spend in the country nonetheless. My group got stuck with a terribly dull tour guide, but I was able to amuse myself by imagining that every time she said "abbé" (abbot) she was actually saying "abeille" (bee), and I was soon chuckling at the thought of bumble bees buzzing through the halls of high, vaulted ceilings.

The sub-par abbey and tour were of little consequence, however, as the main reason I (and everyone else) came on this particular trip was for the lunch. After being lead into a truly Harry Potter-esque, elegant, naturally-lit room with we were treated to a gourmet meal that spanned three hours, four courses and about a bottle of wine per person. First course: tapenade on toast, chive and garlic cheese wrapped in roasted eggplant. Second course: pork in a dark sauce, potatoes. Third course: cheese and salad. Desert: coffee, vanilla bean ice cream dusted with pistachios and a vanilla custard with a dark chocolate and caramel crunch base. A very elegant, very French afternoon, and a great opportunity to relax and chat with a few of the grad students I don't see on a regular basis.

The undergrads made me feel old--and proud. On top of abusing the privilege of free wine refills with lunch a group of freshman had smuggled seven or so extra bottles aboard the bus and, in spite of having two of them confiscated by an irritated administrato, they still managed to get wildly day drunk. The result was an ill-planned, wet escapade across the canal followed by a rather harsh bus ride back. The kid who had been their ringleader managed to vomit all over the front of himself before ruining his camera bag catching the rest. Afraid of punishment, he tried to keep his suffering on the DL in the back of the bus, but all he really ended up accomplishing was that he inflicted the nauseating smell on his hoard of unhappy, drunken comrades. When the bus finally pulled up to Trocadero they stumbled green-faced and humiliated back onto the streets of Paris. If I hadn't also been somewhat subject to the smell in the front of the bus it would have been a pretty comical sight. My first instinct was to be irritated at the kid, but I ended up just feeling bad for him. I suppose everyone has to test their limits during Freshman year, but at least for most of us it doesn't involve being subjected, puke-covered, to public chastising from your teachers, followed by a metro-ride home at rushhour surrounded by sneering commuters and an eventual confrontation by a home-stay family. Poor guy. I gave him a stick of gum, a pack of Kleenex and a bottle of water and wished him well before I went on my way.

1 comment:

  1. Seriously kind of you! I'm really not looking forward to that with my course... 100 guys between 18-20... They're all down at the river now getting wasted. Not my idea of fun, and hopefully they won't be too loud by the time the get home!

    Lunch sounds amazing! Also, it may be my complete lack of abbey experience, but it looks wonderful to me! Obviously I need to come visit and be shown all the better examples ;)