Moulins, Marks & Leaving Vichy

My last day at Cavilam is also – fittingly – the end of the world. It’s been a joking topic of conversation in class for the last week or so – La Fin du Monde – and while the prophesied end-time of Sylvain Durif (the Cosmic Christ) would appear to have somehow been miraculously averted, my ‘graduation’ proceeded as planned. I received my attestation and certificate, took my final classes, thanked my teachers and left Cavilam for the last time. Overall, my experience at the school was excellent – the classes were good, but more than anything, living in Vichy with a host family was what sealed the deal for me. It was an amazing experience the like of which I will not soon see again.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s rewind a little bit. On Wednesday, the Cavilam animators organised a daytrip to the small nearby city of Moulins. The main attraction there was the CNCS – the Centre national du costume de scène, which showcases theatre and ballet costumes in various exhibits throughout the year. Personally, I’ve never been particularly captivated by costumes, so it came as some surprise to me that that I actually found the trip very interesting. The present exhibition at the CNCS is the series of costumes designed for the ballet La Source, which are the work of the famed French designer Christian Lacroix. During our guided visit, the amount of time, hard work and expense that goes into producing each and every costume was explained to us, and I left the museum with a much better appreciation for the genuine artistry of costume design. Unfortunately, photography was prohibited in the exhibition hall, but you can see some examples on the CNCS website.

After the museum, we were given leave to wander around Moulins for a while. After exploring the city briefly, some friends and I stopped in at the Grand Café, which dates from the 1800s and is apparently the local equivalent of heritage listed. One of the animators mentioned that it’s a Parisian style café – and it is certainly visually striking. You can see many more photos taken by other people that show the mirrored walls and ceiling artwork. It’s a gorgeous place to stop in for a hot chocolate.

Le Grand Cafe in Moulins.

On Thursday evening there was another degustation workshop, this time generally of regional specialties. In addition to the requisite wine, cheese, salad, charcuterie and bread, we also had a type of potato pie called Pâté aux pommes de terre. I’d had this before at my host family’s house, but that didn’t make it any less delicious. Afterwards, I asked one of the animators to write down the recipe for me – it’s surprisingly simple, and perhaps later I will reproduce it here.That same evening, I went to see a free film screening at the amphitheatre – Le Boulet – which was not bad.

And then, alas, my final day in Vichy. I spent the whole day hovering between sadness and excitement – I was sad to leave, even in just three weeks I’d begun to feel really at home in Vichy, living with my host family and going to school. I had the sensation that there was a comfortable, happy rhythm there waiting to be settled into. But, at the same time, the idea of meeting Alex in Paris and continuing on our journey was – and is – very exciting. As I mentioned earlier, I got my attestation and certificate and learnt that I had received my B2 – That is in reference to the Common European Framework for Languages – which means that I am an upper intermediate user of French. My professor also opined that, in fact, I would be better suited to a B2+ class if I were staying on longer. Cheered by this news, I went past a florist and a chocolatier and bought a rose and some chocolate to greet Alex on the day to come.

To view a gallery of photos relevant to this post, click here. To view the irrelevant, but highly amusing comedy stylings of an infant otter, click here.

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