Here I am with my bags all packed and ready to go. I tried not to overpack, since I hope to buy some lovely things while in France...but it still looks like a lot (really, those chef shoes take up a lot of space!) You might also note the heavy winter coat...I expect it to be chilly in France...the weather will be a little colder than Atlanta.
Much to the dismay of the chatty guy in the seat next to me, I slept most of the way over (thank you, my friend Ambien). While it was a pretty uneventful trip, it was fairly long - I had to make several stops since I booked my flight so late. Atlanta...Stuttgart...Paris...Lyon. I'm sure this multi-stop itinerary contributed to the loss of my luggage...see that lovely purple duffel bag in the picture...well, he's still somewhere between here at Atlanta. I hate that sinking feeling you get when you are standing at the baggage claim, watching bag after bag bounce off...but none of them is yours. Lucky for me it was only one of the two bags I brought, and it was the smaller of the two...so, thankfully I have most of my things. In theory, Air France will gladly deliver my lost bag to me in Yssingeaux when they find it...sadly, I don't have a lot of hope that I'll ever see that purple bag again.
I met up with my group at the Lyon airport/TGV station...we were greeted by a rep of the school - we all boarded a bus and headed off to Yssingeaux. There are 13 in the group and it is quite the United Nations of Pastry, with folks from Isreal, Norway, Australia, Canada, Chile, Brazil, Greece, Korea, US, Mexico and Russia. Most folks speak quite good English, so immdiately everyone began telling "their story" - how they got here, what they do back home, what they hope to accomplish while here in France. It is an amazing group of folks with a wide background and experience - some are already professional pastry chefs, and are here to learn new skills, some just recently graduated culinary school and are here to expand their pastry knowledge, some (like me) are career changers and some just have a passion for pastry and are here to see if it is a career they might like to pursue. I'm still learning all the names - it will take a few days, I'm sure. But, right now, it seems like a great group and a great way to expand my horizons.
Our school contact, Monique, filled in some details as we drove the 1.5 hours from Lyon to Yssingeaux - yes, we are in a very small little village - very nice, quiet and quaint. This is fine for me - I believe some of the younger students were a little dismayed as we drove through the city center and saw only a few restaurants, patisseries, one supermarket and a few very small bars.
The school is located in a Chateau - Chateau de Montbarnier - that is about a 10 minute walk from the city center. The chateau is charming on the outside, but, luckily, it has been renovated so it is all quite new, modern and comfortable. The school offices and several rooms are in the Chateau, while the classroom and kitchens are in attached/adjacent buildings. We spent the evening settling in, all getting our rooms, taking a tour of the key areas (our shared living room space, a kitchen we will all share for making our meals if we choose) and then sharing a light meal that was prepared for us by the school.
My room at Chateau de Montbarnier...my home for the next 8 weeks.
The very large and modern living room at the Chateau...where we tend to congregate
At first everyone was a little shy, but soon everyone was chatting, wondering what the course was going to be like and already making plans for sight seeing adventures on the weekends. Early in the meal, when folks were still a little quiet, one of the girls had the bright idea that we should all go around the table and tell our name, what country we were from, what we did before we came to the school and how old we were - SERIOUSLY - tell our age? Of course it seemed like a good idea to all of them - they're babies! Suffice it to say, I happen to be the oldest in the group, by quite a bit...how did that happen? when did I get to be the old one?
It was a long first day, but a good one...I think this will be quite the adventure, both in and out of the classroom - who says an old dog can't learn new tricks?