Posted by: Flannery | March 17, 2011

Weekend in Provence and Brian’s visit!!!

Hey everybody! Sorry for the long break between posts, I’ve been running around like crazy! Here’s what’s been happening:

Last weekend I went on an excursion with my program to the south of France, specifically the province of Provence. The first town we visited was Aix-en-Provence. It was fantastic!! I got up on Friday morning at the crack of dawn and got to the train station at about 6:45 in the morning. We loaded up onto the TGV and spent about 3 hours riding down to the south. We arrived in the train station and then took a bus for about 20 minutes into the actual town of Aix. It was such a cute little city!! It was much smaller and cleaner than Paris, and it felt really safe. The people were nice too! I think the South of any country is just a little more relaxed and friendly 🙂

Once we arrived and checked into our hotels, we split up for lunch. My friends and I went to pretty much the first cafe we came to, since we were so hungry, and it turned out to be a great choice! Their bread was amazing, as was the aioli that some of the girls got–that’s apparently a specialty of that region. After lunch we went exploring/shopping for a few hours (I bought some postcards) and then went to our respective hotel rooms for a little chill time before having a guided tour of the town. Shortly into the tour, I realized that my friends and I had accidentally seen most of what the tour guide was showing us when we were walking around earlier in the day! So that was a little redundant, but of course it was nice to have the guide explaining what everything actually was. Then after the tour we had dinner at a little Italian restaurant, and then later we went out to experience the night life of Aix-en-Provence! Verdict: pretty tame. But nevertheless we had fun, and I always enjoy spending time with the people in my program!

Saturday morning I got up and joined a sizable group who was going with Anne-Marie (our program director) to the markets of Aix which are open on the weekends. First we saw the flower market, which basically looked like a town square that had bloomed overnight–there were so many flowers!!! It was absolutely gorgeous, everything was so vibrantly colored and also pleasantly scented! It made me want to garden, even though I know next to nothing about when/what/where to plant things, much less keep them alive. So I settled for taking a bunch of pictures lol 🙂 After the flower market we progressed to the section that was more of a traditional farmer’s market, where people brought their fruits, vegetables, baked goods, honey, and even homemade goat cheese. Again, I was floored by how fresh and beautiful everything was! I never thought there was a day when I would look at a table full of cabbage and carrots and deem them worthy of a photograph, but that was the day! Everything looked great, and I even tried a strawberry and a sample of goat cheese (not together) and they were both fantastic. I also bought a little pot of honey and some sachets of lavender (grown right there in the south of France!) to send home to my mom.

After that, the market shifted more toward textiles–there were stands of clothes, gloves, bedspreads, napkins/aprons, and bags lining the streets. Provence is apparently known for their vibrantly colored fabrics, and I definitely saw that both in what they were selling and in what everyone wore. In Paris the default color is black, but in Aix, there was no default! Everybody was dressed in bright colors and it fit in perfectly with the sunny days and warm temperatures. So, going with the flow, I bought six really pretty dinner napkins, each with a yellow background, several sprigs of lavender, and one big bright red flower in the middle! Again, these are for my mom 🙂

Then my friends and I hoofed it up a huge hill to see Paul Cezanne’s workshop. He lived in Aix, although the French didn’t care for his art at the time he was painting. They thought it was “too modern,” and as a result, America snapped up most of Cezanne’s works, and now the town of Aix doesn’t own any of them! They had his workshop preserved very well though, which was fun to see. They even had his coats hanging on the pegs just as he would have left them at the end of each day! Very cool. So after that little tour, I headed back down into town to catch the bus to Cassis. Pretty much our whole program went on this little side trip, because Cassis is a coastal town and we were all eager to see a beach! After an hour drive, (10 minutes of which were spent on a terrifying mountain road about 3 inches from the edge of a cliff) we arrived in Cassis. Anne-Marie took everyone to a perfume/soap shop that makes all their products using scents that are naturally in the area. Even though they were limited to natural scents, that turned out not to be a limitation at all. There was a huge variety of soaps and perfumes, and each one of them smelled so real! I could really tell that they weren’t just manufactured in Bath and Body Works headquarters haha, it was great. So I got a little soap, and then a bunch of the girls and I sat down in a little harbor-side cafe for ice cream. Then we headed to the beach! Even though we all had pretty substantial footwear on (I was wearing socks and heeled boots haha) we tore all that off, rolled up our jeans, and played in the Mediterranean! It was cold but definitely worth it, as it was the first time to that ocean for most of us. So after playing around and taking some silly pictures, we loaded back up on the bus and headed back to Aix.

 

The next day was Sunday, our last day until we headed back to Paris. We got up and checked out of our hotel and loaded on the bus to head to Marseille. In my mind Marseille was supposed to be this gorgeous beachy sort of city, but I was totally wrong! It’s really a port city, so its only main attraction is the port. Everything else was a bit lame sauce. BUT my favorite part was the church that is apparently one of the symbols of Marseille—it’s a church called Notre Dame de la Garde, and it was beautiful! It’s situated right on top of a huge hill, and you can pretty much see it from anywhere in the city. We took the bus up there, and after climbing a bunch of steps up to the actual church, I turned around and was greeted by the most unbelievable view. It was GORGEOUS!! And what’s cool about the south of France is that a panoramic view includes a bunch of stuff—it’s not like in Florida where you just look out and see the ocean for miles and miles. In the south of France (both coastal cities we visited) you could look out and see the ocean, but also the city or port that was right on the water, and also huge mountains in the distance! It was really neat, because it challenged my typical expectations of “the coast,” where everything just kind of slopes off into the water. There were huge rocks, and jagged cliffs, and boats all over the place, and it was great! So, not only was the view pretty, but the church itself was really intriguing. Instead of being a big dark cathedral with stained glass, like many of the churches in Paris, this church had mosaics covering the entire inside. Also it must have had big windows that I just didn’t notice, because it was really bright inside. Anyway, so there was lots of light and the decorations inside were really vibrant. As one girl in my program described on her way out, “Have fun in there, it’s so gaudy!” But I didn’t think so! It was a different style from the typical old European cathedral, but it was beautiful in its own way. I wouldn’t have minded going to church there! I did linger for a while and tried to catch what the speaker was talking about, but I couldn’t figure out much more than just when he said “Jesus” haha.

 

After that church, we went to the beach to relax for the rest of the afternoon. Like I said, the beach was so rocky! It was really different, but in a good way. It felt more natural than sand, in some ways! After hanging out at the beach for a while, we got on the bus and headed to the train station, and then we rolled into Paris at about 9:00 that night. It was a great weekend!

 

Then this past week, Brian visited for spring break!!! We had so much fun, and we hit all the high spots of Paris in terms of sightseeing. The top of Notre Dame was one of my favorites! I had never climbed the tower before, but I’m so glad I did. Even though it was over 400 steps to the top, it was totally worth it! The cool thing about Notre Dame is that you get both the panoramic view of Paris, which is always lovely, but you also get to be up close and personal with really famous parts of the church. I think I was probably four feet from several gargoyles at one point! And then you get to shimmy yourself through this TEENY door, and on the other side of it is the huge bell! It was really amazing to see, because that bell has been hanging in that tower since the 1500s. So yes, that was one of my favorite sites of the week. And we tried several times to go to Sainte Chappelle, but the line was forever long both times we went, so we bagged it. I’m determined to see that church before I leave though, because I didn’t see it the first trip here and it’s supposed to be gorgeous! Anyway, some other highlights of the week: buying art from street vendors on Boulevard St. Michel, having dinner at a café on the Champs-Elysées, drinking some delicious and authentic Champagne, seeing the Eiffel Tower light up from the top of the Arc de Triomphe, and so much more! It was a great week.

 

And now Brad and I are eagerly awaiting the arrival of our siblings!!!! Maddie and David will be arriving at the crack of dawn tomorrow (Friday) morning, and we’ll do all the touristy stuff again! I’ll try to post as soon as they leave and give an update on all the stuff we see/shenanigans we get into! (Just kidding Mom, there will be no shenanigans.)
Until then!

~Flan

 

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Responses

  1. Stop making me jealous with all your fun stuff.

    • Hahah sorry dear!! If it helps, I’M jealous of YOU b/c all your classes are in English lolol

  2. Tell Maddie to be sure there’s room in her bag for all my goodies! 🙂 Keep having fun! Be safe! LOVE, Maj~

  3. Great pictures and commentary-when do classes start?
    Austine and Bill

  4. update!!!!!!!!!!

  5. we want more updates!!


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