Sorry it took me so long to post; I really have been super busy traveling! (Not a bad problem to have I guess).
Let’s recap, shall we?
So after surviving the Alps, a couple of weeks later we had our first week break. So I traveled first to Barcelona. It was SO beautiful. Don’t get me wrong, the French aren’t mean people… but the Spanish are so much warmer. It’s the kind of hospitality you grow accustom to in the South and was refreshing to find in this fantastic city. I wandered down Las Ramblas and Port Colon; I even splurged on a water color piece of the beaches and sailboats nearby. Taking the metro was easy and the food was great, who can say no to tapas, paella, and chocolate and churros? Climbing to Park Guëll was a hike, but the panoramic views of the whole city and sea were well worth the climb.
Next, I hopped a jet to Paris, the city of lights. It’s just as magical as the movies make it. But be forewarned, the center is beautiful, of course, but as with most French cities, the outskirts are sketchy. Riding into the city via the RER shows another side of Paris that most people don’t like to acknowledge, but it’s a part of Paris, nonetheless. We learned in our French culture class about the banlieues, or the suburbs of Paris, which are frequently occupied by the families of the immigrants that came to France before and during WWII to aid France during the Occupation… but that’s a whole other topic, quite complicated and deep rooted within French culture and history. Any who. Back to Paris. So, we successfully navigated the metro, I almost got pickpocketed and wanted to turn around a punch the lady in the face… but I refrained. Speaking French is hard enough; can you imagine explaining to your program director that you need bail? After that little incident, we made it safely to the hotel and grabbed dinner before we settled in for the night. Over the next couple of days, we saw le Tour Eiffel, bien sûr… The Notre Dame, the Louvre, l’Arc de Triomphe, and Champs Elysées. But quite frankly, the best part of the whole Paris trip was going to Ladurée, the birth place of macaroons. Words can’t accurately describe how completely delicious these little treats were. I wanted to try two of every flavor. SOOOOOO GOOD. The trip was great, even though the weather was quite horrible… lots of rain and freezing temperatures! But hey, it was winter break.
Coming back to Aix was surprisingly welcoming. It finally sank in that this is home. Traveling was awesome, don’t get me wrong, but coming back, it was a relief. Familiar road, stores, and even faces. Back in my element… well, as close as I can get.
Actually, I was happy to get back to classes. Even though I’m completely out of my major, I really enjoy all the information I am soaking up. Sure, it won’t help me on the GRE or any kind of science test, but I feel so much more well rounded, academically speaking. I’m connecting architecture, art, sculpture, and archeology with what was happening during those times, understanding that different styles mirror the ideology of those societies. It’s nice to walk down the street and think to yourself, “oh that is from that period.” Also, all the guest speakers we have and the topics we talk about in my culture class, you realize that as an American that, firstly, we suck at geography, and secondly, that every country has their own set of problems, ideologies about politics, economics, and religion, and even different types of humor. Referencing back to Paris, there is a whole history of immigration and inequality that these immigrants had to endure, even while risking their lives for a country they didn’t live in! And those hard feelings, I think, are still somewhat present here in France, especially referencing the riots that broke out in France a couple years ago. But, back to my activities..
St. Patty’s weekend, I found myself not in Dublin, but London. And out of all the places I have traveled thus far, the only place where everyone spoke English, I was the MOST CONFUSED. The tube closes earlier than I would expect and opens later!! UGH, public transportation… the bane of my existence. And the cute little red buses, yea, those are confusing too. But, it was a great trip. I took a walking tour of Old London and learned a lot about the history of London. It was really neat to listen to all the stories and tid bits of info that I would otherwise never get to know about!
Back in Aix, school resumed its normal activities, including a trip to Luberon, which is a mountain region in the south of France. We visited Loumarin, Lacoste, and Rousillon, walking through marches, seeing castles, and walking through were people mine for ochre for painting. Pretty neat. The day after, my archeology class had a field trip to Glanum, where we saw ancient Greek and Roman ruins. It’s a different experience here, in Europe, to not only study ancient civilizations or learn about architecture or sculptures or paintings, and they are literally a train ride away. I think Europeans take that experience for granted, because seeing pictures in a text book is nothing compared to walking through the actual ruins and touching the springs where people came to heal.
So, now I’ve caught you up to speed and am about to leave for Rome for Easter!! I can’t think of a better city to be in to celebrate Easter and maybe I’ll get a peek at the new pope! Fingers crossed.