I’m starting my last week in Arles. A few weeks ago, the half ruined towers that marked the entrance of the city were slightly terrifying. Now they feel welcoming and familiar. A friend of mine even described them as “confining,” which is odd when you consider the fact that Arles is the largest commune in France. However, you have to take that record with a grain of salt; that commune includes the Camargue nature reserve. The actual city of Arles is small enough that you can walk from one end of the town to the other in twenty minutes. Arles and my hometown, Rocky Mount, have roughly the same population, but walking twenty minutes in Rocky Mount will probably get me killed by traffic. I think that’s just a difference between the way European cities and American cities are set up; you can even walk around Paris to get anywhere, though it will take a while.
Now that the festivals are over, there’s little activity in town. Most of the bustle comes from tourists who speak every language except French. I’ve heard English, German, Chinese, Spanish, and what I believe were Scandinavian and Eastern European languages. That’s only what I’ve heard; I’m sure that there are plenty of other languages being spoken at the Place de la Republique right now. It’s fascinating to hear all these different people speaking in so many different tongues, but most of them are just day visitors. Few stay for longer than that, since Arles is pretty small and, as I mentioned, the festivals are over.
Classes are winding down, too. Even though exams are on the horizon, the professors seem to want to respect the fact that these are our last days in France. Which, you know, I can get behind that. So, the question is, what do I do with these last days? I’m going to visit Marseille with the group, of course, but what else? I suppose it’s time for a “farewell tour” of my favorite restaurants in the area.
Is Arles confining, though? While I understand completely what my friend means, I feel the opposite way. Arles has been a liberating experience for me. I feel more comfortable with my French, I feel like I know the world a little bit better, and I feel like I can return home with no regrets. Here’s to the last week, and if I don’t write another blog before I leave, here’s to my trip home.
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<div><span style="color: rgb(29, 29, 29); font-family: Arial, Verdana, sans-serif; font-size: 12px; line-height: normal; background-color: rgb(237, 237, 237);">My name is Miller McLean, and I am a rising senior majoring in English and French while minoring in German at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. I grew up in Rocky Mount, North Carolina, but have always wanted to get out and see the world. At school, I am involved in the German Club, the Culture Committee, and the pre-law organization Phi Alpha Delta. In my free time, I like to read, write, and play music. Since beginning my French studies in high school, I have taken an interest in foreign languages and cultures, and I hope that my stay in Arles will help expand my world view and improve my knowledge of French. I look forward to the challenges and opportunities that France will offer me, and I hope you enjoy my posts about my journey!</span></div>