I wanted to wait until the tail-end to do this post (can you believe that it's already the tail-end?!) because throughout my trip, IES has taken us on some pretty awesome "excursions"! Excursions are field trips that we take on Fridays to other cities in the south of France.
The first excursion was to Aix-en-Provence, which is a city about three times bigger than Arles. It's where Cézanne painted, and we got to visit his studio. After that, we ate lunch at a restaurant in town (I’m including a picture of the dessert tray!) and then took a guided tour of the city’s main cathedral. As a religious studies minor, visiting churches has been one of my favorite things to do in France. Usually they are so old that they have been built and rebuilt in different time periods. For example, the cathedral in Aix has been built and rebuilt from the 12th century onwards, in both Roman and Gothic elements...
There were very modern elements to Aix, too, however – lots and lots of shopping. I had peach bubble tea, bought a necklace and two rings for less than 10 euros, and went into the Apple store (I asked if it’s called the “Pomme” store in France – disappointingly, the French stick with “Apple”) to drool over the Apple Watch. When an employee asked me if I had any questions, I was caught off-guard. I wanted to know if it was safe to wash your hands or take a shower with the Apple Watch still on your wrist. I wasn’t prepared with the question translated into French, though, and I stammered out (in French) “If one were to…wear the clock…that is for the wrist…and then put water…on the hands…that is dangerous? Or not?” The employee smiled and asked, in English and with a strong British accent, “Would you prefer that I speak in English?”
The next excursion was to Avignon. There were lots of tourists because we went during the week of the annual theater festival. During the festival, there are over a thousand plays that take place in Avignon. There are so many that they take up the whole city…they're in the restaurants, in the churches, and in the streets. The coolest thing was seeing the actors in costume passing out flyers for their plays when they were off-duty.
We also visited the "Palais des Papes," or the "Palace of Popes." It was another win for the religious studies minor. It’s a grand palace where the powers that be ran Western Christianity for a period in the Middle Ages before it was decided that the coast was clear for the Pope to return to Rome. It’s not deluxe in the style of Versailles, but it’s the biggest Gothic palace in all of Europe, and it’s incredibly well-preserved for a palace that was built almost 700 years ago:
Our last excursion was to the Baux-de-Provence, where we visited the remains of a 10th century castle and fortress. Although much of the castle is gone, there were deluxe reproductions of medieval weapons and the biggest trebuchet in Europe. We also got to see a reproduction of a blacksmith's workplace, where swords are still made today. In addition to being historical, the château is located on the top of a mountain where you can see plantations of olive trees for miles.
The excursions that IES took us on were always a great way to start the weekend. I’m definitely convinced that the south of France is the perfect place to spend a summer!
More Blogs From This Author
<p>Jessica Castellanos is a freshman at Northwestern University majoring in Slavic Languages and Literatures and International Studies with a minor in Religious Studies. Even though her major revolves around the Russian language, Jessica loves the French language and French culture and she hopes to become fluent someday and use the language in her career. In her spare time, Jessica likes to run, volunteer with animals, and read.</p>