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19

May

Leaving on a Jet Plane

Today was my last full day in Aix.

That was really weird to type.

Last night, everyone that was still in town met at Hotel de Ville for our last night out as a group. We easily had 75 people there by 11p.m. and our crowd just kept growing until well after midnight. It was fantastic seeing everyone, but it was definitely not so fantastic knowing that everyone would be leaving at some point in the next two days. 

And we most definitely did not jump in the Rotunde fountain.

But if we did, it would only have been to celebrate our last night here.

I spent today wandering around town with my cousin Carla, who stopped here for the day on her way to Paris. We went to the Grande Marché, bought a picnic lunch and flowers for my host family, ate at the Pavillon Vendôme (the park near my house), walked around town for a while, and then got smoothies at a café before she had to leave to catch her train to Paris. And Danielle and I are having our last meal with our host family tonight, so I’m sure that Mireille has prepared something delicious.

For my last Saturday in Aix, that is exactly what I wanted to do.

In 15 hours, I will be leaving Aix for the foreseeable future, which only extends to next May, so that statement isn’t too dramatic. My housemate leaves before me, so I’m getting up at some ridiculous hour to say goodbye to her, and then I’m leaving for Marseille around 10 tomorrow morning.

I’m definitely not ready to say goodbye. 

Full Disclosure: I started crying while I was typing this.

16

May

Reality Check

I’ve been in denial.

For the last couple of weeks, I have avoided acknowledging that the end of my semester in France was so close. Right now, I’m leaving this wonderful country of wine, cheese, and crêpes in 4 days, and I still have not packed. I have not emptied out my suitcases. I have not organized the clothes in my closet, and I have not figured out what I’m bringing home and what I’m throwing away.

I have, however, gone to Rome, gone to the market (several times), gone on picnics, gone to the deepest spring in the world, and sprinted through town with some of my friends while attempting to make it to a movie on time. I think the memories that I’ve made in the last couple of weeks more than balance out the packing I have not been doing. 

As I was writing final papers, preparing business plan presentations, and studying for finals last week, I started thinking about all the things I’ve learned and all the things that still baffle me.

Things I’ve learned:

  • eating is a very important experience- don’t try to rush through it
  • there is a proper time of year to drink each type of wine, but most people don’t follow it- rosé is always acceptable
  • French time is ten-fifteen minutes later than American standards
  • breakfast is not served after 10:45
  • the price at markets is negotiable, but don’t insult the seller by offering a pittance
  • Mars bars are delicious
  • French and Italian drivers are ridiculous (and I thought Memphis drivers were bad!)
  • flip-flops are not acceptable unless you’re at the beach
  • the French know way more about our pop-culture than we know about theirs
  • French mattresses are weird
  • the French don’t have an appreciation for mexican food (but that’s ok)
  • "American" food in France is different from American food back home
  • trains will not wait for you (learned that vicariously, don’t worry)
  • carbs, there is no such thing as too many carbs (false. I still don’t like eating an entire baguette for lunch. Dear host mom, I don’t need 3 sandwiches for lunch even if you think I do.)
  • you have to have a sense of humor; no, seriously, don’t take anything to seriously
  • friends are worth holding on to
  • traveling with friends is infinitely more enjoyable than traveling alone
  • don’t talk to strangers/gypsies
  • the concept of personal space is most definitely an American thing
  • public transportation is a lot less sketchy in Europe than in Memphis
  • it’s a lot easier to procrastinate when you have an abundance of parks right outside your door

Things that still baffle me:

  • why my host sister stares at me while I eat
  • why my host sister refuses to knock on my bedroom door (instead, she just asks Danielle to tell me that dinner is ready)
  • why I don’t have to take the liquids out of my bag at airport security,
  • why people don’t pick up their dog’s poop
  • why dogs are either extremely well-behaved (dogs that you see around town) or horribly behaved (my host family’s dog)
  • how i’m going to fit all of my stuff in my suitcases
  • how i’m going to fit my suitcases in my host family’s car (it’s adorably minuscule)
  • where this semester went (how is it already May 16th?)

I still cannot believe that I will be back in the U.S. in 4 days. 

In 4 days, I will be able to call my (U.S.) friends on a cell phone.

In 4 days, I will be able to sleep in my own bed.

In 4 days, I will be able to listen to the news in English. Side note: when I first got here, I could not understand a single word that they said on the news- it all went by too quickly. Now, I can understand most everything on the TV.

In 4 days, I will be able to watch the original versions of TV shows instead of hearing French dubbed over.

In 4 days, I get to have my Mom’s cooking. Well, maybe more like 5 days unless she wants to feed me at midnight.

In 4 days, I’ll be able to go outside the house in shorts.

In 4 days, I’ll get to see the end of springtime in the South.

In 4 days, I get to see my puppy!

In 4 days, I get to see my parents!

But first, I have to take 3 more exams and pack.

12

May

Angers, Part 3!

Angers, Part 2!

Angers, Part 1

Mary Magdalene, Arles, and Angers! Or, “how I completely forgot to write blog updates” Part 2

Well, I’m finally getting around to posting Part 2: Angers! This post will probably be a little shorter than the other one since I’m only covering one adventure.

During Spring Break, I took the train up to Angers, a city in the Loire Valley, to see my friend Nick for a couple days. The train ride was fairly uneventful. The only exciting thing that happened on the way there was when I got on the metro going in the wrong direction in Paris, but I realized I was going the wrong way and hopped off at the next stop. I eventually got to the Montparnasse station in Paris (There are 5 different TGV stations in Paris. Ridiculous!) and hopped on my train to Angers.  

When I got to Angers, Nick was still in class, so I had to find my way over to his university on my own. Luckily, he had sent me some very good directions, and I got there without a problem. I had thought about walking there, but after looking at the map at the bus station, I realized that it was probably an hour’s walk away, and I had my suitcase, and it was raining. So I took the bus.

My first afternoon in Angers, we didn’t do much. We went to the grocery store, bought food for the week, and then hung out with Nick’s friends at school. Side note: when you go grocery shopping while you’re starving, you end up with very interesting purchases. 

The next day, I visited the Chateau d’Angers, which is mostly in ruins now, but they’ve been restoring the original wall around the chateau. I also walked through their museum, which includes the Apocalypse Tapestry. Here’s an interesting tidbit: the Apocalypse tapestry is one of the largest in the world, but it was nearly destroyed during the French Revolution when it was cut up and used to protect orange trees from the frost, shore up holes in buildings, and insulate horse stables. 

The Chateau was absolutely gorgeous, and I loved just sitting in the garden there even though it was not a very nice day. 

My last full day in Angers, I basically just wandered around.  I took the bus out to the lake near town, took some pictures, and then headed back into the city for the rest of the afternoon. I saw one of the cloisters in town, went to the Musée des Beaux Arts, sat and read in another garden, and saw an 18th century building that still has most of the original woodwork on the outside. We also walked over to the city hall, saw one of the large parks in town, and walked by the old opera house. 

My trip to Angers was so much fun. It was great to see a friend that I haven’t seen since August and to make a bunch of new friends- some of which I’ll be seeing next week because they’re come to Aix for a couple days!

Life recently has been pretty busy. I took trips to Rome, la Fontaine de Vaucluse (the deepest spring in the world), Isle sur la Sorgue (also known as the Venice of France), and a vineyard near Apt. This week, I had two huge presentations- I made an A on one of them, but we’re still waiting to hear back about the other (one of the professors for that class says we had an A+ presentation, though). Finals are next week, so I’ll be super busy. I promise to get caught up with my blogging before I leave to come back to the U.S.!

In 8 days, I’ll be flying back to Memphis. That’s weird. I miss everyone back home, but I don’t know if I’m ready to leave here yet.

29

Apr

Arles, last part!

Arles, Part 3

Arles, Part 2

Arles, Part 1