Sea, Sand and Sun: Exploring Provence

An afternoon in Arles

On Friday after class, we took a bus to Arles, a small town to the south-west of Aix that is famous for its Roman ruins. We visited the 2000-year-old amphitheater, which is still in use for bull fighting and the “course Camarguaise,” a local tradition in which the participants try to grab ribbons from between the horns of a small bull which is never harmed. We also explored the crypts under the streets and saw the cafe where Van Gogh painted his famous “Cafe de Nuit.” Today marked one week already in France – time is flying!

Boat trip to l’Isle de Porquerolles

Saturday morning we took a bus to the port of Giens Presqu’Isle and then took the ferry to l’Isle de Porquerolles, a tiny island in the Mediterranean that is a protected wildlife area and reknowned as one of the most beatiful islands on the French coast. We rented bikes and explored the trails and beaches, which were absolutely breathtaking with pure white sand and perfectly clear blue water. We all ejoyed the warm water and noticed how easy it is to float in the sea since it is so high in salt! That night we had dinner in a nice restaurant in Hyeres, and students had a chance to check out the area where they will be in host families next week. 

Culture and history in Avignon

On Sunday we were up early again for a guided bus tour to Avignon, where we visited the Palais des Papes and the famous Pont d’Avignon (as in the song!). In addition to the historical monuments, we were also lucky to be there during the Theater Festival, the biggest and most famous of its kind in Europe. We enjoyed street theater, signer, dancers, and other performances as we explored the windy medieval streets of the old town.

Next we visited the Pont du Gard, a Roman aqueduct which is one of the largest and best-preserved Roamn monuments in Europe. We enjoyed the beautiful view as well as a refreshing swim in the river before heading home. Once back in Aix, students held an impromptu ping-pong tournament with other groups of students from all over the world!

A typical Aix day

Monday we were back to classes in the morning, and then had a siesta back at the dorms since it was too hot to go out in the afternoon. We then had a “chasse aux tresors” (scavenger hunt) in which teams searched for the answers to various historical and cultural questions around the town. Next we learned how to play petanque, a traditional provencal game similar to bocce. In the evening, we went and relaxed on a cafe terrasse together. It was a truly typical Provencal day!

A bientot!

– Erin Simmeth, U.S. chaperone, Aix-en-Provence

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