Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Provence Part Quatre: Avignon

Hello again mes amis!  I've got to study (I know what you're thinking, who actually studies on study abroad???) for my 20th century history quiz tomorrow, but I will take a brief study break to post on Avignon!!  After an awesome nap on the bus, we arrived in Avignon early Sunday afternoon.

First stop was the Palais de Papes!  The popes resided in this Gothic palace when they decided to peace out of Rome in 1309.  Pope Clement V was elected in 1309 and was French. He decided he'd be better off being the head of the Catholic Church in Provence under a supportive king.  The Italians weren't too keen on this idea and wanted to have an Italian pope residing in Rome. They elected another pope in 1378, although there was still a pope in Avignon.  This period of time was called the Great Schism and the papal dispute wasn't resolved until 1417.  Walking through the rooms of the palace, I was reminded of my AP European History class in high school.  I felt smart when we were heading over because I knew the historical significance of the place!  Shout out to my AP Euro teacher Mr. Mole!  Although I never could figure out why those popes couldn't just get along.....

 The palace is in the middle of Avignon, the town just evolved around it.  Like much of Provence, Avignon looks the same as it did many years ago. 

 Heading over to the Palais!

The ceiling frescoes.  During the time of Napoleon, the Palais de Papes was an armory.

 Soaking up some sunshine and history!

 Model of the palace

Great Hall

 Religious relief.  The most impressive artwork and frescoes were in the Papal apartments, but photos were interdit(forbidden) there.  There were some stunning hunting frescoes and designs.  As our guide noted, the apartments looked like they were built and decorated for a prince, not a priest....

After making our way through the tourist trap gift shop (you literally cannot leave the palace until you walk through the store), we headed over to the Pont d'Avignon.  We only had about 45 minutes until our train left, so Monica, Olivia and I engaged in "speed tourism".  We sprinted up the stairs, gazed at the river and enjoyed the view of Avignon for approximately 1 minute.  We then rotated taking pictures for 2 minutes.  We then raced back down to get on the bus, and made it to the train station with time to spare.  Successful speed tourism!  

 view of the Pont d'Avignon from the road

Enjoying the view

 I would really like to canoe under this bridge.

Photo op! Le tourisme vite!!


Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Provence Part Trois: Arles

Bonsoir encore mes amis!  I know you've all been waiting for my next post on Provence, et voila!  After losing an hour of sleep thanks to Daylight Savings, the group was ready to go after some cafes au lait and breakfast at the hotel.  According to my friend Olivia (my roomie for the night at our hotel) I talked in my sleep.  I did give her advance warning because I sleep talk quite a bit (and in coherent sentences too).  Apparently I was sleep talking mais en Francais.  Perhaps that is a sign that I am getting the hang of the language!  We then left the hotel for the Roman ruins in Arles.

 First stop of the day was the amphitheater!  This is Arles' version of the Colosseum in Rome.  Back in the day, this is where gladiator fights and other spectacles were shown.  Today, the amphitheater still hosts bull fights!  The next one is on Easter weekend.  The whole town dresses in traditional Arles outfits and comes to watch the spectacle.

 It still amazes me how much stuff the Romans left....

All the scaffolding is set up for the Easter bullfights.  The "stadium" can fit several thousand people!  It has many exits so that the riled up crowd can sortie easily.  During the wars in the Middle Ages, the arches were closed up to provide the citizens of Arles a stronghold.
We then walked over to the Theatre Antique.  This classical Roman theater was built in the first century B.C.  Although much of the original theater has been destroyed, there stage and seating remain.  The columns were painted and supported the two upper levels.  Like the Amphitheater, this location is still in use today for music concerts.  I would love to see a show here!
 Looking over to the audience
 Stage and two columns
People Picture! 
After snapping some pictures with people in them (to prove we were there and that we have friends), we walked back to the main square to go underground to the old Roman Forum.  The modern city of Arles was built on top of these passageways and council rooms.  Cool!
 It reminded me of the Paris Catacombs, but it was a lot less creepy.
Back in the Provencal sunshine, we stopped to admire this 12th century church.  It might not look as impressive as Notre Dame, but the stone work and sculptures surrounding the doors are stunning.  
Behind the church were the cloisters........

 Yay for another people picture!

After all our sightseeing, we were hungry for lunch!  We headed back to the restaurant where we ate the night before.  On the way we passed the Cafe Van Gogh.  After a few years in Paris, Vincent Van Gogh moved down to Provence for some sunshine, rest and relaxation.  Arles is where he did some of his best work and was inspired by the colors of Provence.  This is the cafe he painted in Le Cafe le Soir. It was cool to think that Van Gough was painting a masterpiece at the same spot I was standing.   Everything looks exactly the same.... 
Cafe Van Gough

 Le Cafe le Soir
Our restaurant in Arles!  Yummy food and great ambiance.
After lunch, we loaded back onto the bus to spend the afternoon in Avignon before heading back to Paris.  Check back tomorrow for the lowdown on Avignon!


** On a side note, last night I reached a milestone with my host family.  My host mom told me at dinner that I looked, "mignonne, chic, et tres parisienne".  Great success.  I was very excited!


Monday, March 26, 2012

Provence Part Deux: Pont du Gard

Bonsoir mes amis!  After our perfect picnic lunch, we headed back onto the bus (we nicknamed the driver Colonel Mustard because of his mustard yellow shirt.  He was super nice!) to leave Uzes and drive to Pont du Gard; a Roman aqueduct built in 19 BC. 
Map of Provence

My chapeau(hat) goes off to the Roman engineers.  The aqueduct is part of a canal and drops one inch every 350 feet to supply the city of Nimes with water during the time of the Roman Empire.  It also serves as a bridge and crosses the Gardon River.  There is a fair amount of Roman ruins around the south of France.  We enjoyed wandering around the area in the Provencal sunshine. 

 Pont du Gard

 First time we could walk on grass in a long time! I miss it...

Bathe at your own risk and peril.
I love sign translations.  We all decided to take the risk and wade in the river to cool off.

JYF buddies testing the water.  It is still March and the water was cold!!  In the summer time, this is a popular spot for picnics and swimming.  I also saw a canoe going down the river!  Anyone up for a canoe trip, Provencal style??

 Impressive photo background

 Crossing the Pont

Un autre photo of yours truly.  The Pont du Gard is MASSIVE, I'm using myself to give you all some perspective.

 View from the aqueduct

A small town in the distance

After moseying across the bridge, we walked back to the bus(stopping for ice cream along the way).  There were other hiking trails around that looked great!  Perhaps Pont du Gard is France's version of Algonquin Park....we then drove for another half an hour to our hotel in Arles.  We had a wonderful meal at a Provencal restaurant, complete with wine (hey we are in France) and a guy playing the guitar.  After dinner, Giles (our guide for the weekend) taught us some French drinking songs.  Les chansons etaient tres amusants et not appropriate for this blog.  Desolee!  More posts on Provence to come!!


Sunday, March 25, 2012

Provence Part 1: Uzes-Magnifique Marche!

Bonsoir mes amis!
I just got back from a wonderful weekend in Provence with my Sweet Briar Program!  The weather was absolutely perfect, sunny and high seventies.  We visited three cities in the south of France and Pont du Gard, a Roman Aqueduct.  Everyone had a blast!  We took a 7am train from Gare de Lyon Saturday morning and arrived 2 1/2 hours later in Avignon where we met up with our bus driver to head west to Uzes.

We arrived at the top of the town hill next to the "cathedral" (more of a church size).  Here is the lookout........
 I know it sounds silly, but I sometimes forget there is a lot more to France than Paris.  It's refreshing to get out of the city, and see some grass that I'm allowed to walk on!  The French countryside (by American standards anyway) is certainly "under malled".  We passed lots of farmland on our train ride punctuated by small villages that probably have looked exactly the same for at least 100 years.  When we got a chance to look out at Provence, it looked a lot like what I imagine Italy to look like.  I'll get a chance to compare the two in a few weeks!!

 Church at Uzes(pronounced U-sess, not oozes....)

Facade of the church

 Side chapel with painted ceilings

After a quick look inside the church, my friends and I headed to the market to find some lunch and have a picnic.  The market was in the center of town and it was HUGE.  Besides fruit, veggies, cheese, and meat, there were spices, purses, lavender, jewelry, salad tongs(made from local olive trees), pottery, quilts, soap and much more!  It was so much fun to wander around to look at what everyone had to offer, and to people watch.  Brace yourselves for some food pictures(that means you Aunt Barbara.  There can never be enough food pictures.).  

 Un homme avec la savon (Soap Guy)
I bought a little bag of lavender here.  It smells heavenly!

Jam Stand
The lady who makes all this jam and honey was nice enough to give us some free samples.  I think she knew she was making an investment because we all ended up buying some of her fantastic jam.  She wanted to practice her English and we wanted to practice our French so we had a bilingual conversation.  I opted for confiture de la fraise et la vanille (strawberry-vanilla jam).  It tasted like summer.

 Spice Stall
We could smell this stall before we actually saw it.  There was curry powder, peppercorns, chilis, vanilla beans, dried oregano and basil and bien sur............
I bought a small jar.  Herbs de provence is a blend of savory, fennel, basil, thyme and lavender.  Why did I buy these herbs you ask? Because who knows when I'll have the chance to buy herbs de provence IN PROVENCE again??  Seize the day mes amis, and the markets.

After assembling our respective lunches (I had falafel, hummus, strawberries, and some salted caramel nougat)  and buying a box of wine to share, we headed back to the lookout for our picnic au soliel.  The food was absolutely delicious, and made even better by the atmosphere and the delightful company.  The strawberries were the best I have ever had.  I believe these are some of the first local strawberries in France.  They tasted like sunshine, happiness, and rainbows.  Not cardboard.  Those Provencal strawberries will be the benchmark for all other strawberries.     

My friend Moira and I enjoying the best strawberries ever. 

After lunch, we headed back on the bus to head to Pont du Gard, the Roman Aqueduct.  Check back tomorrow for more Provence posts!!


Friday, March 23, 2012

Monuments Class Catch up!

Salut mes amis!  Today was an absolutely perfect spring day in Paris.  I had a good day working at La Cuisine, I had some gelato for dessert at lunch, and I'm going to Provence tomorrow with my Sweet Briar Program!  My host mom is cooking something in the kitchen and it smells gooooooooooood.  In short, ma vie est bonne.  I hope you don't read my blog and think I am an obnoxious ray of sunshine kind of happy, but with the weather being so nice and the fact that I'M IN PARIS, I find it hard not to be looking on the bright side of things(literally).  I'll check back in with my endorphin levels when it's time for my oral exposes in a few weeks.  But for now, I'm a bit behind posting about my monuments class, so I thought I'd take this opportunity to catch up!

About two weeks ago, we went to the Musee Carnavalet in the Marais.  It is a museum dedicated to Parisian history, and Parisian artifacts housed in an old "hotel" or noble mansion.  It was really interesting, and I plan to go back and take my time instead of rushing from cool object to fascinating painting and back again!    
First room in Carnavalet.  It houses old street signs that marked stores in Paris (a butcher would have a pig or a cow sign hanging above his door for example).
Original door from Hotel de Ville(aka city hall)
Painting of St. Genevieve, the Patron saint of Paris.  Hotel de Ville is in the background.

 Carving of the Bastille Prison from one of the stones from the Bastille!  Angry Parisians stormed the prison on July 14, 1789 and started the French Revolution.

 Painting of the first public fountain in Paris in the Les Halles market area.  Our professor talked about this fountain in class for about 30 minutes....

Bassinet for baby Napoleon III.  Now that's fancy!  The cradle is meant to be a boat rowed by angels.  A woman representing Paris is holding a crown, and the eagle at the bow represents the empire.

 Art Nouveau!!
As many of you know, J'ADORE peacocks!  I love their coloring, and their feathers.  I even dressed up as a peacock for my first grade "living zoo" project. 

 Art Nouveau fire place

I really like this painting.  A girl lounging about with a good book.  Looks pretty nice to me, although I prefer sweatpants to 19th century dresses....

Tomorrow I'll be waking up at the crack of dawn (approximately 5:30am) to make it to the Gare de Lyon at 6:30am for our 7am train to Provence.  I'm excited and the weather forecast is sunny and mid 70s.  I'm sure there will be more happy posts after this weekend!