I’ve done quite a lot in the past two weeks, where should I begin? I suppose I should start with the trip I took to Saint Tropez. Two weekends ago, I went to Saint Tropez. It was not an excursion that was included in the tuition cost; however, it was a trip through Georges, who is somehow affiliated with IAU and the surrounding French universities. He plans trips to various cities, and in some cases to other countries, that would be difficult for students to get to on our own by bus or train. The trip to Saint Tropez cost 25 Euros, so I thought that it would be fun to see the village and the beach for the day. Saint Tropez was nothing like I expected. It was small (hence the "village" aspect), and there wasn't a whole lot of things to do. I climbed a hill/mountain to see the citadel, toured a church, walked around the village, and strolled through the open market. And then, I was done. In my opinion, this part of the trip was not worth 25 Euros; but, at least I had the opportunity to see another French village. The worst part of the trip happened when I ordered a crêpe. It was 7 Euros, which is expensive for a crêpe, and it was the worst crêpe I've ever had in France. So disappointing! However, my friend Jackie ordered a churro with Nutella suace, which was extremely delicious! Needless to say, I learned my lesson: stick with a churro when visiting other cities and villages. After touring the village, Georges took everyone to the beach. This was the best part of the trip because it was extremely relaxing. Balancing schoolwork, the excursions, and adjusting to French culture has its ups and downs; so, it was nice to be able to chill and do nothing but bask in the sun. Basking in the sun wasn't exactly worth 25 Euro, but at least I have the experience of visiting a quaint village and beach, in France, that I probably would've never seen had I not spent 25 Euro and gone with Georges. However, I recommend that before you go on any excursion, research the place, first. I didn't research Saint Tropez, so I assumed that the experience I had in Nice would be similar to the experience in Saint Tropez, but I was wrong. If you enjoy the beach scene, then you will probably enjoy Saint Tropez; however, if you enjoy adventure, then this trip might not be right for you.
Last weekend I did 2 things: I went to Marseille with 6 female friends, and then I went to Les Gorges du Verdon with Georges. Marseille has a lot to offer, so I recommend the city to everyone; however, it is necessary to travel in groups. Marseille is a rough city, as my friends and I discovered on Friday. Right after we got off the bus, and began the walk to the tourist office, there were two women fighting on the other side of the street. "Welcome to Marseille," I exclaimed after seeing the women. What a way to be introduced to a city. We were surprised because we didn't think it was That rough, but clearly, it is. We weren't mugged, raped, or bothered in any way, so I think this was a successful trip! As long as you travel in groups, and walk with a purpose then you'll enjoy yourself. Also, it's a good idea to have a map handy, specifically one on a smart phone as it enables you to keep your tourist presence to a minimum. While we were in Marseille, we saw two touristy sites: Port d'Aix and Le château d'If. Port d'Aix is an arc de triomphe that used to be the way people used to get to and from Marseille and Aix. It was on the way to the tourist office, so we stopped and took a picture of it. Le château d'If was amazing. We spent a few hours touring the castle. It's on an island in the Mediterranean Sea, so it was necessary to travel there by ferry. The ferry doesn't offer any discounts to anyone; however, the castle gives a generous discount to European residents who are students ages 25 and under. It's too bad I'm at the cutoff age. I'm still a student, though, so I feel offended that I can't partake in the discounts, especially since I have no job in Europe. It's absolutely ridiculous; but, there's nothing I can do about it. A combination of the dreary weather and the 16th century architecture made this trip well worth the price, though, so I shouldn't really complain.There was something about this castle that was both eerie and fascinating. It was first a fortress, and then it became a prison. Throughout the tour, I found myself wondering: Did any of the prisoners try to escape by swimming to the mainland? How did the guards treat the prisoners? Did anyone try to take over the castle during the time that it acted as a prison? So many questions, Zero answers, but that's 1/2 the fun! Also, this is the castle that is used in the Count of Monte Cristo! There's a shrine of Monte Cristo in one of the rooms. After touring the castle, it was time to return to Aix. On the way to the bus, we stopped at a boulangerie (bakery) and were pleased to find that the pain au choclat was only .60 cents! In Aix, the pain au choclat is .90 cents, so it was great to save .30 cents on something so unbelievable scrumptious! I'm proud of us because we managed to find the right bus & get back "home" safely without having to ask anyone!
On Sunday, I went to Les Gorges du Verdon. I can confidently say that it was money well spent! The gorge was breathtaking and magical. So far, this was the best experience I've had in France. I recommend it to EVERYONE! I rented a peddle boat with 4 other people, and we boated through the gorge, which made this experience That much better! After seeing the gorge, Georges took the group to Notre Dame de Beauvoir Chapelle. The chapel was at the top of the mountain/hill, so it took a good 30ish minutes to hike up to it, but it was worth the struggle. I got a great workout during this trip, that's for sure, which is good because a gym membership is at least 30 Euros. I'm shocked that a gym membership isn't included in the university costs, because in the states a gym membership is mandatory at nearly all universities, and it's included in the tuition. If I hike and peddle boats every weekend, then I won't need to worry about not going to a fitness center. IAU has decided to start offering Yoga and Pilates classes for a reasonable price; however, it's being mandated that students pay the entire semester sessions upfront. What if I don't like the instructor? What if I can't make all of the sessions? I'm not a rich student, so I don't know if I want to take the risk and potentially waste money on something unrelated to France. Even if the phrase, "I'm doing yoga... IN FRANCE" makes everything sound better. I'd rather use that money to travel around France and learn more about French culture.