My sister and I in front of the Louvre!
After leaving Aix-en-Provence, I spent a week in Paris with my family. Although they were jet lagged and sick, we managed to see some of the big sites: the Louvre, Musée d'Orsay, Notre Dame, Saint-Chapelle, and the Eiffel Tower of course. In addition, we went on a bakery tour at the oldest boulangerie in Paris where the owner showed us how to make baguettes, croissants, and pain au chocolat.  After stuffing my face with these treats all semester, it was fascinating to see how they're actually made fresh every day.  It was the first time my parents had ever been to Europe and also the first time they had heard me speak French, so I loved being able to share with with them.  For four months, I had been telling them about the French culture, the food, and the differences. Finally, they could see this for themselves. 

On the 30th, I said a sad farewell to the country that had become my home. I had to fly home by myself since I'd already booked a round-trip ticket over the summer, but I managed to sleep for the majority of my two flights - first to London and to Boston. My family landed at Logan Airport before I did and as soon as I got through baggage claim and customs, my sister was waiting for me with a Dunkin Donuts Dunkachino.  It wasn't prepared by my favorite baristas from Aix, but I had to admit that it tasted wonderful.

"Thanksgiving" dinner at home
There are so many words to describe what it's like being back home: strange and sad, but also comforting and wonderful.  More than anything, it's bittersweet. I love sleeping in my big, comfortable bed and using my American shower again. I love being able to go to the gym and visit my old high school. I love talking to friends from BC and counting down the days until we are finally reunited. My mom even cooked me a proper Thanksgiving dinner to make up for the one that I had missed. At the same time, however, I miss so much about France.  I miss the sunshine - the snow is beautiful here, but it's freezing! I miss my host family and our nightly conversations at dinner. I miss the cafes and the slow, relaxed pace of my life in Aix.  I miss living stress-free and having free time.  I love the atmosphere and the "art de vivre" of the French - this is, perhaps, the thing that I'll miss the most. 

This week, I'll be going to some French classes at my high school and telling them about my experience abroad. In just two weeks, I'll be back at school in Boston. I'll be moving into an 8-man suite and I'll be eating at a dining hall. I'll only be taking one French class this semester and I'll be surrounded by people speaking English. I'm excited to get back into my BC routine, but I hope that I can return to France someday soon. After living with a French family and living like an Aixoise for a semester, I don't think I can simply stay in my little hometown forever - now more than ever, I want to go out and see the world. 

Three and a half months. Countless bonjours, mercis, and au revoirs. Six midterms and six finals. Four countries and a dozen cities. Over one thousand pictures. Many, many bisous. Over fifty sandwiches, pain au chocolat, trips to Lavarenne and Pizza Capri. Daily coffees and chai lattes. Four trips to Paris. More euros than I’d like to count. Many new friends and countless memories. After all of this, I’m heading back home to Massachusetts.

I’ve never felt this torn about leaving a place before. I loved my high school, but I was ready when it came time for graduation. I love BC, but I was ready for a change when it was time to come to Aix. I’ve been homesick during my time here and I’ve never stopped missing my family and my friends, but I’m not sure if I’m ready to leave France.  I guess one way to look at it is through the lists that I’ve been making.

At the Rotonde with Mom!
Things that I’m Excited For:

  1. My family (currently in France with me for Christmas!)
  2. My BC family (7 months without my best friends has been a challenge)
  3. American showers
  4. Dunkin Donuts
  5. My own bed
  6. Wheat bread, Chobani, having eggs for breakfast
  7. BC Hockey games
  8. Not having to walk over a mile to class
  9. Pandora radio working again
  10. Having an iPhone 5 instead of an ancient Nokia 

Things I’ll Miss:

  1. My new IAU family 
  2. My host family (the saddest goodbye was to my host mom…immediate tears)
  3. Sitting around the dinner table and chatting in French
  4. Crème de marron (delicious chestnut spread), Nutella crepes, and Bueno bars 
  5. French food in general
  6. Beautiful Provençal weather
  7. Sitting for hours at cafes 
  8. Weekly markets
  9. Traveling on weekends 
  10. Never rushing anywhere

Ma famille
I could probably add things to each list if I kept thinking about it, but frankly I’m trying not to think about it.  The people I have met here are amazing – not only everyone at IAU but also the Aixois that I came to know. The atmosphere is old and homey and stunning.  The whole state of mind seems to be different here, really. It’s laid back and people are happy.  Although strangers won’t often smile at you and you’re likely to get lost and step in dog poop, there’s so much more to Aix than that. This semester has been life-changing and indescribable in so many ways. I don’t know when or how, but I do know that I will be coming back.

Earlier in November, I submitted a proposal and was selected as one of 16 speakers at a conference in Paris, along with four other girls from IAU. My topic was one that I had been assigned in my French Civilization class: Religious Beliefs and Practices in France. I had given this presentation in French, but fortunately I was allowed to present in English at the conference.

At 4:30am on Friday the 14th, I awoke in a panic to the sound of my alarm. I was immediately disoriented when I looked at the time, but I was, in fact, supposed to be awake.  I quickly showered and got ready in the darkness of my apartment. An hour later, my wonderful, generous host mom woke up and drove me to meet up with the director of our program, IAU.  The other girls and I piled into his car and drove to the TGV station in Aix where we caught our 6:30am train to Paris.  We talked at first but it wasn’t long before I fell back asleep.

We got to the school in Paris, CEA, just past 10 in the morning.  It was cold, raining, and gray but despite the weather, I was excited to be in Paris again (for the third time this semester).   The morning was filled with various presentations and I was relieved that mine went fine.  After lunch at the school, we made our way to Centre Pompidou to see the Salvador Dali exhibit. 

This museum is possibly one of the strangest looking museums I’ve ever seen.  When it was built, all of the pipes and whatnot were placed on the outside of the building.  It was the first time I’d been to the museum since my first visit to Paris in high school, but this time I actually got to go inside. After waiting in many long lines, we entered the exhibit.  It was beautiful, creepy, bizarre, impressive, and confusing all at once.  Many of the paintings seem to have completely different styles and there is, of course, a great deal of symbolism in them which I struggled to understand.  My favorite painting is called “Aube, midi, coucher de soleil et crepuscule” – meaning dawn, noon, sunset, and dusk – and it depicts five images of the same woman. 

After walking around the exhibit, we went to a restaurant called Nectarine in the Place des Vosges. I had the most delicious hot chocolate ever – it was almost as thick as pudding and we ate it with a spoon. We were all exhausted by this point so we sat and chatted for a while before going to grab sandwiches for dinner and catch the TGV back to Aix. Once again, I fell asleep for the majority of the train ride back home. Although it was a tiring day and I had to study for finals when I got home, it was a great experience to be part of the conference and to see the city for a bit! 

After an amazing weekend in Dublin, my two friends and I flew to London where one of them is studying for the semester. It was nice to be back on a college campus in a dorm room and it was my first time ever in London. While my friend was in class on Monday, I took the Tube – which was surprisingly easy – over to Westminster to see Big Ben, the London Eye, Westminster Abbey, and the Houses of Parliament.  From there, I met up with another friend from BC and went to the Tate Modern Art Museum.  Although I love art and I’m always eager to see different museums, I still can’t seem to make sense of modern art unless I’m given a specific description of what each piece is supposed to symbolize.  Nonetheless, it was interesting to see. 

That night, we went to the London Ice Bar with a group of other BC students.  It’s exactly what it sounds like – a bar made of ice.  It’s obviously freezing cold inside and we were each given warm capes with gloves to protect our hands against the ice glasses that the drinks came in. After taking at least sixty pictures over the course of the forty minutes that we were allowed in there, we were all ready to leave and warm up. 

On Tuesday, I was off for another day on my own. For breakfast, I found myself missing France enough to order a croissant for breakfast at a little café that I found.  Unfortunately, it just wasn’t the same as a French croissant, but at least I tried. Afterwards, I went over to see Buckingham Palace.  It was stunning, of course. I missed the changing of the guards but I was happy to explore the park right next to the palace. I spent an hour or so walking through and looking at the different monuments placed throughout the park. 

That night, we met up with some more BC friends.  It struck me how much I missed being at school with friends that I had known for two years; however, at the same time I kept going on and on about the friends that I had made in France and the different places I had seen. We all swapped different stories about what we had been up to for the past two months and it was nice to hear that we were all having the time of our lives.  

For the remainder of my week, I went to visit a high school friend in northern England.  It was the first time we had seen each other since our high school graduation since she's from England, so naturally it was amazing to finally see her.  She showed me around her college, Durham University, and gave me a little tour of the city.  It seemed so old and quaint.  The most exciting part was that some parts of the Harry Potter movies were filmed in town.  As soon as I stepped into one of the buildings that they used, I immediately recognized the courtyard and Professor McGonagall's office. After a few days in Durham, my friend and I went back to her hometown and spent a few days with her family.  Since my family hosted her when she was living in the US, it was funny to have a bit of a role reversal and stay with her family instead.  We sat around the fire, drank tea, and caught up - after several days of traveling, this was perfect. By the end of my week in England, although I loved sightseeing, spending time with friends, and relaxing, I found myself eager to get back to my apartment and my French family in Aix.  

During the middle of the semester, we had an entire week off for fall break.  After spending hours researching flights, trains, and places to stay, I had finally decided on spending my first weekend in Dublin.  Despite my Irish heritage, I had never been to Ireland before.  I had seen pictures of the endless green landscapes and pubs, but the best image that I could conjure was from the scenes in the movie P.S. I Love You. After a week of class that seemed to last forever, I finally left Aix-en-Provence on a Thursday night to explore the homeland.

My first flight was from Marseille to London, where I then had a six hour layover in the middle of the night.  I struggled to find a comfortable way to sleep on my suitcase in the airport, but it was hopeless.  Around 6am, I sluggishly boarded the airplane from London to Dublin and promptly fell asleep before takeoff.  About an hour later, I awoke to the sound of people rummaging through the overhead bins to get their suitcases. Somehow I’d managed to sleep through landing, too.  Finally, though, I was in Ireland.

As soon as I stepped off the airplane, I saw that it was pouring outside.  Typically I’d complain and wish for sunshine, but as I walked through the terminal, an enormous grin crept onto my face.  It was just so stereotypically Irish – I couldn’t help but laugh.  I managed to find my way to a bus that would take me to my hostel where I dropped off my bags, grabbed a map and an umbrella, and began my day.  Although two of my friends from BC were meeting me in Dublin, they wouldn’t arrive for another 10 hours or so.  For the first time in my life, perhaps, I was thrilled to be walking around the city alone. 

My first task was to find coffee and WiFi so I could text my family and assure them that I had arrived safely. In Aix, you can probably stumble across a café in less than 5 minutes regardless of where in the city you are. In Dublin, it was considerably harder.  I walked for fifteen minutes or so before I found a little café.  As I looked at the menu, I began to formulate my order in French. I was prepared to say bonjour and ask for a café et croissant, but I had to stop myself.  I never imagined that it would feel unnatural to speak English in public. Of course, they also didn’t have croissants or pain au chocolat in the café.  I settled on a breakfast sandwich that consisted of ham, bacon, sausage, and a fried egg on wheat toast.  I hadn’t eaten this much meat in one meal for months.  Clearly, I wasn’t in France anymore.

After breakfast, I began to wander through town feeling rejuvenated.  At one point, a woman approached me as I looked at my city map and asked if I needed help.  This sort of kindness caught me off-guard – I love the French people and many of them are wonderful and generous, but it isn’t exactly part of their culture to stop on the street and talk to strangers.  This Irish woman pointed me in the direction of Oscar Wilde’s house. Later, I walked through St. Stephen’s green – possibly the most beautiful park I’ve ever walked through – and found a statue of James Joyce.  As an English major, I was in my glory.  I suddenly wished I had a copy of Joyce’s Dubliners that I could read to really complete the experience. 

In the afternoon, I walked through the National Gallery to see various paintings and then saw the Natural History Museum where there were skeletons, fossils, and stuffed animals everywhere. This was cool at first as I saw butterflies and little stuffed birds, but then I went upstairs to a room full of wolves, cougars, and tigers.  I found myself feeling genuinely terrified as I felt the glass eyes of these huge animals staring me down.  In less than two minutes, I ran back out and went to find lunch.  While walking down one street, I noticed a building covered in red leaves and ivy. It was old and stunning, so I moved closer to take a picture. As I approached, I noticed two flags hanging outside – an American one and a Boston College one.  Without even knowing it, I had stumbled upon the building for the BC program in Dublin. I was overjoyed – here I was, in this amazing city, but also, sort of, at the college that I loved.

That night, my friends finally arrived.  We bundled up and got dinner in a typical Irish pub. The waiter was friendly and funny in an overwhelmingly sarcastic way – must be an Irish thing. Towards the end of dinner, a man came in and started playing his guitar and singing Irish folk music. Though I couldn’t always understand what he was singing with his thick accent, I could not have been happier. Everything about my experience had been so beautifully rich and authentic.

For the rest of the weekend, my friends and I did the typical touristy things. We saw Dublin Castle, walked through a grassy labyrinth, toured the old Jameson Whiskey distillery, did a bit of shopping, walked through Trinity College, and took countless pictures throughout the city. Maybe it’s simply because I’m Irish, but I felt a connection to Dublin that made me want to stay there forever.  If I hadn’t wanted to learn French, I think I would’ve likely spent my fall semester in Ireland instead.  Of course, I’m happy with my decision and I’m in love with France, but my weekend in Dublin and the incredible impact it had on me made me wonder if I could study there at some point, too. Regardless, I know that I’ll be back to the homeland someday soon.

On Thursday night, when most families in the United States were gathered together over colossal amounts of food, I found myself in La Cave aux Huiles – literally a cave under one of our school buildings – surrounded by over a hundred classmates and professors.  There were two long tables decorated with fallen leaves, candles, wine, and baskets of baguettes, of course.  Even as I sat among some of my new, closest friends, I felt torn.

The atmosphere was beautiful, but it wasn’t quite the same as my dining room table at home. The friends and professors surrounding me were some of the kindest, most amazing people I’ve met, but they weren’t my parents or my sister. The meal was good – French turkey, vegetables, mashed potatoes mixed with squash, pumpkin pie, and a glass of Beaujolais – but it wasn’t the same as the turkey my dad prepares or the pies my mom bakes.  I looked around and felt grateful for every moment and every opportunity that I’ve been given in France, yet I couldn’t help but wish, just a little, that I was with my family on this holiday.

After dinner back home, I have a tradition of shopping on Black Friday with my mom and my sister.  Around midnight, we pile into the car, turn on the music, and drive to the nearest outlets.  We sit through traffic and stand around in the cold before we can finally immerse ourselves in consumer paradise. By 4am, we call it quits and drive back home to the comfort of our beds, bellies still full and wallets empty. Here in France, of course, Black Friday doesn’t exist. Instead, my friends and I went down to the Cours Mirabeau, one of the most popular avenues in town, and took pictures of the holiday lights.  It wasn’t quite the same as midnight shopping, but I think it was a perfect alternative.

I guess I didn’t realize how important Thanksgiving was to me until I couldn’t celebrate it properly.  Before, it was simply a delicious, enormous meal. It was a time when I got to miss a few days of school and quote Joey from “Friends” saying, “These are my Thanksgiving pants.” Now, I see that it’s much more than that.  It’s a time, of course, to reflect on all of the little things for which we are thankful. It’s even a time to appreciate being American and having opportunities in our country that so many do not have. Most importantly, I believe, it’s a time to celebrate being with your family and loved ones.  Here in France, I realized just how lucky I am to have a new sort of family at IAU. 

Before I arrived in Aix earlier this fall, I googled “Things to do in Aix-en-Provence.” Every website listed climbing Sainte-Victoire, the mountain that Cézanne painted upwards of eighty times, as one of the top 10 things to do here. So, after seeing the mountain each morning from my balcony, a group of us decided to take on the challenge one Saturday morning in October.

Our day started off with a short bus ride to the mountain.  The driver stopped in what seemed like the middle of nowhere and told us we had arrived. Despite there being no mountain in sight, we hesitantly got off the bus and just started walking. Eventually, we arrived at a parking lot, quickly tried to make sense of the map, and enthusiastically started off to get to the base of the mountain. The trail we were following took us on a “scenic route” away from the mountain but after an hour of walking and plenty of pictures, we arrived at the base of Sainte-Victoire.

 We made it to the halfway point of the climb with relative ease.  There, we found a little peak with a cross on top, pointing up into the blue sky above. The decision to continue to the top of the mountain was unanimous – it didn’t look like it would be that much farther.  After a water break and a quick snack, I lifted my already tired legs and followed the others as we searched for the right path.

As it turns out, finding the right path was harder than we expected.  We climbed along a rocky, winding trail for what seemed like hours before we came to a rock that read “DIFFICILE.” In retrospect, we probably should’ve taken that warning a bit more seriously.  We decided to proceed and eventually found ourselves at what can only be described as a vertical wall of stone. I’m only exaggerating slightly when I say that we pretty much scaled the side of the mountain in a failed attempt to reach the top of the mountain. We made it close, but resigned ourselves to the fact that we couldn’t go any farther in the direction where we were headed. 

After managing to find some rocks that weren’t loose on a relatively flat part of the mountain, we sat and ate our lunches in silence. Even though we hadn’t quite reached the summit, the view was breathtaking. Seeing how far we had come – and how steep our route had been – was a pretty great accomplishment. After scarfing down the rest of our food and finishing up the remnants of our water, we started back down the mountain.  I was essentially crab walking my way down, slowly making my way on all fours and genuinely afraid that I was going to die.

An hour later, I finally was able to catch my breath as we reached the safety of the trail and the base of the mountain. Despite my aching limbs and the voice in my head insisting that I was crazy for crawling up the side of a mountain, I couldn’t help but smile. In retrospect, it made for a great story and I even survived to tell it. 

After having been in France for about a month and a half now, I would have to admit that I’ve accomplished a great deal. I can finally get around the city center without getting (too) lost.  I’ve found which patisserie makes pain au chocolat with the most amount of chocolate hidden inside. I’ve discovered a beautiful garden called the Pavillon Vendôme (as seen in this picture) that serves as a perfect, peaceful shortcut on my way to school. My French has improved drastically and my host mom finally laughs when I try to make jokes in French. However, there are some cultural differences that I still can’t seem to make sense of.

1. What is the deal with French people and their dogs? They take them everywhere – to cafés, into clothing stores when shopping, even into Monoprix (the French equivalent of Walmart or Target) – yet they never seem to pick up after them.  I’ve almost stepped in dog poop more times than I’d like to admit.

2. When do you make the transition from bonjour (hello) to bonsoir (good evening)? During my first few weeks here, I consistently said bonjour to people at every time of day and was quickly humiliated when I realized that a bonsoir was more appropriate.  At this point, I usually make the switch around 6 or 7 at night, but I’m not entirely sure if that’s correct.

3. Why is the coffee so expensive? Ordering a small café crème usually costs me at least 3 euros. Still, I keep going back to the same cafés for the same pricey drinks. On the plus side, it’s completely acceptable to sit at a café for hours after only buying one drink. Maybe it isn’t such a bad deal after all.

4. Why are there still so many smokers? I know it’s a stereotype that all French people smoke, but I’ll attest to the fact that cigarettes seem to be everywhere.  At any given hour of the day, I’ll walk through town and find myself engulfed in a cloud of cigarette smoke. The words “Fumer tue” or “Smoking kills” are emblazed on each carton of cigarettes, yet that doesn’t seem to be stopping anyone.

5. Why do the French eat dinner so late? My host mom typically works until 8 each night so we eat dinner around 9 or 9:30, but I’m not the only one.  It’s normal for families here to eat around 8 or so. This isn’t a bad thing, of course; it’s just much different from my usual 6:30 dinner back home.

6. Why is there a separate room for the toilet? I know this exists in some places in the U.S. as well, but I’m always a bit surprised when I step into the bathroom in my apartment or a friend’s apartment and there isn’t a toilet in there. It’s actually pretty convenient when you're sharing an apartment with a few other people, but I haven’t quite gotten used to it yet.  

7. Why do breakfast and dessert seem to be synonymous? I’ve written about this before and I still can’t figure it out.  I’m perfectly happy eating fruit and yogurt for dessert after dinner, but I feel like I need to draw the line when it comes to eating cherry pie for breakfast.

8. What is going on with the showers? Honestly, everything about the showers here confuses me.  In my apartment, there is a hose that comes out of the bottom of the tub.  Are you supposed to stand? Sit? Squat? I’m still not entirely sure, but fortunately I’m short enough to hold the hose above me while standing up. Even then, I risk spraying water all over the bathroom floor if I’m not careful. Still, with one hand holding the hose, I can’t simultaneously wash my hair and have the water going.  This weird on-off-on-off process probably saves water, but I don’t think I’ll ever get used to it.  Lastly, why do the French have an aversion to shower curtains? Not only would I rather not have to look at myself in the mirror that hangs on the wall directly across from the shower, but I always hope that my host family won’t decide to walk in while I’m showering if I forget to lock the door. Of course the showers here get the job done – I just don’t understand them in the least.  

Fortunately, I still have two months left in this picturesque little city in the south of France to search for some answers to my questions.  Regardless, despite my cultural confusion, I finally feel at home here.  I love the sounds, the smells, the people, everything – even the dogs, the overpriced coffee, and the showers.  

For our second excursion with IAU, we spent the day at the Luberon.  I fell asleep as soon as the bus pulled away from the statue of Cezanne and when I woke up, we had arrived in a town called Lourmarin. We visited the first Renaissance château in Provence which was rebuilt in the 15th century on the remains of a 12th century fortress. Although we didn’t walk through the inside, it was exciting to see something that has lasted centuries. From there, we saw olive trees and the lavender plants that southern France is known for.  There weren’t any flowers, but you could still smell the strong scent of lavender when you touched them.  Next, we walked down the road to a little cemetery that seemed pretty ordinary. We gathered around one tombstone, a small rock surrounded by weeds.  I was shocked to see that was the grave of Albert Camus.  I remember reading L’Etranger in my high school French class and I excitedly told my former French teacher about this as soon as I got home.  Still, I would have expected a bigger or more decorated tombstone for such a famous writer. 

After buying food for a picnic in Lourmarin, we drove to a town called Lacoste.  We hiked up an enormous hill, passing houses and a school on our way up, and finally arrived at the summit where we had our picnic lunch.  We shared baguettes, cheese, and ham – clearly, I’m getting accustomed to French food pretty quickly.  The weather was beautiful and it was nice to simply sit in the shade and enjoy our lunch.

Lastly, we went to a town called Roussillon and saw the Sentier des Ocres. We walked along the path through the quarry of chalky red pigment, slipping a bit along the way, before taking a quick walk through the rest of town. I learned that Samuel Beckett used to live in Roussillon because the Gestapo was after him for being involved with the French Resistance. He hid the beautiful little town to avoid being caught and he succeeded. As an English major, I always love hearing these stories about writers. I managed to fall asleep again on the bus ride home and happily woke up back “home” in Aix.  

During my first month in Aix-en-Provence, I barely had any time to relax.  When I wasn’t in class, I was spending time with friends, doing homework, or exploring the city. I was terrified of missing out on something or wasting a minute of my time here, so I just kept going and going. Fortunately, I don’t have class on Friday so I have a bit more flexibility with my schedule than some. 

On our first weekend, we had an IAU excursion to Nice and Monaco. I had only seen Nice in pictures and it was even more beautiful in person. After getting lunch at a little restaurant near the market, we spent most of the morning at the beach.  Rather than the sandy beaches that I’m used to back home, there were little stones everywhere. The water was the most incredible shade of turquoise – not quite like the murky green waters at home – but it was just as salty and surprisingly cold. We all went swimming regardless and then relaxed on the beach for a bit. Later in the afternoon, some of us hiked up to a little waterfall. It was beautiful, of course, but being able to look out over the city was even more stunning. 

Later in the afternoon, we got back on the bus and made our way to Monaco.  We were staying in a hostel that overlooked the ocean and our plan for the evening was to go to the Monte Carlo Casino. We were given about an hour to get ready for dinner and with four girls in one room with one shower and a tiny mirror, it was absolute chaos. We couldn’t stop laughing as we rushed to take showers and get dressed up for the casino. Somehow, we all made it to dinner at the hostel right on time.  After dinner, we took a bus to the casino.  There were fancy cars parked outside and the interior was amazing. I didn’t do any gambling – just being able to see the casino was enough for me.

On Sunday morning, we went to see the palace in Monaco and then wandered around the town a bit. After grabbing lunch at a little café, we visited the cathedral where Grace Kelly is buried.  There were bouquets of flowers strewn all across her tomb and a line of people waiting to see it. With each cathedral we go to, I’m always amazed by how ornate the stonework and stained glass windows are. It is so baffling to me that people could have constructed something so detailed and perfect without modern technology. By the time we left the cathedral, we were all too exhausted to walk around town anymore. Even though it was a great first weekend, I was relieved when I got back to my apartment in Aix. 

On my second weekend in France, I went on an excursion to Saint Tropez. It reminded me a bit of Nice with its ocean view but it didn’t seem to be quite as big.  We got lunch in town, walked through the market, and then spent the afternoon at another beautiful beach.  Fortunately, this one had sand and the water was just as blue and clear. In our isolated little area on the beach, I had to keep reminding myself that I was, in fact, in France.  Despite being completely immersed in the culture here and constantly speaking French with my host family, I sometimes forget that I’m actually in France.