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.

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