With less than a week left here in France, this will probably be my last post for the semester (finals and a flight are really all that remain).
Overall, this week was pretty chill – final presentations, end of semester discussions, and free food. CEA, my study abroad program, offered a Stinky Cheese Tasting a few days ago, which was a lot of fun and actually delicious. We had about nine different cheeses I think including the famous ones like Roquefort, Camembert. We also had a bit of local wine and decorated the Christmas tree in the CEA office. My school, IAU, also hosted its final wine tasting of the semester, so I got some sparkling wine and talked about Lord of the Rings – always a good combo. The art school also had its end of the semester show, where I was able to see some really good art from my fellow students, and I went out this morning to volunteer with one of the local churches bringing breakfast to some of the homeless in Aix.
Here are a few last week in Aix pictures before I commence the Top Five list.
Number 1: Art – Obviously this is something I enjoyed; it’s part of the reason I wanted to come here. It has been so incredible to see so many works of art. I am still amazed at visiting the Louvre and getting excited every five feet because “Oh, I know that one!” “Oh, that’s a David!” “Oh, that’s bigger than I thought it was!” And bonus – the Chagall exhibit here in Aix that I wasn’t expecting to see and was able to, so that was pretty great! I saw a lot of art that I was familiar with, which was amazing, but I truly loved learning more in my classes and getting to see art that I wasn’t aware of before.
Below – A throwback to October and an art installation by the Antibes harbor commemorating Jean Moulin and being very excited to see the Winged Victory of Samothrace
Number 2: Food – Maybe a bit cliché, but there’s a reason France is known for its food. I particularly love the pastries and sweets – pain au chocolat, croissants, madeleines, macaroons – but also all the fresh vegetables and very buttery dishes! And though my favorite dishes (below) are specifically “French” food, I also loved the other food I got to try here. Because French restaurants and the cost of living here is generally really expensive, I experimented with a lot fo other food that was within my budget. Cheap takeout from Indian and Middle Eastern places introduced me to new foods like samosas and shawarma that were amazing!
In my own cooking, I learned to go to the market and just make recipes out of whatever was cheap and in-season. This meant that I ate a lot of eggplant at the beginning of the fall, but I learned how to make several eggplant recipes, and it’s probably one of my favorite vegetables now! Also, eating in-season has been something that appealed to me for a while, and it was pretty great to actually get to do this and to learn how to use whatever was available.
Number 3: Rivers – I’m not sure what it is, but I really love all the cities with rivers cutting through them. Maybe that’s some kind of human thing that’s a holdover from all those early river valley civilizations. But whatever it is, a city with a river is beautiful, and I love taking pictures of the sunlight on the water. It makes for some great pictures, and I also love the architecture of all the bridges. So I would like to thank the Romans for loving their rivers too.
Number 4: TGV – France’s high-speed train (Train à Grande-Vitesse). It can be a little pricey, but it’s a super-cool way to travel places really quickly with a pretty low carbon emission, which is always good. While flights between places in Europe can often be cheaper (especially if you’re a student and getting those StudentUniverse discounts), I just really love the aesthetic of trains. It makes me feel like I’ve gone back in time a bit, even on these modern high-speed trains. That’s probably an American thing; I doubt trains are as exciting if you’ve lived your whole life in Europe and take the train more regularly. Also the Musée d’Orsay (below) used to be a train station, and you can’t deny that that’s a beautiful place!
Number 5: My Classes – I’ve taken some really great classes while I’ve been here. I loved my political science classes on the European Union and Refugee Politics. My class on French Contemporary Identities (Visages de la France Contemporaine) was very difficult but still probably my favorite because I learned so much in it! My Art History class was fun (of course), and the entire semester focused on my favorite period of art, so that was obviously great! The only class I didn’t love was French phonetics, but even that was beneficial as my French pronunciation improved a lot thanks to that class. So, yeah, it’s been a great semester!
Until next time ~