Bonjour! I’m getting disgustingly good at saying that, parfait French accent and all.
Getting to France was a bit of a nightmare. I left Savannah at about three in the afternoon, flanked by my parting entourage (love you, guys), fretting about all that I’d probably forgotten to pack (for the record: nothing). My flight from Savannah to Atlanta was delayed, providing an antsy extra hour of waiting at the gate, but nothing horrible. That first flight was short, painless. But the flight from Atlanta to Paris was long. Nine hours. I stupidly had some fantasy that I was going to sleep through most of it, since it was at night, but I didn’t sleep at all. The woman that sat next to me was over-the-top French, and didn’t speak a word of English outside of, “Hello.” It goes without saying that we didn’t find much to talk about, but she was very curious about me, and studied me for most of the journey.
Sunrise coming into Paris.
When we got into Paris, it was 8 AM their time, 3 AM our time. We were greeted with the most beautiful sunrise, but it was practically wasted on our exhausted indifference. All of us were, without a doubt, completely knackered.
Exhausted SCAD kids in the Paris airport.
Navigating the Paris airport was absolute chaos. Yikes just thinking about it. Thankfully, the SCAD kids grouped together, and we managed to find our way as a giant American cluster, but I kept thinking that if I’d been doing it on my own, I would have never managed it. The airport personnel spoke a very, very small amount of English. I got asked questions several times, and had to have them repeated until I could pick out enough key words to figure out what they were asking. I was also lucky enough to get singled out during the security check, and held up the group an extra fifteen minutes on an already tight schedule while some Parisian pervert kept winking at me while he “checked my papers.” And so began my rocky relationship with the French.
Our flight from Paris to Marseille became even more confusing when we found out that our gate was loading four planes at once (without English translations, of course). Once we were through the gate, we were put onto a bus, which drove us about fifty feet to the plane. The men on the bus were all interested in the American college girls, and more than willing to test out their English to get the scoop on why we were in their country. The flight wasn’t very long, and I did manage to get about forty-five minutes of sleep, but was once again sat next to a woman who didn’t speak any English, and made it clear she wasn’t going to try by turning her back toward me. The view coming into Marseille was amazing, though, with mountain tops covered with snow.
View flying into Marseille. The white on the horizon is mountains, not clouds!
Once into Marseille, we were corralled onto a gigantic coach, where we all (and I mean everybody) fell straight asleep. Not even our curiosity about the passing countryside could keep our eyelids open. Our student coordinator, Eleanor, woke everyone up as we came up on Lacoste, and all of a sudden, we were in another world. This little town is truly something unique.
When we got off the bus, muscular French men with cigarettes precariously balanced from their mouths appeared from no where to take our suitcases to their respective dorms. Or, at least, that’s what we thought they were doing… In our case, they just dumped the bags in the courtyard, leaving the heavy lifting up the stairs to the ladies. Typical!
Leftover suitcases in the courtyard.
I don’t have a photograph of our dorm yet for you guys, but it’s an extremely cramped six girls to a room. One bathroom, six girls. Worst idea in the history of history, but we’re coping. I promise I’ll get more photographs of the room and window views next post. These will have to hold you off in the meantime:
Stairs to Maison Murier Lower & Upper.
We were all really confused when we learned that our assignment to the “lower” part of the maison meant we’d still have to go upstairs. A good thing to know about Lacoste: everything, and I mean everything, is uphill here. I’m going to have buns of freaking steel by the end of this adventure.
From the terrace, looking toward our dorm windows.
My favorite part about our house is that we’re connected to this unbelievable terrace that overlooks the most amazing skyline of Provence.
One view from the terrace.
As you can see in that photograph, everything here is old stone and hand-crafted tile roofs. It’s unreal. I keep joking that it looks like Disney swept in and built the place. Walking around here is like living the life of a character in a fairytale.
This morning, bright and early (it seemed awfully mean, after going twenty-nine hours without sleep), we loaded onto a bus to go to the open air market in nearby Apt. It was definitely not the experience I was expecting, but still interesting.
Marketplace in Apt.
The entire marketplace was wound tight around a maze of alleyways that seemed to go on forever. And, wow, was it an experience. There was everything you can imagine available, from hand-me-down jeans to sea urchins.
Sea urchins for sale in the marketplace.
It was the first time the language barrier really hit me. People were continually talking to us, and we couldn’t understand a single thing they were saying. And it became even more of an issue once we actually needed to buy things. For the most part, I’d say the French tolerated our inability to parlez vous Français quite well. I successfully bought a hair straightener from an electronics shop, and laundry detergent from the InterMarche. Although, I have to admit we entertained the French big time when we entered through the exit and couldn’t figure out that the only way inside was through the door with the “entrer” sign over it… Yeah.
After our two hours in Apt, we were taken to Pont Julien, where the photography professor, Andy Moxon, gave us a brief breakdown on ancient Roman bridge building. The bridge is no longer in use today, but used to be a main road from France to Spain.
If you look closely, you can see one of the goofnuts that scaled the bridge to get into the water portal.
The rest of today passed quickly. We were given a rainy tour of slippery Lacoste by the town’s favorite resident (more on him later), a quick climb around Marquis de Sade’s castle, and then an hour or so to get ready for the Bienvenue dinner this evening. It was a classic French dinner, with the most amazing cheese you could possibly imagine. We’re all going to get so fat on the bountiful cheese here! I also want to mention that it was a meal in typical French fashion: it took a little over three hours to complete three courses. The American kids are going to have to learn how to eat slower, that’s for sure.
That’s all from me. We’re having Daylight Savings Time this evening, so it’s now 1 AM instead of midnight. Right, can you believe it? I’m losing more sleep. Please, leave a thousand comments, I need some love from home!