Provence! N’est-ce pas?

March 26, 2010

I have spent so much time in Paris lately you’d think I lived there! Oh right, I do…well, fortunately I am beginning to travel again, and the first stop was last weekend in Provence. Sweet Briar organized the trip, and it was two beautiful busy days in Arles, Avignon, Aigues-Mortes, and les Baux de Provence. Spring was underway, the sun was shining, and the olives were delicious! I really love the south of France, so here’s my annotated photo album:

Ancient arches

Our first stop in Arles was an ancient Roman amphitheater, which is still in use today! Gladiator battles left with the Romans, but the inhabitants of Arles now use the theater for bull fighting, imported from Spain. It is incredible to me that something dating from the first century B.C is still functional, and still so beautiful! I was also surprised to find graffiti (carved into the stone) dating from the 1800’s!

Descending from one of the two towers added during the middle ages

Our guide, Giles, giving us some history inside the theater

After exploring the amphitheater we went to the Saturday market, where we bought lavender, soaps, utensils made from olive wood, and incredible spreads made from olives and garlic. It was a sensory paradise! I also loved the birds for sale, but I felt bad for them all stuffed into their tiny market cages!

On the way to the market

After lunch with the group we were back on the bus to go visit Aigues-Mortes, a walled medieval city. There isn’t much to see now, besides the wall and lots of tourist traps, but it was still fun. The best part was the ‘fashion shoot’ Caroline, Amadi and I had on the wall-and the violet and lavender flavored gelato we tasted after!

Me perched on the wall

Violet and lavender taste like spring!

That night we ate as a group, and we had so much fun! Giles taught us some French drinking songs, my table played games (you get a piece of paper with a name on it and stick it to your forehead without looking, then you all ask ‘yes’ or ‘no’ questions and try and guess who you are) and we interacted with a group of older Japanese tourists who didn’t speak French or English, but who video taped us and even tried to sing along to the drinking songs!

This is les Baux de Provence. Our Sunday visit to the tiny little town perched below the ruins of an old medieval fort/chateau was touristy, but the views from up above everything were phenomenal, and the result of quite a climb!

Amadi and Caroline

Spring blossoms

Sunday afternoon before our train left we went back to Avignon to see the Palais des Papes, left over from the Great Schism. It was enormous, freezing cold (because of the stone), and kind of empty, but very lovely. I haven’t seen the Vatican yet, but the amount of wealth that the French popes had was impressive.

Part of the palace from the outside-I'm missing the left half

The floor from the pope's bedroom: I want one just like it someday

A segment of painted ceiling

However, as lovely as the palace was, we were really there to sing and dance on the pont d’Avignon! (bridge of Avignon). Caroline, Amadi, Kelly and I joined hands and sang the French folk song with true American Gusto, and the embarrassment was totally worth it!

Le Pont d'Avignon

A bientôt!

“sur le pont d’Avignon l’on y danse, l’on y danse…”

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