Two weekends ago (the first weekend in March), I packed my bags and headed to Lisbon, Portugal with my friend Kathleen. She is also a student at Vanderbilt but has been studying abroad in Edinburgh, Scotland for the past 3 months. It was so nice to see her and catch up on everything we have been doing and experiencing – we have been doing a great job of using Facebook messenger to send each other messages when we get a chance, but it is still so much easier and more fun to have the opportunity to catch up in person! We had a great weekend there, eating local food, walking around the beautiful town, and relishing in the simplicity of Portuguese life. The pace was so much slower – and I could feel it in comparison to the way I have been traveling. We didn’t feel the need to race around and see the maximum number of museums possible in the days that we had, but rather we took time to frolic around and get lost in the cobblestone streets. In fact, this is where we ended up discovering the most.
Kathleen and I spent the day on Saturday wandering around the Castel de Sao Jorge and basking in the sun. We spent some time in the Praça do Comércio square and sat outside on the terrace of a restaurant for dinner. She left the next morning, so I did a free tour and then spent some time going to the local museums, churches, and renowned “lookout points.” Traveling solo for the day was definitely not my favorite – I liked it less than I thought I would. It may have been because I had a paper due that Monday that I hadn’t started yet, but I had somewhat of an anxious feeling throughout the day. However, Portuguese people were some of the nicest that I have met so far – they were so welcoming, and would literally go out of their way to start a conversation or help us (thank you to the two people who helped me get on the right bus to the airport early Monday morning!).
Last week was the week of visitors! Had two sets of friends come visit me within a 4 day period – the Fallons and two Vanderbilt friends, James and Danielle! It was Vanderbilt’s spring break so they had the time to do a little Euro-trip, while Mr. and Mrs. Fallon had been in the south of France for a little vacation and of course had to come visit me 🙂 Funny enough, Karin had done the same exact program when she was at Vanderbilt! She even took classes in the same room that I do now – life is weird sometimes. Wednesday night I met them at their family friends’ house, the Maillets, for dinner. The Maillets moved to Aix about 4 years ago. As I wove between the streets to find their house, I was shocked to see that they lived in a place that I had actually run past a bunch of times before! Karin, Chris, Marc, Delphine, and Marc’s daughter Fanny were there when I arrived. It was so much fun to hang out with all of them together and to be in a house with people who feel like family again. To the Fallons – thank you for that!
We talked for a little bit about how Fanny worked for a Footy (Australian football) team in Paris, and helped them get off the ground with the women’s team. It was so great to meet her; her lovely spirit and confidence shined, and we have made plans for me to go visit her at the end of May! She talked about a recent trip to Peru, how she’s been skydiving, and just is one of the coolest people ever. Chris Fallon kept joking because he said we would be trouble because we’re together, and honestly I’m flattered that people compared me to her. Anyway, during dinner we also talked about the different French phrases for vegetables and fruits, and Marc gave us some extra expressions to use as well. It was a great night, full of great people.
Thursday morning I brought Karin into my Advanced Conversation class with my favorite professor, Mme Martin. I introduced Karin and we watched a video that my friend Yidida had made about our winter break in all of the different cities together. It was really fun because Karin got to see my break coming to life from the journal entries that she had read about here on my blog! In class, we worked on French onomatopoeia sounds in addition to how to interrupt someone or to tell them your opinion, which I thought was and will be super helpful in the future. Afterwards, we met Marc, Chris, and Fanny on the Cours Mirabeau. It was an absolutely gorgeous day outside and it really felt like I was living the French lifestyle being there ! We had 12:30 lunch reservations at Au Caméléon, so we got going soon after we had sat down. I sat across from Marc and Chris was on my right, so I translated between the two of them about some political topics when we were talking about the difference in the role of the President in France and the U.S. and whether Obama did a good job. Lunch was wonderful — we all ordered veal lasagna (had never had veal before but the lasagna sounded delicious), and it came with a little side salad. We also had Rosé, bien sûr !
Chris, Karin, and I drove to to Chateau Simone after lunch, a vineyard about 10 minutes away from Aix. We met the owner of the Chateau, who was very abrasive at us at first. She said how people come there all of the time but always just want to taste the wine and not to buy it which is what they are there for. However, her barriers were broken down a little bit the more we talked because she saw that Karin and I spoke French. In fact, she had gone to high school in Connecticut, right outside of Hartford! What a small world. And when her daughter Madeleine came in, who was also a little cold and shy at first like she was, we discovered she had lived in Philadelphia for 4 months one year working on the vineyards there, and also lived right across the street from the VIF center in Aix. The four of us walked around Aix for a little bit, and I showed them the little alleys with a lot of different stores. We ate Madeleines at my favorite stand, then I said bye to Fanny and Karin.
Danielle and I went to Le Grillon to hang out and catch up about everything. It was SO good to see her — I think I needed a visit from an old buddy. We talked about this summer, people’s breaks and her visiting everyone on their respective study abroad programs, etc. Had a great time chatting under the sunlight on the Cours Mirabeau and a cappuccino. After James got there, we went over to their Air BnB then went to dinner. After eating a 4 course meal, we headed back and watched Beauty and the Beast together at home! Danielle and I both knew all of the words to “Belle” – so we belted it out together. I was so touched that they came to visit me and made it all this way, especially because Danielle’s flight was at 12pm the next day.
Once Danielle left, James and I spent the day in Marseille. It was over 70 degrees, and we ended up walking 12 miles along the water (called Les Calanques) and exploring the city! We went to Notre Dame de la Garde, a church with a great view overlooking the city, and just enjoyed the weather and relaxing. We went to a wine and cheese shop for a very French appetizer, before getting burgers as our very American dinner 🙂
After all my visitors were gone on Saturday, Clee and I made the short trip to Mont Sainte-Victoire, the famous mountain that Aix’s pride and joy Cézanne had painted over 50 times. We hiked up the mountain, and didn’t even get lost — until the very end! It was a nice break from the hustle and bustle of a small city. I definitely want to go back and hike the whole thing.
This week was pretty low-key. I have been working on applications and trying to solidify an internship for next semester at school, as a full-time internship is a required component of one of my majors at Vandy. Besides that, I have been going to class (of course 😉 ), volunteering at the hospital, and eating a lot of baguettes! C’est la vie française, and I can’t complain. This weekend we are headed to Belgium! More adventures to come!