I’ve just returned from our second study trip to the South of France, and I’m preparing to travel again in just TWO days! Hopefully Fall Break with my friends will be just as interesting as this trip.
Last Friday all 20 SMU students traveled to the South of France on a five-day tour of Marseilles, St. Tropez, Juan-les-Pins, Nice and Giens. I’ve never been to the Mediterranean Coast so this was a very exciting trip for me. Since the Cultural Formations course in Paris this semester deals with the “interwar” period between 1918 and 1939, most of our time in the South of France was devoted to studying the development of cultural and society within this fragile time period.
One of the largest cities in all of France, Marseilles is a very busy port town. Important here were the actions of an American man, Varian Fry, during the Second World War who helped thousands of French and other European intellectuals escape Nazi persecution immediately after French occupation. Also interesting to see in Marseilles were the “original” streets, which are very small and narrow compared to the more modern streets constructed after the World War II bombings of Marseilles. In less than 60 years it was able to re-create an entire city that had been devastated by bombs.
I have to admit that when I first stepped off the bus in St. Tropez I was immediately starting to look for celebrities who I knew frequented the small port town. Alas, since it was October and freezing cold, I wasn’t able to spot any celebrities. There were, however, hundreds of very swank private yachts stationed in the marina so maybe Beyonce and Jay-Z were in one of them. Unfortunately, since it was a Sunday when we visited St. Tropez, all of the small boutiques were closed. None the less, St. Tropez was stunningly gorgeous, and I hope to be able to go back there during the summer to really experience what it would be like during the “peak” season.
As an example of the flamboyancy and grandeur of the 1920s in the French Riviera, we visited a private villa of the Rothschild family. Situated on the top of a cliff overlooking the Mediterranean Sea, the pink house embodies the 1920s. There are extensive gardens, each with a theme like a rose garden, a Japanese garden, a “floating” garden, and even a desert garden! Best of all, there are fountains that are synchronized with music so they give the allusion of “dancing.”
Probably the most famous city in the South of France, Nice was our last stop. The entire town is built around a boardwalk for pedestrians to stroll along the waters edge. Though it was freezing cold when we arrived, my friends and I still managed to go sit on the beach for just a little while! All of Nice is decorated in the Art Deco style of the 1920s. Several Casinos litter the main boulevard that overlooks the rocky beach. I’m very happy that I get to return to Nice again in January for orientation because I feel I only was able to scratch the surface of what Nice is really like!
Well, after a full week of traveling, I can’t believe I’m about ready to start traveling AGAIN! This time 3 countries in 5 days … it should be interesting!