An Educational Field Trip…to the South of France! Part 1
Although I am abroad in Lausanne, I am still a student & have to do everything a regular student would do: write papers, do homework, & study for midterms…gross. This whole past week I have been studying for my two midterms & writing three different papers. I am writing this wondering how I made it to this point. I remember telling myself earlier this week that if I made it to Thursday, it would be a miracle. So here I am, living proof that miracles do, in fact, exist.
Since I have to write exams & papers, that means I am a student & if I’m a student, that means I go on field trips! The best part of school was always going on field trips. Just the fact that you didn’t have to sit in the classroom for another day was a good enough reason to look forward to them, even it was to see the symphony…again.
Field trips abroad are a little different, however. Each semester, the entire program travels together to a destination for a week, exploring the city, visiting museums, & bonding as a group. The location is predetermined, but this semester we traveled to Marseilles in the South of France! We spent all of last week exploring the South of France & basking in the sunshine that is slowly fading in Switzerland. This week long field trip was one of the main reasons I questioned whether I was going to make it through this week alive, but it was totally worth it! Well, maybe ask me again when I get my midterm scores back…
We left the Lausanne house bright & early at 5:30am to bus to Geneva to catch the TGV to Marseilles. The TGV is France’s high-speed train that regularly reaches a speed of 320km/h – our trip from Geneva to Marseilles only took three hours! I’m seriously starting to think North America needs to get on this train bandwagon.
We arrive to only jump on another tour bus. After having been on several group trips in the past, & I feel like I have become fairly familiar with these buses. However, I still somehow manage to hit my head every time I stand up & cannot fight off the wave of tiredness that overwhelms me every time the bus shifts into gear. Thanks Mum & Dad for using the car as a way of putting my to sleep…19 years later it still does the job. However, I could blame my apparent sleep deprivation on our tight & busy schedule that started out in Marseilles with one of the most beautiful fountains I’ve seen yet.
Palais Longchamp was built to celebrate the construction of the Canal de Marseille, bringing water to the French city. The two pink dolphins are a more recent addition, but the fountain itself was magnificent. Marseilles loves their water!
Our next stop was lunch, but just as the tour guide was explaining to us that Marseilles has 300 days of sun out of 365, the skies opened & it started monsooning. We sprinted off the bus &, soaking wet, hit the buffet. Buffets are not usually my favourite, but this French buffet had everything from escargot to éclairs & looked delicious! However, it wasn’t the food that totally amazed me. I was shocked by how little old French ladies would push & shove to get to the cheese station or squeeze their way in to get another bowl of soup. Elbows were flying & lines were being cut – one of the greatest of sins at a buffet. After we had fought our way through the chaos & managed to make it out alive & back to our table, one of the tour guides saw our traumatized faces & explained to us that there are no lines at buffets. Apparently, all rules are out the window & you just go & grab what you want. This explained why the people were running all over & cutting lines, but I was still baffled by all the aggression that one elderly lady could exert. After filling up on a couple rounds & mastering the French buffet method, we were finished but it was still pouring outside. We were meant to do a walking tour, but instead had to wait out the rain & wander around a nearby indoor museum.
Our next stop was the Basilique Notre Dame de la Garde, where we saw the most beautiful panorama of Marsailles! After climbing a couple flights of stairs, we reached the top & stood back & soaked in the view. The Basilique itself was beautiful inside, tiny boats hanging from the elaborately painted ceiling.
After the Basilique, we then went on to do a bit of a walking tour after the rain finally let up, & I’m so glad it did! Marseilles has so much cool architecture & history. Any winding alleyway you take is bound to have something to take a picture of!
Finally, after we made our way back down, it was time to check into our hotel…phew! It had been a long day & we all couldn’t wait to power nap until dinner, which we were on our own for. After having some delicious Italian food, one of the girls recommended that we go to this one gelato shop. Definitely one of the highlights of the trip. With five flavours, your gelato was turned into a delectable flower on top of a waffle cone. That’s right – you heard me. One of my new favourite flavours of gelato is now Speculoos. It is like a sweet, cinnamon cookie crumbled into ice cream & it’s to die for. After dinner & gelato, we came back & crashed, in complete shock that we had barely survived the first day.
The next day we got up bright & early to travel to Aix en Provence. We ended up doing a walking tour of the old city that happens to be one of the world’s great art capitals. The city was a filled with narrow, cobblestone alleyways & old architecture. There were little stands set up everywhere, selling fresh flowers, vegetables, & soaps but, of course, we were drawn towards the desserts. We ended up eating the biggest macarons I’ve ever seen!
After making our way through the city, we arrived back at the bus to be transported to Cassis. On the way there, we took a detour & stopped off on the side of the winding road to see yet another beautiful panorama. Unfortunately, it was raining yet again, so I had some umbrella problems being on the side of a windy cliff…
Cassis is an old fishing harbour filled with pastel houses. I am a sucker for anything pastel…especially rustic shutters! Here we had some free time to explore the town ourselves, so we wandered the streets, popping into little shops. Apparently the South of France is known for their soaps & lavender; everywhere we went, the smells of fresh, hand-made, lavender soap filled the air. Somehow, although it all smelled amazing, I ended up buying a scarf instead. I am also a sucker for scarves…they are my all-time favourite accessory! They can change & remix any outfit all while keeping you warm! Perfect for Switzerland. However, before heading back to the bus, we had to stop at a bakery that our tour guide had told us was the best. We drove back home enjoying delicious cookies & Madeline’s, & then, of course, when we were finished eating, fell asleep.
Just a girl sharing the baubles she loves & the bliss she experiences!