I feel as though I’ve been in France for so long, I’ve been so busy! I hope the rest of the semester keeps going by this slowly. Within my first couple of days in Antibes, I had the best pain au chocolate I’ve ever eaten, I tried pastis (the people in A Year in Provence drank it a lot so I wanted to give it a try. It’s a cloudy, pale pink color and tastes like black licorice), and I learned that in France, breakfast and dessert are essentially the same thing.
A typical breakfast from my host mom: chocolate chocolate chip cookies, a chocolate covered waffle, and a glass of orange juice
Classes at the university I’m attending, SKEMA-EAI (the School of Knowledge and Economy Management’s Euro-American Institute), began on Wednesday. Each class meets once a week for three hours. I’ve only had two so far: Contemporary French Culture and Database Applications for Business. Three straight hours of Database Applications for Business is a little much, but I could spend an entire day in Contemporary French Culture.
The SKEMA Bachelors building, where I attend class
I’d never realized how important space is for the French. According to my professor, French students are taught geography all throughout their schooling, because selon les français, if one knows where she/he is, one knows who she/he is. That’s why they use the expression “perdre le nord” (literally, to lose the north) to describe someone who has gone crazy.
Yesterday my study abroad program had our first excursion! We went to Nice, Eze and Monaco, which I was very excited for because in one of the books I read at school last semester (Edith Wharton’s The House of Mirth), the characters took a cruise to this area of France.
At an outdoor market in Nice I tried socca, a traditional Provençal dish made from chickpea flour. It’s similar to a crêpe, but thicker and chickpea flavored. The recipe is pretty simple, and there are a lot of different variations of it, so I want to try to make some!
Next we visited Eze, a small town about halfway between Nice and Monaco. We went to the Parfumerie Fragonard, which could not have a better location: it’s perched on a hill that looks out over the Mediterranean. Studying to be a “parfumeur” isn’t easy, because there aren’t many schools to attend, and they only accepts students with truly exceptional noses (seriously!!). If you become a parfumeur, you can only work two hours a day because your nose gets so overwhelmed by all the scents that after two hours you can’t differentiate between them.
View from the Parfumerie Fragonard
From there we walked up the hill to the medieval village of Eze, which only has one entrance that used to be protected by a cannon. Today only 50 people live within the village walls!
Finally came Monaco, one of the smallest states in the world (second only to the Vatican). We drove along the route of the Grand Prix. Our bus driver, Pièrre, gave us a taste of what driving in it would be like: he stopped our bus at the place where the race starts, then after a count of 1-2-3, sped ahead!
We ended the excursion with a visit to the Casino Monte Carlo. It was quite fancy (which is to be expected), and was surrounded by some VERY nice cars (Ferraris, a Lamborghini…also to be expected). Unfortunately the Casino didn’t allow photos to be taken inside, but I did gamble! I broke even, but one girl in our group won a couple euros.
Casino Monte Carlo
Today my study abroad group visited the Musée Picasso. It has works that Picasso made while he was living here in Antibes. He donated them all with the stipulation that they remain at the museum permanently, so people would have to travel to Antibes to see them. All the titles of the paintings are in French, and most of them begin with the words “Nature morte.” Morte means dead, so for the first half of my visit I kept thinking that Picasso must have had a very morbid outlook on life. Then I read a description of one section of the museum in both English and French. Turns out Picasso adored sea creatures and everything to do with the Mediterranean. Nature morte means still life…
After the museum our group walked to the Cap d’Antibes, which has an amazing view. We could see L’Ile Sainte-Marguerite, Juan Les Pins, Antibes, Monaco and Italy. On our way back we stopped at a restaurant across from the beach, and I had my first café au lait. With a little sugar, it was actually pretty good!
View from the Cap d’Antibes
A la prochaine!