After this past weekend, there’s only one excursion left with my study abroad group. I can’t believe it’s already April! The semester is almost over! Still, I’ll be here through May, so I still have lots of time to explore La Côte d’Azur. Though the next few weeks I won’t be doing much exploring, because I have midterms, presentations, and final exams in all my classes. This month will be a good reminder that I am still a junior college student, I’m not on vacation yet.
On Saturday my study abroad group bussed us to Saint-Tropez (it’s nearly impossible to get to without a car, and even with a car it’ll take hours to get there when the summer hits because it’s such a popular destination but only one road goes to it). The island gets its name from Saint Torpes. Nero had Torpes beheaded and put his body on a raft with a cockerel and a dog, expecting it to be devoured. However, when the raft washed up on the shores of the island, neither the dog nor the cockerel had touched the body. This was deemed a miracle, and eventually Torpes was declared a saint.
We took a small walking tour around the island, and it was just lovely. So quaint, and not too busy right now, and when you get to a high point you have a great view across the sea.
Came across this while walking through Saint Tropez in search of a good lunch spot.
View of the rooftops of Saint-Tropez and the Mediterranean Sea beyond.
After walking around for a bit we had free time to explore an outdoor market. I spoke to a Moroccan vendor for a little bit who told me I spoke French very well (they all say that, but even if I don’t fully believe it, it’s still nice to hear). After a couple hours we regrouped to eat a cake that the island is famous for: a Tropezienne (just realized I didn’t take any pictures of it…I’m shocked! I don’t know how I didn’t think to do that…but they sell them in the patisseries in Antibes, too, so I’ll upload a picture of one later). It’s made of two layers of cake with a thick, rich cream in the middle, and has sugar sprinkled on top.
The market in Saint-Tropez (it had food, clothes, jewelry, soaps…all sorts of stuff).
Our last stop in Saint-Tropez was the Musée de l’Annonciade, a small modern art museum that houses a lot pointillist paintings. Many of the works there were inspired by Saint-Tropez and the surrounding area, which made the visit especially enjoyable. My favorite painting was by L’orage by Paul Signac.
On the way back to Antibes we took a short stop in Port Grimaud and at Dramont beach (which is just outside the city of Saint-Raphael). Port Grimaud was like a mini Venice, filled with house boats, actual boats, and bridges.
Shots of Port Grimaud.
Dramont beach was where the Allies landed on D-Day during World War II. There’s a boat and a small monument commemorating their landing. Not far from the beach was a tiny island called L’Île d’Or. A small tower stands on its rocky surface. The tower was built in 1897 by a man named Auguste Lutaud, who seems to have been quite the character. Lutaud declared himself King Auguste I of L’Île d’Or, and was was quite serious about it, printing money and stamps for his kingdom.
L’Ile d’Or, a.k.a. the Kingdom of King Auguste I.
Sunday was my favorite CEA excursion: we hiked in the Esterel Massif, a reddish rocky mountain range that rises up from the beach. This makes it really easy to get to: you can walk directly to a trail from multiple train stations in the area. It was nice to be moving all day instead of sitting on bus. The countryside is beautiful so I know we’re lucky we’ve had a private bus to see it, but the rides always make me stiff and sleepy.
The beach we went to after the hike. The weather was nice, in the low 60s, which is perfect, in my opinion, but definitely not warm enough to swim yet. I only walked far enough into the water to give my legs a bit of an ice bath.
As much as I have loved my experience abroad, if there’s one thing I could change it’d be that I was surrounded by more people who spoke French. When I’m with my study abroad group, everyone speaks in English. I try to practice speaking French with those who I know will understand me, but it’s difficult to be strict with myself about this, and I often find myself speaking English without even thinking about it. Nevertheless, I do find some random opportunities to practice speaking French (as I did talking with the Moroccan at the market in Saint Tropez, for example), and in fact, this Friday I’m meeting a couple of French people at the track where I work out to teach them the dynamic warm up they saw me doing. I was surprised by how impressed they were, but when they asked me to coach them, I figured, why not? They’re speaking in French, so it’ll be good practice!