I am currently in Nice on the Cote d’Azur but I can explain. I hardly remember any truly great ideas coming from this quarter of France, I am merely on a 7 hour lay-over awaiting an overnight train to Rome. Not a bad place for a lay-over, though.
The trip has thusfar been everything I had hoped. Sometimes travelling alone can get pretty bad for a talker like me, but then again, I still manage to meet more people here in a day than I would at home. I started in Paris, and re-tread many of the same things that I saw last summer, while allowing myself more precious Louvre time. The Eiffel Tower was nonetheless impressive the second time, and I saw many of the museums on my first day with two girls I met-one from Italy and one from Japan (yeah, not much in common). Anyway, neither one spoke much English so I was forced to use my French the whole day, much to my delight. That night, I went to a Bach concert (no, he wasn’t there) in the cathedral of St. Chapelle. Under normal circumstances, such a large dose of stained glass and Baroque music would keep me awake for hours, but jet lag kicked in and the guy next to me had to nudge me to wake me up when it was over.
Anyway, the next day I met up with a contact Dr. Mayer gave me named Michel and his girlfriend. I had thought that we would just get together for a drink and that would be all, but he invited me to this concert of Spanish music that they were to be attending. I was in jeans and severely unshaven but I went anyway, and was the only toursit in a crowd of maybe 30, all Parisians. I think I met more Parisians in the two hour reception afterwards than most Americans ever will. Several said that I was the first American that they had ever met that spoke French, so I suppose that forgave my jeans and tennis shoes. On the whole, the Parisians were very nice. On the subway to the train station, I actually struck up a conversation with a Parisian who praised American economic policy. Whereas most such discussions entail me trying in my best business french to defend Laissez-faire, here was someone who agreed (He also saved me from getting on the wrong train, another point in his favor).
I went down and stayed the weekend with my old host family from last summer when I studied in Tours. I recovered from Paris and enjoyed the best meals that I’ve had since I’ve been here. Tours was great, not a lot going on, but it was pretty weird being so familiar with a place so far from home. On Sunday, I took the train down to Provence. I saw Avignon- The old Pope’s palace that was used for about a hundred years from Clement VII to the great schism (you all know the story), as well as the famous Pont Benzinet (famous is a relative term). Taking a walking tour of the city, I of course ran across a dozen americans who were using the same guidebook as me, but that has since happened more than once, and is an easy way to meet new people. The next day, I toured the old city of Arles, the city where Van Gogh had that problem with his ear. A very Roman city, I saw the old place du forum, and the impressive Roman amphitheatre, sort of a Diet Colusseum of Rome. It was amazingly well preserved, and they still hold bullfights there. That afternoon, I saw the remains of the impressive town of les Baux. Razed by Louis XIII in the 17th c., its remains are set at the top of a huge rock in the Alpilles in eastern Provence. Its amazing that 6,000 poeple could live in a city essentially carved from a rock that was sort of like Stone Mountain, GA, only substitute the lasers and confederates for buildings and fortifications. Anyway, I stayed there so long that I missed the bus home and thus hitchhiked back to Arles. My chauffeur was a nice guy named Pierre (how’s that for typical) who had lived in Les Baux all his life, drove a little red Renault and, in true French fashion, had a huge sheepdog in his backseat (He won’t let anyone else back there, I was informed). Anyway, after we talked for awhile, he insisted on going the long way back to Arles, because there were several sights in Provence that he wanted me to see. It was pretty cool getting a free tour from a local.
Yesterday, I saw the perfectly preserved Roman acqueduct, the Pont de Gard, also in Provence. It was quite a spectacle and amazingly un-touristy. It spanned a river so I also went swimming while I was there. I then visited a small town called Uzes, merely because the bus stopped there and I am partial to small towns. I, along with a group of French schoolchildren, took the walking tour of Uzes offered by the office of Tourism. It lasted about 30 minutes and cost 2 euros, but it was rather charming. In any case, small town fun is over, and alas it is again time for a big city. I hear that Rome can be daunting, and I am a little nervous about the language barrier, but I’m excited. My trip has been excellent. I have met so many people from so many different countries and even continents-the mark of a good trip in my opinion. Given that this is my second time in France, I anticipate that it will only get more interesting from here. Hope things are going well state-side, sorry I’ve rambled on. Jay, feel free to abridge this before sending it out if necessary.