I’m going to try to get my shit together and blog semi-regularly if I can and I wanted to start with my study course in Nice, France. First I want to offer my sincerest condolences to those killed and injured in the Nice Attack on July 14th. I’d returned home just four days prior to that attack and it is such a terrible situation. I will not let that taint the experience that I had there. So without further ado, here is some information on what it was like. This is probably going to be a long one, but bear with me.
I actually signed up for the trip during the semester. I remember being so sad my first semester at Chapman, when my French 101 professor handed out the brochures for the Summer Study Course in the French Riviera. I sat there during class thinking about how I would have loved to have been able to go. Funds weren’t there at the time and plus, I’d JUST restarted learning French at the time. But then this past semester, Spring 2016, I got the brochure again and fortunately I was able to make it happen. I applied and was accepted, paid my deposit and bought my plane tickets in February. Of course, I’m a mom and a wife and three weeks away from the guys is kind of a lot, but I was still pretty excited about it.
The guys dropped me off at LAX and I was on my way. I flew Air Canada and didn’t realize that I would have a chance to practice speaking French so early in the trip. The service was great, the movies were good and the flight attendants were all extremely nice. Since I hadn’t ever spoken with any French-Canadians, it was pretty surprising to hear them flip between French and English without accents. I dug it though.
Once I arrived in Nice, I realized it was gorgeous. I arrived at my host family house which was a quaint apartment in a great location. We were a 5-10 minute walk from the sea. The woman who owned the apartment was very welcoming, and spoke no English which was great because I needed the practice but also scary because I could understand her but when it came time to respond, I would freeze and not know how to answer her. I was the first of my roommates to arrive so I had my choice of bed. I actually chose the top bunk because my hostess assured me it was more private and actually, it was. Besides, I hadn’t been on a bunk bed in probably twenty years! That first day I took my first venture out to walk along the Promenade Des Anglais which is about 4 miles long and runs along the coast. It was gorgeous.
Each week, I was expected to be in class Tuesday through Friday from 8:45 to 12:45. Class was good; they were all conducted in French and we were given a test each Friday. The name of the school I attended is France Langue. The instructors were all super nice and I learned a lot.
We were dropped off at our host families’ homes with the school address. I arrived on a Saturday and my roomies arrived later that day. (Shoutout to Kelsey and Alana). My hostess offered to walk my roommates and I to school the first day which was a great relief because I would have had to figure it out on my own otherwise. The first day, was a blur what with placement exams and all the information about what to expect all in French. After class the first day we got a walking tour of the city and we got bus/tram passes. Nice is gorgeous. It used to be part of modern-day Italy so there is a lot of Italian influence; the food, gelato, piazzas and such.
Class went well that week; I was learning passe compose and l’imparfait, two things I’d learned before and at first I thought about trying to switch to a higher level class but then I realized that there is always something to learn and honestly, grammar is something that we do at Chapman. I wanted to be more confident with speaking so I chose to stay in the class I was in. Each class had to sing a French song in front of everyone at the end of the first week. My class had to sing Champs-Elysées.
During the week Tuesday through Thursday we would have mandatory (ha!) excursions after class which were all pretty wonderful. There was also the Fete de la Musique on June 21st which is a music festival all over france where bands can just play music in the streets. I ventured out with the roomies and it was pretty cool, I must admit.
Tuesday of Week One we went to L’Eglise Russe (The Russian Church). It was built in the early 20th century and it is gorgeous. I don’t have photos of the inside, as it was not permitted, but I did get a photo of the outside of the church.
Wednesday we went to the Musee Chagall (Chagall Museum) to see works of Marc Chagall. This is a rare museum in which an artist actually participated in the opening of their own museum. His works are pretty religious but nonetheless, very interesting. After this, we were free to go but a classmate of mine (shoutout to Bennett) and I decided to take the bus further up the hill to see the Musee Matisse. It was interesting and that’s all I have to say about that, but while we were up there, we saw a Franciscan monastery that had amazing views and that made it worth the trip.
Thursday’s excursion was one of my favorite ones out of the entire trip. We went to St. Paul de Vence. It is a gorgeous town with so much to see and beautiful small shops. I bought some chocolate-covered wine soaked raisins there and they were so good. There was also a ton of art shops to go into and an actual wine cave! That was quite cool, the views were breathtaking as well. I recently found out that James Baldwin lived in St. Paul de Vence and in fact, he died there. I really wish I’d known that at the time as I would have looked for his house.
Fridays were free days for us and that week I went out to walk along the promenade and wound up at one of my favorite places, Opera Plage. A nice beach with shallow water and good sangria.
Saturday, there was a free, optional excursion to Italy. So of course I went to that one. Uh Duh! It was nice to be able to practice my Italian and it was very similar to Nice. I went to a beach there and had some really good Spaghetti alla Carbonara and vino of course! I walked so much that day, it was crazy. Later I ran into some Chapman peeps and tagged along with them for the rest of the time. (shoutout to Jessica, Bennett, Teddya, Emily and Paige) If I could go back in time, I would have planned things to do and see but alas, it was a good experience.
Sunday I spent all day at Opera Plage laying out and incidentally met a really nice lady from New York who was in France for a few months on a sabbatical from her job.
Mondays were also part of my weekends in Nice so that Monday I went to a spa, mainly to take a long shower and wash my hair (more on that later), but also to relax.
Class was also good this week, they made it so that we had one instructor for the first half of the day to teach grammar and another for communication in the second half. Starting this week, I still had Christine for grammar with the addition of Isabelle for the vocal portion. Isabelle speaks much more quickly than Christine but she was a great instructor and I think our sessions with her really helped strengthen my speaking skills. Unfortunately I didn’t get a pic of Isabelle.
Tuesday of Week 2, we went to the Musée d’Art Moderne de Nice. It was pretty cool, there was lot to see and as expected with modern art, some things I didn’t really understand but one artist I really liked was Niki de Saint Phalle. He had some pretty cool works that were painted as diary entries. Also, on this day, I had a french cooking class which was a lot of fun. We made chicken with tapenade and basil and a local zucchini sautéed with tomatoes. For dessert,we had chopped nectarines with a homemade syrup and of course it was all super delicious and a lot of fun to help cook.
Wednesday we went to Eze village, another gorgeous village on the top of a hill that had amazing views and cute shops. The walk so super long up to the top, but so worth it. We also got to see Marc Chagall’s grave site which was kind of humbling after having visited his museum and watched a documentary about his life. It is also worth noting that I fell right on my bum on the way back down. Those stairs were slippery! We also took a tour of the Fragonard perfume factory. Fragonard was the perfumier for many famous brands of perfume all over the world for many years. There were many good scents and the tour was pretty interesting.
Week 2 Thursday we went to the Massena Museum which was one of my other favorites because for the most part after excursions my roomies and I usually had a long walk home and this one was a three minute walk from our host apartment, but also because it was an actual guy’s house, it was huge and they had lots of cool things on display, like clothing and crowns and portraits.
That Friday I believe I stayed in, after walking 5-7 miles a day on excursions and still having homework, I was beat. But this was a good weekend because some of my Fam Bammers from England came to town.
That Saturday we all met up and sat at the beach for a while. It was so great to see everyone. (Shoutout to Cesar, Christina, Matt, Val, Mike, Emma, and Jeremy). They all went out that night but I was too tired to hang out so they picked me up on Sunday and we drove to Monte Carlo and saw some sites. We wound up at a gorgeous rooftop pool and had a great time. There were so many yachts and luxury cars everywhere. It was crazy.
Then I spent a night in the villa they rented on airbnb and Monday we spent all day on the beach in Cannes, which was sandy and shallow and overall picturesque. Interestingly enough, there is a Steak n Shake in Cannes. The fries weren’t the same though. I then spent another night with them and then Matt gave me a ride to school on Tuesday morning.
As for class on the last week, Christine was on vacation and I’m bummed I forgot to get a picture with her, so we had another instructor, Laurence. I have to say as much as I really liked Christine, Laurence was such a great instructor. I learned a lot from her.
Since this was the last week there weren’t as many excursions. Tuesday we went to Monaco and walked the entire town, up and down hills and around and up and down and it was SO HOT. But it was gorgeous and even though I’d been there a few days before, there were quite a few things I hadn’t seen like the aquarium which was super cool, the palace, and we even saw the cathedral where Grace Kelly is buried. This was a great but really tiring day and I’m glad I got to go again.
Wednesday there was an optional excursion to the Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild, a huge pink country estate owned by a rich woman Baroness Béatrice de Rothschild. We got to see her bedroom, bathrooms, china collections and the like. She worked for her family’s railroad company and collected things from all over the world. Out back were nine gardens all with different themes, to include a rose garden, a japanese garden, and a spanish garden. There was also a water fountain show out there.
Thursday after class we had our group dinner at Casa Nissa, a restaurant that had really good italian food and one of the best tiramisu’s I ever had. After dinner most of us went to Finocchio (one of the best gelato places) and then out to watch the football game. It was the Semi-Finals and France was playing Germany and everyone in the whole city seemed to be out. It was an atmosphere like no other. When France won, people celebrated all night long and it was pretty cool to be out there soaking up all the reverie.
Friday was the last day of class, which was bittersweet, and also the day Juanita came to see me! Whew! Having friends all over the map can seriously be so good. I moved out of my host apartment, into an air bnb and hung out with my girl for a few days. We basically did a few mini walking tours and ate and went to the beach but it was really fun and I hadn’t seen her since 2009!
By Sunday I was ready to leave but also ready to stay. I felt so much more at ease with communicating and I knew my way around town pretty well. But my guys were waiting for me, so it was time to hit it!
Some last takeaways:
I want to say that France Langue was amazing. They arranged for us to have drivers pick us up from, and take us back to the airport which was so nice. The facility was nice and had air conditioning which came in handy. The instructors were all so nice and helpful.
I also want to say that I realize now that I am way too grown to live with a host family ever again. However, I think that it could’ve been different with another host family. But still. No more.
I learned that I love hazelnut flavored everything because I couldn’t stop eating that stuff while in Nice. Coffee, croissants, gelato, you name it, I ate it.
I enjoyed getting to know my fellow students from Chapman, people I may have never come across otherwise and I really enjoyed our instructors. They were both so nice and helpful and soooo knowledgeable about Nice and culture and history and it was great to be able to experience the city that way.
Oh and here are some pics I like but didn’t feel like writing about:
If you made it all the way through that, bless your heart! Toodles!