By Abigail Roberts
On Wednesday, April 11th, nine students and three chaperones departed on a bus, the first step in our journey to the south of France. In spite of a few obstacles, everybody made it safely. It was raining when we finally arrived at the airport. Our luggage was thoroughly soaked – disappointing – but any negativity was overshadowed by excitement. We were in France!
Over the course of our trip, we visited many beautiful places and museums with fascinating historical artifacts. As someone who loves to draw, the art museums were among my favorite places to see. Villa Kerylos in Beaulieu-sur-Mer and the Rothschild House were some of my favorites. With the exception of our first two days, the weather was always warm – a welcome change from the Maine climate. The crowded markets we visited were bright and colorful with the scent of spices and flowers, permeating the air. One day, we even got to watch street performers as they ran through the market and catapulted through the air. I’m also very happy to say that I was able to find a french copy of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone during our visit to Place Massena in Nice.
It was amazing to be able to see first hand places we would otherwise have only seen in pictures. My host family’s house overlooked Nice and at night, all the lights below made for an incredible view. Most days during our outings, our group would find ourselves with a vantage point that looked out over the ocean, which was a vivid shade of azure.
Truly the best feature of the trip was being able to live with a host family. Students were in pairs, with one group of three, with our families. Our host families were incredible. They were so patient with us when we had trouble understanding or communicating, and living with them was a wonderful way to learn more about the French culture and to experience everyday life in France, as well as improve our language skills. My four-year-old host brother, Jules, loved to pull out puzzles and games for us to play such as Uno and Lapins Cretins (Raving Rabbits) which helped me learn the language as I had to keep up with his explanations of the rules. My host family always had cultural facts to share with us. One night, for example, they told us that in France, instead of the Tooth Fairy, they have La Petite Souris, a little mouse who collects teeth.
My absolute favorite places to visit were Villa Kerylos, an Ancient Greek style building in Beaulieu-sur-Mer and the Rothschild House, which each belonged to an extremely wealthy family. The gardens at Rothschild are split into various themes such as the Spanish Gardens and the Rose Gardens, and the house itself displays antiques such as porcelain and clothing inside. In front of the house, water cascades down a stairway feeding into a larger basin with water fountains that shoot water in time to the classical music. I remember thinking I wouldn’t mind getting lost in the expansive gardens behind the house. It was so incredibly peaceful and relaxing to able to wander around the gardens, and see the rather frequent lizard darting under a nearby flower.
The churches were also extraordinary with gorgeous stained-glass windows and architectural design. It was nice, and very humbling, to sit in the quiet of a massive cathedral and get lost in your own thoughts and reflections.
We also had the opportunity to visit the principality of Monaco; the medieval village of Eze; Cannes, which was preparing for the internationally acclaimed Cannes Film Festival; and Antibes, a port city that is home to some of the world’s most expensive luxury yachts. One day after our French classes, we spent the afternoon at the beach where we were able to enjoy stand up paddleboarding in the mediterranean!!
The week was over far too quickly and all too soon we were saying reluctant goodbyes to our host families at the airport. I’m incredibly grateful that I was able to go on this trip and I will always remember the things that I learned and the experiences I had. Hopefully, one day, I will have a chance to return.
Abigail Roberts is a junior at Lincoln Academy who traveled to France with the LA International Club in April.