On a beautiful Thursday in late March, I went to this great village, Biot, which is about 30 minutes from Nice, where they make Handblown glass- Julia Childs mentioned it in her My Life in France book, as she and Paul had a set of glasses from Biot. I’d visited with one of my host families 3 1/2 years ago while on vacation in the Cote d’Azur, but we only visited one of the glass-making places. Yesterday with the girls from my program, we visited the big one I’d been to before, La Verrerie de Biot. I was MUCH more impressed by the small place, Verrerie Ferinelli, where you could stand about 4 ft away from the men making the glass stuff as they smoked their cigarettes and made amazing works with seeming ease. The prices were also significantly lower there than at the larger verrerie down the road, and I found the quality to be much higher, the glasses had a better distribution of thickness and uniformity, and the colors seemed to be stronger, too. They just don’t get the tour buses flowing through like the large place does (literally, a tour bus FULL of mostly white-haired folks pulled in and unloaded while my friends and I were in the glass museum). If you’re able to visit here, it’s certainly worth a trip to visit the large workshop to see their museum section and the different types of products, and the workshop space has a good explanation of how they make the glass items; but to get an up-close look of the process, I definitely suggest going to Verrerie Ferinelli, which was about 1 km towards the village center from the large Verrerie which has all the signs pointing to it.
We also checked out this small gallery, Pierini Verrerie, which was across the street from Verrerie Ferinelli. Here, they had some truly breath-taking works of art from four different artists, but the majority of the work is created by the Father-Son team who owns the workshop and appears to live right behind it. These are works going for well over 2000 euros sometimes, but I can only imagine the kind of mastery required to produce these pieces! I didn’t get any photos of the inside of the shop, but I did take photos of the patio, where they had several large pieces. They don’t have demonstrations everyday like most of the other workshops, but it’s certainly worth a visit one day when they do!
Studying abroad in Nice, France, is nothing less than beautiful. I’m not sure where to start, because of course there is the natural beauty– the A lps, the ocean, and the palm trees (or “des palmiers”), but it’s my experiences here that have made this trip great. Speaking another language was really daunting for a few weeks, but now it’s my first instinct to say, “pardon” instead of “excuse me” while on the bus or tram. Winter is the rainy season here but it’s slowly getting nice again. It was 60 degrees and sunny the other day and everyone was out on the beach. I have had the opportunity to travel to a bunch of little towns on the French and Italian Riviera such as Antibes (where Picasso spent the end of his life) and Cannes (yep, like the film festival). It’s never more than a few euros which is a pretty thrilling feeling! It’s quite nice waking up and deciding to go to Italy for lunch. Classes are also going really well, honestly. I was surprised to find, as a Women’s Studies minor, that they are offering a History of Women and Gender class at my university. I get along really well with the professor and she always looks to me for support when trying to explain things to the rest of the class; women’s history here is one of the youngest subjects so a lot of students have trouble grasping the concepts.
By far, my favorite thing about being abroad is the constant learning. The immersion allows me to have a momentum to learn and retain information unlike I’ve had before. I even have started learning some basic phrases in Italian! My host family would have to be my second favorite aspect of being abroad. When a long day of traveling or classes had gotten the best of you, it’s really calming to come home to a family environment. I have met a lot of other foreign students from all over the world. A lot of them are in dorms because their programs don’t have home-stays. They are always jealous that I don’t have to cook my own food! The Erasmus network here is open even to those who are not technically in the Erasmus program, and they plan a lot of events like going to the movies, parties, and language lessons, usually at discounted prices.
Being a student in Europe has it’s advantages! Right now is definitely the time to travel, especially with a program like Sweet Briar. In addition to not having to worry about my own housing, I also have assurance that I am choosing the right classes to correspond with my goals back home. We are one of the only American programs here in Nice that have classes with real French students, in French. Of course our professors are understanding, but they more or less treat us exactly the same as everyone else. Lastly, I could not thank Sweet Briar enough for planning excursions for us. Some of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen are just a bus ride away, and I never would have known this if not for our day trips. Even cooler, is that we often get special treatment at these places! For example, on a trip to a museum in Monaco the other day, the guard let us into the restoration room which is totally off limits to the public. We got to see the original outfits and hats worn by stars like Josephine Baker! Another huge plus was when we went to Cannes, we had tea time at the Carlton; where a lot of stars stay when they go for the film festival! Needless to say, I think I really am getting the most out of my experience on the French Riviera.