Last weekend, 20 of the Sweet Briar students went to Provence on a trip organized by the program. We had a great group of students and an equally great dynamic duo leading us: Moïra (one of the Sweet Briar secretaries) and Gilles (the guide for the trip).
We met up at Gare de Lyon at 6:30 am. The TGV (high-speed train) left the station at 7:07 am, and almost 3 hours later we got to Avignon. A private bus was already waiting for us and we went straight to Uzes. We walked around the town’s market and enjoyed the nice weather.
Our next destination: Pont du Gard. I didn’t have many expectations about the bridge. When we got there, I was amazed by the magnitude of the monument and stunned by its architecture. The river and the mountains made a beautiful landscape. Pont du Gard is, without a doubt, one of my favorite places in France so far. Gilles told us about the history of the bridge (the construction may have taken place between 40 and 60 AD) and we all took many pictures. What a fascinating place!
Back on the bus, we headed towards our hotel in Arles. Before we got there, however, we stopped by two other bridges to take pictures. The second one was the Pont Van Gogh (photo below)
We walked to a very nice restaurant, where three tables were already waiting for us. The food was delicious! So was the wine… Half way through the dinner, a Gitano guy with a guitar started playing songs in Spanish, and that’s when the night really began. The Catalan guitarist had a lot of energy and charisma. Gilles, who was just beginning to show his youthful spirit, didn’t waste time and started singing (or improvising) with him. Then the other Latinos and I joined. Suddenly, the party was on! Almost everyone danced and we all had a great time!
The night continued at another place where we had stimulating conversations. Luis, Marcela, Alexandra, and I had a big discussion about Latin American politics. Others met some French people. Later in the night, a live band was playing mixed music. We resumed the dancing that had started at the restaurant until 2am. It was so much fun!
Sunday morning, we met up for breakfast at 8:00 am. Then, led by Gilles, began our tour to discover the town of Arles… First, we visited the coliseum, which is one of the largest coliseums of the Roman Empire (only second to the one in Rome). It remains almost intact. Then, we went to the Roman Amphitheatre, which was unfortunately destructed throughout the years. Only a few original structures remain in place. However there is a well-made virtual reconstruction of it, so we could imagine how it looked like centuries ago. The history behind these monuments is truly fascinating!
When we got back on the bus, we headed to our final destination of the trip: le Palais des Papes: a enormous monument! Gilles gave us a very interesting tour. Each chamber has a lot of history: the bedrooms, the living rooms, the dinning hall, the kitchen, the chapel, the cloister, the list goes on and on.
We really enjoyed the visit, but the way back to the bus was the most enjoyable part of the day. It was 3:15 pm and our train back to Paris was supposed to leave at 4:08 pm. We didn’t have much time. Some of us went the wrong way as we left the palace and we had to wait for them. Finally we saw a few signs that indicated the way to the Pont d’Avignon (the famous bridge). “That’s it! That’s the way!” said Gilles. We kept running and laughing, and finally got back to the bus. Luckily, the train station was only about 10 minutes away. We got there comfortably and three hours later, we got back to Paris.
The two days in Provence went by quickly, but it seems as if we were there for a whole week! I learned many things during this trip and I remembered one undeniable truth: no matter where you go, traveling with friends is always fun!