An Ode to the South of France

Is it bad to be nostalgic already? Although I am still technically living in France for another month, my study abroad feels almost over. Next week my classes will finish up, followed by a 17 day adventure through Hungary, Poland, Germany, Prague and Austria (get ready for some sick pix), a little over a week of finals and then back to the U S of A!

While I am incredibly excited to return to Madison, the commencement of physics classes (give me my science back!), research with human interaction instead email and of course my chosen family of humans to brunch with at bradbury’s, the thought of leaving Aix-en-Provence forever is startling. My friend Ellery (see here), stayed with me this past week for three days and gave me the view of Aix through new eyes once more. Charmed by the quaintness of the small city in comparison to Madrid, she rejoiced in the nature, bakery culture, and romanesque streets that are Provence.

On Tuesday, I had the luck of a cancelled class, so after a late market stroll for the best sourdough bread in the world and still wet goat cheese, we set out for the Calanques, a national park outside of Marseille. One of the most baffling aspects of the park is that you can arrive there from city center in 20 minutes by bus. One is separated from the city, but the buildings and  bustles are less than a mile a way at some points. However, when entering the park, you completely lose the sense of society, surrounded by peaks and an ocean still the bluest blue I have ever seen. This week’s analogy :

“It looks like the cerulean crayon from the Crayola box!”

“I can’t believe you know the exact name of the crayon.”

“…it was my favorite growing up as a kid…”

Maybe this is why I am so obsessed with the ocean here.

We struggled up the rock surfaces, often time speechless when we reached the top, mumbling “okay” to each other because the views were too much to describe. Marseille’s expansive coastline stretches languidly until it disappears into the mists north of Algeria. I could see the mountains of Cassis, a view I recognized from my very first weekend here. You must visit to fully comprehend the beauty of the smallness one feels facing the awesomeness of nature.

I dream of owning a house boat here.

Arriving at the most famous Calanque Sugiton just before sunset, we sat in serene silence appreciating our hike and beauty around us as the golden hour waned. Ellery, the philosophical and wise being that she is, wondered aloud why humans ran to cities and society when were found ourselves so marveled by the simplicity and yet complexity of nature. In my class this semester, I studied Rousseau whose famous story of Émile describes a man from the ideal world of the wilderness, never denatured  or corrupted by the society of man. I think I understand where and why he imagined this concept.
Cue too many sunset pictures :

Silently and simultaneously, Ellery and I counted the seconds of the sun melting into the ocean, until the last red embers extinguished themselves into the sea.

Our mourning for our lost red friend did not last long, because we were gifted with cotton-candy clouds shaped like horses and vibrant brush strokes painting themselves across the sky.

Note the tiny speck of the sun still setting in the corner.

On our way back to the bus, we readied ourselves for denaturing by listening to scratchy vocals and folk guitar of the song “Nothing Arrived” by Villages (listen here.)

“This song is about travelling,” said Ellery. We linked arms and continued down the path, ready for our next adventure.

I am eternally happy to have travelled with her, and to have travelled at all.