From my first hearing of study abroad, I knew that I would do it. Spend a semester in a foreign country? How could I not? But more specifically, I knew that I would go to France. Why France? Well, I've studied the language since the 8th grade, for one. But more than just the speaking, I love how distinctive the culture is--the passion, the possession of what it means to be French. I love that. I want that.
But then, an Italian art program completely drew me in, centered on community and the visual arts. I had never considered going to Italy, let alone small-town Orvieto, but this particular program ignited the artist in me, and presented an opportunity to live in close-quarters with fellow creatives, while my France options were much more about solo immersion.
So here I am, in Italy, not France.
And I love Italy--I love its charm and romance, the camaraderie around the table, the convoluted history, and of course, the presence of art here is like no other. But then I spent a weekend in the south of France, and here is my conclusion: I love Italy, but I want to live in France.
Aix-en-Provence is just lovely--the center of town is about the size of Orvieto, so it's plenty walkable, but there's also quite a bit to see and do. During the day, we hopped from coffee shop to boulangerie to green parks filled with young people perched on benches, book in hand. Every day in Aix, there's a massive market that sells all sorts of fresh fruits and vegetables, flowers, bread, clothes, etc. We were feeling kale and quinoa and kombucha deprived back in Italy, so we bought all the fresh food we could afford once we got to Aix and cooked up a storm back at our Airbnb. I nearly drowned in Kombucha over the course of the weekend.
In the evenings, after our superfood suppers, we would return to the town center and dance our way through bar after bar. One night, we even went to a hookah bar, where we took our shoes off, curled up on cushions, sipped lavender loose-leaf, and smoked peach hookah--just perfect.
My favorite part of the weekend was getting to visit the Musée Granet, an exquisite modern art museum in Aix. They had beautiful Picasso pieces, as well as works from Dubeffet and Kosta Alex. I love the bizarre qualities of modern art, so this museum was nothing short of dreamy.
There was an independence in France from person to person that I just adored, a precision with the language that never quite let me forget I was an American, but still left me in awe. The more we wandered through the town, the more I thought to myself, I could live here. I could definitely live here.
Ciao, France, until next time.