Each week, there are three open-air markets where Claudine may sell her cheese, but not every market every week, usually just one. There is one Saturday in Arles, one Wednesday in Marseille, and one Friday in St. Martin de Crau, the town where we live. Apparently I might end up in a French Magazine because Claudine had to take some pictures of her market cart for a magazine. Her niece worked behind the counter and I acted as the customer for the picture. I also got to explore St. Martin de Crau on my own which was pretty easy since the main part of town is not very big. I went to the ecomusée and saw some giant dead beatles on display, cool pictures of dragonflies, and tried to read captions about geography of the region in French.
The first Friday night I was here, we went to a party celebrating a lady’s first 6 months of her farm opening. Ashley’s host family was also at the party so I was glad to catch up with her and not stand awkwardly by myself. We had hotdogs in baguette buns and sampled some cheeses and talked to a scottish girl who just finished her first year of ‘uni’ and she is being an au pair here for the summer. She studies French at school so she was way better than me. She called the Mediterranean sea ‘the Med’, and I’m totally adopting that, lol. We took Ashley home for the weekend so we could explore the city of Arles together while Claudine visited her friend. It was quite small but very pretty and historic, and the feel of it reminded me of Spain.
When we met up with Claudine in the afternoon, we were a bit surprised to find that she had two German girls with her, and we were even more surprised when they effortlessly switched from speaking French with Claudine to English with us to German with each other. They both just graduated from high school in Germany and are backpacking through the south of France for a month before they leave to do volunteer jobs for a year, one in Turkey, one in the north of France, because they don’t know what they would like to study at university. So I’ve gotten to spend a lot of time with them and they are very fun and interesting and inquisitive.
On Tuesday Ashley spent the night again so we could wake up early to go to the market in Marseille, and we got to be tourists while Claudine sold her cheeses. Nothing much was open when we got there so we walked around the Vieux Port (old port) and admired the sights and sounds of Marseille, even though it rained a little bit. When the office of tourism opened, we got a map and a touristy booklet and found out we could take a bus to the top of the hill to see Notre Dame de la Garde, the obligatory must-see landmark of Marseille. The inside of the church was so beautiful, with intricate mosaics and paintings all over and model boats, and the outside was just as beautiful, with a view of the city and the Med, and the mountains. Then we decided to head way to the other side of the city to see the Palais de Longchamp, a beautiful building which houses some museums, however we did not have time to see the museums. It was definitely worth the journey though, it was a magnificent building! I thought ”wouldn’t it be cool if I went to school here and I could come study here”, but then I realized I don’t even take advantage of all the cool places in the Lansing area, so I must do that this year!
For la Fête Nationale (that’s Bastille Day for you Americans) Claudine and some of her friends took me and the German girls to Avignon, the city where the Pope once lived in Medieval times, where there was a big theater festival going on. There were posters and flyers everywhere for zillions of different shows and there were a lot of cool street performers, and some annoying ones who kept trying to hand out flyers for thier shows. We walked around looking at all the shops all day which were all overly expensive because it was such a touristy town. I was so exhausted that when I finally got to sit it felt so good. We went to a cafe and I got a smoothie that definitely wasn’t worth it. Don’t be fooled: just because milkshakes and smoothies go by the same name, they are not the same here as in America. They are not thick and creamy and delicious, they are watery, overly-blended, foam drinks. Ok, maybe not that bad, I am just missing all the good old American desserts. Apparently in Germany they have very large chocolate chip cookies which they call ‘American cookies’. Haha.
That night just outside of Avignon, we saw a ‘spectacle’ (that’s a funny word to say in French, it’s pronounced like ‘spec-TACK-la’) in a circus-like tent. It was a musical-theater show about a man without arms and a man with mullet wig trying to win over a woman. It was very funny, especially when they sang Madonna’s ‘Like a Virgin’ in English, with French accents. And one of the characters had the greatest laugh, which I wish I could do an impression of, but Claudine does it excellently. Most of the show was visual, but when there was dialouge it was very annunciated and dramatic so I could actually understand a lot.
See ya later alligators!