Posted March 5th, 2012 by Rachel in Paris, France
Over the weekend, our group traveled to Marseille and Arles in southern France. We took the TGV- the train à grande vitesse (high speed train)-from the gare de Lyon early Friday morning and it took less time to travel across the entire country of France than to drive to my cabin in northern Minnesota. I’ve been wanting to see the Mediterranean for years and it was really cool to be able to finally be there. The weather was so warm that some of the people in our group were wearing shorts, while the Marseillais were dressed like they were in danger of frostbite. We got a nice tour of the old part of town, le panier (literally “the basket”) that reminded me a lot of the Italian hilltowns. We had the night off to explore the city, but I got sick at the restaurant, so it stayed pretty low-key. In the morning, we got the chance to see the Château d’If, which is a prison that was made famous by Dumas’ The Count of Monte Cristo. I wish I had read it beforehand, but now I have my very own copy that is basically the size of a shoebox.
Marseille felt like a small town- 800,000 people feels small to me now- and it was nice to get out of Paris and feel like I could breathe again. On Saturday afternoon, we took another train to Arles. I wish we had more time there because I think I would’ve really enjoyed learning more about the city, but we were definitely rushed. We got to see the Roman ruins and ampitheatre that still exist in the center of town, which looks like a mini-Rome. The mistral, the wind that comes up off the Mediterranean, was absolutely insane. On Saturday night, we walked down to see the Rhône that runs through Arles and the wind was so strong I couldn’t walk straight.
Coming back to Paris from the south of France felt like coming home. It was nice to come back and know the city and see the familiar sights and sounds again. My internship is starting to pick up and I’m feeling like I’m actually helping for the most part. On Friday, I had to call every three-star hotel in the 10th arrondissement- a whole page- in French and see if they had available rooms. When my boss told me to do it, I thought she was kidding. She wasn’t. So I had to make my way down the list of hotels. Bonjour, je cherche des chambres pour vingt-cinq personnes…Speaking on the phone isn’t as hard as I thought it’d be, even though one person asked me to send a written message instead because he couldn’t understand me. I’m busy all day now and I have my croissant-based lunch every day in the Place des Vosges, where I get harassed by fat little pigeons that eat the croissant flakes that I drop.
On Tuesday, we went to the top of the Arc de Triomphe at night to take in the view, followed by sitting by the Seine. It was so much fun to hang out, be really silly and have a welcome break from all the seriousness of having to act professional full-time during the week at work and at school and pretending to be French all the time. And honestly, what’s more beautiful than sitting by the river with croissants and good conversation in Paris? I don’t think it gets much better than that. Sometimes I forget this is my life.