Bonjour d'Aix with Ellie Tidman (7/2)
July 2, 2012
Vanderbilt high jumper Ellie Tidman is spending her summer studying in Aix, France. The rising junior from Batesville, Ind., was born in France and moved to the United States at the age of 11. At Vanderbilt, Tidman is majoring in French and taking two classes while in Aix, Francophone Cinema and Advanced Conversation, with the goal of returning to fluency in the language. Tidman is one of Vanderbilt's top high jumpers. She placed sixth at the SEC Outdoor Track & Field Championships this year and qualified for the NCAA East Preliminary Round with a top-jump on the season of 1.77 meters (five feet, 9.75 inches).
Marseilles was one of my favorite field trips! It's France's second largest city and is located 20 minutes away from Aix. So we packed our bags, got on a bus at 8 am and set off on our day trip! Once there, we took a tourist train tour to see the major monuments of the city such as Notre Dame de la Garde, a cathedral which sits on a mountain at the highest point in Marseilles. It was beautiful and adorned with gold mosaics and religious sculptures. Throughout history, it became a tradition for sailors to bring a small wooden sailboat into the cathedral as an offering to God for guiding them safely home. They are on now hanging from the ceiling, on display for all to see!
After lunch we all got to go boating with an instructor! This was by far my favorite part! He had us get the boat ready by tying up all the ropes, letting the sail loose, and proceeded to let us maneuver it once we were on the water! As you can tell from the picture, steering is very difficult! The boat would tip completely onto one side with one side in the water and the other standing straight out of it, sending us gliding down a sea of aggressive waves, completely out of balance... When this happened, (which was frequently, given our lack of experience) the people sitting on the lower side would pretty much be in the water and the people on the high side, simultaneously flung into the air, hung on for dear life, trying not to fall on the others or out of the boat, all the while trying to stabilize it. It was not the easiest task to master! We had quite a bumpy ride but that was all the fun!
Then as a reward we threw down the anchor and jumped in. Coldest water I have ever swam in in my life! At first you think to yourself... it's ok I'll be fine in five minutes... but no... I was frozen the entire time!
We visited Nice the following week for our excursion. Nice is made up of two parts: Old Nice and New Nice. Old Nice is the part of the city that is most touristy and has all the cute little restaurants and cafés by the beach. We ate lunch there and tried a few traditional dishes like socca (pancake made from chickpeas) and ratatouille (a sort of vegetable stew). New Nice is the more urban side of the city, which includes their main shopping center. Following dinner, as I have a sweet tooth, we decided to go get one of southern France's signature desserts: Gelato! The place we went to was awesome because it had really unusual flavors like avocado, rose, violet, sea salt caramel, Bailey's, and mojito as well as conventional flavors. My favorites were pistachio, banana, and white peach! With our gelato we walked over to the pebble beach which lines one side of the city!
There, we enjoyed an afternoon of sun bathing and swimming. The water was crystal blue and very salty so it made it really easy to float for long periods of time!
Thursday the 21st was a very special day here in France because it marked a celebration called " La Fête de La Musique." Because it was the day before my birthday my roommates and I decided to have a get-together over at our auberge before going out to experience the festival. We listened to music, chatted and ate some homemade peach cobbler for the first part of the evening and then stepped out into the extremely crowded streets of Aix to bask in the festivities of the night! There were people everywhere dancing and laughing, enjoying the evening as multiple bands of various styles played away. The French assert that there are only a few nights in the year when people are guaranteed to not to be able to sleep ... that night was one of them!
June 22nd, aka the day of I was born but more importantly, this year, the day of my 21st birthday! I actually spent most of the day reading, because I happen to be one of those people that get really sucked into the book they are reading. But thankfully my roommate was able to get me out of my bed in the afternoon by bribing me with sushi! I love sushi so there was no way I was going to turn down such an offer. We bought take out from a nearby restaurant, which is renowned for their sushi... It tasted as great as they had advertised it to be so I was very happy. After dinner my friends and I went to a karaoke bar and sang all the old embarrassing songs everyone knows the words to! It was a great time spent with great people!
This was officially my first weekend trip. Diana and I packed our bags Friday morning and left directly after class at 1 pm. We chose to go to Barcelona on an 8-hour night bus because it was the cheapest option (Oh...the life of a college student!) I spent most of the bus ride giving Diana the stink eye as she slept with her mouth open because I was so tired and could not fall asleep! It's funny now that I look back on it but at the time, I was not enjoying myself! Once in Barcelona we met up with a friend we were going to be staying with and napped the rest of the afternoon. An interesting fact about Barcelona is that the people there live their lives on a completely different schedule than other people. They eat lunch at 3 o'clock pm, dinner starting at 10 pm, go out with their friends around 2 am and stay out past 6 am! It was a hard transition to make when I was used to my days being somewhat the same everyday. But despite the obvious shift in time, we got up and explored the nightlife along the beach!
The rest of the weekend was jam packed with touristy visits to monuments, cathedrals and architectural landmarks! Each day Diana and I would get up really early to make the most out of the day hitting up as many places as physically possible, needless to say our feet and legs hurt by the end of the trip. Saturday our friend took us around Barcelona to small shopping areas where we were unfortunately all pick pocketed... I happened to catch the girl's hand in my purse and she ran away! But most of my friends weren't so lucky. This was only the beginning of the series of unfortunate events that awaited Diana and I! In Barcelona the fastest way to get from place to place is by taking the metro so we got very well acquainted with it after countless failed attempts at finding the right platforms! Once we figured it out we visited the Sagrada Familia, which is an intricately designed cathedral by a famous architect named Gaudi.
He died before it could be built but his assistant happened to find the plans he had been working on, and made his dream come to reality. Because Gaudi's architectural style is very detailed and complex the building process was very slow. We came to find out that it had been under construction for years and was not to be finished until 2030. Then, we visited my favorite place, which was Parc Guëll also designed by Gaudi. The park was packed with people even early in the morning and it was stifling hot but it was completely worth it. It followed a kind of whimsical theme architecturally with its colored mosaics and structures. I felt like I looked through a looking glass and landed in wonderland!
For dinner we had tapas, a few small portions of different dishes for a group to share, which is traditionally Spanish. And the series of unfortunate events continues as that night Diana and I got separated from our group and ended up sitting outside our apartment for three hours!
Ironically we had a great time by choosing to distract ourselves with a big jar of Ben and Jerry's banana flavored ice cream and reminiscing about our childhoods! My favorite trip so far!
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