Tour of Puyricard Chocolaterie
When you mix two fantastic elements like France and chocolate, how can you not have a great time? Eight students and I recently took a short trip to the charming village of Puyricard just north of Aix where one the most celebrated chocolateries of the region makes its heavenly treats. As we were taken on a tour of the factory, we were able to see (and taste!) how they make their calissons (the specialty of Aix) and all of their various delectable chocolates. As it was getting closer to Easter, all the workers were in full swing making everything from huge chocolate eggs to hand decorated chocolate bunnies and other spring delights. After sampling a delicious variety of goodies along the tour, we were then offered a mouth-watering plate of all different kinds of chocolates which I have to admit we devoured!! Needless to say, we returned to Aix extremely content!
Do the Samba Like You Wanna!!
One of my absolute favourite things to do is dance, so I was very excited to accompany a group of CEA students to a Samba Soirée organized by CEA in conjunction with a South-American style restaurant that offers all kinds of dance courses and dance parties here in the heart of Aix. A group of about sixteen students and I celebrated Valentine’s Day with a night of Carnavale-style fun! The night started with a private lesson in the crazy hip-shaking dance of Brazilian street samba. What a class! As someone who has done ballroom style Samba for some years, let me tell you, it was crazy! After working up an appetite, we took a break and enjoyed a enormous assortment of more tapas than we could eat as the live Brazilian band stared to warm up. We worked off our yummy dinner by shimmying and shaking the night away to fantastic music with the large crowd of Aixios partying it up with us. Vive le samba and vive la carnavale!
Marseille is the second largest city in France and has many different faces. It can be a bit daunting if you don’t have your bearings. To help the students see some of the prettier sides, I took an eager group of about a dozen students for a sunny Saturday afternoon stroll through the city. We started with a short tour of a savonnerie or soap manufacturer. This, of course, isn’t just any soap. Marseille is world famous for it’s soap industry, which is strictly regulated in regards to a minimum percentage of olive oil, etc. After a bit of learning and exploring, we worked up an appetite, so we headed down to the oldest bakery in Marseille where we each had a giant navette, a biscuit-type goodie that originated in Marseille. After a visit of the Abbey of Saint Victor, we took the scenic route along the Vieux Port to do some shopping on La Canèbiere, two of the most famous areas in Marseille. Finally, we returned to Aix with a delightful impression of diverse Marseille.
Cowboys and Camargue
Of course, when you think of cowboys, you think of the Wild West, horses, cattle, campfires…things typically American; a drastically different image than when one thinks of chic France. But France is a beautiful country and, although drastically smaller than the U.S., has varied regions and is about just as diverse!! In fact, there are cowboys, called Gardians, in a very unique region in France. We recently did a weekend excursion to this distinctive area, so sit back and relax, and let me share with you picture of this special region. Nestled in the southern-eastern area of France is a region between Marseille and Montpellier known as Camargue. It is a vast and flat delta, whose namesake can be found throughout France on its’ two famous exports of rice and salt. Upon discovering the Camargue, one is impressed with the bulls or taureaux which roam throughout the 150 bull farms or manades in the area. Beautiful white Camargue horses cannot be kept in barns or stables; they prefer to roam freely throughout the marshy plains among the wild pink flamingos which live in the region as well. During the weekend, we were able to see the bulls up close on a tractor ride through a manade before feasting on the most fabulous traditional provençal lunch. After visiting the picturesque sea-side village of Stes. Maries-de-la-Mer, we had the privilege to explore this magnificent region on horseback through the marshy terrain and view the famous wild flamingos in their natural habitat. The adventure did not stop there. One usually associates bull fights with Spain, but the South of France has some amazing spectacles as well. They are a bit different though, as the goal is not to kill the bull. We went to a Course Camarguaise in which the raseteurs win by removing ribbons tied onto the bulls horns. We had a beautiful sunny day in the arena to witness this exciting and unpredictable sport. Afterwards, while enjoying another delicious dinner, we saw a fantastic show of flamenco dancing and guitarists! And you thought France was just wine and cheese…
Carnavale on the French Riviera
Carnavale, which seems to be celebrated worldwide, is celebrated throughout France on different dates in each city. However, the Carnavale capital of France is Nice, which is also the capital of the French Riviera. So CEA had to take the students there for a weekend excursion to the Carnavale Parades of Nice, followed by an exciting time in Monte Carlo and Monaco. The Parade of Flowers is complete with gorgeous floats, flowers being tossed into the crowd, confetti, music, and all kinds of excitement. Flowers abound in Nice, and the students got to witness this as well at the famous Flower Market. One of my personal favourite things in Nice is the socca. Socca is a niçoise specialty that is like a flatbread made out of chickpea flour and olive oil and is cooked in a special giant pan in a special oven. You can taste it at the large market in Nice or visit the very niçoise Chez Réné which features all kinds of spécialités niçoise, such as farcis niçoise and beignettes des fleurs de courgettes (fried zucchini flowers). The fun continued in Monte Carlo with dinner, dancing, and bit of gambling for those who were feeling lucky. Of course, one can’t go to Monaco without visiting the luxurious palace or the cathedral where Princess Grace is buried. A royal weekend was had by all.
Read more about our CEA Content Creators.