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Skeletons, Waterfalls, and Street Art, Oh My!

Question: What do an archaeology museum, French caves, and the city where Van Gogh removed his ear have in common?

Answer: They're all places where CEA French Alps excursions have taken place!

Let's start from the top. CEA excursions and activities are an opportunity for students to travel and explore the regional area with other members of their study abroad group. Because the trip cost and scheduling are already built into the program, these excursions guarantee students opportunities for exploration at almost no personal effort beyond maintaining their own attitude while traveling. Excursions may range in duration and distance from a single day trip to neighboring locations to weekend travels in nearby regions, cities, and sometimes countries.

Below are a few of the places you might go in the French Alps:


Only a short hour-long train ride from Grenoble, Lyon makes a perfect day trip. Our trip began at the Musée de Confidences, a highly unique museum showcasing something to intrigue even the most reluctant students. Exhibits included a visual progression of evolution, from fossils to full-fledged taxidermy; "La Chambre des Merveilles," an exhibit of marvels reminiscent of early 19th century fairs containing brilliant "curiosities" from around the world; a room of waste transformed artfully into individual mechanical and musical displays (for example, spoons strumming away at the strings of a broken guitar lodged in a fish tank); and finally a modern digital-visual exposition showcasing the paradox between the natural beauty of the world and the man made atrocities with which humans are capable of filling it.

The museum tour was followed by lunch in a square a walking tour of the city, and a trip to the picturesque basilica perched high above the city.

 Musée des Confluences in Lyon.

Les Cuves de Sassenage

Another day trip, the caves of Sassenage are an incredible local adventure. By taking the tram to the outskirts of the city, the hike begins with a walk through a quiet village. We enjoyed a nature hike up to the caves themselves, past a waterfall, finally to come out at one of the best views of Grenoble. Lunch was a picnic enjoyed from the rocks near the river.

 The entrance to our hike near the Les Cuves de Sassenage (the Caves of Sassenage).

Arles and the South of France

Because who doesn't want to wake up at 5h00 on a Saturday to catch a 6h30 train? The first of two weekend excursions  -- with the second being Avignon near the end of the semester -- the South of France was organized as a joint excursion for both the CEA French Alps and Aix-en-Provence groups. Shortly after our arrival, we were given free time to dine from the smorgasbord of international and marine foods offered by Arles’ bustling weekend market, as well as browse the local goods containing lavender and Herbs de Provence. Our afternoon united both groups through a walking tour of the city where Van Gogh spent many of his years and created well-known pieces such as Garden of the Hospital in Arles and Café Terrace at Night.

 The Amphi in Arles, as seen during the walking tour of the city.
Grafitti of Van Gogh in Arles.

Emily Milton is the Fall 2015 CEA MOJO Blogger in the French Alps, France. She is currently a senior at Iowa State University.
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