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I Didn't Know my Favorite Place on Earth Existed

One of the great things about Aix is that it's so close to so many places of historic significance. From internment camps like Les Milles, to the wineries of the Rhone Valley. I've been on several excursions this semester that have showed me what this region of France has to offer. My favorite excursion, however, was to Les Baux de Provence and St. Remy.

The day started with Les Baux, a medieval town in provence that is situated on a hill. Going through town (where there are 23 residents) is an uphill climb where you pass many small shops and restaurants, as well as a church that is famous for its Christmas Eve festivities. Once you get to the top, there are castle ruins to explore. We had to battle the Mistral winds while we climbed up to the top of watchtowers, but it was worth it for the incredible views!

 The view of Les Baux from one of the towers

After spending time there, we went to Les Carrieres, where we experienced an art show that was displayed on the walls of the cave we were in as we roamed about as music ranging from opera to '80s rock to set the mood. This show focused on the works of Chagall and was incredibly moving. It was easily my favorite place that day (and during my stay in France in general), and I am grateful that I signed up for this trip, because I wouldn't have known it existed otherwise.

After the show, we moved on to the main event of the day: Dejeuner Chez Lolo in St. Remy. Lolo is a 91 year-old man who lives in the home his family has owned since the 1600s that was carved out of a mountainside. There were farm birds and even some peacocks roaming around the beautiful property and everyone was free to explore as we waited to eat lunch. Lolo made us a beautiful, truly French meal that went from Apéritifs to cheese and took about two hours to get through, and everything was absolutely delicious!

 One of several courses at Lolo's house!

After spending a bit of extra time there, we departed Chez Lolo and made our way just down the street to Mausole St. Paul, the asylum where Vincent Van Gogh stayed toward the end of his life. Since it is still a functioning institution, we were only allowed on some areas of the property, but we were able to see Van Gogh's room and study, and we even got to sit in the fields where he painted.
 A courtyard at Mausole St. Paul

All in all, this trip is the best experience I've had so far in France. I got to experience so much of the culture, and got to see things that I wouldn't have known existed otherwise.

McKenzie Smith is the Spring 2016 CEA MOJO in Aix-en-Provence, France. She is currently a sophomore at Hofstra University.

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