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CEA Study Abroad Excursion to Provence

If you ever study abroad in the French Riviera, do not miss the trip to Provence! My friends and I agreed that it was our favorite excursion yet.

Our first stop was in Arles, where we visited two ancient Roman theaters. The first was a theater for plays, and the second for gladiator battles.
 It was incredible to see the Roman columns that I’d studied in Art History in real life. I couldn’t believe the detail that was still visible on the ruins! This theater was built between 40-12 B.C.E. 

Next we visited the Château des Baux, where “Le Mistral” (a strong wind from the north) was particularly strong. 
 The main portion of the castle is in the upper right.  Further forward is largest trebuchet in France (16 meters tall). 
 
 The castle had many places where you could climb up to get a great view of the countryside, but you had to watch your step because the stairs were VERY worn down. 

Our last stop of the day was at the Pont du Gard, the longest remaining portion of a Roman aqueduct. It was built to carry water from Uzès to Nimes, and did so for over 900 years without leaking! There’s only a 17-meter height difference between its start and end points, meaning the aqueduct descends at a rate of just 34 centimeters per kilometer.
 The Pont du Gard arching over the river Gordon.
 
 There were three trees from the year 908 planted near the Pont du Gard! Two are visible here.

The following day we began with a visit to the Palais des Papes in Avignon. Though the atmosphere in the palace is rather cold today, if you imagine the frescoes and tapestries that were covering the walls and ceilings during the 14th century when the popes lived there, you can get a sense of how impressive it must have been.

 The CEA Antibes students listening to our tour guide in one of the Palace’s chapels.

Our second stop was in Fontaine-de-Vaucluse. We visited a “Moulin” that has been producing cotton paper since the 1500s, then took a short hike up to a spring where the water was as clear as glass. Scientists and explorers have searched for the source of the spring for years, but no one can find it!
 The factory wasn't producing paper during our visit because it was Sunday, but we could still look around and purchase their paper.
 
 A group of CEA students at the top of the short hike.

Next we went to the Musée de la Lavande, where we learned the difference between lavender and lavandine, how each is distilled, and about the uses of each. We ended with a short visit to Gordes, a perched village with the best view of Provence I saw the entire trip. It’s famous for its building technique called “la pierre sèche,” or dry stone, which only requires stones quarried from the region (no mortar of any kind is used).
 View of Gordes.

Lucy Havens is the Spring 2014 CEA MOJO in the French Riviera.  She is currently a junior at Carnegie Mellon University.

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