An afternoon in Normandy, a night at the circus, and a weekend in the Black Forest -- all of these experiences were available free of cost with CEA! Studying abroad in Paris makes opportunities for cultural immersion possible each day, but Paris students were offered a variety of excursions during the semester that took us beyond the city limits throughout France. Whether you’re in the mood to escape for a few hours or a full weekend, CEA makes it possible to visit unique hotspots and throughout your host country while coordinating specialized tours that will make you feel like a local.
The first excursion activity offered for the semester brought us to Honfleur, France, in the Normandy region. Our very own CEA Paris staff guided us through a walking tour of the small city, and we were lucky enough to be in town just in time to experience their major weekly market, giving us the opportunity to try out their specialty cheeses, produce, and seafood. We were then given free time to explore the seaside and eat lunch along the water while soaking in the charm and history of the town. The day concluded with an information session and tasting at a nearby apple cider distillery, where we sampled local cider and aged cheeses in a picturesque countryside setting. Days like these are important to take a step back from the bustling city and appreciate the more easy-going side of French life, while also absorbing the significant historical roots of the country.
Our second excursion took place on the outside of Paris in the 19th arrondissement as we gathered outside the big top to view a French circus. However, this was no ordinary “cirque” -- in the absence of colorful clowns and marching elephants, there was a man in the center of a dimly lit stage who single-handedly constructed a collection of wooden contraptions in silence, then tore them apart again. We American students couldn’t believe that this form of abstract entertainment could share the same name with what we considered to be a circus, but it was by far the most mind-bending and intriguing cultural experience I have had thus far, and I never would have had the opportunity without CEA.
Most recently, a group of students embarked on an overnight trip to Strasbourg, France, and the Black Forest in Germany. Led by our own personal tour guide, we explored the neighborhoods full of fairytale-style houses, walked through the stunning Notre Dame de Strasbourg, and even went on a boat ride around the city. At night, we were brought to an authentic German restaurant in the heart of town and were served a full three course meal of traditional food. The next day we traveled over the border to Triberg, Germany, where we hiked through the Black Forest to find hundred foot tall waterfalls and roam the quaint town that’s home to the first cuckoo clock. We rounded out the trip with a stop at a winery that holds the title for the world’s best white wine!
It can be tempting to travel outside of the country each weekend to visit the other major cities of Europe rather than staying and appreciating the diversity of regions within your own host country, but CEA excursions have made it so easy to see side of France I may have never ventured to on my own. Additionally, they act as an incredible bonding experience for CEA students and an opportunity to build friendships outside of the classroom setting, making for the ultimate weekend getaway!
Kylie Forster is the Fall 2019 CEA MOJO Blogger in Paris, France, and is currently studying at Marist College.