Tap-dancing, Tapas, & Tapenades

By Blonde Bowhemian - September 17, 2015

This week so far has been a blur between starting gymnastics again after a 3 year retirement (call me Alicia Sacramone...already ripped my hands but didn't break my back so #winning !!) and starting classes (I would tell you about them but I have no idea what's going on in any of them). So, I'm a little late in posting about my weekend, but better late than never. Anyways, I thought Dublin was a busy weekend, but this took it to a new level. Since so much happened, I'll try to be brief in my summaries...

DAY ONE: Thursday morning our group set off for Arles, France (in the Provence region) at the lovely hour of 6am. After three trains and one bus ride, we arrived to our hotel around 1pm and ready for some R&R. But, in a pattern that would continue throughout the weekend, there was no rest for us young and not-so-lively students. We began our trip with a two hour walking tour throughout the city (in English thank god) where we learned that the city is more Roman than French, with an ancient Roman theater (where we saw some moms filming a music video? I don't really know, but we did see Christina tap dance on stage for us) and an enormous Roman-style colosseum that is still used today for bull fighting and other events. The tour was interesting, albeit a little long, but considering we only had a day there, it was definitely the most effective way to learn about the city. 
peep the dance moms
roman colosseum
random exhibition of umbrellas....not sure
roman theater
The tour finished in a garden that was frequented by Van Gogh, which was pretty cool. Afterwards, we walked around a bit more, Caro and I split a meringue approximately the size of our faces, then we headed back to the hotel to prepare for the dinner our professors were kind enough to have planned for us at a local tapas restaurant. It was basically the least French food in the entire city, but I wasn't complaining considering they bought us unlimited sangria and enough food to feed a small village. I couldn't tell you what I ate but it was pretty good, so that's all that matters. Afterwards, we headed back, changed and prepared for a *wild* night in Arles. However, the fact that the only people we had seen all day had been over the age of 65 should have been an indication of how our night would go. We found an Irish pub online and figured the Irish are always down for a good time so we set off for Paddy's. However, when we got there we found a heavy metal band playing some lovely music and a lot of older men. Needless to say we weren't there long, and we left for an Australian bar across the street playing American music...definitely more our scene, but still nothing too exciting and we were in bed before midnight.
prob only 1/3 of the food we ate...note pitchers of sangria
DAY TWO: Friday morning we hopped on the bus and were off to our first stop before 10am. We went to a medieval city, Les Baux-de-Provence, that was incredibly well preserved. We roamed around, didn't listen to our audio guides, almost killed ourselves on multiple steps of stairs, took too many pictures and way too many panoramas, ate lunch, walked through the village, and got back on the bus for our next stop of the day. 
village views
medieval city on left, village on right
The second stop of the day was the psychiatric hospital where Van Gogh was a patient, so super uplifting. I was kind of dragging at this point and just wanted to take a nap in Van Gogh's bed but figured that wasn't socially acceptable so I held myself together. We explored the gardens, sat outside for a while, saw more of our AARP-aged, slow-walking, loud-talking, visor-wearing Viking River Cruise friends, and got back on the bus. Then, we set off for something a little more up our alley: a tour of an olive oil factory. Our tour guide told us a little bit about the process and showed us through the small factory before letting us loose on the tasting table. We got some much needed sugar in the forms of olive oil, jams, tapenades, etc. and then proceeded to buy out the entire store. Finally, we headed back to our new hotel in Avignon, rested for an hour, and then all went out to dinner together at an adorably tiny restaurant (we took up the entire dining area) and had quite the gourmet meal. Afterwards, some people went out in search of a more active scene than we found in Arles, but I stayed in to save money, calories, sleep, and perhaps my dignity.
all smiles in the psychiatric hospital's garden
van gogh's room
not a bad place to go insane
france or italy?
olive oil machine is the technical term
bucknell feeds us well
DAY THREE: Saturday morning we were up and at 'em once again before 10am. Again, we were onto the bus and off to...a paper mill. That was about as exciting as it sounds so I'll spare you most of the details. All you need to know is that our Viking River Cruise friends were the only other people there and even they didn't stay as long as us. That, and they had those cards that tell you about the year you were born...only up until 1975. So, moving on. We then walked up along the river to its source/giant cave which was quite slippery, quite impressive, and quite dry. After the walk back we were back on the bus and off to the ancient village of Gordes. Built into a hillside, it was so beautiful and we enjoyed meandering around, finding lunch and, of course, ice cream. This was a relatively quick stop and soon enough we were back on the bus.
Thinking we had an hour long ride to relax before our next stop, we all settled in for some much needed naps. But, no. We were woken up less than 15 minutes later to learn we would be going on a walk. Why? Where to? How long? No one told us anything except that it would be 30 minutes tops. Turns out it was a 20 minute hike along a road that the bus could've 100 percent driven on to a weird little abandoned/reconstructed medieval village where everything was built with stones. Again, was about as exciting as it sounds. We were there for maybe 10 minutes before turning around and beginning our 20 minute trek back. I don't know if we were being punished for something, or if they think we're eating too much gelato and need exercise but that was just not necessary. Finally, we returned to the bus much later than promised, sweaty and even more ready for our naps. Luckily we had a half hour ride to our next stop, Sénanque Abbey. But, since our walk took longer than promised, we missed our tour so we had to wait another 40 minutes for the next one. This basically involved me sitting on a bench the entire time debating if I could nap in public. Eventually, it came time for our tour and we went to check-in where I was one of two people in our group given not one, but two cloths with which to cover myself because the monks don't appreciate my sense of fashion. I proceeded to play fashion designer with my cloths and make myself a cute outfit out of them because if I'm going to be forced into wearing something I may as well look as good as possible doing it. (Also because I can't stand still and got kind of bored during the tour...) The tour was in English, though, so that was cool, and I learned some new things about monks, so I'd say it was productive, but I also couldn't wait to get back to my bed. 
That night we had a dinner libre (free dinner) so we did what any students in France would do and got more tapas and sangria... and ice cream. Still exhausted from that walk we were forced to go on, we all went straight to bed afterwards.
in case you want to know how paper was made hundreds of years ago
RBF on fleek post-paper mill
the source
Gordes is gorgeous
40 minutes of walking for this

DAY FOUR: We were hangin' on, barely breathing, but we got up, we got at 'em, and we headed over to the Papal Palace right down the road. Why there is a huge Roman palace in the middle of a French town is kind of beyond me but we had our trusty audio guides and we were on our way through only 25 rooms (...) of the mansion. This alone took over an hour, but it was definitely cool to see something so impressive that was built so long ago. Afterwards, we grabbed some food, grabbed some taxis, and were off to the train station for our long ride home.
making history fun

1/100 of the castle
peep caro again
Although I was in a constant state of exhaustion throughout the trip I am glad we fit so much in (except that damn walk) to our short four days. Now for a trip to the real Provence...aka the beaches and film festivals. Maybe someday...

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