“It changed me. I loved every moment of it.”
— Julia Sortwell, Camden, Maine
You will be taking excursions to explore and enjoy the natural beauty, history, culture and art of Provence. Accompanied by your French teachers, you will have the opportunity to immediately apply what you learn in class as you explore ancient Roman ruins, medieval castles, cathedrals, museums, and monuments, with a personalized understanding of their significance and place in history. You will visit the lively cities, villages, festivals, cafes, beaches, nature preserves, vineyards, fields, and open air markets that have made this region a world center for art, tourism, commerce, and cuisine since the Romans first visited over 2000 years ago. These excursions may include:
Known as the city of a thousand fountains, Aix-en-Provence, (pronounced “X”), our home base, has been a center for learning and art since the 12th Century. It is the largest university center in France outside of Paris with specialized schools in law, political science and fine art. The father of modern art, Paul Cezanne, was born here in 1839, and his artist’s studio remains preserved as it was when he died in 1906. We will enjoy the internationally renowned, summer music and art festivals of the city, visit the Musee Granet, spend time in the open-air markets, sit at the famous cafes made more famous by Peter Mayle’s “A Year in Provence”, and wander through the ancient winding streets that are home to some of the most charming shops and galleries in all of France.
Les Baux is a medieval citadel built into a mountain, haunted by ghosts and goblins according to legend. Les Baux has been completely restored, its winding streets and stone fortresses now home to charming shops and cafes. At les Baux, you will visit the Cathedral des Images, a bauxite mine converted into a monumental multi media presentation center.
“The trip to the Cathedral of Images was the most magnificent thing I have ever seen, possibly in my whole entire life. It opened many doors in my mind.”
— Erica Bluestone, Morristown, NJ
Gordes and the Abbaye de Senaque
Seen from a distance, Gordes seems an impossible suspension of houses built directly into the cliffs, rising to the center of town. Today, a well-known artist haven and colony, you will visit many of its wonderful art and photo galleries. Just outside of Gordes lies the Village des Bories, a group of hut-like stone edifices originally dating back to Neolithic times. Also in the vicinity, the 11th Century Abbaye de Senaque makes an unforgettable impression, rising without warning from the magnificent lavender fields that dominate the valley.
Arles, situated at the mouth of the Rhone River, is the ancient capital of Provence, the historic crossroads of southern Europe, blending many cultures and traditions. Roman remains date back to the 1st Century, including an amphitheater and coliseum, which still maintain their links to the past by hosting bullfights and special celebrations. The artist Vincent van Gogh spent much of his creative life in Arles, and the city maintains several centers dedicated to his work. Moreover, you will sit at the Place du Forum’s Café van Gogh, preserved exactly as the artist painted it. Arles in July is also home to the world’s oldest and most prestigious photography festival, at which you will have the opportunity to experience work by the best of the world’s photographers.
The Camargue is a wetlands nature preserve on the Rhone Delta and home to a breed of white Arabian-type horses, which still run free on the beaches. The Camargue is also a bird sanctuary for flocks of wild pink flamingos. Horseback riding, traveling in an open air jeep, or bicycling bring you up close to the wild populations that make the Camargue’s wetlands and beaches truly unique. Many students consider this to be one of the highlights of their stay in Provence.
Les Sts. Maries de la Mer is located on an island where the Petit Rhone joins the Mediterranean. The town is named after the three saints: Mary Magdalene, Mary Salome, and Mary Jacobe who, according to belief, were set adrift in a boat after witnessing the resurrection of Christ, and landed here. Les Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer is now a charming sea-side Mediterranean town and a pilgrimage destination for Roma (Gypsies) who gather here yearly for a festival in honor of their patron saint, Sara.
Avignon is a medieval fortified city whose architecture is marked by the papal presence there in the 14th century. Now a UNESCO world heritage site, Avignon is home to the largest and most respected summer theater festival in the world. The Avignon theatre festival runs throughout the month of July and includes everything from Shakespeare to street theater; and music from Bach to hip-hop. You will visit the Place de l’Horloge or the Chemin de Ronde which will take you to the Rocher des Doms. From the top of the ramparts you will experience the city’s breath-taking views and understand why the site was chosen for a fort: Avignon stands high above the immense plains of the Rhône River and is the strategic point of the whole valley.
Rousillon’s landscape is naturally colored with 17 different shades of ocher, from golden yellow to blood red, as if carefully blended on an artist’s palette. Students will journey along the vibrant Sentier des Ocres (Ocher Trail) passing through cavernous old mines and quarries of Rousillon’s famous historical mining industry. Students can explore an intricate network of trails winding through the fantastic hills and towering red pillars of this unique village, often referred to as the Colorado of France.