Au Revoir France

France |

The last three weeks of my French course flew by in an idyllic mix of sun, long leisurely swims and fun activities – with a few French verbs thrown in. Despite all the tourists, July was a great month to be in the south of France – Nice and Villefranche buzzed the entire time with music on the streets, fireworks and markets.    Bastille Day celebration fireworks, the Nice jazz festival and the Monaco summer street festival were some of the highlights – along with hilltop medieval villages (complete with lavender ice-cream).

After all my reading about West Africa, it was a treat to see Amadou and Mariam (Mali) at the Jazz Festival.  My trip to the Monte Carlo casino in Monaco wasn’t quite so successful.   Although housed in an extraordinarily beautiful building, it was tiny with little bling and flash to be seen – and I even paid to get into the “private” section.    Guess I’ve been spoiled by Vegas.    However the people and car watching from the stairs of the adjacent Hotel de Ville was fantastic.  I am now well versed in the models of some of the most expensive cars in the world.

Another, less fortunate, event included a kiss from a far too friendly jellyfish on one of those long leisurely swims and I still bear the traces of welts on my face and arms.   On arrival at home after the “encounter”, I read that vinegar could reduce the stinging and promptly smothered myself in balsamic vinaigrette – much to the amusement of my roommate.    But I can now say from personal experience that a jellyfish sting doesn’t hurt as much as a scorpion bite (that’s another story)!  And thanks to Jake – my 10 old nephew – for advising me to get straight back in the water for another swim.

My main goal for the month – of course – was to learn to speak better French.   In my second week, I was horrified to learn that I needed to give a 15 minute presentation the next day (with the Nice Jazz Festival that night).   But I somehow muddled through.  I also discovered the advantage to all that Spanish in my introductory oral test.   You have LOTS of room to improve and the results really showed in the final test on the last day.   It’s quite incredible how much you can absorb in four weeks.   Now I think I’ve lost my Spanish!     And the challenge is to keep up the French learning…

An unexpected but welcome outcome was that I actually lost weight.    Yes – it is possible to live in the south of France for a month and lose 5 pounds.   I think rose must weigh less than red wine!  The daily climb up a mountain of stairs to my school also helped.

All in all, this was truly a wonderful way to spend a month and an amazing beginning to my journey this year.   I was sad to leave but a great start to my time at the London Olympics with old friends and new has reinforced that every place brings its own adventures and pleasures.   Watch for an Olympic update coming shortly…

– Nikki


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