Last Updated on June 21, 2019 by Caitlin Frances Chan
Having traveled throughout France and Italy, I’ve come to realize something incredibly important: that neither of the countries is fully represented in its biggest city. Yes, I’m sure many already know this, but the extent I need to stress this can’t be comprehended until it is seen for oneself. The goal is to persuade anyone reading this to travel through the smaller, less popular tourist destinations of a specific country; or even to explore the entirety of one country rather than one big city in multiple countries. Learning about the different faces of one country can make you capable of understanding your own different traits of the person you are.
Take France: the first three things that come to my mind were the Eiffel Tower, baguettes, and escargot. The results may be different for others (cheese, wine, berets, love, etc.), but the fact of the matter is that one can only get so much from a country from its single capital city. I’ve traveled to Paris twice now and believe I know the city well. There are so many more things I learned about the French culture exploring the smaller cities surrounding Cannes. To me, Paris was just another metropolitan area with a lot of activities and history to offer.
The city of Nice offers so much more in the way of how the French really live. There is colorful architecture, welcoming service workers, a certain way of life on the beach, unique food, and more and more French people who are there to help improve your language skills. Cannes is very similar to Nice, and smaller.
I often see many of the same people in Cannes walking throughout the town and standing out on their balconies: one lady in town always walking her shaggy dog, the girl who serves me gelato multiple times during the week, and the workers of the restaurants I frequent. Living in a smaller town has helped me understand that these are regular people who live and eat a certain français way that wouldn’t be seen in Paris.
I went to Avignon and cities around it recently, and got to see another view of the French lifestyle. This area was a bit more agricultural and historically influenced.
Avignon, located in the Provence region of France, was surrounded by vineyards and flower farms, and the nearby city of Arles is where Van Gogh was inspired to paint over two hundred canvases. I even got to see the café that was painted in “Terrasse de café le soir,” which many may think is located somewhere in Paris. It’s no question why French artists and architects settle in other places, because each region can give a brand new set of emotions and beauties.
In Provence, grand castles and cathedrals grace the skyline like no other. The rivers in large cities are usually filled with unknown substances and not pleasing to look at. The river underneath the roman-made aqueduct Pont du Gard is a nice change to the usual brown metropolitan rivers.
One of the most unique and remarkable things I’ve seen in Europe so far is located in Les Beux de Provence. Large, moving works of famous artists are projected onto immense walls of a medieval, manmade cave at the Carrières de Lumières.
I’ve also made a trek to Mont-Blanc, a city surrounded by the gorgeous French Alps.
… As well as Menton, a city influenced by Italy and which holds the annual Festival du Citron.
The artistic preservation the French admire and their taste for natural flavors is something I wouldn’t have exactly come to know if I had never ventured outside the 15 arrondissements of this great nation’s capital.
This post was contributed by Caitlin Chan, who has spent a semester studying abroad with AIFS in Cannes, France.