1. The People
I am currently going to a small language school that’s geared towards teaching French to foreigners, as well as a journalism school for native French speakers. Perfect for this journalism major and french minor! Naturally, there are people from all over the world here and I am completely in love with the diversity. “D’où venez-vous?” or “Where are you from?” is one of the first questions asked when meeting someone new. Everyone is proud of where they come from and it’s evident that their culture is very much a part of who they are. Of course stereotypes still exist, but they are joked about casually and received with good-natured laughter. My friends and I embrace the “fat Americans” stereotype by posing with our food in pictures and our nightly volleyball games usually include lots of good-humored harassment.
It has been such a great experience to learn about so many different places. Of course you can read about places in books and Google pictures of them, but hearing stories about them firsthand from someone who grew up there is another thing entirely. I’ve learned about the beautiful green forests of Slovenia, the small traditional towns of Switzerland, and busy cities of Saudi Arabia. It makes me even more excited to travel the world and continue meeting such amazing people.
2. The Food
When it comes to food, I’m typically not a very adventurous person. I usually find out what I like and order that when I go to a restaurant and typically don’t stray too far out of my comfort zone. And usually, if I don’t know what something is, I won’t eat it. If I was eating by those rules here, I would most definitely starve. Since I’ve arrived here, I probably have been in the dark about what more than half my meals were. We are served different cultural dishes everyday at lunch and most of the time, they are delicious. Sure, we spend half the meal debating what kind of meat we’re eating, but that doesn’t mean we aren’t thoroughly enjoying it.
Aside from the above average cafeteria meals, I’ve eaten out at quite a few different places in town. There’s actually a lot of variety—from Italian to Middle Eastern, from a few euros a meal to 100 bucks a meal with an ocean view. I won’t go into too much detail about all the places I’ve been to since I’m planning on writing a separate post specifically on the restaurants at some point. But Restaurant de Tina. Spaghetti Carbonara. Best. I love. Want now. Goodbye.
The South of France. That’s all I really need to say, but I’m going to say more. The Mediterranean sea is absolutely gorgeous. It was the first thing I noticed from the plane window as we flew over the coast: the bright blue water with the sun shining blindingly off of its surface and little specks of white zooming around the harbor. I later learned that these were dozens and dozens of windsurfers and parasailers. Now add in some sailboats, ski boats, jet skis, helicopter tours, and a few dozen yachts and you can imagine why this is such a popular vacationing spot. While there are tons of activities to try and places to go, the traditional feel of Cannes still lies in its centuries old architecture, charming side streets, and of course the timeless scenery.
I’m starting to feel like I’m writing a travel brochure but the location really is just that perfect. When I decided to study abroad here the only thing I knew about Cannes was it was where the film festival took place. So I lucked out big time.
4. The Activities
I’ve already talked a little bit about this, but there are so many fun things to do here. There’s just about every water sport (I haven’t water skied here yet but I most definitely am going to), countless restaurants and bars, streets and streets of shops, monuments and art galleries and museums, and most of all, there are festivals.
Another thing I didn’t know about Cannes was that it’s not just the home of the Cannes Film Festival; there are other festivals held here over 300 days out of the year. For example, there’s been a huge Yacht Festival all of this week in the harbor which was kicked off with an amazing fireworks show. We could see it from the beach in front of our school! A few weeks ago there was “Le Festival d’Art Pyrotechnique,” where they held a fireworks show competition. Next week, there are going to be sailboat races. How is this place so cool?
Having grown up in California, even the oldest buildings I’ve seen are not very old. I’ve even been to Saint Augustine in Florida, the oldest city in the United States, and it’s still nothing in comparison to some of the buildings I’ve seen here. Coming here, that was one of the things I was most excited for — not only getting to learn about the history of this place, but getting to see it in person!
My favorite part of the city is the Old Quarter of Cannes, called Le Suquet. One of my first days here, we walked down a street called Rue Saint Antoine, in the heart of Le Suquet. Today, it’s lined with small restaurants, bars, and shops but, looking down the narrow, winding cobblestone path, it is easy to imagine what this place may have looked centuries ago. On this street we were shown a preserved well that provided water here in the 12th century. I was probably way more excited than I should be to see a well but this was the first time I had seen something so ancient. Just the feeling of seeing something so old in person was so humbling and exciting. I wondered how many people had drawn water from that well, what they were like, what kind of lives they led, how many people had walked the same cobblestone path I was walking. It’s all so fascinating to wonder about and to learn about.