I never pictured myself spending my 22nd birthday in the South of France. Or going horseback riding on the beach. Or suffering from 100 mosquito bites–but life has a funny way of surprising me.
Since I’m studying abroad with my school’s program, I’m fortunate enough to be taken on excursions to different regions of France during my year here. I was so excited when I learned that our spring semester excursion was in Provence, and on my birthday weekend no less. I’ve been wanting to see southern France for quite some time now, and I had also been longing for another trip. As much as I love Paris, it’s always nice to get away from the city for a few days. Plugging in headphones and enjoying my favorite music on a train ride is also pretty high on my list of favorite things to do.
This trip was a short one, but I wanted to share some of the photos I snapped of Arles and Aix-en-Provence. The cities are beautiful and frankly–underrated . I only wish I could have spent more time in each to get to know them a little bit better. And that lavender had been in season!
SATURDAY // Our trip began with a walking tour of Arles. Arles, which I was pleasantly surprised to find out, inspired several of Van Gogh’s most famous paintings. I’ve been lucky enough to see Van Gogh’s work in museums in Paris, and at the Van Gogh Museum (which is my favorite museum EVER by the way) in Amsterdam, so it was amazing to finally see some of the places behind the famous paintings. It seems like Van Gogh visited every European city I’ve been to. I learn a little more about the man behind the paintings with every trip.
The image below is of the Place du Forum, depicted in Van Gogh’s Café Terrace at Night. The hotel on the right was a hair salon during Van Gogh’s time, and the yellow café that exists today is actually a replica of the one that existed when Van Gogh painted this once-cobble-stoned plaza back in 1888.
I was completely in awe to see the street that inspired one of the most well-known paintings in the world.
Another stop on our walking tour of the city was the old hospital where Van Gogh was once hospitalized after he famously cut off his ear. The space has now been renamed espace Van Gogh to commemorate the painter. As you’ll notice, the hospital grounds haven’t changed much from Van Gogh’s time. It almost feels as if you’re walking into Van Gogh’s painting when you walk into this garden.
When the walking tour was over, my friends Karla and Brynn and I decided to head to the outdoor market to grab something to eat. A fresh baguette, some goat cheese (I passed on the goat cheese), and some spiced olives later, we walked back to hotel for a quick lunch. I took the photo below when Brynn was mid-purchase with the woman selling spices. I was mesmerized by all of the colors, and the scents were even better.
Our horseback ride along the beach was scheduled for after lunch. On the way to the ranch, we saw pink flamingos poking out from the marshes. I think we were all surprised to see flamingos in France.
Some 45 minutes later, we made it to the ranch, where the first thing we did was pick out helmets. The photo below is of me and Karla before the ride–hence why my hair still looks okay and why we’re both smiling.
I haven’t been on a horse since I was five, so I didn’t really know what to expect from this horseback riding experience. I can now confidently say that horseback riding is one of the scariest things I’ve ever done in my life. I was so terrified the entire time, and my horse knew it too. I would panic every time my poor horse sped up or got too close to one of the horses in front of me. It also didn’t help that it started pouring rain mid-way through our ride, or that I was swatting mosquitoes left and right while still trying to maintain a good grip on the reigns.
Despite the mosquitoes and the rain, however, I’m happy and proud to have done it. I don’t know if I’ll hop on a horse anytime soon, but at least now I can say I’ve been horseback riding along a beach, and that it is not as romantic as it sounds.
My horse’s name was Premium, and once we got back to the ranch, I got off of him as quickly as I could. Though I am thankful I wasn’t paired up with one of the more wild horses, I was still very eager for my feet to touch the solid ground as fast as possible. Poor Premium didn’t even get a good-bye from me–the photo above was with another horse.
SUNDAY // The next day was spent in Aix-en-Provence. Few places were open because it was Sunday, but I was content just walking around the pastel-colored streets. The city apparently agreed on a peach color palette for all of the buildings, making the entire city very aesthetically pleasing but also easier to lose yourself in.
I don’t have very many photos of that Sunday, because I was too busy looking at Cezanne’s paintings in the Musée Granet and trying to get over my stomach ache after eating too much birthday dessert (oops).
I am very grateful that I was able to spend my birthday discovering a new place, surrounded by my friends and lots of dessert. Maybe not so grateful for the mosquitoes bites but c’est la vie.
I hope 22 is another year of more adventures and experiences outside of my comfort zone.