Posted by: David | May 24, 2009

Parlez vous Francais? Part Un

In the excitement and busyiness of gaining a new family member, my trip to France has understandably taken a back seat. Now that things have settled down a bit, I want to publish a series of posts chronicling my time in Provence and Paris. I hope that this won’t be too boring for you readers, but I will try to keep it interesting.

Over spring break, two teachers and I took a group of twenty-two students on a trip to see Roman France. From the time of the Roman Republic, there was a Latin presence in southern France, which Julius Caesar extended to further include the entire present-day country. As they did with all their colonies, the Romans brought with them civilized life, the ruins of which remain today, often in better condition than in Rome itself. Much of our trip we spent exploring these, but we also focused on French culture and history.

Day One:  Flight To Nice

It was a sad departure early Friday morning. In our nearly three years of marriage, Guitta and I had not spent a night apart, and neither of us were eager to return to sleeping alone. I was going to miss her, and my eyes were beginning to water as I kissed her goodbye. To compound the matter, I have developed a minor phobia of flying. Every little bump in the plane, every unfamiliar sound jolts my pulse into panic mode, and I squeeze my eyes shut until the moment passes. It seems like every plane that flies out of Jackson is tiny, too, and every gust of wind sends it rocking. Thankfully, the plane in Atlanta got bigger and the one flying out of New York was even bigger, making flights progressively smoother. It was a long day of travel. In fact, it lasted over a day–twenty-six hours or so of reading, listening to music, walking about the plane, and precious little sleeping. One of the things I had to read over the course of my trip was a series of sweet, sweet letters from Guitta, one for each day.

Day Two:  Nice and Monaco

After only two or so hours of sleep, I looked out the window and saw the morning sun rising over the Mediterranean Sea, the same waves, I thought in a moment of romanticism, that Odysseus and his crew rowed through. The city of Nice eased into view, green mountains blanketed with little white buildings sloping down to the blue water.

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We met our guide at the airport. Her name was Francis, a short, cheerful British woman who spoke fluent French and could walk like a machine; through the streets of Paris you would often find a steadily lengthening line of teenage students struggling to keep up with this forty/fifty-year-old’s pace. From the airport, we immediately took a bus with big windows up the mountains of Nice to the highest point of the city, where Augustus had constructed a monument to himself, called the Trophy of Augustus. He had it built on the Via Julia (the Julian Road) to celebrate his victory over a host of local tribes who had been troubling Roman merchants. The narrow road is still there in part, with houses on either side, many bearing Latin inscriptions, like non sine deo (not without God), deus non irridetur (God is not mocked). and others. When we followed the street to the top of the mountain, we saw the monument itself. At one time, it had been a huge square with a dome built on top. Now, it is largely stripped of its stone, the material being used to build a cathedral in Monaco.

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After lunch, we loaded the bus again and drove to the tiny country of Monaco, which, at less than a square mile in area, is the second smallest country in the world. (Vatican City is the only one smaller.) Our only destination there was the Cathedral, which, as I said earlier, was built from the stone of the Trophy of Augustus. This was the first of several cathedrals we visited, and it was very impressive and beautiful.

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I saw many crucifixes in churches and museums, and I noticed that they often bear the four letters INRI, which stands for Iesus Nazarenus Rex Iudaeorum (Jesus of Nazareth, king of the Jews).

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It was so good to get back to my hotel room, which was TINY. I was so exhausted I slept like a baby.

Up next:  Aix-en-Provence and Avignon.

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Responses

  1. That every student watches carefully over their salmon, cleans the tanks constantly and cares for each and everyone of the fish which they raise.


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