Normally I hate planned activities – I don’t know what it is, but something about them just kind of makes my skin crawl a bit. But the college has actually had some really interesting ones around town the past couple of weeks!
The first one was grabbing dinner at a restaurant called La Piazza down along la croisette – the section of town down along the coast, near the Palais. Best part is that it was being paid for by the college! I am a big fan of food in general, but free food in particular is tough to beat!
It doesn’t take that long to walk down to la croisette, so my roommate and I left around 20 minutes before we were told to arrive, figuring that if anything we’d be early. My roommate was going to bring her umbrella, too, but right as we were closing the door we figured that since it was barely sprinkling, it wouldn’t really be necessary.
Oh how young and naïve we were.
We ran into some fellow AIFS people on our way into town and started following them since we couldn’t remember exactly where on la croisette the restaurant was. We knew that it had a green awning, but that was about it.
So these guys start going a slightly different route than we’d been planning on, but we figure that they know what they’re doing and that if we got lost, we’d all get lost together.
We made it to la croisette, but somehow we lost the guys we were following even though they were directly in front of us (still trying to figure that one out!). We figured that we just had to go to the left for a while before we’d land upon familiar territory, and that then we’d just wander around til we found that green awning. This wouldn’t have been so bad, but by this point the rain had picked up – a lot. I’ve mentioned before that I love rain, and I still do, but this was a bit much even for me!
So by the time we finally arrived at the restaurant, we were slightly late (I’m punctual almost to a fault, so to me this was the worst part!) and sopping wet! Fortunately we were there just in time to order, and I had a wonderful marguerite pizza and some chocolate mousse that turned me into Someone Who Takes Pictures of Food.
A couple days later we went to le Musée de la Castre for a guided tour. There’s a tower connected to the museum that is supposed to have an amazing 360-degree view of Cannes, but it was closed the day we went because of the rain. Definitely a reason to go back!
We did, however, get to see a bunch of old (and creepy!) masks and artifacts, as well as some landscapes of Cannes and a really interesting but kind of poorly-lit collection of old musical instruments.
We also got to go on a tour of the médiathèque (library) that’s about a 5 minute walk from the college. It’s in this gorgeous old château, and there are still fireplaces in the walls and the like.
My favorite part, though, was the smell – it had that classic library smell that I can’t quite explain but that I love and find super comforting. That made it probably the homiest part of France I’ve found so far.
The first floor is all books, including the children’s section, which I was particularly curious to see given my time helping with Story Time back home. It’s a tiny room, pretty crowded, and the books are arranged like records or CDs – in these sort of bins that you have to shuffle through – which really surprised me.
The second floor is where the music and movies are. Like the children’s room, the music room is totally arranged in bins you shuffle through – not a shelf in sight. The fellow working in the room was pretty excited when he realized we were American and was asking us if we knew any French music. One guy mentioned the song “Formidable” by Stromae, and the fellow working found the album and was proudly playing that song in what seemed like a split second.
The movie room has a pretty solid and wide-ranging collection, from France to the US to other countries around the world. It’s attached to a screening room that is sort of like a little mini-theatre, rows of plush and comfy seats and all. We can use this room pretty much whenever, so I’m definitely planning on going back and taking advantage of their Billy Wilder section at some point!
We all watched The Intouchables, because I am beginning to get the impression that if you haven’t seen that movie you’re not welcome in France. The DVD only had French subtitles, but being able to read the dialogue in addition to hearing it helped a lot. I had a bit of a leg up, too, since I saw it maybe a year ago (thanks to Uncle Ted and Aunt Rebecca for the recommendation!) with English subtitles, so I knew where it was going and remembered the general outline. I was still pleasantly surprised by how much I was able to pick up, though!
Another day AIFS hosted a Provençal specialties food party in the foyer downstairs, which basically just involved eating these really good tomato-y things on little pieces of toast (like bruschetta, only not) and these little candies that I had to have a few of because I couldn’t decide if they were bland or delicious. Aude also taught my roommate and me how to make a drink – I can’t remember the name, unfortunately – consisting of water and some sort of almond-y syrup, which was very…interesting. It kind of made me feel like I was drinking a cookie, and it made my roommate wish she could put it in hot chocolate.
Lastly, a group of us went to Break the Floor, which is apparently one of the most prestigious breakdance competitions in the world! I can’t say that I have a history with breakdancing, but who am I to say no to a free ticket to something arts-related?
It was held in the grand auditorium of the Palais des Festivals, and this was my first time actually walking up the stairs and entering the building – I got chills. Really really cool moment!
So I wasn’t always entirely sure what was happening, but I learned that French and hip-hop/breakdancing is quite the interesting combination. It seems like it should be such a contrast, and it kind of is, but they’re all so into it – it’s very difficult to fully explain.
Unless I’m missing some element, two breakdancers (or b-boys?) are called out onto the stage and each take a couple turns dancing for a minute, and the panel of esteemed breakdance judges points at who they think won. I ended up being pretty good at guessing who would win, so I think being a breakdance competition judge might be my new back-up after writing. (It’s like how when I was in middle school my PE teacher would pretty regularly ask me who I thought would win various professional football or wrestling matches, and, knowing nothing about the teams or really even about the sports, I would just pick the name I liked better or had heard about more recently. Somehow I left middle school with a perfect track record and convinced Mr. B that I was a sports prodigy.)
The emcee liked to do that skipping/running thing around the stage a lot, and he would give a lot of commentary in English during the dancing. Some of his favorite phrases (and bear in mind his heavy French accent!) included “Ohhh fresh!”, “Represent <insert country name here>!”, “Ye-ye-yeah! On the bass!”, “Woo woo woo! Styling!“, and something that always sounded like “He’s got a date!” but may have been “Musicalité” or “Flexibilité”? Basically, I got a huge kick out of him.
The dancing was pretty incredible, too – lots of spinning and robot-y things and popping and locking. Rather impressive, and I definitely winced a couple times at some of the head-spinning. That can’t be pleasant.
Also not too pleasant was the little bug I came down with as soon as I got back. I was pretty much knocked out for a few days, but I’m nearly all recovered and am ready and excited to go to Florence this weekend!