Hello from Montpellier and the city of Popes & soaps!

France is pretty lit – Austin & Satinder

Coming to France as been, as you would expect, a radical change for everyone on trip and there are a fair amount of things that really strike us as different from what we are used to in the U.S. The first of these is the fact that there are very few cars in Montpellier compared to a town like Cambridge or Boston. Instead, there is the wonderful tram system and a bountiful amount of motorcycles and scooters. It is actually pretty common to see one of these making its way through the bustle of people in la Place de la Comédie or on a side street. The lack of large vehicles actually makes for a more tranquil atmosphere. It’s lovely!

The second large difference is the look of the people in Montpellier. There is the stereotype of Europeans being well-dressed and that is absolutely true in Montpellier! Everyone here always looks good and has a great fashion sense. The population of Montpellier is also in remarkably good shape. Coming from the U.S. where weight problems are so common I didn’t even think about the fact that France may be different, and it is; I don’t think I have seen one obese or severely overweight person here. This may because of their lifestyle, genetics, smoking, or an array of other things. The reason that I bring up smoking is because nearly everyone in Montpellier smokes cigarettes or uses a form of e-cigarette. Because smoking causes weight loss it may be a contributor to the physique we’ve seen; but then again correlation isn’t always causation.

One last thing that I found to be surprising is how absolutely stunning the southern french countryside is and how many farms it contains. The mountains are perforated with small towns, farms, or clusters of houses. The road to Avignon today was filled with gorgeous farmland and from the Palais des Papes the Alps could easily be seen in the distance with many red roofed towns and green hills sitting in front of it.

Today, we visited Avignon: a city an hour and a half away from Montpellier. We departed Montpellier around 9AM and returned around 5:45PM—just in time to get back to our host families for a delicious dinner. En route to and from Avignon, we boarded a bus and took the highway, which included lots of tolls. For me, it was like dèja-vu: passing through the New Jersey Turnpike all over again! Thankfully, there was also beautiful greenery and other scenery, such as farms and mountains, that we passed by as well—this reminded me of beautiful Punjab. In addition to this, Avignon was no disappointment: ranging from its broken bridge, the soap shops, beautiful architecture, historical churches/museums, and of course, amazing shoe sales, it was quite the pleasant excursion! (see pictures attached at the end)
In comparison to Paris and Montpellier, I felt that Avignon was a combination of both; subtle  and [relatively] peaceful like Montpellier, and then we saw the more modern and fast-paced lifestyle as we passed by— busy avenues, shops, and carousels— all screaming for tourists. In my opinion, visiting the museum, known as the Palais Des Papes, was the best part of the excursion because it allowed us to further indulge into French culture. By analyzing architecture, looking at the similarities between other historical buildings, such as the Louvre and the Notre-Dâme, and viewing absolutely jaw dropping artwork, we are starting to understand European culture and history. For example, during visits like this, it has become very evident that Catholicism has been part of the framework that shapes French/European culture to what it was and what it has evolved into today. Furthermore, viewing older artwork has allowed us to further realize the importance of hard work and determination. For instance, we have seen several buildings that were clearly constructed brick-by-brick, along with countless carefully-crafted paintings, ranging from the Mona Lisa to painted rooms (including ceiling, flooring, and walls) as big as a classroom in the Garthwaite! 

Truly, the trip thus far has been an amazing experience. I am excited to where our next adventures take us, both physically and mentally. We have been here for about 10 days, and I have already seen lots of change in my French grammar, speaking skills, general attitude/behavior, thinking process, and more. I hope this trip continues to amaze us!


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