For the very last weekend of my stay with the Abbey Road French Cultural Immersion Summer Program, we traveled to St. Tropez on Saturday, a very high-end and luxurious town, and les Gorges du Verdon, a beautiful river canyon on Sunday. They were two different experiences but no less enjoyable.
You have probably heard of St. Tropez in the news or on social media. St. Tropez is a coastal town along the French Riviera known for its beaches and nightlife. As you may have guessed it is very popular among artists and celebrities. Along one of the main streets is a port where you can see yacht after yacht after yacht. When you visit, be on the lookout for the Kardashians, Leonardo DiCaprio, and even Beyoncé and Jay-Z! Besides the long stretch of extravagant and expensive yachts, the town is also filled with high-end and luxurious shops such as Chanel, Louis Vuitton, Céline, Christian Dior, and Longchamp.
But I have to say that despite there being beautiful and fashionable clothes, my favorite place to visit in St. Tropez was La Durée, a French bakery and sweets store created in 1862, famous for its macarons. My friends and I saved all of the money from the stipend that they gave us for macarons and macarons only. They were delicious. I can still remember the strawberry crunchy outside and soft inside that slowly melted in my mouth. I would say that the pastries are definitely one of the top reasons to go visit!
As I mentioned, St. Tropez is along the coast, therefore apart from the multitude of stores and restaurants, you can also find the shore. Now we went on a day that was sunny but also very windy so the water was rough and the waves were high. Nevertheless, we found a place not too far away from the water and enjoyed the cool breeze and salty air that the waves brought in while watching a group of kids run, jump, and dive into the water. Some were even doing fancy spins and flips! Apart from the various sights and attractions and apart also from the many tourists present in that area, the local town people were very kind and generous, as they were willing to allow us to speak with them in French in order for us to practice our skills. I believe that if you happened to be traveling through Southern France, first you must visit the French Riviera, and second, you must visit St. Tropez because it is truly a sight to see! And you never know, perhaps you could meet a celebrity 😉
The day after we took a long bus ride up in the mountains to Verdon Gorge, a river canyon about 25 km long and up to 700 m deep, and it is considered to be one of the most beautiful river canyons in all of Europe. As we drove up and up along the curvy and upwards-sloping roads, the view was breathtaking. Even though I may have been sleeping for most of the trip because we had gotten early that morning when I woke my eyes were absolutely astonished by the green, lush landscape.
We were on a pretty big bus, like one of those coach buses and the roads were pretty narrow, only allowing for two small cars to fit and we were also on a steep cliff. Even though this was scary at first, especially every time we rounded a bend, it added to the feeling of excitement. At one point, I believe, we crossed the pont de Chaulière over the Artuby river and it gave me chills. The bridge was not as massive as many of the bridges that you can find in the United States but it was certainly majestic. It was very long but seemed to be very thin. I was both afraid when crossing it but also entranced by the brave bungee jumpers who were stationed at the very edge of the bridge.
Once we arrived at our destination, we were all hungry, so we set up a couple blankets here and there and settled down for a picnic. But the long ride was quite worth it. As we relaxed and laid back, we had a beautiful view of the water. The lake and the river had a striking turquoise color, which we later learned was associated with the rock minerals suspended in the water as well as glacial sources. After lunch, we had many different options for activities. We could go for a swim, kayak with a friend, or simply hang out next to the lake. My friends and I chose to first warm up under the sun and then cool off in the water. My experiences on those two days of the weekend were almost completely disparate: On Saturday we were surrounded by stores, restaurants, and celebrities and on Sunday we were surrounded by trees, mountains, and rivers. Nonetheless, both days were extremely fun and I would never pass up an opportunity to go visit again.
By Emma Ricci-De Lucca