Horns meet World. World meet Jennifer Yang. Jennifer is an English major at UT, and she spent her sophomore year abroad on an exchange at the Université Jean Moulin in Lyon, France. She kept a blog while abroad and shares in this post her adventures in the southern city of Marseille.
It’s been a while since I’ve updated, but I’m happy to say that things are going well in Lyon–I’ve purchased my metro card (rarely do I feel quite as Lyonnaise as when I swipe it over the machine), seen lots of interesting places, and met some pretty neat people (my English is slowly morphing with Australian/Canadian influences, that’ll be another post).
There’s been a lot of idyllic picnicking, wandering through the city, and relaxing in beautiful places like the Parc de la Tête d’Or and the Roman Amphitheatre. Unfortunately, that will likely be slowed down a bit with the onset of class (my first one began Monday–I’ll also save registration and class selection for another post). However, we ended summer vacation and heralded in the new school year with a spontaneous, exhausting, incredible trip to Marseille.
We left before sunrise on Saturday and returned early morning Sunday, but just one day sufficed to be filled with surprises and marvels (most delightful, some terrifying). I was really proud when it seemed that we, a group of young tourists, successfully navigated an unfamiliar city and booked a cheap hotel room to squeeze eight people into. But that certainty quickly flopped after the hotel’s owner grew wise to our sneaky schemes (Calvin gave a good account of this).
The literal bright shiny high super-point of the day was our journey to the “calanques,” rocky sea-side coves about 45 minutes from metropolitan Marseille. We had little knowledge about them besides the fact that we had seen photos and were desperate to go, and half-uncertainly hopped on a bus from the vague advice of the tourism office. Fortunately for us, Kevin befriended Theo, a local marine biology student who showed us the way to and from the calanques in the often dangerous and thrillingly vertical hike through the rocky landscape.
Then followed a beautiful 2 (or 3? or 4? time tends to fly here) hours of picnicking, music, swimming, fish viewing, cliff climbing, cliff jumping, and general enjoyment of a sweet sweet life. I also got cramps while swimming (not quite all sunshine and rainbows) and was basically saved by Rosie (thank you so much again!), but it was totally, completely worth it.
Walking through the lively Vieux Port during the day (with albatrosses and the song-like Marseillais accent soaring through the air) and climbing the slope-y, cobbly streets at midnight to the hilltop church of Notre-Dame de la Garde was a startlingly contrasting view of two different sides of the city. One afforded a direct view of its history as a bustling commercial hotspot in the bright glare of the sun, while the other presented the city’s glittering silhouette alongside the humming nocturnal life of its inhabitants. Some things remained consistent: the presence of the sea and the lively warmth of the city, apparent even at night in the clear curve of Marseille’s border along the Mediterranean shore, and in the pumping club music audible even from across town. It’s certainly a very different city from Lyon–and the trip confirmed my preference for living in Lyon, a place I’m already beginning to consider home. All the same, Marseille is a living city in its own unique way, and this past weekend was eye-opening and unforgettable.
The rest of this week promises to be a combination of nervously attending new classes and squeezing in last-minute fun as often as possible. I feel a bit swept away by everything that’s happening here, but I think I like that. Despite the paperwork, dismal exchange rate, and linguistic struggles, I fall in love with this place a bit more every day.
If you enjoyed reading about Jennifer’s experience in France, check out both the program that got her there and her blog. And, as always, check in with us next week to see where in the world our Horns pop up next!