France #9: Settling In

Toler ‘ 24, recounts an immersive experience in Les Baux-de-Provence.

In the morning we all woke up “early” to get on the bus around 8:40am to take us to Baux-de-Provence. On the bus students laughed, slept, or read books. The fields turned into mountain passes as the bus went from flat roads to an incline. The meaning of the name of the town soon became clear as we neared the small village in the cliffs. Baux is provençal for cliff. We got off the bus and participated in another chase de trésor (treasure hunt). Issac and I were tasked with talking to the locals and learning about the traditional plates and food. As well, we had to find an old teal car. Others found the village’s flag and what its colors meant, what meals the restaurants sold, and certain statues and marks.

We all then converged in front of the chateau. Pictures of the view were taken, and Deerfield students started exploring. Everyone took on the ascent to the top of the village with a view of everything around the town. More photos were taken for memories, and shrieks about bugs could be heard echoing from the mountaintop. Svetlana gave everyone lavender flowers to put in their hair. Mr. Romick and Mac were trapped in wooden panel prisons.

After walking back past the many interesting stores bursting full of candy, cakes, spreads, soap, and many other items, we made our way to the next stop for the day. Just a walk away, we stopped by another part of the mountain range. Outside the mountain façade, we contemplated the large square cuts taken out of the mountain face. We learned that the stone was cut and taken away to be used for other buildings. The exterior seemed plain, but the inside was a whole different world entirely. Inside the interior had been cut away leaving giant rectangular pillars and large pathways. There were no windows and only the door we had just come through let the only light in when it was occasionally opened to let in newcomers. The projectors hung all over the ceiling went dark, and the Deerfield students were shrouded in darkness. The projectors sparked to life again and the white walls of the artificial cave were lit awash with color. The paintings of famous artists were displayed across the giant walls and floor. The Carrières des Lumières contained pieces by Van Gogh, Vermeer, and Mondrian. The paintings moved across the walls in light particles, turning into a movie with the effects the producers had added. People’s limbs moved in reaction, flowers grew and moved in from different directions, and lightning struck and stormed around boats. Not only did the paintings come to life, but we were immersed in the paintings. It felt as if we were in the painting itself, the colors and strokes spinning around us. I was in awe of the beauty of the paintings and the majesty the room brought to the experience.

After just an hour Deerfield students made their way back to the bus for lunch at Arles à la Carte organizer Katie’s house. We ate tomatoes and mozzarella with basil and balsamic, pasta, chicken, and of course bread. Dessert was tiny patisseries from a bakery in Arles. The afternoon was spent swimming in the pool, playing marco polo, and also an array of card games. Students yelled French words, screeched in delight, and rested in the beautiful garden and area around the pool. A bit before 5:00 pm some students went on a walk around the area around Katie’s house.

Everyone returned to their families for the night, eating dinner, playing games, and talking. As a person used to eating at 5:30pm I can say I have finally adjusted to eating between 8:00-9:30pm at night. Dinner involves constant conversation about differences between French and American culture, plans for the next days, and things I have already done. After dinner my host family and I play games. Card games where I practice saying amounts of things or short phrases, darts where I struggle to subtract numbers in French, or monopoly (which always takes so long). As half of the homestay has passed, Deerfield students have started to get into the swing of life in Arles, but I know, can’t wait for what else is to come.