Les Gorges du Verdon : Shanna Armbrust

My name is Shanna Armbrust and I am one of the seniors in the interior design program who is studying abroad in Aix en Provence, France.  This experience so far has been so incredible that it’s almost unrealistic. Every morning I wake up and think to myself “Where the heck am I? Is this real life? Did I actually just wake up to the sound of Vespas and the smell fresh baked bread?” I honestly feel like I am living in dreamland, and that at any moment my 8 am alarm will sound erasing this wonderful fantasy from my mind.

I have lived here for a month and I am finally starting to feel like I am part of the city and the culture. Adapting to French culture was a bit difficult for me at first because I am so used to the hustle and bustle of the American life. French culture is very slow. Slow to eat, slow to walk, slow to do just about everything. The only thing fast about the French is the speed with which they speak. I am very surprised that no one has passed out from lack of oxygen because I swear that these people do not take a breath when they talk. As for me, I am a fluent French speaker… NOT! I came to Aix without knowing a word of French except for “Oui Oui”, but I am luckily picking up the language quite quickly. I can say only the important phrases like “I do not understand” or more importantly, “Hello I would like one scoop of gelato please”.

On weekends I am free to travel and see all that France has to offer. Last weekend I visited Les Gorges du Verdon, which is known as the Grand Canyon of France.  I rented a paddleboat with another interior design student, an IAU student, and a random British guy who smelled like pepperoni. We were quite the adventurous group and we resolved early on that being bold and daring would be the best way to enjoy our day. We decided that boating was not stimulating enough and figured that rock climbing would be more challenging. Without a second thought we parked our boat and began fearlessly climbing the walls of the canyon. I cannot express how freeing it was to climb something so enormous and intimidating. What made it better was that I climbed it entirely barefoot! It was so rejuvenating and electrifying; I felt invincible! Although our efforts were valiant we did not climb all the way to the top of the Gorges. This was not because we didn’t want to but because we simply did not want to die. We did however climb up to this large cove that overlooked the waters of the Canyon. The view was spectacular from up there and the people floating in boats below looked like children’s toys. It was one of those experiences where when someone asks “what did you do today?” you just smile and say “nothing at all” only because you do not want the world to find out about this hidden treasure that you found. I love adventure like that. Adventure that is spur of the moment and freeing; where you find things that no one else was able to see or will ever be able to find. I honestly cannot stop thinking about that day and constantly find myself dreaming of returning to that place. It was indescribable.

Is this real life?

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