La Bicyclette

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Study Abroad.”

As a college student, I spent a spring term in Avignon, learning basic French from my heavily-Italian-accented host family and studying art history–the Cubists and Impressionists mainly.  We read the expatriate writers of the 1920s–Hemingway, Zelda and Scott Fitzgerald, Gertrude Stein–and discovered connections between the literary and artistic movements of the period. It’s an anachronism (this was the late 80’s), but it seems like the curriculum was right out of Woody Allen’s movie Midnight in Paris.

I got a free bike rental as part of the deal:  a beat-up ten-speed that was too big for me.  I rode that bike to school and back, and on the weekends, I took off on the little tree-lined routes de campagne and explored the neighboring villages and vineyards, took in the lavender and poppy fields.

route de campagne

One weekend, a classmate and I rode from Avignon to St. Marie de la Mer, a distance of about 50 miles.  We were ill-equipped (change of clothes, travelers checks, a few snacks, a barely-functional bike pump) but made it to the youth hostel on the coast, and all the way home again the next day.

Avignon to St Marie de la Mer

I remember pedaling through the humid, marshy Camargue and finding, in the middle of big, flat nowhere, a tiny white stucco cafe run by a couple of Camargue cowboys.  We were desperately thirsty, and they sold us ice cold Coca-Cola in glass bottles.

If I could spend a year anywhere, I’d go back to the Provence region of France.  I’d bring my husband, my kids, my bicycle, and my improved common sense, and I’d explore like crazy.

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