Sur le Pont d’Avignon (7/15/2011)

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Upon exiting the TGV in Avignon, I saw Serge (host dad) from a distance. With a big smile on his face, he waved and then greeted me with a strong hug, which is a bit odd for French people considering they “bises” instead of hug. (But I definitely prefer hugs.) Nicole (host mom) greeted me in the same way when I arrived at her house 20 minutes later. I was so excited to see them and spend time with them, considering I hadn’t seen them in more than a year. IMG_0531During my time in Avignon, the annual Festival d’Avignon was just getting started. This festival lasts for three weeks each July, and during this time, thousands of performances occur, including street performers, and “spectacles” (shows) in one of the 70 theaters in and around the walls of the city. The shows in theaters begin at 11:00 a.m. and continue until 2:00 a.m, and these cost money. But performs also align the main streets and squares of the city, near the Palais des Papes and Rue de la République. You’ll find carnival acts, jugglers, painters, singers, and musicians, and even performers who read plays.

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During the festival, I was able to see two shows, a wonderful rendition of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” and “Imagine-toi” a mime show. “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” was quite difficult to understand because it was in French and the actors spoke quickly. But the great part about the show was that only two people performed all the characters, and with different, intricate costumes for each character. (The actors were Kim’s host sister and her host sister’s boyfriend.)

And the mime show… I expected something similar to what you’re probably imaging right now, I’m sure. Black costume, white gloves, white face paint, and a black beret. Well, I was totally wrong. There was no make-up, no black beret, and no creepiness. The mime, who was staying in Nicole’s apartment downstairs, won the Moliere award in 2007. The show was incredible. He did his own sounds effects for each scene, and he involved the audience on multiple occasions. If you’ve ever watched “Whose Line is it Anyway?” and the game they play called “Sound Effects,” that was what the show was like, except that he created his own. In fact, he did so much physical activity, that he was dripping in sweat by the end of the one-hour performance. The show made Serge, Nicole, and me laugh out loud many times, which means it had to be funny.

To help you imagine it a bit, the mime stepped in gum, chewed it violently (smacking his lips), stretched it out, and then proceeded to play the bass with it. I’m sure you’re wondering how he could make it funny. Well, just trust me, he did.

And finally, the best part of the few days in Avignon, besides seeing familiar faces and sites, was going to the Mediterranean Sea with Florian, Christelle, and Natalie. The beach was filled with sunbathers and children building castles, and all the while, ice cream vendors carried their carts up and down the beach repeatedly shouting, “A la glace, à la glace, chou chou, boissons.”

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And the perfect end to a great day à la plage, stopping along the highway to take pictures in a sunflower field, which cover southern France. (In order to get to the field, we had to run through a field of wheat and climb through a giant ditch, no big deal.) We survived, and Kim has great pictures to show for it.

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