To beaches and beyond! by Taylor Pool

Just when you think France can’t get any prettier, it does.

I spent this past weekend in the beautiful city of Marseille and Les Calanques, located just outside the city. I’ve never done any “real” rock climbing, but this was pretty darn close.

We started the excursion in Les Calanques. Cool fact: a calanque is a natural land-form where water forms a deep valley in the midst of towering rocks and limestone. In English, it would probably be translated as “cove” or “inlet”. What does one do with a calanque? Well, you climb it.

“The rocks are slippery!” Yes, but that didn’t stop us from making the incredible trek all the way to the top of this epic mountain-like rock formation, and then of course back down again. Let me tell you though, every step and aching muscle was completely worth it. Neither words nor pictures do the view any justice.

I have learned while being in France that the best adventures are discovered, not planned. With an entire Sunday free in Marseille, a couple friends and I decided to explore. Thanks to the lovely people at the tourism office, we learned that the Chateau d’If (Yep, the one from the Count of Monte Cristo) is located on an island, just a short boat ride away. Um, yes please! The castle is small, but it’s meaning is huge. This fortress-turned-prison harbored around 3,500 protestants who preferred chains, prison and death to changing their religious views. Talk about devotion! In addition to its history, this castle had, again, one of the best views of Marseille and the sea I have ever seen. Throw in an awesome boat ride on the Mediterranean and you have one awesome experience.

Speaking of the Mediterranean, have you ever swam in it? As of last weekend, I have. It’s so cold, but again, so worth it. By the way, the rumors are true: you definitely float better in salt water than in fresh. It may also have something to do with science, but that’s only a minor detail. Discovery of the beach hopping last weekend: After visiting both pebble beaches and a sand beach, my feet have voted in favor of the sand from now on. But, you never know until you try, right? Studying abroad has taught me oodles of new things. Another is to take chances while you have them (even if the water is super cold) because you never know if you will have them again.

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