The Charms of a Small French Town: A Photo Story

Pour moi cette photo représente les contrastes et les couleurs de Menton que je vais me souvenir toujours.

To me, this photo represents the contrasts and the colors of Menton that I will always remember.

For example: The ripples of the water and the ridges of the roof. Or the yellow of the buildings and the blue of the sea. The civilization surrounded by nature.

Menton t’es plein de contrastes et tu vas me manquer.

Menton, you are full of contrasts and I will miss you.

This was one of my final reflections before leaving my semester abroad in Menton, France. I was lucky enough to live amongst bright blue waters and soft waves that rhythmically splashed on coastal rocks. I was blessed with the sight of bright terracotta roofs in a town situated in the hills but at the same time, on the sea.

I’ve described to you one of the most charming towns in France, my coastal dream. The Cote d’Azur is the region in the South of France that borders Italy and the Mediterranean Sea. While I was living there, I was mesmerized by the constant sunny days, the sparkling blue waters, the iconically French streets. But upon departure, I reflected upon how Menton’s beauty was ingrained in its contrasts. I’ve put together a short photo story in an effort to explain why this contradictory, tiny town retained so much charm and character.

These photos were taken in early April of 2018 when a storm touched the shores and the trees fiercely protested. I had originally captioned these photos: “Trees with character and water with attitude.” The stormy violence and motion of this day seemed to contrast the stagnant and rigid buildings and the unchanging rocks.

Both of these images come from neighboring towns on the French Riviera (left: Cap d’Ail, the visual representation of the word “oasis”, and right: Villefranche-sur-Mer. If you ever find yourself in the south of France, these places are a must). I recall being in the water in these towns and seeing the vast Mediterranean waters in front of me. But then, I would turn around and see steep cliffs and tiny houses: two drastically different settings all encompassed in 360 degrees.

The final photo I want to share with you is one I hold close to my heart. This was the week before I left my program at Sciences-Po Menton, and I was running between helping my friends move out and getting one last coffee before everyone parted ways. This picture looks like a window into someone else’s life, and this last week allowed me to realize that my reality had been real, but it was ending. In a more structural sense, this photo is replete with contradicting shapes and colors. Wavy ridges, lined windows, and linear roofs. During this week I could not get one quote out of my head, one that I think represents the feeling of leaving one’s study abroad home:

“You get a strange feeling when you’re about to leave a place, I told him, like you’ll not only miss the people you love but you’ll miss the person you are now at this time and this place, because you’ll never be this way ever again.”

Azar Nafisi

This photo was the beginning of my adieu for Menton, but also the beginning of endless nostalgia, reflections, and gratefulness. So I say merci to Menton, and I invite you to find the poetry of contrasts (or complements!) in your home abroad.

*** Bonus tips for helping you find poetry in your program abroad:Apply to a France program! Menton is my personal favorite, but Rutgers Global–Study Abroad offers similar programs in Reims, Dijon, and Paris! Explore the website or come in for walk-in advising any weekday from 12-3pm at our office at 102 College Avenue. 

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