Many visitors to France head straight for Paris. With its museums, cultural sites and history (not to mention the brasseries!), the “city of love” has much to offer. But France’s cultural offerings don’t stop there. The French Program said au revoir to Paris and headed south to explore Toulouse and Provence.
We arrived in Toulouse on a Friday evening just in time for dinner and a night out on the town. The next day, a corporate van from Airbus whisked us away to the company’s headquarters, where we spent the morning touring the cabin interiors of Airbus’ latest commercial aircraft, including the interior of the largest and most luxurious commercial jet in the world – the mammoth A380. We were then treated to a multi-course lunch with the Head of Corporate Marketing at the company’s Le Sky restaurant. Next, we headed out to visit the Airbus production facility. Our guide walked us through the various stages of the production process as we observed planes undergoing final assembly. The scale of the operation was absolutely mind-boggling. Our visit to Airbus completely transformed our perspective on flying and challenged us to reflect upon the trends and dynamics that will shape civil aviation into the future.
France is world-renowned for its art and culture, and on the next day the group travelled to Provence to see what the region had to offer. Avignon is a fabulous town best known for being the residence of seven successive popes from 1309 to 1377. But the magnificent fortress (the Palais du Pape) that dominates its interior and the bridge made famous by the children’s song weren’t the only attractions we meant to visit: we were there to explore the Festival d’Avignon, one of the most famous annual theater festivals in the world takes place in Avignon. In the morning, we attended a cultural seminar on the history of theatre in France. Next, we were ready to watch a play: we chose “Le Mariage de Figaro” since it is an excellent starting point into 18th century French society. At the end of the day, we had a bit of time to explore the old medieval town before we headed home.
The following Monday it was time to get ready for our second company. But this time we left the suits and ties at home in favor of our best bathing suits, sunglasses and Panama hats. The destination: The Îles des Embiez, not far from Toulon on the French Riviera. Our visit picked up from where Pernod Ricard CEO Alexandre Ricard (G’01 WG’01) had left off during our visit to the company’s Paris headquarters. During our visit, we studied the Société Paul Ricard and the importance of the island to the company today. After a wine-tasting in the cellar and a round of pastis, we had just enough time for a quick dip in the Mediterranean. Not bad for a corporate visit!
The next day, we hopped on the TGV and headed back to Paris to celebrate Bastille Day, France’s national holiday, and got home just in time to see the fireworks at the Eiffel Tower from a terrace in Montmartre. Summer immersion was flying by too quickly.