For the entire week that I spent with Katrin in Marseille, I was trying to organise another CSer for my next destination, Aix-en-Provence, 30 minutes north by bus. I had a difficult time of it as everyone seemed to have left the city for some reason. I eventually ended up checking into the hostel (known as an Auberge de Jeunesse in French) here for the first night and planned on staying for that one night... Until...
Initially founded as a Roman military camp named Aquae Sextiae in 123 BC, Aix-en-Provence, or just Aix (pronounced like the letter 'x'), is now simply a wonderful city. The colourful buildings, cobbled streets, countless restaurants and cafes, numerous and plentiful fresh produce markets, and relaxed atmopshere all make for a very pleasant stay indeed in what is one of France's most graceful and popular cities. My only issue with the place was that I could never find the bloody centre-ville! To the north of the city's main, tree-lined boulevard, Cours Mirabeau, lie the quite tortuous, chiefly pedestrianised streets of the old Vieil Aix area where I spent most of my time, but for some reason I could just never get my bearings here and found myself wandering around aimlessly on many occasions. In a city like this, that's definitely not a bad thing..
Within hours of arriving here I had made friends with a lovely American lass named Simona, a former French-language student in Aix, and a few of her friends. We got to chatting and somehow I ended up spending a lot of my time hanging out with them, eating late breakfasts with Simona and she even offered me her couch for a couple of nights! It's funny how these things happen... She was so accommodating, I really appreciated her hospitality! Thanks mom ;)
Again, there wasn't particularly all that much to do in town apart from enjoying the lovely weather, atmosphere and buildings, which is nice as I was not in a particularly "sightseeing" mood. A good excursion from here, however, is to the nearby Mont Sainte Victoire. The peak of this limestone range, the major landmark of the Aix region, reaches 1011m and affords magnificent views over Provence's mountains and rolling plains and the bright aqua-coloured lakes at the ranges' base. I decided to take a morning and afternoon out to scale this picturesque mountain which is immortalised in the many oil paintings by famous artist Paul Cézanne - boy was it hot, and I managed to get myself nice and burnt before missing my bus back into town and having to get a lift by a friendly holidaying Parisien couple.
It was here also in Aix that I was introduced to my first, and last, foie gras (lit: fat liver): the liver of a duck or goose that has been specially fattened by force-feeding, in accordance with French law - let it be known that at the time I did not know that this form of animal cruelty was used in the production of foie gras (in fact a number of countries have laws against selling it due to how it is produced). It is one of the most popular delicacies in French cuisine, but to be honest, I can't really see why.. It's not all that interesting in my opinion, if anything it grossed me out thinking about eating a duck's liver. I think Simona's French friend, Angel, might have had a different idea though..
I spent my last afternoon hanging out at the house of another of Simona's friends. Romain, while being an overall nice guy, also writes and produces music mainly in the electro genre. He showed me some of his work and I was quite impressed, and he seemed similarly impressed with my singing. Hopefully we'll get a chance to work together at some point. I guess time will tell...
That evening, Angel - who could speak not a word of English, mind you - was kind enough to give me a lift to the bus station ready to catch my bus to the next town. Unfortunately I had read the timetable wrong and ended up being 15 minutes late for the final bus. He and Simona were such champs and offered to drive me all the way to Arles, about 70km away! When we arrived, they waited for me to check in at the Auberge and then we enjoyed dinner at an Italian restaurant in the town centre before they left me at the local Aussie pub (in which there was not a single English speaking person) and headed off on their road trip back to Aix.
What a great few days!!
just in case i forgot where i was..
the streets of Aix
i found it! he actually bought this in Australia..
Montagne Sainte Victoire
the view from the top was amazing!
Simona from her apartment
a brush with fame.. is that..?
nightfalla touch of love - apparently these can be found on rooftops all over the country