France trip: Aix-en-Provence, July 1-13, 2015 (part 1)

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Chapter 1 (July 3):

We had a long but uneventful trip yesterday, which went like this, transportation-wise:

  • car (to Logan airport)
  • plane (to Paris)
  • long wait for train
  • 3 & 1/2 hr train to near Aix…in a small compartment that was very, very hot with not enough air circulation.
  • wait for bus to Aix
  • 30-min bus to Aix
  • 25-min walk through Aix, which is hilly! to apartment
  • We got here at sometime between 5 and 6 local time and we were BEAT!
  • It is hot here—80s!

A couple hours after we got here Jesse & Lydia had fallen asleep in front of Tumblr 🙂 and so went out for dinner and let them sleep—actually we couldn’t easily wake them to ask if they wanted to come!

The apartment is great. It has a balcony to sit on, which is where we had our breakfast this morning: 10:30 am, teenage time, after Eric and I went out to the market, bought food, and had a coffee & croissant at a cafe.

Breakfast was: cherries, peaches, apricots, melon, bread, butter, croissants, yogurt and jam. That’ll be basically what we do for breakfasts—market, and eat at home. We have surprisingly hired a lovely cook named Clara who cooks for our friend Jean-François’s sweetie Julie…she used to work in restaurants but prefers working for families. She will go to the market, come and cook at midday, and leave us vegetarian food to eat for lunch or dinner. Nice, huh? Also, she charges a very reasonable amount. So for me, when I travel, I try to live in a way that is really different from how we live at home—somehow. In Florida it was on a houseboat! Here it is having someone cook for us one meal a day.

For dinners we will sometimes go out and sometimes eat “Clara food” or picnic on bread, cheese, veggies, etc.

We are near a dozen bakeries, of course, and the market is large and full of beautiful produce plus delicious southern-France things like olive tapenade and my favorite kind of olives and local honey and preserved lemons. We are also near a “bio” (organic) local bakery and a “bio” grocery store where they barely sell cows-milk products because compared to goats and soy they are so uncool.

Jesse & Lydia just went out for half an hour or so to explore, and returned happy.

Not sure what we’re up to for the rest of the day, but so far, I am having a good time for sure. I seem to have a bit less shortness of breath (I survived that 25-minute walk through Aix) and got some good sleep last night.

More later!

Ellen

Pictures:

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Dozing on the airplane…then waiting for the TGV (train à grand vitesse) in Paris…Yup still waiting

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On the HOT train x 3 photos

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One view from our balcony.  And the market…those vegetables look so spectacular!

Chapter 2 (July 4):

Well, I guess it’s actually yesterday’s? Because it’s now midnight.  Whoops.

About 45 minutes ago everyone else went out for ice cream down on the Cours Mirabeau, the fanciest main drag of Aix.  I didn’t think midnight ice cream was such a good idea for myself, plus the HILL coming back home, so I stayed here.

This was after we ate dinner at 10:15 or so…pre-made vegetarian stuff out of the fridge plus a salad, lemonade for youth and cidre for adults.

We’re on this late schedule for, as far as I can see, 3 reasons:

1) it’s the south of France in the summer.  The heat doesn’t lift until 8 pm.

2) Eric and Will go exercise with our friend Jean-François at 6 or 7 and come back after 9…that pushes everything later.

3) Teenagers!  If they sleep in until noon, they end up not getting hungry for dinner until, well, apparently whenever I tell them it is time to finally eat.

Today Eric and I, and Will, had an extended marketing-and-cafe-sitting outing, from about 9 to noon, perusing all the goods at two big market squares.  Meanwhile the younger ones slept in.  In the afternoon some of us watched a movie.  Then we planned an outing to the public pool, on the bus (so as not to walk 25-30 min in the heat), which meant researching the bus system which was fun (for me).  I stayed home after seeing everyone onto the bus.  (3 hours out and about was pretty much enough for me.)

I went to the nearby organic grocery, Bio c’ Bon, and perused the offerings while looking for the 4 things I needed.  Cheaper than Honest Weight!  Then I brought stuff back here and rested and read.  

Meanwhile at the pool, Lydia and Jesse wanted to stay longer than Eric and Will (who were off to meet Jean-François in the park) so they did.  They swam and then walked home.  They were going to visit the bookstore but they were more interested in getting home a more direct way (that I haven’t been yet).  So there is still that to do!  Once they got home I fed them water and fruit before they descended in front of their screens again.

We will probably visit the pool again of an afternoon.  It is much closer to the place we’re staying for the 2nd half of our time here.  Also there is a big library near there too.

Me, I am interested in taking the 2-hour chocolate-making tour offered by what seems to be the world’s most expensive chocolatier—their chocolates are, for example, and this is a midrange example, 96 Euros per kilo.  Happily—I think—their tour is 10 Euros and offers some sampling of their specialties at the end.

Below are pictures of this morning’s café stop between the two markets.  Boy did I need that rest!  It was in a courtyard with a fountain (lots of fountains here, it used to be a Roman thermal springs town).  The woman sittin next to Will is Julie, J-F’s sweetie (whose apartment we will be borrowing starting Monday).  And then there’s the (usual) view up the street to ?

Off to bed now—

Ellen

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Chapter 3 (July 5-9):

Sorry I’ve been remiss!  Too many croissants.  Lots of beautiful sights since Saturday, too!  

Let’s see.  

Sunday we went to Les Baux de Provence, a…well it’s like a butte in a valley, upon which people have been living and building for many centuries.  The best time (to me) was the 14th-16th or so when robber baron lords-of-all-they-surveyed types controlled the roads in the valleys around and carved rooms and fabulous windy windows out of the soft limestone at the top.  See here for more: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Les_Baux-de-Provence

Lydia and Jesse particularly liked this adventure (especially because I kept it pretty secret what kind of place we were going to until we got there).  They took off exploring on their own as soon as we got there.

First the cliff edge at the top, then the old town from above (you walk up to the historic site through the old town).    We got there at 6 PM to miss the crowds, which worked spectacularly.  It closes at 8 but once you’re in, you can stay in as long as you want!

We picnicked together on pasta salad, bread, cheese, fruit, etc. before Eric and I walked up EVERY staircase and step in the place to explore all the heights, windows, different ages of architecture, etc. It is a place I remember loving in 1986 and I think it hit the spot this time too!

We walked down at 9 through the old town, all closed up (tourist shops) and quiet, and drove along home (an hour).

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Every morning is pretty much the same—Eric and I go to the market around 8:30, usually meet up with Jean-François, usually sit and have a coffee and croissant at a cafe either before or after doing the marketing.  The produce here is AMAZING and that’s mostly what we buy.  And eat.  And eat.  It’s peach/apricot/cherry/melon season right now so we are slurping them all up.  Every night the kids say they probably want to be woken up and go to the market with us, and every morning they decide no.  They are staying up very late and we are trying to figure out how to re-jigger our schedule to slant things in the direction of NOT sleeping in until 2!  More on that later maybe.  So we come back from the market with bread and croissants and fruit and sometimes cheese, and eventually everyone gets some for either breakfast or lunch.

Yesterday I got Jesse & Lydia out of bed at noon with scrambled eggs.

Monday afternoon we all went to the beach near Cassis with Jean-François and his teenage son Esteban.  (We rented a car)  Again we left around 4 to miss the heat and crowds.  Again it worked!  After the beach, which was lovely, and the water, which was a great temperature, J-F led us by car to the heights of the famous cliffs/inlets/fjords in that part of the coast—Les Calanques.  WOW.

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See next page for more!

6 thoughts on “France trip: Aix-en-Provence, July 1-13, 2015 (part 1)

  1. Gina Qualliotine

    Ok, next time you bring ME as your cook! Forget Clara, I will be cheaper, I promise you.
    This is amazing and I am so happy you had such a lovely trip. Will looks enormous. I saw him last week but didn’t notice : ) but you know how that goes, looking at a photo of him on the train I just thought, whoa! He’s huge. Love to you all and see you for dinner tomorrow!

  2. ticomilagro

    What a beautiful journey. I hadn’t realize Lydia went too, until I saw these. Thanks for sharing your delicious and beautiful adventures. It was so nice to see the light in Aix again. I haven’t been there since 1987!

  3. Alice Raymond

    So envious of all the croissants, fresh fruits, & veggies – sounds wonderful! And so glad about your good MRI report upon returning!
    Alice

  4. Debra

    Heaven! Beautiful pictures. And such good times together. I don’t think I’ve ever seen Jesse smile so much. Did you ever make it to the chocolate tour? xoxoxox

  5. Ferananda

    Loved reading you were in France with Jean-François and Julie! I miss France so much. Jesse and Will are so big and super handsome. Good work mama. Hugs to you and Eric and the teens. Ferananda

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