France trip: Aix-en-Provence, July 1-13, 2015 (part 2)

(Such a great trip it didn’t fit on one blog page)

Tuesday Eric and I took advantage of the rest of the 24-hr rental car to go for a morning drive around Montagne Sainte-Victoire which is a huge nature site about 20 minutes from here.  This morning Eric and JF went to climb it.  Needless to say I did very little climbing on _our_ jaunt.  (I am using the built-in pedometer on my iPhone and am averaging 9,700 steps a day and meeting my 11,000 goal most days…even with my persistent leg weakness & unsteadiness (due to nerve-pain drugs, leg pain, foot numbness from chemo).

So on our jaunt we stopped to admire the mountain, gave some hikers a ride 5 km down the road, stopped at a cafe in the tiny town of Puyloubiers, walked around and bought some bread (of course), went through a few more towns and picnicked at the edge of an olive grove (also parking area) in one.  Then went back to Aix and spent a LONG time adventuring around the west edge of town trying to find a gas station to top up the tank and then dropping off the car.

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IMG_0297Finally we got home to find that instead of going out adventuring, as invited, all the kids had just stayed home the whole time and it was 3 pm!  We invited Will to come meet us and here is what we fed him for breakfast, I guess (bad parent award!):

Eventually Jesse and Lydia went out to explore.  Apparently they got ice cream and found the French bookstore and each bought a book.  They are missing the morning markets of all kinds—produce, cheese, meat, honey, lavender, ceramics, clothes and gifty things, etc. by sleeping in.  By noon everything is shut down except stores and cafés and restaurants, and it is HOT!, until 5 or 6 when things start to cool off, non-tourist people come out again, etc.

Wednesday morning after marketing, Jean-François and I sat at a cafe and talked for a long while, then walked around a bit.  

Below: fancy private fountain in courtyard with J-F taking picture at left; view from cafe up the street; view of this apt’s table and huge north-facing cool window.  Outside is a courtyard…the far half of the courtyard is a terrace of a restaurant (apparently without a permit).  It has a nice restauranty rumble in the afternoon, louder in the evening but not too bad, and it’s all closed and hosed down by 11:00 or so.

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Wednesday afternoon there was another trip to the same beach; Eric and I stayed home for an evening alone together.  We went out to a courtyard cafe of a nearby museum, then to a very nearby restaurant that was great—local, varied food, MEAT!, friendly, and felt authentically French, not touristy.

Here is today’s breakfast (below).  I went marketing alone which took some real attention to slowing DOWN.  (Market is uphill luckily…walking back loaded down was downhill)  Eric and JF are not yet back from their climbing adventure (though they are off the mountain) and I have a bit of work to do!  

So that should catch everyone up.  I am going to send one of the above photos at full size to some of us because it is wonderful of Lydia and Jesse who look deliciously happy to be where they are.

Soon this afternoon I think I am leading a trip to book-related places (English-language bookstore 3 blocks from here, Aix’s mysteriously-named “Cité du Livre” that should be book-centered, and maybe another bookstore?).  And Will and I have a plan to go watch a movie (“Spy”) at the nearby movie theater after that.  For dinner we will eat the bread I got and the delicious salads etc. that Clara the cook came and made for us this morning, and a big green salad.  Then I BET we will go out for ice cream!


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Chapter 4 (July 9):

This afternoon after prying the youth out of bed at noon for breakfast, I gave ‘em a few hours to rest 🙂 and then gave them no choice but to go to the English-language bookstore with me.  Which is all of 4 blocks away and has a cafe as well as many rooms to explore.  Here is, I think, evidence that they had a good time! 

I left them there after 45 min or so and went to meet Will and Eric to see a movie nearby, and they eventually made their way home and were happily chatting and snacking on fruit and bread when we returned just now.

I’ve started waking Lydia up at 8:30 just enough to take her medicine just so I know she takes it and so it gets taken in the morning rather than whenever the getting-up eventually happens.  OK?

We have 3 more days here before our travel day so I hope one of those days they make it out into the town before mid-afternoon! (without me just going all Mom on them and ordering them to)  But could it be, that buying delicious fruits, veggies, cheese, and bread and sitting in a cafe sipping a hot drink and a glass of water is NOT preferable, to the 13 & 14-year-old, to Just More Sleeping?

I blame Tumblr. 🙂

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Chapter 5 (the last few days):

Final report!  Now we are actually on the train, the TGV, from Aix to the airport.  I’m not sure how/when I’ll be sending this.  I meant to send it this morning before we left but…instead we went out to the market real quick and took the kids to one final morning café for “viennoiseries” (pastries, aka croissants) and Orangina (pretty much the only thing to drink at a café in the AM if you don’t drink coffee or want hot chocolate or want to pay through the nose for 3 sips of orange juice.

IMG_0545Here is a picture of the apartment we have been staying in for the last week, thanks to Jean-François’s sweetie Julie who was out of town most of that time.   Ours is the one on the 2nd floor with the open white shutters.  It is in the quiet part of town below the most touristy, markety part, but very close.

Friday we went to the Camargue, which is a bit like the Everglades: a river delta, various biomes, interesting animals, HOT!  We visited the museum briefly and took a scenic drive past wild horses, lots of bulls, and flamingoes.

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But our real purpose was to go swimming on a big remote beach.  This was a wide, long, sandy beach very different from the beach J-F took us to (rocks, coves, smoot rocky bottom, small rocky beach, no sand, nice water but no waves).  Many people apparently come to the beach and camp—lots of campers lined the parking area.  There is a little town a few kilometers inland that I suppose supports all their commercial needs, but at the beach there was just one building that I think was a first-aid station and bathroom.

This beach was a big hit but we couldn’t stay as long as we would have liked.  

Jesse buried Lydia in the sand between swims.  Eric & Will went for a run & did exercises before swimming.  I sat, watched our stuff, read my novel, and documented.  It was nice.  Clearly there had been THOUSANDS of people enjoying the beach earlier, but since we didn’t arrive until 6 pm, it was not crowded at all.

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Saturday night I took Will out for dinner at a traditional French restaurant.  It was good.  (Same one Eric and I visited a few days before.)  It was also only a few blocks from where we were staying.  The clientele was part locals after work, part tourists, part older folks out with friends.  Nice.

Yesterday morning (Sunday) Eric and I and Will took off for a quick trip to a little town an hour away, L’Isle sur le Sorgue.  It’s called an island (on the Sorgue River) because the river runs right into town and then splits into lots of channels and canals and raceways.  The town used to have (in the 1800s) 70 mills powered by this river.  Grain, then fabrics and silk.  It is fun to see the old waterwheels still turning, all covered with moss.

It is also a HUGE market town on Sunday AMs so about an hour after we got there it turned really really crowded.  We had seen enough by then, and had our café and croissant in a shady spot right on the river set back a bit from a street of market-market-market, so we drove home.  Jesse and Lydia slept in but they were up by the time we got home.

At 5:30 we joined J-F and Julie and Julie’s younger son Timothé (8) on an outing to a place called Vernègues, which is a historic site of a medieval town on a hilltop, plus the site of a village that was destroyed by an earthquake in 1909 and rebuilt down below, plus—and this was the crucial feature—it has a really nice restaurant featuring crepes and ice cream.  

So we arrived at 6:30 or so and had ice cream.  Then we wandered around the hilltop a lot in various groups until 8:30, when we went back to the restaurant (which was all on a nice shady terrace) for dinner.  Life is short; eat dessert first!

L’Isle sur le Sorgue: waterwheel and river below


Jesse & Lydia at the creperie in Vernègues

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We got home quite late last night, packed up, and this AM got out of the apartment by 9:30 (quite a feat for some of us) and had just a little time (luggage stored at J-F’s down the street) until we got picked up to go to the TGB station.  Now we are on a long double train, half of which goes to Brussels somehow…not our half.  We are in a regular compartment and it is not 95 degrees so, much nicer.  And we have a lot of picnic items so we don’t have to buy any overpriced food from the “club car” at all.

And now I’m sleepy so that’s it from France!


2 thoughts on “France trip: Aix-en-Provence, July 1-13, 2015 (part 2)

  1. David Millians

    Wonderful! I love seeing the pictures. Eat dessert first!

  2. Isa

    Oooh! I loved seeing, reading through your journey!

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