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Around the World in 210 Days

Aix me Again

FRANCE | Friday, 19 October 2007 | Views [815] | Comments [9]

 – Aix – en Provence Aix “pronounced Ex as well as we can tell” is what Andrew and I have deemed our “vacation” from the busy life of Paris, Dublin, and Marseille. It has lived up to this moniker with panache. Lefty and Rrrrriiiicccaaarrrrrrrrrdooooooooooooooo be warned, it’s long. Therefore pace yourself, maybe read a sentence today and a sentence tomorrow and so-forth. We arrived via bus from Marseille, for the bargain price of 4 Euro each, Andrew and I hopped on a Marseille Aix express and thirty or so minutes later we were within the city of Aix. People started getting off at various places, and Andrew and I decided to wait until the largest group got off before we hopped off. This time came and we jumped off, not sure exactly where we were. Andrew however whipped out a trusty map he had drawn and went to ask a police officer. The officer Andrew described would start speaking French with an Irish like accent and pretend as though he were speaking English. He drew a small map for Andrew and we were off—on a 25 minute walk. And then….we saw the #4 bus sign, which Andrew had written down as a possible bus for our hostel. The bus driver was very very nice. Andrew asked him where the Auberge was and at one point, it seemed as though he had pointed it out, and Andrew told me to get off the bus. I jumped off from the back door, but Andrew wasn’t following. The bus driver waited while Andrew came and told me to get back on the bus. I wonder if the bus driver somehow uncovered a plot on Andrew’s part to get rid of me  ! Well anyway, at the next stop, the bus driver stopped and motioned us off the bus. We quickly found the auberge which opened about 15 minutes later and we checked in. They told us, we could only pay for periods of three days at a time, but checked the books and assured us that we would have no problem renewing for the eight days we planned on being here. We happily checked into our room, which looked like a dorm room. There were bunk beds on one wall and a shower with sink. On the other side of the room was a desk, clothes wrack, and toilet. The toilet and shower were in closed off rooms. The rooms had doors out to a common balcony. The hostel was opened from 5 pm until 12, and in the morning from 7:00 to 10 am. There was a lockout from 10 until 5, and a free breakfast from 7:30 – 8:30 which Andrew and I liked a lot! The first morning, we woke up at 7:30 and went to the breakfast room, the breakfast consisted of yogurt, apples, orange juice, bread and jam, and coffee and milk and chocolate. There were these cereal type bowls, but no cereal, or really anything that appeared obvious to put in them, but it turns out, the bowls were for the chocolate power, coffee, milk mix. You made a bowl of mocha. Yes, I loved this, and was up to two bowls by the time we left. You would think that you could make away with a days worth of fruit and yogurt too, but these people watched their breakfast like a hawk. There was little opportunity to slip in a free apple or jam, believe me we tried. Each day the breakfast would get more exciting, and I would find myself thinking about it throughout the day, and Andrew did too, we would say things like, tomorrow, I am going to get three pieces of bread. The first morning after we checked in, we noticed that there was a notice on the door which said, in the morning please leave by 10 and take your sheets to the front desk. Knowing that we would be getting new sheets, we put our sheets on the floor and walked on them. Imagine our chagrin when the lady we will call mean-jerk face McGonigal said, oh no, when you stay for more than one night, you don’t change your sheets. I was adamant though that we would be changing sheets. The first day we left the hostel, we went by a store that was essentially a big lots that sold food and other weird odds and ends. That first morning, we bought apple sauce, a can of pineapples, and a bag of salt and vinegar potato chips (a staple for Andrew since coming to France). With this assortment of stuff now crammed into Andrew’s backpack, we headed into town and turned right to walk the 500m to the McDonald’s. The McD’s in France are amazing in that they have free unlimited internet access. Well for the soulless perhaps its free, but for us, it is as least the cost of an ice cream cone, or hamburger for Andrew depending on the day and time. We start out the day by checking email, and then went to trying to purchase our flights from Italy to Istanbul. This would be easy if we weren’t going the cost effective route, but the best deals were on Easy Jet, and they require us to buy a ticket to Basel-Mulhouse (the pronunciation of this is way beyond me), this airport is on three borders somehow, there is German, French and Swiss sectors, and then buying a ticket from Basel Mulhouse to Istanbul. Here’s the deal though, there is only one flight each day from Rome to Basel Mulhouse, and only one flight from there to Istanbul, and alas, the one flight from their to Istanbul is at 7:00 am, and the one to Basel Mulhouse doesn’t arrive until 5:40….so there the helpful internet again saves our life. There is this website called www.sleepinginairports.com and as it name aptly suggests, it tells you the quality of sleep to be had at the various airports. SO a quick google later tells me that Basel-Mulhouse is quite nice, particularly the Swiss sector for sleeping, and so…we decided to fly into Basel Mulhouse (I would abbreviate, but it doesn’t have the best initials) one day, sleep in the airport, and fly out the next. I forgot to mention that the swiss hotels are ridiculously pricey, and so staying in a hotel for that 10 hours, was higher than we would like to budget, plus when you add in taxis to and from (b/c we have to be at the airport at 5 the next morning), it makes more sense to entertain ourselves in the airport. So back to McD’s. We are sitting there, we have the two flights in our basket and we are trying to check out, only they won’t take our credit cards. We try each one we have, we even try one we found on the floor (just kidding), but it doesn’t seem to work. The way these budget airlines work (e.g. the two flights for both of us are 118 Euros total) is that they charge a TON of fees. SO to use a Visa Credit Card adds 8 Euro’s, using a Visa Debit card only adds 3 Euros. We tried buying those tickets for an hour and a half, than gave up in frustration. We left McDs and headed into Provence. We walked around the pedestrian streets and looked at all the specialty shops—there were random markets that just spring up. That afternoon, we walked about a mile to find a supermarket, not realizing there was one pretty close to the hostel and lugged our groceries home. That night we went to view the Rugby game with a few thousand Aix-iens. Unfortunately, France was not to win, but it was a lot of fun sitting on the dew-soaked grass, shouting and groaning (normally a few seconds too late) with the crowd. The next three days passed quickly. We discovered the student cafeterias where we were able to buy lunch for 2Euro90. We each had pizza and a salad. The next day we attempted to visit Bebemus where Cezanne once painted the Quarries. We walked for about an hour and a half but didn’t go quite high enough up the mountain, and decided to turn around. That was about the end of our four days at the hostel. On our fourth morning there, we went to the front desk to renew at 8:30 after a lovely breakfast. The mean jerk-faced McGonigal was there. She informed us that the hostel would be full for the next four days, and was sorry but there was nothing she could do. Now the hostel looked anything but full and Andrew and I were certain she just didn’t like us, nevertheless, we went to our room with a bit of nervousness. We had done our clothes in the shower two nights before, and they were laying all about our room in a desperate attempt to dry. We rolled those that were dry and put the rest on the outside of our bags, and asked to have them held downstairs while we looked for housing. Andrew had a list of bed and breakfasts in his pocket, only it had numbers and street names, but not direct addresses, so we wondered around for an hour before finding the right street. It wasn’t very long, but as we walked down we realized that the rows of residential houses promised little in the way of cheap nightly accommodations. So, we caught a bus back to the center of Aix, which happens to be the location of the tourist office. We went inside, to the booking office, and within minutes found a hotel within the city center (a five minute walk instead of 25…) and it was only a few euros more a night. We were happy to check in to our new hotel, leaving our meanly-staffed hostel behind. That day was the day we found the best drink in France, which I believe I might have mentioned in passing in a previous post… Our new hotel room is what they would describe in a real estate brochure as “cozy,” but it really is quite nice. It’s only one spiral marble staircase up from the street level, and is large enough for a queen sized bed, writing desk, closet, and sink/shower. We did not splurge for the bathroom in the room, but it is only six feet from our door, so we’ve been quite comfortable with the arrangement. A few days ago Alex and I marveled at the strange collection of framed paintings on the wall. A pot of sunflowers, some boats, and a jar of green grass and trees sitting on a beach (quite surreal, yes) adorn one wall while a moon and some weird hieroglyphs adorn the other. We have a balcony which looks out over the street, and although it can be a tad noisy when the bars close, it allows for a nice breeze at night. After moving to our hotel, walking through town was that much easier. We’ve taken less trips to McDonald’s because we have been able to pick up a wifi connection from our room every now and then, although at times we have to hang over the balcony rail to keep connected. Anyhow, we decided, now closer to town, we should try one more time to find Cezanne’s quarries. We went back to the very helpful tourism office and bought entry tickets and got a bus schedule (we were done wondering the hills for the place). We rode the bus to the quarries and after a short wait we took a (1 and a half hour) tour of Cezanne’s old stomping grounds. It was an absolutely beautiful forest on the edge of rolling hills. From the “yard” of Cezanne’s stone cabin, we could see Mt. Saint-Victoire. It’s an impressive mountain that until then we didn’t even know was so close to Aix. We decided the next day’s task would be to see if scaling it was a possibility. After another visit to the tourism office, we got maps to the mountain as well as tips on which trail to take. The next day, we woke up at a decent time and headed to the bus. The trip was only fifteen minutes, but the hike was a good hour and forty-five minutes. We started up the trail, behind an army of cross-country walkers and a field trip going group of elementary kids. We passed them, scoffing at their slow pace, and sweated our way up the mountain. St. Victoire is named after the church, yes, the church, that was built on the top. From the trail you can see a large metal cross at the peak of the mountain, but not until we arrived at the top did we realize it was a full blown church, with probably ten rows of pews, a candle-powered chandelier, and an altar. We walked the church grounds, which included a few off-limits rooms and a water well (how they get well to the top of a mountain we do not know) and then we sat on a ledge and had lunch. It got cold at the top of the mountain, so we decided to warm up again by walking back down. It seemed to go faster, but still ended up taking about an hour and a half for us to get back to the dam that marked the end of the trail. We hurried back to the bus stop half expecting the bus to be waiting for us. It wasn’t. Luckily, we had our ipod, which kept us entertained for the hour it took for the bus to arrive. Legs buzzing, we boarded the bus and returned to our hotel. I did forget to mention that half way up the mountain we decided we would need a nice pizza to take care of all of the calories we were burning on our hike. So, on the way back from the bus we went to the grocery store and stashed a bottle of wine in the freezer section. Later, when we were sufficiently hungry, we went back to the supermarket, picked up our now frosty bottle of wine ($2, might I add…) and picked up a nice, hot pizza from a small pizza stand nearby. We devoured it. The bottle of wine went soon thereafter, and both were delicious. So that’s what we’ve been up to. You can all rest easy as you know the latest on Andrew and Alex. Until next time, which could be days… weeks… months?

Tags: Adventures



I don't have time to read all that. I am a very busy man! Andrew sure married a talker.

  Rrrricardo Oct 19, 2007 10:52 PM


That was very smooth you two. To change writers mid-stream and not break stride, very good. Andrew I must admit that your writing is getting really good. That was really smart to put the wine up to chill till later. I have great news for you two and for the rest of us, your new sim card has arrived so to call you will not be so bad with a good international calling card and for you two it will be wonderful if we all call you as that is free (to you). So as soon as the camara arrives I will take said products to R and S to be shipped asap. Be sure to let us know what the new number will be. Shannon there will be ten dollars credit on it, but I can't load it without the info that is on the card, so if you want you can give that info also and anyone can load time onto it for you. Hope you have a great weekend. love and miss you both mom

  mardi Oct 20, 2007 7:34 AM


Oh happy days........we are all in luck, today was a great day for getting stuff, yipeeeeeee the camara came in too. so we won't be without pictures for very long and you two can immortalize your trip without missing to many of the places you have been to. see if you had kept me in the loop from the start i would have gotten the new camara to you before the old one broke. a really good thing about this is you can ship the broken one to the insurance co. in the box of the new one and cut down on the trash you leave behind, now the is eco friendly. and in the large envelope that the sims card comes in you can mail the old sims card to anyone you know that will be traveling to see you like maybe annie or daniel. see everything happens for a reason. be happy and start practicing those big smiles.

  mardi Oct 20, 2007 1:12 PM


Truly that was AIXellent.

I was wondering when Alex would finally SUBMIT to da man and post a long informative and entertaining post. I did note like Mardi mentioned that Shanalex passed off the reporting duties half way through. That is what it is all about...sharing the stress, pressure and tension together that I will cause as you go through life.

I was glad to read that you two have found a place to vacation from all that vacationing.
Also I notice that Alex is rolling the Rs in my name in the cosmopolitan way that I like. It looks like you two are getting some good walking exercise and that is good given the SUPERSIZE ME McDonald's tour you are on.

Remember if you make us wait days, weeks and months for a post I will simply make up stuff in my head about your adventures but people like Annie, Spanky, Abby, Lefty and others will be the ones you truly cause to suffer.
(PLUS as I mentioned before...the terrorists win)

Andrew has already told me that he doesn't really worry about being a bad correspondent because his brothers have set the bar so low that he only has to check in every three or four months and he can out do them. Truer words were never spoken but we had such high expectations of someone as articulate as Alex.

Hope all is well and have a Dr. Pepper before you get on the plane for your next country.

  Richard Oct 21, 2007 2:14 AM


Where can I buy the cliff notes, being a history teacher in the making I dont have time to read this long of a message.

  Spanky Oct 21, 2007 12:03 PM


I can back up what Spanky is saying.
He has no time. Zero!
He has to drive around in a shiny new red truck all day.

Now since you guys will soon be looking for Big Macs in Portugal I can tell you tonight I talked to a friend who travels like you guys and he loved Portugal better than anyplace. He said Lisbon is what Paris was supposed to be. So...start now on cleaning your room and you should be ready for Portugal by next week.

  Rrrricardo Oct 21, 2007 1:44 PM


Here is some info for all the people checking this with hopes of an update:

Q: Why do ships and aircraft in trouble use "mayday" as their call for help?
A: This comes from the French word 'm'aidez', meaning "help me", and is pronounced "mayday."

  Mr. Info Oct 22, 2007 8:49 AM


I got about half way through and had to take a nap. Several hours and a couple of Dr. Peppers later I made it to the end.
And then I got green with envy that ya'll have been to Cezanne's stomping grounds =(

  Lefty Oct 23, 2007 1:55 AM


ok I heard from them, they are in Porto safe and sound, but not good internet and no McD's so will probably not see alot of posting. Said they will call in a day or two.

  mardi Oct 23, 2007 11:25 AM

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