A Travellerspoint blog

France

AIX-EN-PROVENCE

AN INTERESTING PICTURE OF FRENCH CULTURE

sunny 29 °C

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After an easy 3-hour train ride, we arrived in the birthplace of Paul Cezanne, Aix-en-Provence. I thought I might enjoy seeing the countryside but it seems I sleep on trains as I do on planes. I wasn’t much company for my travel companion.

We arrived at our hotel, the Aquabella in the old city of Aix, which turned out to be an excellent choice. Rooms are expensive in the south of France but at least this one came with access to their spa. The spa is built above the original Roman baths and there is a window where you can see the ruins. We had access to the hot tub, the hamman ( wet Turkish-style sauna with eucalyptus oil), the dry sauna, the shower “experience”, which had various pressures and singing birds, and the hot and cold showers. This, in addition to the beautiful pool (next to one of the city's old walls), filled a few hours of both our days. Sigh.

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After checking in, we went for lunch. A very looonnng lunch which it seems is normal here. People sit for hours at lunch time, service is slow and no one seems to care. They probably care slightly less about you if you are not French. So, we, two unlikely candidates, have learned to relax and chill out these past few days…..let’s see if that mood can hold through next week’s meetings.

We walked around and I was completely shocked at the number of stores filling the old city streets. I later learned that Aix is another shopping destination and a student town so the demand exists. Still the architecture is beautiful and the clothes is amazing….oh to be able to pull it off. We window shopped.

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The roof lines were my favourite.

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In the evening the square, just minutes from our hotel was alive with people. We enjoyed an amazing dinner. Lyn had shrimp risotto and I was most proud that she didn’t get creeped out by the heads. I had duck Rossini. Very good. Still the food is predominately Italian.

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Saturday morning, we went to the morning markets. This was really incredible. These markets happen every day and explain the lack of grocery stores. Every street was covered with fresh produce, flowers, herbs, cheese, meat and anything else you can think of, including clothes.

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There were several musicians playing around the old town too. We watched these two play for a quite a while. They were amazing.

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This girl was either their biggest fan or totally in love.

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This Dixie band was pretty entertaining too.

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We wandered around a bit more. Visited the huge, Saint Sauveur Cathedral.

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Stopped to say hi to Paul Cezanne.

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Then had another long lunch before retreating to the pool and the spa for a few hours.

Aix has been an interesting stop. Not what I expected but totally worth the visit. Interesting to see the lifestyle….access to fresh food, wine with every meal and patience galore for everything except the tourists

Alas, this ends another great holiday and tomorrow we fly to Brest for a week of meetings.

Posted by curlygirl 14:25 Archived in France Tagged en aix provence Comments (0)

NICE

WITH SIDES TRIPS TO MONACO, MONTE CARLO, VILLEFRANCE SUR MER AND EZE

sunny 29 °C

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With a meeting in the north of France, it simply made sense to do a Shelley special and add on a few days of holidays. The south of France has been on the list for a while and since Marseille offered a direct flight to Brest, it was simple. Even better was, my friend Lyn would be attending the same meeting and I was pretty sure she would be up for adventure. It is not often I get to travel with women.

We arrived in Nice mid-day on Tuesday and it was pouring rain. It was too rainy to go out so we opted for coffee, lunch, a little shop at the adorable baby store just across from the hotel and a nap. Around dinner time the rain stopped leaving some incredible light and skies so we wandered around the waterfront and had an excellent seafood dinner by the sea.

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Wednesday was a beautiful 29 degrees and sunshine. We took the train to Monaco/MonteCarlo. This was a trip we debated because we had heard there wasn’t much to see but we really enjoyed it. Very interesting to see this little country (2km by 2km) full of richness, with no apparent industry other than fishing and tourism, thriving. There was certainly lots of money on the endless yachts in the harbours.

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From Monaco we took the train back to Villefranche-sur-mer which was so beautiful. We sat on the beach, ate salad with amazing cheese and wandered the hills and alleyways. Totally chill and beautiful.

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The next day we took a tram and bus to Eze Village. Google tells me Eze is a medieval village perched like an eagle's nest on a narrow rocky peak overlooking the Mediterranean sea. It is quaint, cute and tiny but we were happy to leave because it is packed with tourists.

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We returned to Nice to walk the beach and side streets which are rich with colours and characters. It is a really beautiful city. It really is a shopping haven and we what asked what we should do, we were told, shop. I am not sure we entered a single store besides the baby shop.

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We came back to the hotel for a swim and sauna before another Italian feast. The Italians were here til 1860 and the food remains. We found it quite difficult to find a French restaurant so enjoyed the huge Italian portions.

It was a really lovely and relaxing three days.

Posted by curlygirl 13:28 Archived in France Tagged nice monaco eze Comments (0)

THINGS THAT DON’T SOUND ANY BETTER IN FRENCH

I AM JUST WAITING FOR A SAUSAGE MONSIEUR

overcast 11 °C

I wasn’t really planning to post today but I did find a few amusing things to share on my after work walk today.

In reality, work trips are not all that glamourous. I did leave the hotel at 7:45 this morning and return at 6:30 this evening in the dark. I was really feeling the jet lag after a full day in a warm crowded room but decided it was much too early to retire to my room. Besides, my pre-Christmas diet hasn’t been going that well with that heavy supper last night, petit pain au chocolate for breakfast, and a smoked salmon baguette for lunch. You get the idea. So I skipped the social meal this evening and decided to walk and explore the downtown area. I have determined that there is no Christmas shopping to be done here unless you want Christmas chocolate (not cheap)

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I wandered streets full of shops and only found clothes, perfume shops, pharmacies and the usual range of sweets described last night. There are no Christmas decorations to buy although the city is full of lights and Christmas is in full swing.

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One of the neatest things was this square that had a large building filled with Christmas trees full of paper tree ornaments. On closer inspection, I could see that this is where people write their Christmas wishes to Santa. I saw young and old filling the 20 or more trees with their wishes and lots of kids waiting nearby to meet Pere Noel. There was even a kids Christmas movie playing on the big screen outside.

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I only read a handful and had elected to take a picture of this one before I even read it. For those that don’t speak French, this person wants weed to be legalized. Perhaps they should meet the dope smoking Santa that was on the cover of the German newspaper.

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It also appears to be duck season. Or maybe they just eat a lot of duck here. Duck fois gras, duck parts, duck pate and so I decide to join the obsession and have a duck sausage for supper (ok...so much for the healthy walk). I had paid and was waiting patiently when one of the gentlemen asked if I wanted to order, to which I replied, “Non, J’attend un saucisse monsieur”. I got a few chuckles.

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Just a few pictures to share as I wandered the market, sausage and bags in one hand, while trying to grab a couple semi blurry shots in low light with one hand…but you get the idea.

Vin Chaud (Mulled wine)

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My dessert, one of my favorites, meringue... and I know I don't need that either. When I paid for it (2 euros), I had given her a combination of euro, Canadian, and a Belize dollar. Time to clean out my wallet.

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Market fun. It is unlikely I will see the city in the daylight

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Posted by curlygirl 12:19 Archived in France Tagged market christmas toulouse airbus Comments (4)

JUST ANOTHER DAY AT THE OFFICE

VISITING AIRBUS AND THE TOULOUSE CHRISTMAS MARKET

overcast 10 °C

Bonjour mes amis

I think it goes without saying that sometimes my job is really great. Not only because it occasionally brings me to beautiful places in foreign countries but also because it allows an aviation geek like me to have access to things that I would never see any other way.

I spent my day today at Airbus. Yup, the place where they manufacture the airplanes.
During our lunch break we had the opportunity to visit three of their aircraft, the A320, the new A350 and the enormous A380. I was surprised to learn that I was the only really enthusiastic one about this tour. It is probably because I am with a bunch of aviation experts who live this stuff every day. Nevertheless, I dragged them all along and will be willing to bet most would admit we had a lot of fun running around and under the A380.

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After work Kim and I eagerly hit the Christmas market and I hate to say it was a disappointment. It was simply lovely, but I am a little shocked to be empty handed in the Christmas shopping department. It was certainly more manageable without the crowds and the lights and people were spectacular, looking even more so as I sipped my hot mulled wine. Sigh. Most of the market was just “stuff” as my good friend Tom puts it and there is little evidence of anything Christmas. Then again, everything pales in magnitude to the excessive North American traditions and show. After searching for a few Christmas ornaments for gifts, I found one for about $35. Sorry friends. The food booths, both fresh and preserved looked amazing. I somehow managed to spend about $75 on 4 pieces of really pretty nougat. Obviously I didn’t check the cost first. My luck did not improve when I popped into some shops so I am afraid, I am without my final few gifts.

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This evening I just relaxed and enjoyed a lovely walk through the empty streets of Toulouse and enjoyed a fantastic meal which included fois gras and a scallop and shrimp risotto. You just have to enjoy the French food while you are here. I am still amazed that every third shop is somehow related to food, either a boulangerie, a patisserie, a chocolate shop or a restaurant, yet the people are tiny.

Hopefully I will time to explore some more tomorrow evening. I think there is lots to see in this quaint city.

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Posted by curlygirl 14:58 Archived in France Tagged market christmas toulouse airbus Comments (6)

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