I love the sun, Provence and the Mediterranean
The first part of my break is now over, and it was sunny, fun and jam-packed. We ended up walking 5 days straight, miles and miles through medieval cities, Mediterranean and provencal towns and cities. We saw 6 museums and too many churches and cathedrals to even count them all. I am now back in paris, a little bit sunburned and ready to brave the cold and rain of Scotland.
I can tell why all the movie stars like to go to the French Riviera, i wouldn't mind living there myself. Sun, sea nad the most beautiful paysage (countryside) that I have ever seen. Let me start at the beginning of my trip
We arrived in Avignon on a beautiful Friday around lunchtime (we really could not have had better weather for our trip). We went in search of a restaurant that we found in one of our amazing guidebooks. The 2 guides we used to plan the trip were Let's Go (produced by harvard students and perfect for anyone on a tight budget) and Le Routard (the french equivalent low budget and is remarkably good for finding out about regional specialties and without fail chooses the best restaurants around)
We ate ate at this tiny restaurant on a side street called Citron Presse. From first glance it seemed a bit sketchy because there was only one other customer. The restaurant served lebanese/french food but the other patron had ordered a hamburger so we followed suite (especially since it was cheap). This may have been the best hamburger I have ever had! Instead of a bun, the burger was in a hollowed out wheel of bread with a delicious sauce. If you ever find yourself in Avignon stop by for a bite to eat. It turns out we were fairly early for lunch because the restaurant started filling up and seemed quite popular. The server came over to talk to us and saw our "Let's Go" guide and wanted to see what the guide had written in it. It was pretty funny.
In Avignon we went to the palais des papes, which, as the name suggests, was the palace of popes. It was really interesting, most of the rooms did not have any of their original decor, but the building itself was quite memorable. At the very end of our tour we heard this beautiful, ethereal singing, it sounded like a w
oman in a church. In the square in front of the cathedral there was a man dressed in Gothic fashion but could sing like a woman, and his voice was heavenly! It was so nice outside (it must have been 80 degrees in the sun) that we sat and listened to him. Other highlights of Avignon are the bridge, the garden that overlooks the bridge. We stopped by a delicious store called Le Cure Gourmand where Kate bought a lollipop (homemade) and I bought a nougat for snack. I randomly saw a card shop and decided to buy a pack of cards (my thought at that time was to teach my friends to play Euchre). This turned out to be very lucky indeed.
My delicious hamburger at citron presse
The streets of avignon
Palais des papes
Palais des papes with the man who sings like a women in front of it.
The bridge of avignon
We took a train to Marseilles and met up with Jamie, another friend from the Brown program. We found our hotel, the illustrious Hotel Alexandre 1, which was given 2 stars. We could not figure out why. It was probably the worst hotel I have ever stayed in, the pillows were millions of years old, there were mosquitoes, basically we could not believe they were charging 45 euros for a 2-person room. (and we greatly feared our hotel in nice which was only 30 euros for a 2 person room).
We then decided to find a restaurant to eat in so that we wouldn't have to hang out in the hotel room. We did not feel too safe walking around Marseilles at night, a couple shady people approached us. We headed to the district (cours julien) where the guidebooks said there would be restaurants and nightlife, because it was Friday night we were expecting crowds, sadly enough, there were few people, lots of drunk guys in the cafes yelling provocative comments and we finally found a restaurant that wasn't completely deserted and it ended up being really expensive so we found a panini shop and ate there. This forced us to return to the dreaded hotel early. We ended up playing cards for the rest of the night and decided to get an early start to Aix-en-provence the next day. (although during the night we heard a lady scream and a bunch of doors slamming, so it wasn't a peaceful night of rest)
Aix-en-Provence was lovely. There were fountains everywhere and we were lucky enough to be there on a Saturday when the famous marche takes place. We bought some delicious miniature pears. There were provencal wares everywhere, tablecloths with the typical provencal print, flowers, we even got to try navettes, a provencal biscuit/cookie. They were delicious.
In Aix-en-Provence there are over 100 fountains, so everywhere we walked we would run into them. They were very beautiful. We wandered around and found this restaurant (routard approved) called antioche. we all tried Kefta and had green tea. It was an amazing meal and the staff was really nice. After that we wandered past the cafe that Cezanne used to frequent and then headed to his atelier (workshop). In the workshop we saw all of the objects that he used in his still-lifes. It was really interesting to look at reproductions of paintings and then try to find the objects used in them! We then decided to walk around Aix again, but this time we were walking past places for the 4th or 5th time and it was still just as beautiful. We stopped at a patisserie and tried calissons, a lemony/melon-flavored marzipan cookie, a specialty of Aix. We then stopped at a cafe and talked there for a couple of hours trying to kill time before returning to Marseille.
The cathedrale with the statues with no necks (they were beheaded and then put back on, but their necks were never replaced.
Flower market in Aix
Flower market in Aix
On sunday morning, we decided to explore Marseilles, we gave ourselves 3 hours and Marseilles a chance. We stopped at a bakery and bought a lemon brioche and walked down to the vieux port to eat it. We ended up getting to see the "famous" fish market, which was just a fish market. We also walked around le panier district. It was a beautiful day and we decided to climb the hill to the 9th century abbey st. vincent and then even further up the hill to the notre dame de la garde. At the top, there was a beautiful church and we got to see part of a mass. We could also see the Chateau d'If, famous for the count of mone cristo. Then we wandered back to the opera and back to our hotel. Then we realized that we had only used 2 of our 3 hours and couldn't think of anything else to do, so we went to the train station and waited there to go to Nice.
The vieux from notre dame de la garde
The climb up
Abbey St. Vincent
Le Vieux Port