All posts filed under: Aix en Provence

The Year of Magical Eating

I don’t make resolutions*, simply because I try not to set myself up for personal disappointment. But I’ve already decided that 2016 will be the year of intentional eating: of quality over quantity, of savouring** over stuffing. (This feeds into my resistance toward dietary labels and detox diets where you can’t drink coffee or eat bread or dairy or anything delicious. You try living in France and not eating bread and see how you like it.) On my flight down to Aix-en-Provence to celebrate New Years, I began reading Ruth Reichl‘s book “Garlic and Sapphires”, which was recommended to me months ago and has been gathering dust on my bookshelf ever since. Her words are captivating and her relationship with food enlightening, encouraging readers to remember the flavours of a dish rather than ordering seconds. The more people pay attention to what and how they eat, the more attuned they become to their own senses and the world around them. Ruth Reichl, Garlic and Sapphires While in Aix, I popped into my favourite restaurant, Fanny’s. I used to …

Cézanne’s Mundane Life in Aix

One Sunday in Aix, I was doing my laundry at the cheapest lavérie in town, on Rue Boulegon. It was just a normal Sunday. As I walked down the street with my Ikea bag of half-damp clothes (dryers are expensive!), I ran into a tour group of elderly English people. Anyone who has ever lived in a city with tours knows how frustrating this can be – I am just trying to do my laundry and you are standing in my way! – I wanted to scream (I refrained). I eavesdropped as I walked past the group and heard the tour guide say, “And this is the house where Cézanne lived before his death.” For months, I had unknowingly been living my most mundane life on the street where Paul Cézanne had lived the same, at the time, mundane life. I wondered if he did his laundry on the same street, before quickly realizing that thankfully laundry has come a long way in the past century. Beyond the laundry, though, Cézanne walked down that street every day, …

Les Marchés : A Calling Card to Aix

It should come as no surprise that the open-air markets are one of my favorite things in Aix and France. Though I never got up the Julia Child courage to buy a full fish at the market, I did buy a slew of other things on a daily basis from people who became fixtures in my memory of the city. If I’ve learned nothing else from living in different places, it’s that the people make all the difference. And the welcoming, jovial (yet sometimes incomprehensible) residents of the south of France solidified that Aix was not only a home-for-now – it’s a home forever. I’m excited to share more about les aixois(e) and what I saw every day as a regular contributor on My French Life, an Australia-based online magazine for Francophiles and les français alike. Here’s my first post on the Aix markets and their vendors. Allez ! ♦

Swoon-Worthy Gelato in Aix

There was a time, not so long ago, when I had seven euros to my name. Seven euros, scavenged from the bottom of purses and wallets and laundry baskets. Seven euros in coins. (The rent was paid and I had enough to eat and I was just waiting for a money transfer to go through so don’t freak out too fast, everyone.) The voice of my dad in my head whimpered, “Save it, please, for the love of God,” in between soft cries bemoaning my financial inaptitude. I, however, clearly went for the logical choice : gelato. Gelato in Europe is an art, a force to be reckoned with. The creamy swirls in rose shapes as they very quickly melt in the approaching summer heat (but, then again, this is why the gelato is necessary to begin with). On Cours Mirabeau alone, there are three shops specializing in gelato, with a slew of other options climbing the hills of centre ville. We usually head to one of them, one of the best: Giovanni’s on Mirabeau. With a crêperie …

On va déguster: Rue d’Italie

My favorite French word is dégustation. It used to be grenouille until I realized how difficult it is to pronounce if you are saying it correctly (which I still can’t). Dégustation means you can try just a little bit of everything, whether a wine or chocolate or gelato or pesto mousse (more on this later). The direct translation would be savoring a taste – it is important to capture the appreciation and pleasure of eating revered by the French and Francophiles alike. Rue d’Italie, the main street of the Quartier Marazin, is where Aix’s bourgeoise reputation really comes to life. A few days ago, Corinne and I ended up traipsing down the vieux rue in search of a used bookstore, instead getting distracted by all of the specialty food shops on the way. She is a great person to have around, because she is so outgoing with shop vendors and is always ready to ask question or tell a story about where foods come from and where to find the best product possible. Our first stop was La Chambre …

Notes from a Springtime Market in Provence

Corinne says goat cheese is best in spring. Spring, when the most paresseux(se) of us emerge from hibernation, retaking the terraces for l’apéro and long lunches of fresh fish and goat cheese tarts and picnics in the park. Pollen permeates the air – only being stifled every two weeks when it rains and washes it up in chalk-like swirls on the sidewalks. Even I, who never suffers from allergies, cannot be saved from the constant sneezing and seemingly permanent itchy throat. Though, I suppose, a rosé will be a nice cure for that. There are opera singers at the market today, mixing their songs with the usual bustling sounds of the market. “C’est chouette!” a market vendor exclaims to a customer. She seems to know everyone, except me. The vendor I know and awkwardly see throughout the city must be on vacation. The woman hands me a bundle of chives with purple flowers on the end and bunches of spring onions with dirt still on the roots. That’s how you can tell a good market booth: the …

Vitrolles, a Provençal Mystery

When I first got my school assignments for this year, I immediately started endless searching on Leboncoin for apartments. Could I afford the city? Could I afford the apartments? More importantly…will it be cute and will there be a boulangerie nearby?? If I had began by actually finding these cities on a map – which I did very shortly after – I would have seen that neither are actually close to anything. Les Pennes Mirabeau and Vitrolles both sit on the edge of Marseille, about half an hour to an hour from Aix by bus. I had frantically began my house hunters international in Vitrolles only to find that nothing was available. Even the French people I started emailing with questions had never heard of either city. Long story short, I ended up in Aix and Vitrolles and Les Pennes became mere bus stops and walks for me. I got to see more of Les Pennes over Christmas when I stayed there, but la magie de Vitrolles remained a mystery. My friend Leah also works there and …

Method Reading & Madeleines

Four years ago, when I was trying to get through “À la recherche du temps perdu,” I put on a kettle for tea and bought the biggest bag of madeleines I could find at Monoprix. The madelines and tea didn’t transport me back in time in Paris as I had hoped, but it did make the reading experience a lot more pleasant bearable. “No sooner had the warm liquid mixed with the crumbs touched my palate than a shudder ran through me and I stopped, intent upon the extraordinary thing that was happening to me. An exquisite pleasure had invaded my senses, something isolated, detached, with no suggestion of its origin. And at once the vicissitudes of life had become indifferent to me, its disasters innocuous, its brevity illusory – this new sensation having had on me the effect which love has of filling me with a precious essence; or rather this essence was not in me it was me. … Whence did it come? What did it mean? How could I seize and apprehend it? …

Springtime in Aix : To Market, To Market

I’m going to take a brief pause from all my Italy travels to come back to France for a second. Though I still have Venice pictures to share – lots of them! – Aix is beautiful yet windy right now and I just couldn’t help feeling the need to share today while I was at the market. I fell in love with Aix at a market, and I fall more and more every time I go shopping. Markets in Aix happen every day, but the best ones are on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays. Farmers and vendors flood the city with booths of honey and nougat, fruits and vegetables, rotisserie chickens and saucissons. For the bigger market days, there are stands of lavender and fabrics and anything else you could ever imagine. The sky here is the bluest I’ve ever seen in recent days, prompting several picnics in the park with tarte tropeziennes and rosé despite the ruthless mistral. It’s so hard to believe that it was just a little more than a year ago that I …

The Cost & Promises of France

This was originally a post about things that are significantly cheaper in France compared to the United States. But – in an effort not to bore everyone about food (it isn’t incredibly revelatory that cheese and wine are cheaper where they are produced) – I decided to expand this on the costs and promises France has to offer. Everything, as I learned in DC while living with my aunt and uncle, has a cost and a promise. A monetary cost or an emotional cost. A monetary promise or a fulfilling promise. You just can’t escape it. I’ve been working a lot lately on returns on investments. Proposals, reflections, and hidden returns. Economics tucked into my watercolors and notepads. The idea of thinking of everything you do as having a cost and a promise is the same as an economist calculating a return on investment on a house, a car, an education. France is filled with hurdles – but it is also filled with so much life. Let’s explore: COST Let’s get the monetary costs out of the way first …