Monday, November 11, 2013

Last Postcards: Aix-en-Provence

On my only full day in Marseille, I ditched it for Aix-en-Provence. Guided by Google Maps, I managed the long, hilly walk to the railway station, where I heard there were buses leaving every few minutes for Aix. I found them right away, and got on one just before it closed its doors. I asked for a roundtrip ticket (in English) but the head-shaking mutterings of the bus driver implied that I was going one way only. But it was easy, even though I tend to get lost in new cities and I always feel my lack of French with extra chagrin and despair whenever we are outside Paris.

Three years of high school French left me with only a bit of vocabulary, a terrible accent, and no memory of verb forms, gender agreements, or much of anything else. It was my hardest subject, even worse than math. My French teacher was a native Italian speaker, and I wasn't convinced his accent was a good example for us, although I realize now that his accent was still a thousand times better than mine. So even my prompt, "Bonjour, Madame!" upon entering a store will earn me a "Hello, can I help you?" But at least I know that you must greet shopkeepers and also say goodbye whenever you enter a shop. Many Americans don't, and it's one reason why they consider us rude. I don't let the shopkeeper get around to it first because, if they say anything much beyond a greeting, I usually have no idea how to respond, so I'll have to either mumble, "Pardonnez-moi, madame, je ne parle pas Fran├žais." or lapse into English, depending on how rattled I am.

So if a store seems particularly intimidating, they'll get a "Bonjour, Madame, hello!" Then they know all bets are off. They also know that I know that my French sucks. At least I have few problems reading signs, menus, or Metro maps. If I speak a second language (although I feel I'm still learning English), it's "Food." I can usually find and order whatever I want in every place I've visited, including Prague and Egypt.

Without further ado, here are photos of Aix. It was a moody day; the typical, strong Proven├žal sunshine was absent. I didn't care. I'd bought lavender sachets at the street market in the Cours Mirabeau (main drag) that were so strong that I suspect they put me into an alternate state of consciousness. I was perfectly content with everything in Aix. (Or maybe it was that dark-chocolate tart.)

Green trees and outdoor tables in late October

The Cours Mirabeau in drizzle.

I photographed the ancient fountain in this private garden, which I couldn't actually see, 
by sticking my camera arm through an iron gate and bending my elbow. 
I'd seen photos of it and was surprised to find it so easily. 

With its beautiful stone buildings, Aix is truly a golden city.

 St. Jean de Malte, a 13th-century church

Red doors, windowboxes, golden stone. I'll take it!

A French dog. They say, "Wiff" instead of "Woof."

The Place de l'Hotel de Ville.

I can imagine how lively this place must be when the weather cooperates, as it usually does.

One of the doors of the Hotel de Ville 

Aix is full of fountains. I had a great afternoon wandering around. I hope to go back.

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