Aix-en-Provence & Avignon

Sorry, I really couldn’t resist the pun, even though it’s dreadful and so overdone! So I begin this post with something you will already know (one hopes): the news the Duchess of Cambridge is preggers! Immaculate conception obviously…one does not want to imagine the Royal couple engaging in the act of baby-making!

Anyway, moving swiftly on…what have I been up to for the last few weeks?

1.) I finally braved the French hairdressers and had a successful (very expensive – I didn’t want to jinx my haircut my asking the price!) haircut. New vocab: les niveaux dégradés = layers; juste les points = ‘just a trim’. AND I managed a French phone call to a call centre to cancel my phone contract (I think…the confirmation text hasn’t arrived yet!)!

2.) I spent rather a lot of money shopping in Marseille. Only an hour away from Toulon, we didn’t really look around the city, put off my the scaffolding everywhere in preparation for being ‘European Capital of Culture 2013’ (why???) and worried that we might wander into a dodgy area where we would have the jewellery pulled off our necks by drug traffickers while some corrupt policemen looked on (possibly made-up rumours, but we were warned of it by several Frenchies). However, this weekend did bring the first of many Christmas markets!

Marseille Christmas markets!

Marseille Christmas markets!

 

3.) We finally made it to our neighbouring town of Hyères. A tiny little town, with a huge market street, some gorgeous little shops and back streets, and AMAZING tarte st tropezienne. A very underrated place, it used to be a famous French Riviera resort back in the day so it has beautiful colonial style houses, unfortunately however, it is now overrun with chavs and served by one or two buses per hour…

Hyères

Hyères

4.) My first ever American Thanksgiving! Well, it was more of an international affair as all of us from the UK, Canada, Italy, Spain, the US, Yemen, NZ piled ourselves into Lauren and Victoria’s apartment with lots of turkey, sweet potatoes, pigs in blankets, mashed potatoes, pumpkin pie and chocolate mousse (my creation – an absolute heart attack in a bowl!). With no previous knowledge of Thanksgiving, I was happy to know that what I had been teaching to the kids was actually correct!

My chocolate mousse!

My chocolate mousse!

5.) We’ve also been culture-vulturing it to the max with lots of French cinema – I recommend ‘Populaire’: speed-typewriting has never seemed so exciting…- and a trip to the theatre (free tickets courtesy of  more French contacts!). From my experience of the opera and French theatre, the French don’t seem to like you sitting there for anything less than 3 hours! We were so tired by the end of ‘J’aurais voulu etre Egyptien’ that we missed the final and more important line…!

6.) Then this weekend, Amy, Zhenya, Megan and I hopped on some trains to spend the weekend in Aix-en-Provence (the MOST GORGEOUS town in France!) and Avignon to kickstart our Christmas festivities (and Christmas shopping!). You people who have been so jealous of our ‘warm’ weather will be pleased to know that winter has officially happened here – I wore my winter coat, gloves and two pairs of socks all weekend (apparently Aix and Avignon are complete wind tunnels!). We basically spent an entire weekend eating, drinking and being Christmassy, with Christmas markets, tapas, mulled wine, crepes, with a bit of tourism thrown in in Avignon where we visited the Palais des Papes (‘the Pope palace’) and the famous half Pont Saint Bénezet that has a song about it (though for the life of me I can’t remember it…).

It was also by chance that we happened to be in Avignon at the same time as Anastasia, a fellower Sheffielder and year-abroader, and her lovely French boyfriend Julian, so we all met up on Sunday. It was bitterly cold, so we had mulled wine and crepes at the Christmas market before sourcing out the nearest Irish pub (something the French/Europeans are very keen on!) for more wine and dinner. It was really nice to be able to catch-up with her as she had been working up in Alsace (up on the German border) and is heading off to Colombia in January, so we won’t see other again until September back in Sheffield!

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I believe we’re all caught up for now,

Bisous! x

PS.  big up to our amazing hostel in Avignon, Pop Hostel!

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