Thursday, August 25

Dear Friends,

The TGV train from Paris to Marseille scheduled to leave Gare du Lyon train station at 9:15am, left on the dot and it was exciting to be aboard in second class, seat 78.

 * On the train, four strangers sit facing each other. Thankfully, I wasn’t sitting across from another tall person. Is there more leg room in first class?

* They come to you with the croissants, juices, sodas, and chocolate. Are there different refreshments in first class?

The ride from Paris to Aix-en-Provence, the penultimate stop, takes only three hours, and I slept for all but twenty minutes of the one hundred and eighty. I’ll tell you why—I haven’t woken up at 7am in the last six weeks.

The apartment in which I’m spending three days was found on www.airbnb.com (Airbnb is a traveler’s best friend– in addition to a valid passport and an open mind). My host Christa is a sweet German woman, who’s been living in Aix-en-Provence for thirty-something years. She offered to pick me up at the train station, which was quite unexpected and greatly appreciated.

Friends, I was under the false impression that I would be staying in Marseille, since I’d found the accommodations under the Marseille section of airbnb; however, Christa lives in Tholonet, a small town twenty minutes from the center of Aix-en-Provence, which is 30km away from Marseille. No worries, I’ve learned that Aix-en-Provence was the birthplace and home of Cezanne, and I’ve welcomed the re-direction .

When we arrived at her apartment, Christa prepared a delicious Niçoise salad, which we ate with a whole wheat baguette (first time eating one of those, and for the record I prefer the unhealthier version). After lunch, she suggested that I cool down with a shower and take a nap to beat the midday heat (it’s in the mid-nineties at the moment). Though my trip altogether was less than four hours, who am I to resist a cool bath and a recommended siesta?

* The dining area in the apt. All the curtains are drawn until 7pm to keep the place cool. The tree growing in her apartment spreads across the entire wall.

* My room, darkened and comfortable.

 Do you ever have those days when you think “I must’ve done something right at sometime, somewhere?”  That’s how I felt after my three hour nap.

At 5:10pm I entered the living room where Christa was watching a documentary on wildlife (actually, I think it was the birds that pricked my unconscious). She informed me that if I was interested in going to the center of town, a bus would be arriving at the bus stop in thirty minutes. Being all napped out, off I went ….

In Aix-en-Provence, many of the buildings are a peach-mustard color, which is a noticeable difference from Paris where all are beige-vanilla. Walking through town, at times it would seem that it was deserted, and another street would lead to a hubbub of activity. Like Paris, there are numerous gelaterias, bakeries, fresh-fruit markets, pharmacies, cafes, random carousels, and brasseries, but the mood differs. There’s the
relaxed, “just taking it easy” vibe that comes with a small town.

* Check this out: It’d be great to be hypnotized to get rid of fear, addictions and phobias… esp in French.

* The fountain in the center of town, La Rotonde.

* These carts will drive you around town for eighty cents.

* Lining the Cours Mirabeau are vendors selling jewelry, books, and knick-knacks.

* There are only three things in the world better than cotton candy on a summer evening.

You know the feeling when it’s 82 degrees; you’ve had a good home-cooked meal, two glasses of wine; there’s a playful breeze on your face;  you hear trickling water in the background, a fountain perhaps; there’s a yawn behind your smile; lavender scents tease your nose, and there’s a hammock just waiting for you? That’s the feeling I have
right now.

Bises x,

Val

p.s Tomorrow, I’ll visit Cezanne’s atelier, maybe a museum (doubtful), take a ride in one of the carts, then Saturday, it’ll be Marseille.

p.p.s all things Cezanne.