Bonjour à tous!
I realized something today. I have focused a lot on giving clear details about my cultural experience here, but I have somehow neglected describing the beautiful place in which I live. So, I thought I would dedicate this entry to talk about the wonders (man-made and natural) of southern France. My mom and her friend recently visited me, and we spent a weekend travelling to little, beautiful villages around Provence. Although it is almost winter, and everything is slowly starting to turn brown, there are still gorgeous views, green trees and a few beautiful flowers left. It is amazing how the temperature, even in the beginning of November, remains at a comfortable 70 degrees. It has been nice.
Obviously, the first thing I would like to mention: Food. The food here is sensational. Not only is the taste, texture, smell and look of the food fresh, incredible, and divine, but the overall experience of dining in France is sensational. The scenery is picturesque: at night, when it gets dark, there are patios at every restaurant, sparkled with twinkling lights. There are buildings that are hundreds of years old surrounding the restaurants. And, my favorite part about Aix, there are laughing, happy people everywhere.
I will be honest and state I was absolutely terrified to arrive in France: land of the snooty and unsmiling. But, Aix is different. The people here are very kind. Aix is a rich city filled with students and elderly people. It is a cultural tapestry; students of every race, color, and religion are seen on my bus each day. So everyone is exceptionally accepting of different cultures! BUT: everyone is accepting so long as one speaks French and abides by the rules of French culture. It is very interesting.
The city is stunning as well. The noodle-tangled mess of streets that wind through Aix is so much fun to explore (mainly because every street links right back to the centre ville and it is nearly impossible to get lost). The shops are magnificent as well! There are purse stores, leather stores, perfume stores, shoe stores, jewelry stores, underwear stores, and basically every other store you could possibly imagine and/or need. There are macaron stores, chocolate stores, cafes, patisseries (with baked goods) everywhere. It is amazing.
Oh!! Then there is the market. The market is wondrous. We have the market three times a week: Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. The Tuesday and Thursday markets are beautiful, and I walk through them on my way to school. There are booths with spices, herbs, honey, olives, cheese, sausages, meats, salamis, fish, fresh fruits, fresh vegetables, soap, jewelry, purses, shoes, and clothes. Almost everything is at the market. The colors are absolutely stunning, as well. Reds and yellows, purples and blues... All of the Provencal colors are everywhere. And then there is the "Saturday market". The "Saturday market" is monstrous; it covers street after street in Aix. It also has sub-markets within the market. There is the fish market, the flower market, the clothes market, the jewelry market, and the fruit/vegetable/olive/honey (produce basically) market. Oh my gosh. It is beyond incredible.
The countryside is spectacular as well, Mont Sainte Victoire overlooks Aix, reminding everyone of the painter Paul Cézanne. There are olive and cypress trees everywhere and beautiful Provencal villas that make up the countryside. Provence is picturesque. I love it here!