Friday, January 14, 2011

Day 62: Aix-en Provence and Avignon

Towel. Sleeping bag. Shoes. Check. Food. Water. Computer. Check. Hurriedly cramming my stuff into my bag, I rushed to leave. Natasha was waiting. She was late for class and it was my fault. As consequence of a poor night's sleep, I didn't wake Natasha up or prepare to leave on time so now I had to scramble. Run out the door – down eleven flights. Exchanging goodbye cheek kisses on the train station's marble apron, I could tell she was slightly irritated – an unfitting end to an enjoyable CouchSurfing experience. C'est la vie!

Goodbye Natasha, thanks!

With no way to withdraw money I spent my last €5 no the bus to Aix-en Provence. I parted from Marseille slightly stressed about my low funds, but enthusiastic about seeing two new towns. By some miracle, Dad managed to finagle Western Union's website into working so I had money to pick up in Aix.

Upon arriving in Aix-en Provence I had a small number of pesky problems to address. Fortunately, I have gotten rather efficient at orienting myself in new places. I've learned that whenever I get to a new town, follow signs to the town center, then follow signs for the tourism office. The staff in the tourism office is used to goons like me and are usually able to answer all of my questions and provide me with a map. Thankfully Aix was no different and soon I finished everything and picked up some cash.

Aix's main fountain in the town center.

It was a beautiful day to explore, the sun was warm shining and the sky was a clear blue. Wandering down a few streets I found a place to eat and go to the bathroom (oof!). Being a tad sick, a solid meal did wonders to make me feel better. During breakfast I read through the map the tourism office gave me and circled interesting sights.

I treated myself to a tuna sandwich and framoise (raspberry) tart.
This fountain was from a hot spring so the water was steamy.
A beautiful old courtyard.
Farmer's market!
Marseille made Aix look as shiny as Mr. Clean's forehead.
I saw this on a postcard so I recreated the photo. Voila!
No buildings like this in America.
Aix had a huge cathedral with a beautiful old set of organ pipes.
On the way to Cézanne's house.

The city was quaint and small. When I started walking around I was amazed at how small Aix is. It only takes about 15 minutes to walk across the entire town. I saw everything on my little map rather quickly. I was unaware that Aix is the hometown of Paul Cézanne. They're capitalizing all they can. Cézanne is immortalized by a bronze statue in the main square and his house has been converted into a museum.

Paul Cézanne – the master!
His house was surrounded by bushes. Birds enjoyed it.

Carrying my pack and being sick is a draining combination. Three hours in Aix-en Provence was enough for me so I made my way to the bus station. When I got to the station, it was 13:15 and I just missed the 1 o'clock bus to Avignon. The next bus was at 17:00, but I didn't care. I could use some down time. While waiting I read about acid gulping hippies, snoozed, and worked.

Night had fallen by the time I got to Avignon. Avignon's wall towered over me, lit up with lights it was beautiful. Entering the city was magnificent. I was greeted by two pools of water that shimmered with a cool blue light, like they contained pieces of the moon. As I walked down the main strip I wondered where I was going to spend the night.

Despite a scattershot of CouchSurfing requests, I couldn't find a place to stay. Earlier this morning, as I rushed out of Natasha's apartment, I quickly found a hostel which was right off of the main street. Upon finding the hostel, it looked more like a hotel. When I asked the man if they had rooms for €17 as advertised on HostelWorld, without a smile, he said "We're not in Morocco, rooms are €40." Luckily he was kind enough to refer me to an internet cafe where I found a camp ground just across the river. I bought a can of ravioli, bread, and chocolate pudding and went in search of the promised land. I found it without a problem, pitched my tent behind a bush, and that was that.

Avignon while crossing the bridge to my camp site.

The weather was so nice in Aix-en Provence that apparently the universe needed to balance itself out with some rain while I was in Avignon. My plans to wake up at 6 fizzled. I ended up leaving the camp ground at 10, thanks to a time spent writing a blog entry and a bout of rolling around. After 12 hours of sleep I emerged from my synthetic cocoon. I packed up my tent and strolled out of the camp ground, none the poorer.

Thankfully it was relatively warm.

Exploring Avignon in the rain was less than desirable but I made the most of it. Most of my day was taken up by publishing a blog entry, but I feel I got at least a small taste of Avignon.

Part of the city walls.
The French will grow grapes anywhere.
Ducks enjoying the rain.
Notre Dame des Doms
Who taught that elephant that trick?
Romantic little streets.
Rue de la Republique as I was leaving.
Bye bye Avignon!
Buh bye!

That night I caught the bus to Montpellier, where I met with my new lovely host, Ophé. She's great, but you will have to read my next post to hear me brag about her. Exploring two cities in two days was exhausting. I've enjoyed spending the past few days in Montpellier. Not having to carry my pack around is most excellent! For an update on Montpellier you'll have to tune in on Monday.

Au revoir!

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