Welcome to The Aix-Files

Thanks for checking out The Aix-Files, my

blog postings inspired by my time in and around

Aix-en-Provence and the Vaucluse. The spot includes travel tips,

discoveries of local food and wine, recipes,

cultural events, interviews and historical

tidbits about Southern France. Enjoy!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Arrival in Aix-en-Provence

August 26th was my 50th birthday. That's the day Jim and I boarded a plane for southern France for one year. After four flights, three bus rides and one taxi ride, we made it to Aix-en-Provence, with all of our luggage, despite tight connections. Temperature upon arrival: 32 degrees – hot and breezy.

This is my first blog posting and I hope you will enjoy following our adventures. I’m not intending this to be a personal day-by-day diary, but rather a collection of thoughts and discoveries, especially into the world of Provençal culture and food, with a few recipes thrown in for your pleasure.

This trip is something I have been planning and anticipating for three and a half years. I have never done anything like this before and I feel lucky to have the opportunity to do so. It’s a year away from Winnipeg and from my job at CBC. Jim will spend the year here writing music.

In the last week before we left Winnipeg, we sold the car (our beloved Camry) and packed away all of our dishes, glasses, linens, instruments and Inuit sculptures in preparation for renting out our house. Valorie, Neil and Owen now have the keys to our house. And our tomatoes and tarragon and squash blossoms.

In recent days and weeks I have felt such contrasting emotions. One moment I was so excited I could almost taste it, the next moment I felt that there was no way I would ever get on a plane. But we did, thanks in no small part to our families! (Thank you!!)

My husband, Jim and I have installed ourselves in an elegant apartment right smack in the middle of Aix-en-Provence. Despite being on the busy boulevard du Roi René, the feeling here is very tranquil, as the back of the apartment spills out onto a lush garden with lovely dining table, comfy chairs and, best of all, a summer kitchen, something I’ve dreamed about having forever. This will be our home for the next little while and it hasn’t quite sunk in yet. It has exceeded all of my expectations and my wildest dreams.

We spent our first day taking care of business and getting oriented. Here’s what we accomplished in 24 hours:

Bought car insurance (in French)
Walked the famous Cours Mirabeau under the plane trees
Found a "music on the street" festival
Got hopelessly lost
Sipped a Kir (white wine with a few drops of crème de cassis) to mark my birthday celebration in the late sun, also on the Cours Mirabeau
Bought new earrings in the late-night street market
Ate first buttery croissant
Bought a huge panier (basket) and filled it with market produce
Savoured rouget (red mullet – a delicate fish not found anywhere near Winnipeg)
Bought a SIM card for the cell phone
Checked into the apartment
Got hopelessly lost

It has been rather surreal – a mix of soaking it all in, racing around to try to do everything and pinching myself to convince myself that it is real.

Now while I don't like resolutions, it did seem wise to set some goals for this year-long adventure, if only to avoid descending into a state of total sloth. But I also thought the goals should be modest and achievable (I don’t want to fail at my year off in France!).

So my goals so far are to:
Discover something every day
Practice French every day (easy – since I have signed up for daily French classes!)
Exercise every day (chopping leeks doesn't count)
Eat out once a week (other people may find this strange)
Stroll with the locals
Sample breads other than baguette and croissant
Buy flowers once a week at the flower market
Learn all about Cézanne, who lived in Aix
Enjoy cooking all day if I feel like it (but not every day)
Read Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina
Write about my experiences.

Everyone smokes (too bad)
Everyone strolls (which I love)

So that’s blog-posting #1.

A bientôt,


Michael said...

Double cheek kissing (3 for family and very special people) is an absolute lovely custom. I use it here in the 'peg as you should when you return. Cheers Andrea. So nice to hear from you. I'm busy training for Chicago marathon on October 10. Keep on posting! Michael

Vicki said...

Dear Andrea,
What a pleasure to hear about your new life! Your blog sounds just like you, and I can almost hear your voice in my ear as I read it. It was especially nice to see the French accents on the words. We wish you and Jim all the best as you settle in to your digs, and look forward to hearing more about your adventures -
Vicki, Graham, Erica and Juliana