This morning, we took the bus to Aix en Provence. The bus stop is actually just up the street from the Citadine. There is a bus that runs every 5 min, one that is every 10 min, and another that is every 20 min. We didn't have to wait at all to get on the bus. We paid for our ride as soon as we stepped on. The bus was nice, except it was hot (they don't seem to use air conditioning here), and it smelled like arm pits.
The trip to Aix was only about 30 or so minutes long. The view out the bus window was interesting...we saw the Northern part of Marseille, many hills and small towns, and some farm land.
We walked from the bus stop over to one of the buildings of the Universite de Mediterranae to meet with Chris' sponsor, Thierry. I think we walked at least a mile to get there. Thierry was very welcoming and nice. Chris chatted with him for a little while, and I just sat in the room, knitting. He showed us around the place, and helped Chris get a library card. He introduced us to a few of the other professors, and even offered Chris an office there! Thierry bought us some tea and we chatted about the area. He and Chris spoke French to each other, but I could understand a lot of what they were saying.
After we finished there, we walked back past the bus stop into the main area of the city. We found a little cafe that was serving cassoulet as their plat du jour (plate of the day). Chris tells me that cassoulet is different depending on where you order it. We were given a plate of white beans, with a leg of duck and a sausage link. The sauce on the meal was SO good! I really loved the meal. It came with dessert, so we had creme caramel, which is similar to flan. Again, SO good!
We left there and wandered around. We had imagined Aix to be an old village, with little stores filled with lavender products, kitchy items, and antiques. We were quite surprised that part of the city is very new...and it reminded me a lot of a shopping area in San Diego in the style. There were a lot of well known stores and brand new apartments above the stores. We found a store called Phildar, that sells yarn (which made me very happy). Chris asked the shop owner how to get to the historic district, and she told him how. The historic district was more like we had imagined, except no stores like we expected...just more name brand, high-end stores filled with clothes, purses, and shoes.
We happened upon an international book store that was filled with books in English. We met two girls studying in Aix from CA, and an older couple who was also from CA visiting France for 3 weeks. The best find there was a can of pumpkin. I had been looking all over Marseille for pumpkin (canned or fresh) since it's fall. I wanted to make some pumpkin pasta and have pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving. They just don't have pumpkin here. So when I saw the can of pumpkin....I had to buy it. The catch was it was 5 euros for a can!! Yes, very silly purchase, but something I will never forget.
We passed a real esate agent office on one of the side streets that had some amazing houses listed. One was a house for 3 million euros! I had to take a few pictures of the advertisements because it was so odd to find million euro houses listed on a side street that really had nothing else on it.
We hopped the bus back to Marseille, and thank goodness this one had air conditioning! We got back to Marseille in about 20 minutes.