Bon bout d’an from Aix-en-Provence! Our last home-base before returning to Strasboug was Aix, but we mainly used it as a base from which to visit Provence. Aix itself is very nice, we spent a day ambling around. Cezanne is from Aix! We also made excellent use of the local marche, and bought lots of tasty veggies, cheese, and saussison sec. Highlights from Provence:
- Les Calanques! My very kind friend from Strasbourg was home staying with her family near Aix for the holidays, and offered to show us a nice hike in the Calanques of Marseille. It’s not the ideal season for visiting, but it was real pretty nonetheless. That’s an understatement.
- Avignon – A very interesting city due to the fact that 14th century popes decided to take up residence there and build a palace. That might be one of the most understated/oversimplified explanations of what happened. In any case, we visited the Palais des Papes. It was very impressive.
- Driving around the Luberon – We decided to rent a car! To get to the Calanques/Marseille/Avignon, we took advantage of the very good bus system. But to explore anything beyond the major cities and the one Calanque hike (which we were able to access via public transit too!), we needed a car. So we got one! For two days, I got to zip around Provence in a very shiny Citroen DS3 with very French (aka tres speedy) acceleration. Or maybe that’s just what it’s supposed to be like in a new car when shifting gears. We visited the Ochre mines near Roussilon, the lovely town of Gordes, and watched the sunset at the Abbeye de Senanque. Though it was beautiful, I’d advise against going to these places in winter since a ton of stuff is closed (we had a lot of trouble finding an open restaurant for lunch), and the purple lavender fields are very gray. Not so much flowering and purple in the winter.
- Our last day (and our 2nd with a car), we decided to go back to the Calanques and do a hike from a different spot. We drove to Cassis, had lunch there, and set off on a hike from there. It was excellent, and followed the GR 98 trail for a bit.
This morning, we hauled ourselves out of bed and walked to the train station to catch our 5:40 am train. Only to find out that it was cancelled! Not a fun thing to learn at 5:30 am. But apparently this happens a lot and the surprisingly helpful SNCF employee called us a taxi so that we could make our connecting train in Marseille. The cab driver’s cologne was a bit overpowering and gave me a headache, but he got us to Marseille in plenty of time for our train to Strasbourg. Can’t ask for much more. All in all, a good adventure!