Tuesday, 28 August 2012

After 2 weeks I finally made it to Provence...

After leaving Newcastle on the 14th of this month, I have finally made it to Provence. Via London and Paris for a week(ish) each I'm actually in the region which I will be calling my home for the next 6 months....but still not actually in the city where I will be living. Don't ask. I just get itchy feet.

I arrived in Marseille after taking the TGV from Paris Gare de Lyon, which presented itself as a huuuuge, long double-decker train with about 10 carriages. It really was an epic journey too, right through the rural heart of France, southward-bound to Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur, or Marseille station in particular. 

For those not in the know, the region I am in is highlighted here (in red)

I will be staying here for 6 months in Aix-en-Provence, hopefully travelling around as much as possible, while at the same time learning about the local culture and lifestyle as well as taking up the language more easily. I'm studying here (if you haven't been reading my previous posts then you've missed the party) and then afterwards I will be schlepping over to Koblenz in Germany to do the exact same thing again.

So I made it to Marseille after a long TGV journey, lost and totally unaware where my hostel was in the city. Turns out it was right next to a métro station in the city centre, yet I still managed to get lost for an hour or two. Whoops! Ended up seeing a hell of a lot of the city centre though, which was lovely....regardless of how many hundreds of bags of sugar my rucksack felt like.

My hostel was nice, but in no way as communal as the hostel in Paris, which is a shame as there was no real place to hang out inside; we were almost forced to go to a cocktail bar to talk and share stories etc. I say forced......5€ mojitos were calling my name all night.

Marseille is a nice city, quite big and quite intimidating at first, but as soon as you have your bearings, understand the métro system and can find the boulangerie, there is no real major problem. It's a very culturally diverse city, lots of nationalities and different cultures meet at this city to create a melting-pot of hip-hop, provençal and typical touristy culture. Some say the city has its own mindset, but I am yet to see what this means exactly. Either way it's the nearest big city to me when i'm in Aix-en-Provence, so i'm sure I will be visiting often.

Restaurants near the Vieux-Port

Boats on the Vieux Port

Nice tasty looking little things which I may or may not have gorged myself on in Marseille....

Irish pub in Marseille....definitely one of the busiest places I've found so far

View of the Cathedral from some Provençal-looking streets

view over the city from the train station down 102 stone steps....
So Marseille was nice, just very very hot. It's the end of August (one of the hottest summer months down here) and we really did experience the beginning of the heatwave.

After Marseille, I travelled to a large fishing port called Sanary-sur-Mer, which lies further to the south of France and therefore closer to the Mediterranean Sea. It's really a gorgeous place with over 310 days of heat/sun per year, totaly inverse to the UK where we have 310 days of constant rain throughout the year. We even had snow/hail/torrential rain this July!!!

I've been staying here a while, visiting some local Provençal towns/villages and sunbathing naked all casual and that. It was a great experience, although now i'm a little bit sunburnt on my back and my forehead. Not cool......
Here's some pictures of the town and the neighbouring beaches blah blah:

Sanary-sur-mer view over the port with palm trees and boats and all manner of pretty things

There's a night market here in Sanary - where you can buy local produce like soap, herbs, lavender and bottles of overpriced pastis
Le Lavandou beaches

There's a whole lot of totally bollock naked people sunbathing down there haha

This one's just for my mum and sister - So jealous of me being so close to St Tropez

And finally....a picture of the local drink pastis with a carafe of water in the background to dilute it to taste. It's basically aniseed liquer by Ricard or 51 which is great to drink allll day long. Drinking pastis is my new favourite hobby.

So that's about it from me until I finally arrive in Aix-en-Provence 2 and a half weeks later than when I left Newcastle, UK. Hopefully it won't be too scary an experience to move into halls and work out the bloody university administrative system.....

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