Friday, 31 August 2012


Aix is lovely, quite a mid-sized city with enough to see for months and months ahead but not as intimidating as Marseille; although that being said I really haven't seen too much of Aix itself yet, but more of the student residences and some of the shopping areas. It seems perfectly lovely from here.

I'm living in Cuques halls in Aix en Provence, which is just on the south side of Aix and it's been nice so far. My room is pretty basic and relatively small, although I do have my own fridge, corner washroom with a sink and....a bidet. So continental. I've read loads of blogs about Cuques and how manky it is: It really does depend what sort of room you get, there are renovated studio apartments or single bed rooms with shared facilities. Sharing toilets, showers and the kitchen isn't ideal by any means but I think after a while anyone would get used to it

In all fairness, I wouldn't care how trashed or fucking run-into-the-ground the place was, it costs 155€/month, which for Aix is probably the cheapest you will ever find a room. That works out to be around £120, which then translates to around £30 a week. That's fucking cheap. And that's without the CAF government subsidising/benefits for students and those without an income.
I honestly challenge you to find somewhere in Provence that costs so little, but is in such a beautiful city......most T1 studio apartments here start from 400€ bare minimum and then they were just as shabby as halls can be.

I've been meeting a hell of a lot of really nice people from here too, and in fact the first night I was here I was invited straight out to 'la colline': the little hill next to halls to drink and get brutally fucked up with pastis. I didn't have any energy after travelling from Sanary, via Marseille and via getting lost in Aix with a bag of fucking everything with me, but it was an awesome night. We ended up getting 'forcibly removed' for creating too much noise so we went to someone's apartment and danced to Call Me Maybe all night long. I still cannot for the life of me even remember whose apartment that was. I was ofc enormously drunk....

I'm finding it quite hard to understand everything in a conversation, but that's mostly down to the speed and my lack of vocabulary. I've been taking in quite a lot of the local patois provençal and really familiar language which we were never taught at school: dégun, tarpin, dégueulasse etc etc. By the end of the year I am determined to sound like a local and not like some dodgy Englishman who has just taken up French or so.

Anyways, I haven't taken any photos of Aix and stuff yet because i've been too busy, but I'm gonna go on a long wander of the town soon enough and hopefully see as much of the beautiful provençal city as  possible.

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.....

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Forget romance, Paris is darker than you think

 From my arrival in Paris I have seen as many sex shops as cute boutique cafés and restaurants and as many drunk French guys falling out of back alley bars and closet alcoholics drinking all the night through at the Sacre Coeur as i've seen couples romancing each other over a bottle of champagne or decent wine in upmarket street bars and restaurants.

Love in Paris isn't a lie, but it's not an epidemic like Hollywood makes it out to be.

I'm staying the best hostel so far in my travels; this place is the meeting place of the world. We have a large courtyard as communal area decked out with graffiti of Dali and other artsy stuff.

So i've been hanging out with a lot of awesome travellers, coming from every corner of the world looking for a slice of Paris. An awesome set of friends from New York, Sam and Liam as well as  whole heap of Dutch guys/girls and some English girls too. I've met an artsy Russian girl who smokes a lot of everything, Polish guys who hate art and a Turkish guy who was drunkenly talking about people in his area having sex with donkeys. Madness.....

I'm not really gonna post too much of the tourist tat photos that I have.....simply because everyone has seen the bloody Eiffel Tower, but I might add a small collection of photos that I like for you all to see. I've been pretty much everywhere and today is my last day. I've been so far drunk and flying high under the Eiffel Tower, right around the Sacre Coeur and Montmartre...down the Champs Elyseé to the Tuilieries and down the Seine, the artsy fartsy Pompidou Centre and today i'm going to go to the Père Lachaise cemetery to make love to Oscar Wilde's grave.

Here's me with a fucking awesome car in the Mercedes-Benz store

drunk on the Sacre-Coeur at 3am with a whole bunch of the travellers and some random dude who fell asleep. The view from this hill is the most spectacular view of Paris at night, by far.

So from Paris, i'm moving to Marseille for two nights and then on to Cannes, unless I find an extremely cheap hostel like this one in Marseille......i'm also getting really fucking nervous about moving to Aix. I guess that's just normal before starting at a new school or, in this case, a new university.

I'm having an awesome time though. I miss home, but not for bad reasons.

Thursday, 16 August 2012

Day One, and London: The most colourfully hedonistic capital city in the world

I always thought that i'd be as solid as a rock when leaving Newcastle, my hometown, when travelling away on my own. Solid as a rock.... but I must admit I was a bit terrified when I left.

My mam and sister came to wave me off at the station and to fill me full of fear for the future and to hug me so hard I now have to book myself in for shiatsu therapy with a hot masseur OF COURSE.
That was without the rucksack too; my bag is so big that I could probably fit 4 small folded children inside, and so heavy and expertly filled too that I get suspicious looks when i'm on the Tube. Which sounds worse than it is. Everyone's suspicious on the Tube....I smiled at a woman and she looked back down at her Evening Standard, most likely out of total fear of a person actually smiling for once.

Part one of my new life has so far been brilliant though. I'm staying in London for the next few days with a friend and it's been great. Spent a night in Soho getting remarkably drunk and, for once, not being accosted by prostitutes like the last time I was in London.

Me and a friend were, however, accosted by a homosexual business man who offered us cocaine in a bar. When asked what he does for a living he actually replied "I live in Mayfair, that's just what I do". I love rich people.

Also, been to the Science Museum in South Kensington to look at the excellent Alan Turing exhibition and to play with alllll the things. I've done allll the other stuff too, but I can't be arsed to list it out.

Next time I post I'll likely be in Paris, living it up with the Frenchies.

Sunday, 12 August 2012

pre-emigration jitters.

So it's a dreary Sunday afternoon and I'm about as nervous as a Mexican drug mule in Dover. I really don't have much to write about since the only thing I've been doing since my last post is getting drunk, enjoying my last few days in Newcastle with friends and worrying about everything. I haven't even packed yet, which is the worst thing, as I really don't know how much stuff I need or can physically take with me, since I'm travelling for almost 2 weeks before I actually finally settle down in Aix (see previous post for travel details). 

That's great and all, but if I break my back in Provence I don't have the right health insurance to cover my own insufferable stupidity. 

It's funny though, I've bought a bottle of wine for the train down to London on Tuesday and I've planned a night out in Soho getting our gay on, but I haven't even began to pack 6 month's worth of my life into one bag.......

Tuesday, 7 August 2012

This is what i'm doing.

The life of a tourist revolves, seemingly, around trying to find the most beautiful building, or piece of art, or vista in any one given place and Instagramming that shit into the ground, sucking the life out if it and turning it into cliché, forever being listed as "Top 10 Places to Wear Bermudas, Flip Flops and Take your Screaming, Spoilt Children to 'Show Them the World'".

Even in the cold North, where you wouldn't even expect tourists to bother visiting, dodging them and the photographic cross-fire they create should be considered Olympic. I dare you, just dare you to accidentally include me into your family album when i'm hungover, looking like shit and on the way to the pub (again). Go on. Do it.

But all of this pent-up, repressed hatred for tourism in my mind has taken one massive(ly) hilarious U-turn. While in Newcastle hungover, looking like shit and on the way to the pub to meet a man (wink wink nudge nudge), and to meet my favourite barman who knows what I want before I do, I was asked by a lovely little Korean family to take a photo of them on their walks through Newcastle. This would normally annoy me and I would cringe a little inside, but this time I was very happily amused. I was walking through this alleyway (shown in the image below). Not very picturesque, right? Exactly. The Tyneside Cinema is a local landmark though, a great place to hangout and something of a legend so I wouldn't have been surprised if they wanted that in the background. Nope.

They wanted a photo of them just standing in this alleyway together next to the only other things there: a few overflowing bins and the side of an H&M.

I love this shit. 

They got their photo of course. Even with a smile! It made me think, over my pint-and-hot man-date, what tourism really is.
Although I will be sharing some of my snaps, I won't be posing in front of monuments too much, thankfully. You don't wanna see me in shorts anyways...

I really like finding the dark underbelly of cities and the world. Sex shops in Paris and 'kinky' clubs in the 'most romantic city in the world' and German electro clubs with naked men (however ugly) just wandering around all casual; not so far off the beaten track that there's nothing to see, but somewhere dark enough to get lost for just a little while....

Anyways, this blog post was supposed to be me detailing my (additional) travel plans, but I somehow got off course with my passion for bad things. After arriving in Marseille on the 23rd August I will be:
  • staying in a hostel in Marseille for a night, and most likely exploring the nightlife with any other backpackers who are game.
  • Travelling to Toulon for the morning of the 24th, and then head off to Cannes for the late evening.
  • Stay the night in Cannes and head to the beach for the day (25th). Maybe go be a touristy twat if I can be arsed. Cannes again.
  • Nice the next morning after checking out. Heading to have the best swordfish I've ever had, again. Might stay the night, depends on prices.
  • Next day - Monaco (27th) and up to Grasse. Smallish places, so it shouldn't be too hard to explore them all. Night in Grasse maybe, or Nice again. Haven't decided yet. (I'm not good at plans)
  • Down to Sainte-Maxime and getting a chartered boat over to ST TROPEZ BITCHEZZZ. Back to Marseille for the evening.
  • Finally heading to Aix-en-Provence!
La France, j'arrive tout de suite!

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