We left our hostel in Marseille early so that we could get to the station and be ready by 8 am, when our train left for Aix-en-Provence, so we had an early start to our day. Once we arrived in Aix, we checked with the train station, a hotel we passed, and the tourist office, but no one would hold our bags for us so we had to walk around the city with 40 pounds attached to our shoulders. While my friend has a hiking backpack, I have a duffel bag with no rolling wheels, or backpack abilities, so I switched back and forth carrying the bag on opposite shoulders while my back and shoulders felt like they were going to fall off. So, unfortunately, that put a huge damper on this short day trip that we took. But despite the frequent stops and complaints of pain, we were able to enjoy the beauties which were bestowed upon us in the City of a Million Fountains.
To give you an idea of what Aix-en-Provence is like, here are a few quick stats about the city:
1) Aix is famous for their one million fountains
2) Aix is in the Côte d’Azur region of France, which is in the southern part of France
3) We were able to walk completely around the city in about 2 hours
The city of Aix is very small, and I think we were able to completely explore almost every street in it within the 5 hours that we were there. As promised, there were a great deal of fountains, cool looking buildings, and a farmers market full of great food.
We ran across a farmers market right next to the city’s Hôtel de Ville, and we bought a bunch of fresh food for our lunch and then ate it all picnic style sitting outside of the Hôtel de Ville, and right next to a fountain (of course). We bought lavender honey, olives, sundried tomatoes, olive bread, goat cheese with parsley and garlic in it, strawberries and raspberries, and then had a nice little picnic. We already had the wine because my friend had bought it in Lyon and decided to bring it along just for this occasion, and it was amazing! All the actual French people looked at us strangely because we were sitting on the ground, but all of the tourists were super jealous.
Right next to the university was a huge, very tall, very gothic, church which did not have a plaque in front of it, so I had to look up its name and when it was built. I discovered that the name is “Cathédrale Saint-Sauveur d’Aix” or just simply “Aix’s Cathedral”. It was built upon the original Roman forum, and was built in the 12th century. There are three different types of architecture in the building, and because of that (and its age), France declared that it is a national monument. On a much less historic note, there were two guys doing ridiculous poses very seriously in front of the church as an old woman watched them from outside of her window. Obviously, after those guys left and the woman went back inside of her apartment, we imitated all of their dumb poses in front of the church.
We then ended our trip by looking at this monument to workers, which was built after the French Revolution, and then walked over to what we thought were going to be reminants of the Roman baths, but instead just turned out to be a luxury hotel named after the Roman baths which used to be there.
We decided that we wanted to depart earlier than our previously selected time, so we went to the train station and had an awkward conversation with the man working there while he talked really fast. However, we did eventually get a earlier train, and got to Avignon about three hours before we had originally planned with an hour break being spent in the Marseille train station. Luckily, the Marseille train station has free wifi, so the time passed very quickly (and that’s where I wrote the blog about Marseille! Hurray!).
Avignon is a medieval city in the French countryside, which is pretty small and only about an hour north of Aix. The city itself is known for the Palais des Papes, but even after being there, I’m still not exactly sure what it is. I have to remember to google that later…but it is also known for lavender and being an overall quaint town.
Once we got to Avignon, we found the hostel really easily because it is already a small city and the hostel is on the biggest street in the city (full disclosure: it’s not that big of a street). Our hostel is called Pop’ Hostel (yes, with the random apostrophe. I don’t know why it’s there either) and it was AMAZING and we loved every second of the time we spent there, which, unfortunately, wasn’t much time. The entire hostel was very modern, had nice beds and had a bunch of storage space for our stuff. Also, the Internet was super fast, which is sadly very rare for hostels. And last but not least, it had a super nice breakfast for only five euros. We got a hot drink of choice (obviously I got a macchiato) along with a croissant and three pieces of bread with jam. And butter. Always with butter, while in France.
Aaaaaanyway, after we checked into the hostel we immediately rewarded ourselves for surviving Aix with some ice cream at one of the many stores on the Main Street of town, and ventured off to go look at the sights. And then bought some more ice cream about ten minutes after finishing the first cone…………..
Since Avignon is a small city, almost everything is in the same place, so we did not have to walk very far before we reach the city’s Hôtel de Ville and theatre, both of which were built after the French Revolution. (Stay tuned for another update on the Hôtel de Ville later in this post…hehe).
We then walked towards the Palais des Papes and the huge church that is in the city with a huge golden Mary on top. In front of the Palais, we saw a bunch of people singing/chanting and dancing in a circle. We at first thought it was a cult, but it turned out to be just a bunch of Catholics singing in French in honor of the Sabbath.
We then attempted to go into the Palais des Papes, but it was 15€ and I had already been so we decided to skip that and go into the church instead. Inside the church there were a bunch of relics from saints, and my friend explained a lot of the stuff that was in there to me because she’s catholic. It turns out that every church has hidden (or not so hidden) representations of the stations of the cross (when Jesus carried the cross on his back through the streets of Jerusalem). Now that I’ve told you that you will literally see it everywhere! Except not because you’re probably reading this in America and there isn’t a church on every corner there.
We then moved onto a park which is next to the church and overlooks the Rhône river (which is in Lyon as well!) and saw the Bridge to Nowhere. Apparently it was started by a shepherd who was also a saint (I read the sign and it was in French soooo) but then it ran out of funding so now there is literally just a bridge that goes halfway over the water. Cool. I also tried to take a photo of me being cool and sitting in front of the Rhône and the wine grapes they were growing, but the wind decided to make that really difficult instead.
Then we found a pretty garden! I took a picture of some of the flowers and a security guard asked me if I had ever seen flowers before. It’s just been so long!!! Spring is finally here!!! **tears**
The next, and our final day, we snuck into the Hôtel de Ville and took lots of pictures. Well…I don’t think we actually snuck in, but we were the only ones upstairs, and there were a bunch of great photos which took place.
After we gained free entry to Hôtel de Ville, we tried our luck at sneaking onto the bridge….but we couldn’t. So instead we tried to find other ways onto the bridge that didn’t include walking through the guarded door to the bridge….but we couldn’t. So instead we just took pictures of the bridge and us hanging out near medieval things. And then ate more ice cream!
Unfortunately, our time in Avignon had come to an end just as the howling winds were letting up ): but our spring break was far from finished! We still had Nice, Monaco and Krakow to see, so we weren’t letting up yet. We then took a 4.5 hour train ride to Nice from Avignon, where I spent most of the time reading The Great Gatsby and also freaking out about the cloudy skies. I was really not a happy camper while on the train because it was raining the whole time and I was really mad that I hadn’t brought any clothes for that weather and that I had literally expected the exact opposite out of the weather. Luckily, the skies cleared on our second day in Nice but more on that in its own blog post.
Also, a random side note before I end this post, cicadas are a huge thing in Avignon….don’t believe me? Check out these souvenirs.
Even though the weather was still windy, and we had to carry our bags around in Aux, I am really glad that we went to go see this part of France. It truly is beautiful, and is completely different than the “big city” life that we both live in Lyon. Seeing the smaller towns was very cool, and if nothing else, made me appreciate living in a big city (;
I hope you enjoyed the pictures and my stories! Stay tuned soon for my updates on Nice, Monaco and Krakow (my other stops before I return to Lyon to do some more “school stuff”; hahaha, what’s that?).