Dear Everyone,

It is now Saturday morning and I’m back in Aix-en-Provence, staying in an apartment of a friend. I belonged to a group (when I lived in Aix) called the Anglo American Group of Provence and they have coffees twice a week, so I dropped in on one when I was here in February. I met this woman with an apartment and she was open to me renting it from time to time. So through the wonder of email, I am here for three nights and very comfortable.

After my last entry, we had dinner in Aix with Bernadette from the Office of Tourism. Another amazing dinner and she is lovely. I met her last February too and she arranged for me to have a free hotel. She feels like a friend and was surprised to see me, so that was fun.

Thursday, we went to Marseille, just 30 minutes from Aix, for a tour, lunch and dinner. Marseille is a fishing port, first of all, and our hotel looked out on the harbor where the boats come in each morning with their catches and set up tables and sell the fish right there. It was amazing to watch it all happen and to know that I was witnessing something that has been going on for centuries. Marseille is also the oldest city in France because of its location and harbor.

We went to the most expensive restaurant on the harbor for bouillabasse–$100 per person, with six kinds of fish in a stew. It was good, but it turns out that the real story of this ‘fish stew’ was that the fishermen had to use up the fish that were either damaged or the ones that they couldn’t sell, so they created this stew out of them. It has evolved into much more than that now.

The basilica on the top of the hill was exquisite with inlaid gold and glass and tiles in frescos on the walls and ceiling. The Mediterranean looked so inviting, but I couldn’t just get our and jump in. I hope to before I leave though!

After one night in Marseille, I’m back in Aix for these three nights. I said goodbye to my group yesterday and got a ride with our bus driver to Aix. Then I went to the spa and was in heaven. A salt scrub, mud treatment and then massage sous affusion–the massage with the five shower heads and essential oils.  Ooh la la… I brought copies of my article (from my last visit, in Organic Spa) for the director and she was happy. I had sent her the link, but it is nice for them to have a hard copy of the story. I’m writing ‘Sensory Provence’ so will be able to include the spa for sure in that one.

There was a group of all the representatives from the Maison de la France offices around the world who were meeting in Marseille and they were all coming to Aix for a dinner last night, so I got included in that. I met up with them at the Mairie, the mayor’s office and then we walked to the restaurant.

It was really fun meeting people from all over the world and the mayor came with us, a woman who was charming and sweet. We all had to introduce ourselves to her, one at a time, in French, in front of the group, and I told her about how I’d lived in Aix in 2000 and she seemed pleased. It was kind of like getting called on in class! Whew!

After dinner, we all walked back to their bus and then I headed back to the apartment. I was walking down dark streets alone, but luckily, Aix is safe and there are lots of people around, so it went well.

Today, I’m going to the coffee then taking a local bus to a village to meet my friend Solange and go to a giant flea market in another tiny village. That will be fun.  At the dinner last night, I told a man from the tourist office that I needed a way to use wifi and he gave me his card and told me to introduce myself at the hotel next to my apartment and tell them that he said I could use their wifi, so here I am, another miracle on my list in France.  I just love to hear the sound of the emails going out!  With a mac, it sounds like a paper airplane flying.

I’ll send some photos of Marseille and more to come soon!
Sending love and hugs from Provence–and lots of magic!

Diane

'Fall in Provence' 2008

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