Michael and Mom visit France!
It was such an amazing experience to have MIchael and Mom visit me in France for Michael’s Spring Break! While I went to my 2 days of classes for the week, Michael and Mom enjoyed Paris. I was very excited that they loved the city so much and impressed that they even dared to bike ride around it (something my host mom warned me never to do!).
They arrived in Aix Tuesday evening, somehow managing to navigate from the TGV to the bus to the station in aix without any french! We went out to a delicious dinner at this Italian restaurant I had wine tasted at with my school. The food (especially the dessert and wine) was fabulous. We had a leisurely 3 hour european style meal and finished around 11pm…just in time for Mom to head back to the hotel and Michael and I to hit the bars. We met up with some of my friends at one of my favorite pubs and Michael got to order his first (and last for at least a few years) legal beer! It was neat to have him meet all my friends who we kept repeatedly seeing walking around Aix the next couple of days. Per usual, they were blown away by the fact that he’s my younger brother.
Wednesday we started our day out right with crepes from my favorite crepe stand and toured around the city. I showed them my school (not very big, as they can attest), where all the local students study, as well as the shopping area (not hard to miss, it’s basically the whole town). Michael was patient as Mom and I shopped and fortunately discovered a new sandwich obsession…Paul. We walked to Cézanne’s studio and got to see the room and garden exactly as he left it. I have to write a report on Cézanne and his work so it was great for me to see! We walked up a hill a little further and were even able to see his motif, Mt. St. Victoire! We met up with my girlfriends for a mid-afternoon drink of rosé wine, the gem of Aix. I was so happy everyone got along so well and Mom was able to put faces to all the names I’ve been telling her about! Michael even got some great college advice!
For dinner we ate with my host family! My host mom made ratatouille, a local dish. It was very confusing for me to try and hold conversations in both french and english and I kept speaking French to mom and English to my host family. I think it might have been a bit boring for mom and michael considering they could understand very little but they got to meet everyone and I have never seen my host mom try to speak so much English!
The next morning we left for the Gorges du Verdon. It’s a very touristy place during the summer and known as the Grand Canyon of France. It’s about an hour and a half away from Aix but the specific location of our hotel was not able to be found by GPS. It was overall an extremely “small town in the south of france” experience. An old man ran the beautiful villa hotel in the middle of the country side and we got lost a few times trying to find it ourselves. In town, we sipped cafés and Michael and I hiked to a church on the top of a hill. That night we had a very traditional “haute provençal” dinner. It was amazing! We had 3 courses with “bouche mains” (finger food) in between each course. Of course, these small dishes turned out to be fois gros much to Michael’s dismay. It was my first time trying this as well and I was not surprised I didn’t like it. The French will literally eat anything, I really think it could have been worse!
The next morning we got to go rock climbing, something the South of France and the Gorges are particularly known for. It’s amazing how things like that work in France. We did not have to sign a single liability waiver or demonstrate our ability. The man trustingly let me belay him as he set up our course and then basically let us go at it. It was difficult especially because the rock was very rough and hurt our hands, much different than the last time I climbed. The views from the top of the lake were incredible if you dared to look! Michael was so bold as to take pictures from the top! Michael was a good enough climber that our instructor let him lead climb (as in he was belayed from below and essentially hooking himself into the rock as he went). This is something that one needs multiple certifications to do in the US so it was a crazy opportunity for Michael and he did amazing. Somehow mom was able to watch without fearing for his life too much. We also go to repel down from the top which was a wild experience! Scary at first but once you trust the rope it is very fun!
We spent the rest of the day driving around the lake and the gorge and going on small excursions to get great views. The sediment and algae in the water are what make it that fantastic turquoise and looking at the huge cliffs around us never got old. It was truly one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen!
Our trip ended back in Paris before Mom and Michael headed home and I headed off for my actual Spring Break. I was very sad to part ways after such a fabulous week but very grateful for the time we had together!! I’m expecting mom and michael to act as messengers and tell you the reality of my situation in Aix. For one thing, mom said she expected my room to be much larger from all of our video chats. Things like that you can only really understand once you’ve been here!