Summer in Aix (And Beyond!) - Part 1

Summer in Aix (and the surrounding Provence region) has been HOT but beautiful. There’s been so much going on around town and the sunlight seems to last forever. Because of that, we’ve been able to do many more trips and have more adventures than when we first moved here. 

The first weekend in June, we took a short trip to Marseille and explored some of the port area. It was an important step towards alleviating our negative feelings of the area from prior trips. We went to a restaurant that one of my classmates worked at (takoyaki and ramen!) and even toured a soap factory! I was excited about a cupcake restaurant we went to because it had a purple toilet. It’s the little things in life.

We took a couple trips to beaches and enjoyed getting to swim in the Mediterranean. I cat-sit a really sweet little cat named Timothy for a few weeks and really enjoyed that. He was a good little kitty and so handsome. We also celebrated Fête de la Musique on the first night of summer. All over France, musicians play music in the streets all night. It was so fun. The sun was in the sky until almost 10 p.m. and Aix was full of people and different types of music everywhere you turned. It was such a cool way to officially welcome summer.

In July, we visited Cassis and had a great time walking around. The beach there was rocky, but beautiful. There was a lot of delicious seafood and gelato all through the port. We walked out to a lighthouse and watched people jump off a cliff into the ocean.

Later that month, we loaded a ton of interns, post-docs and ITER staff into three separate cars and drove out to see the lavender fields. It was gorgeous and smelled amazing. The sheer amount of lavender fields was impressive, in places it seemed like the entire landscape was nothing but purple. Next to one of the fields was also a field of sunflowers so we had fun looking at all of those too. When we were finished marveling at the fields we all piled back into our respective cars and drove to our final destination: Gorges du Verdon! We all rented kayaks and spent an hour exploring the beautiful gorge and the incredible turquoise colored water. It was a magical place, like something out of a movie. After kayaking, we swam a bit in the lake, grabbed a snack and then headed back home. It was a great trip and we definitely want to go back!

At the end of July, my cousin Rebecca joined us for two weeks. She had been in Valencia, Spain for a study abroad program and since we live in France, now it made perfect sense to come visit us and do some traveling before starting back at NCSU. While we were in Aix, we checked out all the usual sights: art museums, the markets, delicious restaurants.

We decided to visit Rome and Paris while she was here, so each weekend we loaded up and went to visit a new city!

I have been to Rome but it was about 10 years ago, so I was excited to re-visit it (and be able to drink wine!) We ate so much pizza and pasta and were very happy. I was surprised by how many people in Rome immediately spoke to us in English compared to the people we interact with in Aix. 

Our first full day we spent at the Vatican City. I was able to score us some early morning tickets, meaning we didn’t have to wait in a long line to get in AND we had a tour guide. The Vatican City is huge and it honestly felt like we were being rushed through what felt like hundreds of different art museums and galleries. We were able to slow down when we reached the Sistine Chapel and it was as incredible as I remember it being. There’s so much more to look at in there than you realize. We weren’t allowed to take photos, but I’m sure there’s a 360-degree view somewhere on the internet. One of the cooler moments while we were in the Sistine Chapel was a moment of prayer held with everyone in the room. The prayer was in Latin, so I didn’t understand what they were saying, but it felt like a really special moment either way.

When we finally made it to St. Peter’s Basilica we were pretty exhausted but there was even more to see! Everything in the basilica is made to last forever, so even the paintings were actually mosaics! The stones used were so small, they looked like oil paintings from far away. When our tour ended, we decided to go see the catacombs under the basilica. It was really interesting to see the old tombs, as well as some of the original foundation of the church that was there before the basilica.

Later that night, we made our way to the Trevi Fountain and fought through the crowds to throw our coins in the fountain. I did it last time I was in Rome and returned, so it obviously works!

Our second day we spent exploring the Colosseum and the Roman Forum. It was incredibly hot that day, but luckily there were water fountains everywhere so you could refill your bottles frequently. It was wild to think about how old the Colosseum is and the fact that it’s still standing. I was amazed that people were still allowed to go up the stairs and explore the different levels. There were a lot of different buildings and ruins to see in the Roman Forum including an ancient temple with gorgeous frescos and art on the inside.

We also saw the Spanish Steps and went up about half-way. There were a lot of steps! While we were near the steps, we walked around the street looking at all the super expensive stores. It was fun to imagine being able to afford some of the items and seeing the people walking around with giant Dior and Chanel bags.

This update is jam packed with so many photos, that I’m actually going to have to make a part two! So, keep an eye out for part two of our summertime adventures soon! I can’t wait to share our photos from Paris. It was a really great trip.

You can read Part 2 of our Summer blog update here.