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Aix-en-Provence

A French kindred spirit?

semi-overcast 65 °F

How the heck am I to know? I was only there 4 1/2 days! Haha.

But what I can say is that it has been my favorite stop so far. Was it the colors of the buildings, the aesthetic of the streets, the size and seeming know-ability of the city centre? Mm, was it the sun that never hid its face from me in four days and colored the peak of Sainte-Victoire in the evenings? Was it the family that welcomed me so sincerely, helped me make my way to, through and out of Aix, or the friends that showed me around, a good time and a glimpse of their true affection for and commitment to each other?

Yes. For all these reasons I loved my time in Aix. My days mingled among sights, sounds, textures and values as if perceiving them by one sense. The sunlight was a musician playing a beautiful song with the hues of the cliffs, water, storefronts, streets. The rocks we climbed were the kind of goodness that doesn't come easily but that you love all the more for it. The conversations among friends, both those of which I could and couldn't understand the words, were the warmth of a fire and the strong hands of an old friend on your shoulder.

Oh man, to the people I met there, I will seem crazy for speaking in such ways. It is just a home they know so well. Perhaps there is nothing special there, nothing so magical, but to me it was beautiful and is at home in beautiful words.

The nuts and bolts of the days included visiting and enjoying the views from the dam near Sainte-Victoire, the mountainous muse of Paul Cézanne, and the next day climbing it. A crazy climb using chains at times and feeling like I may die if I'm not careful more than once. We visited the Mediterranean in Cassis. Sat on the beach, waded in the cold water, and drove/climbed to the top of the highest cliff in France. I visited the city's outdoor markets with Isabelle- so fun and beautiful...the markets and Isabelle, of course. All year 'round on Saturday, Tuesday and Thursday there are markets with flowers (tons), produce, fresh fish and seafood, antiques, clothes, jewelry and lots more. So awesome. The days were good. And the nights were so good too. Every night we went out until at least 3 and as late as 5am! Everyone was back in town for holidays and making the most of it. We always started at The Brigand to meet up with everyone and drink Pastis (the local alcohol that is the cheapest but not many people like and that made me cool because I did like it :). Then there was something to do after... another bar, dancing at the discothèque, a little jamming for a birthday. All so great but would have been, dare I say, nothing without good people like Aurélien, my exceptional host, Anthony, Alexandre, Adelaide and others (whose names do not all start with "A") who spoke English with me, taught me the ways and words of France, waited for my out-of-shape, American a$$ to get up the mountain and made me feel totally at home.

A return to Aix is undoubtedly in my future one day but for now I am in Perugia, Italy and taking the day to relax. Yesterday I took 5 trains from Aix to Nice to Ventimiglia to Milan to Florence to Perugia in 13 hours. It was similar to my way from Switzerland to Aix which was also 5 trains (Heerbrugg to St. Gallen to Geneva to Lyon to Avignon to Aix) in 14 hours. That's what happens when you're visiting obscure towns all over Europe!

I am feeling a little saturated these days. I'm not sure how much more I can absorb. And I worry about being in a place and not having any capacity to receive it. I think my plans may be altered a bit in the coming weeks but for the best, I think. The balance between being a free bird and being responsible to my kind and expecting hosts is a careful one to strike.

I suddenly worried the other day that all of my thinking, musing, analyzing, figuring was spent staring at myself. Who I am. My contribution. My spirit. My future. I am contradicting and negating myself if I say the answers to those things are about loving others. But then I read again a kind letter from a friend and realized that just because the time in my head is spent with and for myself, my life as a whole doesn't have to be and isn't necessarily. The time thinking about myself is meant to inform the time that is for others and benefit it by cultivating health, deliberateness, purpose, effectiveness, sincerity. Hopefully it is always a means to an end that is outwardly turned, and the problem only comes when it is the end itself at the expense or prohibition of the other.

I think.

In the surrealism of this time and a gratefulness for life and the things the world has afforded me, much love and e-bisous.

Posted by JulesCV 08:35 Archived in France

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I am heading to Aix in June--my first time. Where did you sleep? Did you go to any other towns in Provence?

by teethetrav

"The time thinking about myself is meant to inform the time that is for others and benefit it by cultivating health, deliberateness, purpose, effectiveness, sincerity."

I, personally, have mulled over a similar balance-struggle in recent months/years. I have settled on a mostly satisfying train of thought: self-awareness is essential to the awareness, consciousness, and consideration of others, and to selflessness as a whole. To say you must help yourself before you help others is a cliche little hole, but I believe the sentiment to be true: being healthy in yourself fosters the way you influence those around you.

I have always felt as though so much of your beauty radiated from your candid honesty about each situation and encounter you faced. The consistant desire and urge to understand and grow is a contagious movement, as so wonderfully displayed by your blog here.

Be Strong, Carry On
(as they say..)

-Em

by emjstout

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