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Archive for the ‘Travel’ Category

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Cheap-en-Provence

You’ve already gotten a brief introduction to the small-town charm espoused (and subsequently marketed) in Aix-en-Provence. It is exactly what you’d expect a French town to be, with it’s narrow, winding streets, innumerable fountains and plethora of delicious-smelling bakeries. Which is precisely why the place is overrun with foreigners, come to experience a “quintessential France” while still being able to shop at American Apparel.

I take the bus to Aix every weekend to give conversation lessons at the English bookstore (generating a firmly negative income as I spend my class earnings immediately on books and scones), but I rarely visit Aix outside of the well-traveled route from the bus station to the bookstore and back. So recently, I decided it was high time to get around to that, and in a way that didn’t make me absolutely poor. It was a great success, a perfect way to spend a sunny spring day in Provence. And, in the spirit of my personal hero, I accomplished the whole day on less than 10€ (not including the copy of The Three Musketeers that I weakly bought at the bookstore). (more…)

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Crossroads

As the dark road extended ahead of us, winding between mountains and cliffsides, the time and distance spent on our journey had begun to weigh on us. With our GPS giving us very confusing directions to our hostel, we began to rethink the wisdom of making Nice our final destination. From the looks of things, Carnaval events for the night were more or less finished by the time we entered downtown, and the hostel was nowhere to be found. Finally, on our third trip up and down a hill (the manual transmission now, for the most part, tamed), we spotted a gate between two stone walls, pulled into a “parking lot” – around 15 cars crammed end to end in a small garden in a way that could not have been safe – and made our way to reception. (more…)

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The Road Ahead

Mediterranean Profiles Part the First

I, like most people, used to associate road trips with stunningly boring hours spent staring at tarmac on the highway, alternately napping in the passenger’s seat and shouting along to dance music and 80s standards to keep myself occupied. But once you toss the notion that you need to get where you’re going as fast as possible, you can get off the bland (And expensive! 14€ tolls? No thank you!) autoroute where people get mad because even when you floor it on your cheap rented Opel, it won’t do more than 120 km/hr and the speed limit is 130. (more…)

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In late February 2011, I learned that C, a friend I had barely seen since high school, was roving around Europe and was looking to see some South of France. Always eager to be the guide, I began to plan a train itinerary through the history and landscape of Provence, taking us through Arles, Avignon, and Montpellier, where we would get to soak in some Roman ruins and typical French student nightlife.

Well, you know, ‘the best laid plans’ and stuff, because obviously none of that happened. What did in fact happen may have been cliche in all of the ways I’d been trying to avoid, but perhaps it ended up being just what I needed.

Over the next few days, I’m going to share a bit about the places we visited on what ended up being an epic 24-hour road trip across the French Riviera and back.

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Upon leaving Paris, my erstwhile home, I set out on an eastward course, landing in a place where I not only didn’t know the city at all, but where I couldn’t even speak the language. (I always feel guilty when this happens, when I don’t even really understand the structure of the language enough to string together the few words I do know. At least in Italian and Spanish, if I’ve got some nouns and verbs, I can make myself understood because I can figure out what order to put them in. German? Lost cause. Incidentally, I did get really good at saying Einschuldigung…but I digress.) (more…)

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Reflections on a capital city

I hate tourists. After a solid summer of pushing my way through Times Square at rush hour, everyone with a fanny pack and a huge camera is the enemy. When you live in a city, you outgrow its tourist tendencies, and if you’ve lived in a big city, any big city, really, the tourists, wherever you go, start to annoy you. (more…)

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