Oh. Here’s some fun. I wrote this whole entire post, decided to come back to it later to do a few edits, and somehow deleted it in the meantime.
How character-building. Let’s try again.
I kind of blew it this day. I promise the next two will make up for this minor dud.
I had been looking forward to spending several hours wandering around Aix before catching my bus for Marseille. I’d had good luck the previous night in stumbling upon the wonderful Christmas market, and between the charming downtown and the big, forested hills just outside the city, it looked like I would find plenty to do.
Things started promisingly enough. I went downtown and blooted around a bit through the picturesquely winding streets. I stumbled upon the remarkable sculpture garden in the mausolée Joseph-Sec, depicting dramatic biblical moments that mostly involved people in flowing robes meeting gruesome ends at the hands of other people in flowing robes. A little ways up the street, I found Paul Cézanne’s studio. As ever, I was too cheap to pay the admission rate, but I had a little look around the pretty grounds before my eyes started to wander toward the nearby hills.
Here’s where I went wrong: Instead of doing any sort of normal research to find out where I might find adventure in the countryside immediately surrounding the city (or even to find out if there was indeed adventure in the offing out there), I made the mistake of just asking Google Maps for a route into the hills. This wouldn’t be the last time Maps would lead me astray, incidentally…But it showed me a route that wound through suburban Aix before heading up a nice big topographical feature that I imagine would have afforded lovely views if I had ever made it up there.
After what felt like hours of stomping through the most boring residential streets in the whole wide world, I found myself emerging at last into a bit of pretty-ish countryside of the type that I’d been walking through for the past few days. Okay, good sign. I stopped and snapped a photo of a ruined building, and the spring was just returning to my step as I turned to continue along my way. That’s when a car pulled up and a nice man gently informed me that I was trespassing on private property and could I please return whence I’d come. There was nowhere else for me to go, so I turned around and walked all the way back into the city, and that was my morning.
Once back downtown, I followed my nose to a lovely little café (called Fanny’s – not sure how I remembered that one…) and ate a delicious lunch that entirely made up for the rotten morning. Boeuf aux carrottes, couscous, salad, red wine, and an unobstructed view of some handsome Frenchmen – that’s all it takes to cheer me right up, it turns out.
I took one last look at the Christmas market and hopped on a bus for Marseille. It’s a shame I didn’t have a chance to get more out of Aix, because it seems like such a beautiful town, with awesome mountain adventures nearby and everything. Next time!!
I arrived in Marseille late in the afternoon. I threw my stuff down in my AirBnB and headed straight back out, eager to make my way down to the sea in time to watch the sunset.
After getting mildly lost – nothing serious – I found the Old Port, just in time to watch the sun’s dying rays fade into deep blue. It was a remarkable spot for this, in fact – I was surrounded to my left and right by probably 3 dozen people reverently watching the same spectacle, while directly behind us, terrible renditions of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and White Christmas were being piped over loudspeakers.
I had stumbled upon another Christmas market. It was enormous, with a big, bright ferris wheel towering overhead, and row upon row of festive kiosks. A few blocks away, I found the santon market, which is so big that it is held apart from the main Christmas market. It’s also the oldest of its kind in France, and I of course reasoned myself into buying yet more santons for my poor family.
Nursing a gentle buzz from the ubiquitous hot Christmas wine, I ended my evening by stocking up on groceries, because I would be spending the next two days walking through the Calanques from Marseille to Cassis. This would be the last hurrah of my walking adventures, and I had certainly saved the most spectacular for last…