I have probably taken fifteen different routes to school, but there are three main routes that I take regularly. The first is very much “as the crow flies,” and I use this route when I’m running late or need to get to town in a hurry. My second route is my favorite because it takes me through les marches (the markets).
Every Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday, the markets set up outside the Palais du Justice and L’glise de St. Madeleine. Fruit and vegetable booths stand outside the church, the antiques and collectibles market is outside the Palais du Justice, and clothing stands are around the corner. The markets make for a really nice walk, because there are a lot of people in the area and plenty to look at.
The market has every scent imaginable: the crispness of roasting garlic, the scents of lavender, perfumes and spices, and the earthy aroma of vegetables in the morning sun. I believe that there is no better way to start the morning than a stroll through the town, where one can hear the hustle and bustle of people.
There aren’t many open air markets in the United States—everybody goes everywhere by car, and we lose a lot when we travel in this fashion. I think that a lot more people would walk in the States if there were places like Aix-en-Provence to walk through. There is always something to look at here; there is always a shop window, a stand, or a building worth looking at ahead of you that you may even forget that you were walking. I like the feeling that I am engaged with the world and the people around me as I walk to school through the markets.
The third way is a route I take with my friend Alexis when we get coffee in the mornings on Mondays and Wednesdays. I meet up with her at a bus stop, and then we walk to our favorite café. After an hour or two of talking, we head off to attend to our daily businesses.
The apartment I live in is about a six-minute walk from the center of the city. I live with a married couple, Christine and Philippe, and one other student, Joshua. I really enjoy living with them. Philippe speaks only French and thus, I always have somebody to speak French with. Chris is English and we get along well. I typically get up early (despite my late start classes), so I see her in the mornings while she gets ready for work.
I couldn’t be happier with my personal room! I have a double bed, which is a real treat. Words could not express my excitement when I first learned that I would have such a big bed. As a big guy who has always slept in a narrow bed, this is quite the luxury.
Living here isn’t too different from back in the US. I come home from school, settle myself in the kitchen with a drink, and talk about whatever comes up with whomever is in the kitchen with me. This isn’t much of a change from how I normally live.
Luckily for me, I didn’t forget to pack anything significant, nor did I over-pack. My biggest regret was my last-minute decision to pack my dress slacks instead of my corduroy pants. This has proved to be my biggest blunder, and the cause of much anguish and sorrow on my part (to be entirely melodramatic about it)! I have yet to wear the slacks, while I have repeatedly found myself wanting to wear my corduroys. Quelle catastrophe!
When I realized the gravity of my mistake, I checked the local thrift shops to see if they had any similar pants. They actually didn’t have any pants long enough to fit me, so now I’m stuck with a pair of pants that I don’t have reason to wear that will be a constant reminder of my mistake.