Yesterday 15/02, I went to my very first live performance in Aix. It was Mille et Une Nuits (1001 nights) written, directed and starred by Louise Moaty. It was a one-man (or woman) play accompanied by a band of four musicians. And... it's all in French. So, I have to admit with my limited ability in French, it was a bit of a personal desperation. I gave up trying to understand what the actress is talking about somewhere in the middle of act 2.

        BUT and it's a huge but, this was much more than just a one-man show. It was also a visual and musical experience. The music was beautiful and very emotionally evoking, which helped a lot in storytelling. Moaty was stunning. Besides from some helps from the band, the stage was all hers. Her body language is so adept and convincing. The emotions were expertly conveyed. It was a pleasure to watch her moved on the stage. The simplicity of the whole set up stroke me as a pleasant surprise. The stage was lit by candles which created a moody and mysterious look. Depends on how close or how the actress hold the candles, the light that cast on her face expressed different effects: at one point she was ominous, other she was desperate. The production used a minimal amount of props. Most notable was the big scarf Moaty wore around her waist at the beginning. From the moment she took the scarf of, it transformed into many different things: a dress, a robe, a headdress, a baby, etc. It was, like I said, such a pleasure to witness.

        Last but not least, HOW TO GET HOME FROM THE THEATER. I walked. It was late, around 11.30 when I started to walk back. But there were still many people in the downtown area, so it's not too scary. The walk uphill was more deserted and quiet but I saw no suspicious-looking people (at least that's how it was last night), so I guess it's alright. But if you're afraid, there's always taxi or the night navette (shuttle). You can buy a pass for the navettes for €15 for the whole year or semester and they'll pick you up when you call them.
 
 
        If you're in Aix and you want to indulge yourself in performance arts and music. I'm sure Aix has a lot to offer. Aix is a small town but there are enough performances almost every week. And if you are less than 26 years old, you receive special price - sometimes just half of regular prices. So, i'd say take advantage of that. Imagine buying ticket to a Broadway/0ff-broadway show without having to wait for luck smiling upon you. Rush tickets and lottery tickets are not THAT easy to get after all. To see the program of the season and buy ticket, go to:
        http://www.lestheatres.net/fr/ (I don't think they have an English button on this site)
        There are two theaters that I know of, one is the Théatre du Jeu de Paume, a small, lovely theater with creaky floor. It serves as a stage for small concert and local theatrical production.

        There's also the Grand Théâtre de Provence. I've never been to, but I will :D. If you're into big orchestra performances. This is the place. One tip: Go up to the top of this theater and you'll see a splendid panoramic view of Aix.
        For any one interested in Dance. There is a ballet company call Preljocaj Ballet, but I think they most likely tour in other cities (I'm not 100% sure on this). There's another dance theater called Pavillion Noir (black butterfly) with an emphasis on modern dance. These two company share a same website, so you can check more for performances. A very nice building also, it's worth a visit.
        http://www.preljocaj.org/
 
 
        It would be a intolerable shame to talk about France without talking about the country's much-admired cuisine. So yesterday afternoon, my friends and I decided to celebrate our traditional New Year in a, strangely and at a same time suitably enough, in a French restaurant.

            Being newcomer to this town, I turned to my host mom for suggestion of a "reasonably-priced and good" restaurant and she gave me just the perfect address. The restaurant is "Brun'ch"and it is located at number 4 rue Portalis. My host mom is the restaurant's regular and she knows the family that runs the place personally. The people in the restaurant nickname her "Des Yeux Bleus" - Blue Eyes, and that is the name under which our reservation is made.

            It's a small and homey restaurant with only 5 tables, so we have to reserve beforehand if we want a place. And indeed we got a place thanks to my lovely host mom. Brun'ch is an essential family restaurant: the owner is a adorable elderly woman; her daughter is in charge of the pastry and her son is the cook.

            The restaurant was very busy and we had a little difficulty ordering the food at first but all well that goes well. We were thrilled with what the restaurant had to offer. We ordered the "plat du jour" (special of the day) which was this amazing pataravioli (ravioli filled with mashed potato, topped with tomato sauce and melted cheese). When we arrived there were only 3 left of that wonderful dish (we have 4 people so one of us have to order something else which is no less wonderful). The ravioli was so good and filling that I didn't feel like eating dinner. Now, that was something rare. We also had a glass of wine and I choose not to talk about it since I just don't like alcoholic beverage at all to begin with.

            Last but certainly, absolutely not least, DESSERT! We ordered 4 different kinds of dessert: macaron, éclair au chocolat (the best I've had so far is actually in a patisserie called PAUL but the éclair here is good enough), a piece of cake filled with gleaming custard (this is just lovely) and a coconut pound cake.
            Oh how I hate myself for not bringing the camera! But I think my friends would appreciate it because I wouldn't let them touch anything before I'm done with all the picturetaking.
 
 
        The problem with taking a lot of photos is that you'd end up NOT knowing which photos to use for, say, illustrating your post. So, I'll start with something more simple: my little bedroom here in Aix en Provence and of course the lovely lovely apartment of my lovely lovely host (I think I'll need a whole post to do her justice).
        Ok, sooo... HERE IT IS!!! (Man, I hate to say this but I just love this photo... look at the light!)

          And the paintings on the wall... They're all done by my host mom. So artsy!
        Now, let's move to the living room. Doesn't it remind you of The Little House on the Prairie. When I first stepped into the house. my jaws just dropped. And her house is so lovely and perfect that I was (still am) a little afraid to mess something up which thanks god I haven't.
        The kitchen...
        Last but certainly not least, her studio (she calls it her bureau). This is where she paints.
        Alors (So), I can say that I'm living a pretty good life!
 
 
        After hours and hours of sitting long-faced at Newark Liberty and Lisbon airports, I finally arrived in Marseille. It was pretty much a rainy day in Marseille but thankfully the sun did show up a little bit when I got off the plane and show me a lovely pink sunset. Oh, but wait a minute! Why am I writing about Marseille while my destination is Aix? Well, here goes the story...

        It was very typical of me that I didn't read the travel instruction again before booking the plane ticket and long story short, I arrived in Marseille 1 week earlier than I was supposed to. After hours of remorse (which means banging my head constantly on the... well, pillow), I decided if worst come to worse, I would just spend my time exploring Marseille with of course at the lowest cost possible. That leads to the one and only option: couchsurfing.

        Basically, couchsurfing is a website that offers its users hospitality exchanges and social networking services (wikipedia). In more simple words, it's a website that helps you find a place to stay while you're traveling. I'd like to think that  it's a community of backpackers around the world where traveling is not just an activity but an experience. It's where you open the doors to someone in order to have doors opened to you later on in your journey.

        So, lucky me, I found not one but two hosts in Marseille and I spend time equally in their couches. It'd be a rather long story to talk about my hosts, so I'll save it for later and jump right back to Marseille - the European cultural capital. Sounds fascinating, doesn't it. However, Marseille's beauty doesn't really resonate at night. My first impression, already colored by a gloomy shade of fatigue, is mixed. An ancient city with a lot of graffiti (literally everywhere) is my very first idea of Marseille.
           
        My very first day in France ended with a long and satisfactory sleep. I only woke up at 1pm on the next day and I got to travel a little bit that day. My host told me to visit La Cathédrale de la Garde, which I didn't until the day after. Instead, I got lost and found myself at Vieux Port (Old Port) - the city habor. This is when Marseille started to grow on me and fire up my journey in this city, which would begin on the next day.
         



 
 
             What makes you excited about traveling to another country or to France in particular? Everything.  For a moment, let’s forget all about the packing hassle and travel nightmare. Let just imagine hearing and speaking French everyday or roaming the streets of hundreds years old and immersing yourself in the beautiful burden of time and history. Arts and architecture are surplus and did I mention the cuisine (with a personal emphasis on pastry)? But, exactly what makes me so excited about going to Aix-en-Provence – the lovely city in the south of France?

            Of course, all of what I mention above, but the city has more to offer. Allow me to be practical and mention the beautiful weather in Aix. Statistically, on January 8th, at 10.17am, the temperature in Ithaca, NY is -1 degree Celsius and in Aix is 11 degree. See what I’m talking about! Besides, the size of the city is just perfect: not too big and at a same time, not too small. Therefore, I can enjoy the crowd and when I feel like it, I can snug into a small café and embrace a little quiet time. Speaking of café, I’m sure Aix has plenty of them. And imagine sitting in the pleasant Les Deux Garçons and thinking maybe you’re sitting on the same spot as Hemingway or Cézanne decades ago. A little romantic, isn’t it? For me, the best part of any trip is strolling around the place, getting lost and discovering some “hidden gems”. Somehow, I believe Aix is a nice place to do just that.

            So, I’ve packed my bags and am so ready to get on the plane to cross the ocean in just one more week. Before that let me check what I’m going to bring with me: clothes, toilettries... boring... ah, let see... some gifts I’ve carried with me all the way from Viet Nam and maybe some Vietnamese snacks (if supply lasts). Last but not least my brandnew French visa proudly stamped on my passport. Since the nearest French Consulate is 5 hours away by car, it has been quite a hassle, but I believe it’ll worth it.