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Aix-en-Provence

La Rotonde, Aix-en-Provence   The final installment in my travelogue of my time in France is my day in Aix-en-Provence, a sentimental journey 35 years after spending time there as a student. Taking the train from Marseille, I arrived about 8 a.m., hoping to avoid the blistering heat of the past few days. From the train station I walked to La Rotonde, a traffic circle surrounding a large fountain dating from 1860, topped by statues of the Three Graces. From the Rotonde extends the Cours Mirabeau, one of the most beautiful streets in Europe. Apart from a large Apple store and some upscale boutiques lining the Cours Mirabeau, the views were pretty much as I remembered them. Founded by the Romans, who discovered hot springs there, Aix was the capital of Provence during the middle ages, and after the 12th century, became an artistic center and seat of learning. The town exudes an air of old aristocracy, attested by the hôtels particuliers (private mansions) which line the Cours Mirabeau and the streets of the Quartier Mazarin to its south. It is still an artistic center; among its museums are the Musée Granet and the Fondation Vasarely, and just outside of town is the Atelier Cézanne, where the artist worked.       Hôtel de Ville and Clock Tower     Among the town’s many architectural treasures are the Hôtel de Ville and Clock Tower, the Cathedral of Saint Sauveur and its exquisite cloister, and small squares with fountains – Aix is filled with fountains, though my favorite, the

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food in Marseille

Published on August 20, 2015, by in Food, France, Marseille, Travel.

Toinou – Les Fruits de Mer!   My eating in Marseille was a focused activity, based mainly on seafood. Some of my eating adventures are pictured here, and I have to say that my two favorite restaurants – both researched, in fact, long before my trip – during my 7-day stay were Toinou (4 meals) and La Boîte à Sardine (only 1 meal, regrettably). Toinou is part self-service, part place-your-order-at-the-counter, then you find a place at your table and wait for your order to arrive. My favorite thing there was their anchoïade (anchovy spread) spread on the mini-baguettes that you grab on the way to the order counter. Some of my selections are shown below.         Toinou – the sidewalk fish display         Toinou – sea bass with butter and fried potatoes         Toinou – shrimp with aioli on the side         Toinou – half a Breton lobster           Toinou – assorted oysters         La Boîte à Sardine, funky decor and delicious lunch   At the top of La Canebiere, and across the street from the Eglise des Reformes, is the slightly kitschy but fun La Boîte à Sardine (The Sardine Can), open on most days only for lunch, and serving exceptionally fresh fish. The menu is hand-written on a wooden box carried from table to table by the waiter.           Lunch at La Boîte à Sardine, catfish, potatoes,

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Marseille

Published on August 15, 2015, by in France, Marseille, Travel.

First view of Marseille from the top of the St. Charles Railway Station steps     My twin goals for my sojourn in France were a week each in Paris and Marseille. The cities have little in common: one a northern gray city under often-cloudy skies, France’s capital, and one of the world’s great centers of culture, the other a sunny Mediterranean seaport in tones of yellow, ochre, brown, gray, and the impossible blue of the Mediterranean. My first view of Marseille is permanently imprinted in my memory: it followed shared car ride from Tours to Toulouse, an all-night train journey from Toulouse to Marseille, and at the end of a sleepless night a charcoal-gray pre-dawn breaking over massive ships in a harbor and then, at the end, exiting from a train station. I was at the top of a monumental flight of steps, the great sweep of a foreign city before me, and in the distance a pinpoint of golden light: the statue of the Virgin and Child atop Notre Dame de la Garde Basilica. I watched in what I imagine now was open-mouthed astonishment as the day dawned over this strange new place. It was 1979, and I was in France on a Rotary International Graduate Fellowship. After a couple of months at a French language institute in Tours, I had come south to Provence, where I would be a student at the Universite d’Aix-Marseille in Aix-en-Provence. To reach Aix I first had to go to Marseille, a

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Arles

Published on August 10, 2015, by in France, Photography, Travel.

  This was my first visit to Arles, in Provence in southern France. The town contains some impressive Roman vestiges, including an amphitheater and an Arena. I was fortunate that my arrival coincided with the annual photography exhibition Les Rencontres de la Photographie, held in locations and historic buildings throughout the town. I spent one entire day wandering from one photo exhibit to the next, in the intense summer heat.   I spent three days in Arles, staying at the delightful Hostellerie de la Source just outside of town. Among the highlights of my stay was a bakery and pastry shop that sold wonderful Provencal sablés (a kind of shortbread). I ate several. I had intended on the final day to take a bus to Saint-Remy and Les Baux de Provence, but after standing at the appointed bus stop among a group of travelers for an hour, the bus never showed up. Those destinations will be saved for a future trip.         Cathedral of St. Trophime           St. Trophime cloister           Roman Arena            Photography exhibit            Photography exhibit, Archbishop’s Palace            Photography exhibit, photo group and chair         Open window   Tweet This Post

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Paris places

Published on August 6, 2015, by in Food, France, Travel.

 Paris sky, evening   My internet access has been limited lately. Apart from not yet having wifi in my apartment, I lost my Nokia cell phone during the taxi ride back to my apartmentfrom Suzhou train station my first evening back from France. An unplanned new expense will be an iPhone in the next week.   Aside from that, I’m finishing up my dissertation for the M.A. in Teaching English for Academic Purposes, my title being Teaching English for Art History in a Chinese Context. The due date is September 1.   I will continue over the next couple of weeks to share photos from my trip to France. Below are some of my favorite places during my 8 days in Paris.      Restaurant Chartier, the “good value” restaurant I fondly remembered from my student days. I ate my first dinner there after my arrival in Paris.          The Paris Metro – a world unto itself. If you’re in the right mood, the mazes of corridors and “correspondances” can be fun in a dizzying sort of way.          I spent a lot of time in the Metro, thanks to my 3-day Paris Visite pass.          The covered passages or shopping arcades of Paris date mostly from the early 19th century. My favorites were the consecutive Passage Verdeau, Passage Jouffroy, and Passage des Panoramas, centered around the Grands Boulevards.          The Blé Sucré bakery on Square Trousseau came

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