Aix-en-Provence

The plan was to travel to Aix (pronounced like the letter X) to visit the Oppidum d’Entremont, an archaeological site and former capital of the CelticLigurian confederation. It was settled between 180 and 170 B.C., then abandoned 300 years later after the Romans took over and moved the settlement to modern-day Aix-en-Provence.

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This is about as wide as the streets get.

Aix is a beautiful city and, like its neighbours in the Alps, the streets zig-zag up and down. Driving through the streets can be a hair-raising experience, especially when you`re from another planet, like us. Sometimes, at round-abouts, watching for other drivers while shifting gears and trying to make out all the signs, it gets a bit hairy but so far I haven`t been yelled at too much by French drivers. Frankly, since arriving in the south, I haven`t been tempted once to even look at my smartphone.

We travel through the narrow cobblestone streets with the five children, many of whom are zipping along on their little “trottinettes”. The streets look like they were made for pedestrians but that notions is quickly dispelled when a delivery van pulls up behind you and honks its horn. We find a sandwich vendor and, for about 4€ each, we get baguette sandwiches for everyone and sit at a table in the square

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Tower from which Résistance fighters drove out collaborators

where we order beverages and enjoy the scenery. A plaque on the wall of a old clock tower honours the dozen or so sharpshooters of the Résistance who occupied the tower and liberated the town from the Vichy régime towards the end of the war. These kinds of plaques we see quite often, usually in nooks and crannies where one least expects to see a commemorative plaque. They`ll say things like “On this spot, on the 10 of August 1943, Robert Bolduc, aged 24, was shot and killed by the occupation forces while working for the liberation of France. He died serving his country.” You certainly get a sense of how the two world wars, especially the second, divided this country yet, in the end, made it stronger and prouder. It also highlights the difference between fighting an enemy because of its aggression, and fighting to defend your own homeland.

One store we walked by advertised Canadian products. Aside from the maple syrup products that you might expect, is a curious assortment of over-proof beers with brands I`ve never heard of. “Disco Soleil“? Really? I`m not sure these brands would fly in Canada…

By mid-afternoon the sun has done its damage. The car thermometer reads 42 degrees as we head back home and a quick dip in the pool before I prepare a traditional North American meal…hot dogs with chips (and beer). I even bought ketchup and american mustard (dijon is about the only kind here) but had to serve them in small baguettes…hot dog buns being a bit of a rarity here.

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