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When in Aix-en-Provence

Food and Drink

Coffee: Coffee To Go

Where: 20 rue Jacques de la Roque, 13100 Aix-en-Provence

How to find it: Coffee To Go is just past the Cathedral Sainte Sauver and Science Po, on the right.

What makes it so special: This is hands down the best coffee I have ever had; better than Starbucks, Dunkin, and even Wawa (blasphemy, I know!). The guy who runs Coffee To Go, Adrien Senac, was trained as a barista in Australia, and he seriously knows how to make a mean espresso.

What to order: My favorites are the iced caramel latte (un latte glace du caramel) or a flat white. But honestly, anything you get will be excellent.

Crêpes: Crêpes â Gogo

Where: 2 Avenue Victor Hugo, 13100 Aix-en-Provence

How to find it: From Cours Mirabeau, head towards the Rotunde take a left towards Avenue Victor Hugo. As you walk, you'll pass stairs to an underground tunnel that leads to the other side of the street, and inside you'll find this delicious crêperie. Just follow the smell.

What to order: Like most crêperies, Crêpes â Gogo serves two types of crêpes: savory (salty) or sucré (sweet). The classic when-in-France-go-to-crêpe is Nutella and banana (un crêpe au Nutella et banane), but some of my favorites are spinach and goat cheese (aux epinards et chèvre) and egg and cheese (aux oeufs et fromage).

Boulangerie: Jacob's Boulangerie

Where: 45 Rue d'Italie - 13100 Aix-En-Provence

How to find it and what to get: The best thing about this boulangerie is that it is only a two minute walk from IEFEE. And with those half hour breaks between classes, there's always enough time to run over to Jacob's and grab a goat cheese and tomato panini and a pain au chocolat. Oh, and they have chocolate chip baguettes. Need I say more?

Dessert: Pâtisserie Béchard

Where: 12 Cours Mirabeau, 13100 Aix-en-Provence

How to find it: Béchard is right on Cours Mirabeau, and it's hard to miss with the flocks of people that crowd the front of the store, squishing their noses up against the windows. 

What makes it so special: Béchard has been rightfully boasting the best pastries in Aix for over 100 years, so it's no wonder that it is constantly overflowing with locals and tourists alike.

While you're here: While you're here, you should try the Callisons, traiditional Provencal sweets made with ground almonds and candied fruits. Aaand wouldn't hurt to taste the eclaires as well, they're pretty incredible.

Macarons: Meresse Macarons

Where: 29 Rue Mar Foch, 13100 Aix-en-Provence

Why Meresse: Some say that Meresse is home to the best macarons in the world, and it offers a broad range of exotic flavor combinations, such as fois gras and fig, salmon, peach and champagne, and chocolate and coconut. They are exquisite. 

Chocolate: Puyricard

Where: 7-9 Rue Rifle Rafle, 13100 Aix-en-Provence

How to find it: Puyricard is just past the Palais Justice on the right.

What makes it so special: Step into Puyricard, and you will be overwhelmed with the number of chocolates available at your disposal. Seriously, you have to see it to believe it.

For drinks: Pub O Shannon's

Where:  30 Rue de la Verrerie, 13100 Aix-en-Provence

How to find it: After around 11:00 pm (at the earliest), head uphill from Cours Mirabeau and, seriously, just follow the noise.

What makes it so special: O Shannons is the place to go if you're going out in Aix. It's probably Aix's most popular bar, so much so that loud beer drinkers overflow from the pub and spill into the streets.

What to order: Pastis, a anise-flavored liqueur that Provence is famous for.

*Dancing: Now that you've had a couple drinks, walk just up the street to the Scat Club, which will be on your right. Scat is known for it's live jazz bands every night. Later on, hit up Le Mistral, IPN, and Woohoo.

Late-night snackin': Pizza Capri

Where: There are three Pizza Capri locations in Aix. THREE.
  • 1 rue Fabrot, 13100 Aix-en-Provence
  • 48-50 Place Richelme, 13100 Aix-en-Provence
  • and 48 rue Espariat, , 13100 Aix-en-Provence
What makes it so special: The reason behind that crazy crowd that's always pushing toward Pizza Capri is its fresh, mouth-watering pizza slices which are entirely homemade with fresh ingredients and given to you within seconds, fresh out of the oven.

What to order: A French classic is "pizza royale", which is ham, fresh mushrooms, emmental cheese, and homemade tomato sauce. If you're feeling adventurous, they even have a Nutella and Smarties (similar to M&M's) pizza.

Tip: Don't be afraid of the crazy mob of hungry, pizza-craving customers who can't seem to form a line! The employees at Pizza Capri are incredibly quick, and you will have your pizza in no time. Just make like the French and elbow your way to the front.

The Essentials

Studying: Book In Bar

Where: 4 Rue Joseph Cabassol, 13100 Aix-en-Provence

How to find it: If you're coming from Cours Mirabeau, turn right onto Rue Joseph Cabassol and Book In Bar will be on your right. Look for the Union Jack sign that hangs just above the door.

What makes it so special: Book In Bar is an international bookstore. It's possible to find books not only in French and English, but also in Swedish, Portuguese, Russian, and any other language you could possibly imagine. With it's quirky late 1950's music and that warm, oaky feeling of dusty stacks of foreign books, Book in Bar is a real gem. For me, it's a taste of home, as bookstores where you can sit for hours and type away on your computer can be difficult to find in France. It's a great spot to study and/or meet up with friends. And it helps that their hazelnut lattes (though crazy expensive!) are divine.

Grocery Shopping: The Markets

Le Petit Marché:

Where: Near the Palais de Justice

When: Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday mornings, 8:00 am - 1:00 pm

Le Grand Marché:

Where: Place Richelme

When: Every morning from 8:00 am - 1:00 pm

What makes them so special: The markets are filled with fresh local produce, spices, clothing, and trinkets. They are the perfect places to do some grocery shopping, and you can often find some pretty fantastic souvenirs!

Tip: If you're in need of a more extensive shopping trip, check out Dia (1 Rue Lapierre, 13100 Aix-en-Provence) for cheap prices and knock-off brand products, and Monoprix (27 Cours Mirabeau, 13100 Aix-en-Provence) for a bigger, more comprehensive selection.

Church: Le Cathédrale Sainte Sauveur

Where: 34 Place des Martyrs-de-la-Résistance, 13100 Aix-en-Provence

How to find it: Head uphill from Cours Mirabeau and just listen for the bells. It's across from Sciences Po, you can't miss it.

A little history: This Roman Catholic cathedral dates back to the 5th century, and was built on top of a piece of the Roman road, the Via Aurelia. The architecture is quite the site to see, with a melange of Baroque, Gothic, ad Romanesque styles.

Out and About

Shopping: Centre Commercial Les Allées Provençales

Where: Avenue Joseph Villevieille, 13090 Aix-en-Provence

How to find it: If you're coming from Cours Mirabeau, go around the Rotunde and you'll see this bright and shining new shopping center on your left.

The shops: Zara, H&M, Sephora, Monoprix, etc.

Tip: Aix-en-Provence is often referred to as the "little Paris", and is full of charming little boutiques, especially when you ascend past Cours Mirabeau. But don't be surprised, Aix is also known for being very expensive. If you're looking for some better prices, do like the locals do and grab a bus to Marseille.

People watching: Cours Mirabeau

Where: Literally, just pick any cafe or restaurant on Cours Mirabeau and you'll be all set. Grab a seat on the terrace and prepare to watch the world go by.

My favorite: Les Deux Garcons is a traditional and historical brasserie right on the center of Cours Mirabeau, which dates back to 1840 (53 Cours Mirabeau, 13100 Aix-en-Provence). The architecture is stylish and charming, and the ceilings are definitely worth checking out.

Tip: Anywhere on Cours Mirabeau (restaurants, cafes, etc.) is going to be more expensive than the back streets. You are paying for the location and for the view, but it's absolutely necessary to do at least once.

A hike with a view: La Montagne Sainte Victoire

How to get there: From the Gare Routiere, take the L 140 Vauvenargues bus from the Gare Routiere, and ask the bus driver to let you off at the Barage du Bimont bus stop.

What makes it so special: The St. Victoire Mountain was the subject of many of Paul Cezanne's paintings, and reaches 3,317 ft at its highest point. It is the perfect place to go for hiking, rockclimbing, paragliding, and caving. And from the top is the very best view of Provence.

Green Spaces

Where to bring a picnic lunch: Parc Jourdan
Couronne Urbaine, 13100 Aix-en-Provence

Where to go to get away: Promenade de l'Arc
Avenue De l'Arc de Meyran, 13100 Aix en Provence

Where to go for a run: La Torse
  • 69 cours Gambetta, 13100 Aix-en-Provence

Lindsay Bayne is the Spring 2014 CEA MOJO in Aix-en-Provence, France. She is a junior at the University of Pittsburgh. 
Thanks to our wonderful program directors, we've been fortunate enough to visit lots of little French towns in the Provence region, all of which I've fallen in love with. Yesterday we visited three different villages in southeastern France, one of which was tucked up against the side of a mountain, built around a spring in a valley at the foot of the Vaucluse Mountains. Called Fontaine-de-Vaucluse (“spring of Vaucluse”), it is named after the spring, the source of the River Sorgue. I felt like I had stepped into Beauty and the Beast, for the colorful houses and shops perfectly complemented
the natural landscape, with the water and mountains a stunning backdrop.

Isle Sur La Sorgue Market

All of the towns had something in common: quaint, picturesque, and supremely peaceful. I could've walked around the market at Isle Sur La Sorgue for hours and hours and hours. There were spices, and perfumes, and leather bags and jackets, and all kinds of meats, and glittering jewelry. I had way too much fun picking out gifts for my many sisters back home. It really felt like something out of fairytale--the little old man who jollily stood behind his table of handmade wooden kitchenware smiled as I admired his work and delicate creations. I think it was the combination of his smiling eyes and his undeniably lovely wood-work that got me...I walked away with more bowls and spoons than I could possibly fit in my suitcase. But worth it it was!

Lolo at work
CEA feast at Lolo's

Aside from these lovely little trips to Provençal towns, there was another excursion that I'll never forget. Last weekend we all visited (all 30+ of us) an 89-year-old man named Lolo, who lives on a farm about an hour outside of Aix, in the Provence countryside. He alone prepared a five course meal that we enjoyed by a great, big fire, all the while sipping rosé and red wine form a nearby vineyard. Each course was brought out separately, and eaten slowly and leisurely– after all, the many hours that Lolo put into preparing the whole meal ought to have been fully appreciated (Mom, I think you’d be a fan of this…the work of the chef certainly doesn’t go unnoticed)! By the time we each lined up to give Lolo bisous, a kiss on each cheek, and waved “Au revoir,” it had been at least a four hour visit… a ritual indeed!

Chez Lolo

CEA students in Lolo's olive tree field
Emily Blume is the Spring 2014 CEA MOJO in Aix-en-Provence, France. She is currently a Sophomore at the University of Pittsburgh.
For everyone who, unlike most study-abroaders, isn't welcomed home each evening with a fresh, home-cooked, authentic meal prepared by a lovely little "host mom," this one's for you. Hopefully I can pass along some helpful tips about healthy (and cheap!) apartment cooking and living while studying abroad. Fear not, it is possible to create meals that rival those of your home-stay friends--it just might take a bit of experimenting and a whole lot of creativity...

I do believe that for the first few weeks of living in my apartment here in France, I made a salad with an odd assortment of veggies every single night (yes, every. single. night.). And sure, while that's certainly healthy, it is by no means enough to sustain a healthy lifestyle--it also just gets really old, really fast. I was clearly a little lost, and entirely unsure of how to go about feeding myself properly in a foreign country. First step? Find a good grocery store! Maybe your definition of "good" is different from someone else's. Mine, however, means reasonably cheap, fresh, easy to navigate, and of course, good quality. Once I discovered said grocery store in Aix, it was much easier to start thinking about daily and weekly meals. Second, make grocery lists, and stick to them! Once you start living on your own long enough, you know which food items are your basic staples (olive oil, eggs, cheese, milk, butter, spices galore, etc.). And once you knock those of the list, you can start thinking about fairly basic meals that don't take too long to prepare, but are well-balanced and of course, yummy. Here in France, a popular side-dish is couscous, and it couldn't be easier to prepare, not to mention almost anything goes with it...lots of room for creativity!

From my favorite Boulangerie
If you're like me, a fresh cup of coffee in the morning is an absolute necessity. Fortunately our apartment came with an easy-to-use coffee maker, so indulging my addiction is both trouble-free and cheap. For lunch, I typically just pack a sandwich and bring it with me in the morning since I'm in class all day. Again, buying sandwich supplies at the grocery store is affordable and quite delicious when the cheese aisle is miles long. For bread, I simply must pick up a fresh loaf at the nearby boulangerie (I can't even begin to express how much I'm going to miss this place). And voila! I don't think I'll ever get sick of these fresh sandwiches.

Quiche, baked zucchini, broccoli and beans, baguette

Like I said, when preparing dinners, it doesn't have to get too complicated to be well-balanced and yummy. Countless times I've made quiche with a side of broccoli and a few slices of a baguette, and it has served as a great go-to meal. Since I have a 99.9% Italian roommate, pasta is also another go-to. Without a doubt, she can whip up at least 50 different variations of pasta, depending on what's sitting in our pantry at the time. It's quite impressive! I've certainly learned a lot since living with her. But overall, just think of a few relatively simple meals that you can rotate during the week, and then maybe get a little crazier on the weekends when you have more time.

And whatever you do, eat more than lettuce and veggies every night. Best of luck, fellow apartment friends, and be confident in your culinary skills!

Claire Barrett enjoying a little Baked Ziti

Emily Blume is the Spring 2014 CEA MOJO in Aix-en-Provence, France. She is currently a Sophomore at the University of Pittsburgh.
There's often an image that comes to mind when we think of the typical French woman: chic, elegant, effortlessly stylish. She always has a handbag casually resting on her wrist, high heels and skinny jeans paired with a leather jacket, and a bold lipstick. I've heard it said that all you really need to be a French woman are "two lipsticks and a lover." So, is it true? What is really the secret to adopting the French's flawless sense of fashion and chicness?

I'm sorry to say, gentlemen, but I'm afraid my thoughts, observations, and advice on this topic may be mostly geared towards the ladies. Of the advice I can offer, though, the most important is this: shoes matter, and French men know how to sport the most stylish, that's for sure. They typically smell pretty good, too (the men, not their shoes). So go out and get yourself some not-too-overpowering but still noticeable cologne and a pair of sleek leather loafers, and you'll be golden. Rather than stick out like a sore thumb like some of my American male counterparts who not-so-subtley wear their Nike's with bluejeans, you'll surely blend in just fine.

As for the ladies, I've noticed a few fashion staples in France (and Europe as a whole) that seem fairly easy to incorporate into the wardrobe. First,  jackets are key. Jean, leather, suede, form-fitted, short or long, light or heavy. Whatever the style, they are a necessity, and always paired with a big, fluffy scarf. Like the men, the women certainly know how to top off a look with the perfect pair of shoes. I've never seen so many women effortlessly--and seemingly painlessly, I might add--strut in high heels at quite such a rapid pace, and down a cobble-stone street. Every occasion is an occasion to wear heels here, no matter what. I must say, I rather like the unspoken expectation to look pulled together at all times, even though I often wake up in the morning wanting nothing more than to go to class in my sweats and oversized hoodie. I think the French level of fashion has beaten out some of my laziness, so aside from sometimes resenting it, I am indeed quite grateful.

Along with the jacket, scarf, skinny jeans and heels ensemble, the French ladies somehow always have perfect hair. But it's not perfect in the sense that it looks like a fake sculpture on top of someone's head that has been practically glued on-- it's perfectly just a bit messy, and simply adds to the effortless effect. I'm not quite sure how they do it, but if they let me in on their secret one of these days, you'll be the first to know.

All in all, I think I've come to the conclusion that the French style doesn't come from the amount of clothes they own, or the quantity of shoes in their closets. More than anything, it's their general air and confidence that is the most noticeable, and their biggest source of beauty. And while some might see this "air" merely as arrogance, I'd beg to differ--arrogance, no, but elegance, most definitely.

Emily Blume is the Spring 2014 CEA MOJO in Aix-en-Provence, France. She is currently a Sophomore at the University of Pittsburgh.

I think it is universally acknowledged that one of the most important (and enjoyable) aspects of living and traveling abroad is the cuisine. As I was wandering around Aix yesterday on a beautiful Sunday afternoon, I really realized just how food-oriented it is (perhaps because there's simply not much else to do besides sit at a café on Cours Mirabeau, participate in the all-too-common practice of people-watching, and enjoy an Aixoise dish at the most leisurely pace possible). It is a town in which aesthetics reign supreme--the pastries are works of art, the landscape is a living painting, the people are chic but relaxed. So where does one go to partake in this delightfully delicious cuisine? If you don't feel like consulting TripAdvisor the next time you're looking for a place to eat, here's a few secret finds that I'll gladly pass along.

Crêpes à GoGo

First, whether you've been granted the gift of a very prominent sweet tooth or not, stopping by Crêpes à GoGo and ordering the L'Africaine chocolate crêpe with whipped cream is an absolute MUST. While Crêpes à GoGo is hardly a secret, hidden gem, it is located underground and can be a bit hard to find. Don't let the tunnel running below the road discourage you, though. I must confess, the first time I stumbled upon this place, I think I stood mesmerized in front of the counter for at least 5 minutes, watching the ever-so-smooth crêpe-making process. Fortunately for my wallet and my waist, my daily route to class doesn't involve passing here, but every time I do walk by, I almost always give in to the sweet smelling aroma of fresh whipped cream and melted dark chocolate. Now, having been inspired by the sheer deliciousness of the savory crêpes, I've started to make my own at home, and am proud to say that they could surely rival Crêpes à Gogo--or at least I like to think so.
Sunday afternoon picnic with a bunch of baguettes

For the best baguettes in all of Aix, there's one bakery that I found fairly early on in the semester. It's located on Rue d'Italie and has "Boulangerie" written in black all over the exterior. There's something unearthly about these baguettes... I have absolutely no idea what their secret is, but whatever it is, it's genius. The best time to go is right after they've taken a tray of fresh loaves out of the oven, so that they're warm to the touch. I've learned that the way to judge bread around here is to listen. Break off a piece of the baguette and see if it crackles. The outside should be a bit crispy, while the inside is warm and doughy. Now this place is actually right on my route to class, and for only 75 centimes, I've many-a-morning stopped by and gotten a freshly made baguette (that rarely lasts me through the day). Without a doubt, I will miss this Boulangerie dearly.

First time trying Pizza Capri
Located right off of Cours Mirabeau, there is a pizza stand called Pizza Capri. Having been to five different cities in Italy for my spring break, I now feel like my judgment of the perfect slice of pizza has gained much more worth. And I must say, after trying some of the best of the best in Italy, I think Pizza Capri is certainly among my favorite (and not too pricey, either!). Personally a lover of mushrooms, I always go for the mushroom topped pizza, but I don't believe you could really go wrong with any choice. The vendors heat the slice up just before they hand it to you, and make sure it's soft and warm. Unfortunately, I don't think I could possibly ever recreate (or even slightly mimic) the pizza at Pizza Capri, but that just makes it that much more delicious!

Emily Blume is the Spring 2014 CEA MOJO in Aix-en-Provence, France. She is currently a Sophomore at the University of Pittsburgh.

Parc de La Torse, Aix en Provence
Back home, I always used to meet my parents and my little siblings at church every Sunday morning. For the first time in a long time, after my first week in Aix, I went to mass on Sunday without my family there to greet me. No row of girls sitting all in a line next to Mom and Dad, no gleeful glance from my littlest sister upon spotting me walk in. At that moment, I missed the familiar. I missed home! But here I was, in an absolutely beautiful–not-to-mention ancient–French cathedral, with great, big tapestries hanging on the stone walls, an enormous organ bellowing behind me, and a beautifully lit altar before me. This was home! It was unfamiliar, and yet so familiar. I had said when I left the States that I wanted to be stretched and challenged, that I wanted to come out of myself by being around different people, immersed in a different culture. I’ve been finding that, yes, I’m discovering more about myself after being removed from the familiar, precisely by learning about what is dear to me, what is home, since I’ve been away from it. It seems that this is when you really know something–when you’re removed from it. What is dear to you is made clear, whether it be what you left behind or what you’re discovering anew.
My street: Rue Cardinale, Aix en Provence
It’s easy to feel homesick, disoriented, maybe even misplaced when you start your study abroad program. You miss things from back home, but now you have to adapt to this new home. Maybe it hasn’t become a real home yet, but fret not! How can you make this new place a home away from home? So often we have chances to take leaps of faith, to come out of our comfort zone entirely; and it can be terrifying, but almost always pays off. Why not talk to those kids after class instead of leaving right away, or explore your city and discover your favorite spots, or just walk around and get lost? Sometimes wandering is the best way to discover, the quickest route to new surprises. And above all, it’s so crucial to put your fears aside—of fitting in, of adapting perfectly to this new place, of never making a single embarrassing blunder. Enjoy it all right now, in the moment, and don’t worry about looking silly.
Book market, Aix en Provence
Slowly but surely I can feel Aix becoming my home from home. I want it to become familiar, so that I feel like I belong, but I don’t want to lose the sense of wonder that comes when you see or experience something unfamiliar. Maybe that’s an even more important bit of truth–that things which are dear to us, even though they may be familiar, should never be marveled at any less. Wonder is such a gift, and it is very present now, as I’m still uncovering new secrets and ways of life in Aix. But should it ever fade, even when I become more accustomed to it? My family and friends are the most familiar things on earth, and yet, being apart from them, I am filled with more wonder at the gift of them. You will also start to become familiar with things in your city: daily happenings, ways of life, even just little spots here and there that you love to visit. But as your city becomes more and more like home, never forget the many gifts that it will always offer.

Home from home; this is Aix! I am beginning to love it dearly, my town of water, town of art.

Emily Blume is the Spring 2014 CEA MOJO in Aix-en-Provence, France. She is currently a Sophomore at the University of Pittsburgh.