Today was my first day in Aix-en-Provence, and I'm already in love with it. I flew from JFK, to London, to Marseille, where I luckily bumped into Matt, a junior from Vanderbilt who I happened to overhear talking about the program. The two of us took a bus from Marseille to Aix, which was about 30 minutes. After arriving in Aix we shared a cab to 15 rue Cardinale (the "centre") and met other students and our "tuteurs", who were nice enough to accompany us to our apartments and give a hand with luggage.
I had spoken to Marie, my french roommate, a few days ago, and she had warned me about our apartment having a lot of stairs. To say that our apartment has a lot of stairs is perhaps the biggest understatement of the year: there must be at least 100 steps that lead up to our apartment, which is on the very top floor. Let's just say if I don't have buns of steel by the time I return to the states, something is seriously wrong. I absolutely cannot complain, though, because once I settled in and looked around, I realized how lucky I was. As it turns out, my apartment is right smack dab in the middle of the city, on an adorable little street called Rue Mejanes. Shops are on either side, as well as some cute little sandwich shops. Did I mention that for the next five weeks, there are intense sales? Oh la...
I've already met some wonderful people here. Vanderbilt pairs us up with French students as tutors (there are three of them: Mia, Jerome, and Jean Michel), and through the tutors I've met a ton of French people already. Tonight we all met up for dinner with the rest of the Vanderbilt students, and afterwards some of us started meandering around the city before deciding what to do next.
This would probably be the best time to say how absolutely breathtaking I find Aix. Before coming here, I imagined it as a quaint little town with some students here and there, but it really is a vibrant, chic, student-filled city that could easily double as "Little Paris". The streets are extremely narrow, and cars will run you over if you don't see them coming (french drivers -- especially taxis -- don't exactly preoccupy themselves with the safety of others). Everywhere you turn there are shops and places to eat; you really can't take a bad step. Most of these little side streets lead to the main drag of Aix, which is called Le Cours Mirabeau. At night, when the lights are up, you can't help but to feel like you are in a movie. The majestic feel of everything makes me smile constantly: Jean Michel even remarked at dinner "Vous les américains, vous souriez beaucoup, non?" I still can't decide if this is more telling of French people than it is of Americans, or vice versa...
After dinner, some of us went to l'Auberge Bellegarde, which is a beautiful big house in which some students are lucky enough to live. There, I met friends of friends, and we all sat around drinking wine and talking into the late hours of the night. Talia and I were exhausted, so our friends Reda, Letizia, and Marquise accompanied us back to the Cours Mirabeau, from which we were able to find our way home. I'm now sitting in bed next to Talia, who is also on her computer, wiped out from an incredible first day. I feel like I can already call this place home, and I haven't even been here for 24 hours. Tomorrow we're going grocery and cell phone shopping. I've never been so excited about something so banal!
A demain alors, bisous!