Sunday, December 16, 2012

Planning My French Adventure

I've always dreamed of learning some French and moving to France for six months to work on becoming fluent in the language. It's hard to follow a dream like that when you are in a relationship with someone who does not share the dream, but Terry and I are good at compromise. As I wrote that post back in October about the couple who sold everything upon retirement and live on the road (it has now moved to the one prior to this one because I changed a spelling error,) I began thinking about ways to make it work.

Market in Gordes

I discovered the Home Away website, where I searched hundreds of apartments all over Provence.  I started with Marseille because it is central, bigger than many of the other places, and on the coast. I found one apartment near the old port, but when I inquired about the price for two months, the owner raised the price substantially because Marseille is the site of a cultural celebration all next year. I'll let her find another renter.

Then I found another apartment in Marseilles, much nicer than the first one and for a similar price. I was about ready to sign the contract but decided to check out the neighborhood on Google Earth. I just love the feature that allows you to virtually walk the streets of a neighborhood, but even more so now that it saved me from making a big mistake. Every surface of every wall in that neighborhood is completely covered in graffiti! Even if it is safe, I'm certain that it would be very depressing to walk those streets every day.

When I read that most of Old Marseille was blown up by the Nazis, I decided maybe that was not where I wanted to stay after all.

Another town that I have never visited but always been intrigued by is Aix-en-Provence, just a short bus ride inland from Marseille. The original old town is still there; the new town has just been built all around the old town. The birthplace and home of Paul Cezanne, Aix (pronounced EX) is an artist's kind of town.

It didn't take long to find an apartment in Aix - just one block from the Cours Maribeau, where everyone wants to hang out. It has a complete kitchen, and the washer and dryer will be a huge money-saver. You can see photos here. I found out that it is important to contact the owners for a price quote. Many were much higher than advertised; this one was much lower for the long rental.

Before I committed to this one, I checked apartments all over Provence. This one was definitely the best deal. The deposit is paid and the contract signed, so there is no backing out.

Ochre cliffs at Rousillon

I am checking various websites weekly for a good rate on the planes tickets. As always, I don't have enough miles with any airline to fly free, but this one should put me over the top for the next trip. Today I found out that I can do a side trip to Portland, Oregon, to visit my kids for less than $100 extra. A flight to Portland alone is about $450, so that is something I will definitely consider.

I am working on the language: reading, writing, listening , and pronouncing. I jump around from Rosetta Stone to old videos of French in Action on YouTube (I've got the book.) I have French for Dummies and French Made simple. If I make through all of these, I've got a box full of cassettes. I also get regular posts from Marie Claire's online magazine in French.

Pont du Gard
I've been reading MFK Fisher's books about her life in France and cooking from Patricia Wells at Home in Provence. I'm remembering aoli and tapenade, wines and cheeses and pastis and my mouth is watering. I look through my old photos from 1999 and remember visiting some of those places like it was just last year. I'm trying to decide which ones to skip this time around and which I want to explore without the pressure of a tour group ready to move on.

I'm really excited about the chance to travel without the pressure of moving around all the time with luggage, searching for hotel deals, catching trains. I may even hop on the bullet train for the three hour trip to Paris for a few nights. I love beginnings - the possibilities are endless!

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  1. Kathy, did I miss when you are going? I am sure you will have a lovely time. Its probably the eperience of living in Germany and taking day and overnight trips, but I prefer to work from a base when doing any lenghty travel. Do you plan to try and get a train pass before going over?

    1. Opps! I guess I forgot to mention when I'm going - May and June. I don't know about the train pass yet, but it is another thing to consider. Right now I am deciding which villages I may want to visit and the best form of transportation to each. But I don't plan to travel very far - just short day trips throughout Provence. I considered going to Paris for a few days, but I think Paris is worthy of its own trip - or maybe a Paris and London combination - sometime in the future.

  2. Kathy,
    You did it! Best of luck with learning French and finding a good air fare - equally challenging pursuits.

  3. I am so jealous! We lived in Lyon for a few years and our favorite trip to get away was to Aix. It is a truly beautiful city. The market is faboulous with the fresh food and even the "goods" market is very cool. To learn French, my best advice is to find Michel Thomas CDs. He teaches what you really need to know to get by. And for trips from Aix, try going to Lyon. You should be able to take the train, and the city is very walkable. You will be pleasantly surprised there.

  4. Hi i've never been to France before and my first visit will be to Marseilles in July...weird, it only took me a couple of minutes to make my decision.. I wonder what attracted me to it that moment...oh well,,ill wait and see..thanx for posting.

    1. Sorry I didn't see your comment earlier, Samantha. This is a good year to visit Marseille because they have all kinds of cultural stuff going on all this year. I'm sure I'll be spending some time there, too. Thanks for reading!