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As you can probably tell from the details in my last fee posts, my week in Agel really flew by. So I’m on to the next leg of my adventure where I will be studying French for 4 weeks in Aix-en-Provence.

However, before I move on to sharing that adventure, I want to share some photos of the wonderful little house that I have been staying in this week.

When you enter from the street you are greeted with this view.

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And you can proceed into the living area from there.

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Since I had access to the castle next door, and was tagging along on adventures with the group staying there, I didn’t spend much time in these areas. I pretty much made some espresso every morning before getting ready for the day, and then headed next door.

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This very short journey took me

  • out the back door, which I never had to lock since it opened into the private castle grounds

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  • across my private terrace that also didn’t really get used

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  • past some wonderful gardens

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  • up a stone stair way

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  • and through a door that needed a very large key.

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Of course, after my wonderful stay in Zambia, I would be remiss to not include photos of the sleeping loft (yes there were stairs to get there, but not a ladder) and of the bathroom that never ran out of hot water.

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A cool quick of the place was that from the window you see in the bathroom, you could, if you wanted, step out onto the street.

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It was a great stay, and a very much needed break between teaching and studying, in a very charming place. But now it was time to head off for that studying, the first step of which was to navigate back to Montpellier without the GPS – no, I didn’t give up on it, I just had to return it. And the second step was to lug my bags from the rental car drop off to the train station. Both went fairly well, thought not without any hitches. I took the wrong exit from a roundabout and wound up back on the autoroute, but it a good spot to exit again right away and be back at that same round about shortly thereafter. After lugging my bags to the station, I had to navigate both a lunch counter and the bathroom with them before boarding the train, and when I boarded, my seat was at the other end of the car.

But I made it to Aix, and the woman I was renting a studio apartment from was there to beet me as planned. And I had a day to settle in and remember where things were in that city before starting classes Monday morning.

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After another good sleep, the plan was to spend the day close to Agel, checking out one of the biggest markets in the area in the morning and spending a lazy afternoon on the canal.

If you have every spent any more time in France than a quick trip to Paris, you most likely have come across, and probably come to love, the markets. They put the farmers markets in the US to shame because 1) they are much bigger, 2) they happen more often, and 3) the prices aren’t something that only rich people can afford. In other words, they are the way of life.

If you are planning a tip to France, this site seems to be a good one to find out which markets you can visit during your trip.

The market for this day was the one in Olonzac. With a street full of clothiers and household items and another street full of food it is easy to wander around and just take things in for an hour or so, and also very easy to be tempted (and cave) into buying something.

After the market, it was time for another lunch. This time I started with pâté and moved on to cassoulet.

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The pâté was quite good, but unfortunately the cassoulet was quite dry and not as good as what I have had in the past. This was a bit of a bummer as this is one of my favorite French dishes.

After lunch, we headed off to catch the boat for our cruise of the Canal du Midi. I was looking forward to this based on it having been quite beautiful and relaxing the last time that I did it. Sadly, due to a fungal infection that has decimated the plane trees (sycamores) that once bordered the canal.

The ceratocystis platani fungus has infected the trees along our route making the view along most of the waterway look like the last two pictures below, whereas 3 years ago most of the canal appeared as in the first photo.

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There is a massive effort underway to remove the infected trees and replant the banks with a species that will grow more quickly.

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However, there will still only be one species, so the same type of devastation could occur again. Have we not learned from this type of thing happening in many places in the world?

  • Dutch elm disease
  • emerald ash borer
  • Even sadder, is that I learned later, once arriving in Aix-en-Provence, that the disease is not only affecting trees next to the water as I had heard during that day, but is much more widespread as this article discusses.

    And it’s all because of a parasite that tagged along in the wooden crates used to ship weapons from the US to France during WWII.

    At least the trip though the locks was just as interesting as the time before.

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    And we did some get some good views of the bridges as we turned around for the trip back to our starting point.

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