This weekend, I decided to take an impromptu trip to the south of France (and I am SO GLAD I did). When I told my mom, she immediately contacted Jill Steenhuis, a family friend and incredible artist who lives in Aix-en-Provence and she warmly welcomed me into to their beautiful home for the day Saturday. That is when I fell in love with the adorable city of Aix.
Jill is a longtime friend of my mom's from Camp Desoto, but she has lived and painted in France for 30 years now, where she lives with her husband, Serge, and three boys, Alexander, Sergio, and Jimmy. This family is a breath of fresh air and indescribably entertaining and kind. Jill was hosting a painting workshop this week, so there were four others in town, including a fun girl about my age named Grace, who became a fast friend!
When I arrived on Saturday, Serge had cooked a delicious French meal for us, Jill showed us around their beautiful property (despite the rain), and Sergio and Jimmy invited us to go out to the Cedar Forrest with them. Grace and I embarked on this little adventure, which was a beautiful windy drive through wine country (cue my never failing carsickness...). As we drove and all got to know each other, the boys explained that it rains so rarely in Aix that everyone just stops everything. They do not know what to do so they just take a break from life. We all laughed about it, but when we got to the forrest where we should have seen the incredible views, it was full of fog and Sergio and Jimmy had to admit that they, being French/Americans, were also completely unprepared and unaware of how to deal with the rain and the unexpected fog. Despite, the lack of views, it was a spectacular adventure and fun to see so much of the untouched French countryside.
Their home was an amazing French Chateu, and I cannot even begin to describe how much I adored it, but my favorite part was the studio. I am fascinated by Jill's painting, but Serge and Segio both are also artists, so this family is not short on artist talent at all.
We returned from our exploration to find another incredible meal, complete with all four members of the painting workshop this week, who were fun women who added a great deal to the house full of characters! Again, it was a mouth-watering meal, complete with hilarious conversations and story telling!
After dinner, Grace and I went out to meet back up with Jimmy and Sergio and their friends. On a side note, these boys were Alpine campers and we vaguely remembered each other from the good ole Barn Dances, so it was funny to be reunited halfway across the world. Their friend, Paul, who had gone to Alpine with them but never really learned English, was so excited when they told him I was a "Desoto Girl"! It's funny how small the world is and to think that these are "The French Boys" that were always the talk of DeSoto back in the day.
After hanging out, Sergio took Grace and I out to see the Mount Saint Victorie, the mountain that Cezanne (who lived and painted in Aix) painted over 80 times. It was breath taking to see by night, although of course pictures could not capture it. Below is one of my favorite Cezanne paintings, as well as our attempt to capture it at night (which ended up just being our faces).
After a fiasco that ended in us not finding my hotel and sleeping in Grace's hotel room, I got up Sunday morning to finally explore the city of Aix-en-Provence. My love affair with this place continued. I wish I could put into words the smells, the shops, the sights, and the wonderful feelings that ensued as I walked around this city. I loved wandering through the French the markets. It was just one of those places that gets more incredible with everything you see.
All to soon, I was headed back to Marseille, but I literally cannot wait for my next visit to Aix. I will share about the rest of my weekend adventures soon.