See Jackie's new home in Aix-en-Provence! Apartments Tour & Finding student housing in France (It's a jungle!)
When my daughter saw this photo, she recognized a favorite bar in Aix-en-Provence. I was actually hoping she would notice the old sign, above it. One thing's sure, we don't see things the same way. Read more about hunting for a studio in Aix, in today's story.
TODAY'S WORD: une studette
small room, accommodation, rented to students
ECOUTEZ - Listen to Jean-Marc pronounce today's word: Download Studette
Ce jour-là, un tablier noué autour de la taille, les manches retroussées, il avait décidé de mettre de l’ordre dans sa studette. — (Dai Sijie, Le Complexe de Di, Gallimardl)
That day, an apron knotted around his waist, the sleeves rolled up, he decided to clean up his studio.
Improve your spoken French. Try Pronounce it Perfectly in French or Exercises in French Phonetics
A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE
by Kristi Espinasse
On Tuesday Jean-Marc and I drove around the périphérique of Aix-en-Provence, in a rush to make it to our 10 a.m. appointment to visit a studio apartment for our daughter.
Hunting for parking, I couldn't believe my eyes when a spot appeared. "There's one! Take it!" I said.
Jean-Marc pulled into the narrow slip and sprinted to the pay meter, half-way down the block lined by giant, shady platane trees. Moments later we were walking through the maze of Aix's centre ville. The pastel-colored buildings rising to meet the blue sky helped to calm us down. Both Jean-Marc and I have been on edge lately, and the latest news this morning (our daughter had overslept, missing our meetup) was enough to make me wonder if--I--and not our daughter--should be shopping for my very own studette in Aix. Every wife and mother needs her own man cave!
But those same fountains, along with the soft palette of old buildings had a calming effect. And yet, we needed to keep some of this feisty adrenaline going.... "We are not leaving this town until we have found a place for Jackie!" I reminded Jean-Marc, who had already received 2 cancellations for some apartments we were supposed to visit.
At 8 rue Matheron, a youngish realtor greeted us, looking fresh out of école immobilier...except France doesn't have real estate school. Anyone can show a house or, in our case, a tiny studio for one....
As we followed the bright-eyed realtor, climbing a narrow, winding staircase to the 6th floor, I began to have doubts. "Fire hazard!" for one. Claustrophobic by now, it was some relief to step down into the room on the last floor...when other doubts cropped up. A half-window (with bars) permitted a view of the sky only...the mattress looked like a Hotel de Puces, and the kitchenette was covered with dust and dead bugs.
Remembering our surprise at losing our deposit for our son's apartment (even after he and his girlfriend spent hours cleaning it) I wanted to know what this company's expectations were... "Excuse me, sir." I interrupted. Will this be cleaned before our daughter moves in?" I already knew the answer, which I repeated on our way to the second appointment:
The second and third appointments (with a different, less-perky realtor) had four families vying for an available studio, each of us keeping our cards close. That's when Jean-Marc slyly asked, "Will the winning party be the first one to whip out his or her checkbook?"
The sarcastic look sent back by the realtor meant that we had begun to lose favor with her, not that we had any to begin with. I studied the three other families, wondering who might secure housing today. This studio was was clean and modern, if piping hot from a south-facing midday sun. But there was an elevator - no need to climb 5 flights! This looked like the one, but we still had 3 more appointments....
Four families now zigzagged across Aix, eventually sprinting to keep up with the Realtor With Attitude, who was presently ducking into a clothing boutique....
Any confusion was soon cleared up, when a small door with 8 apartment numbers appeared. Jackie will love this! Brushing by clothes racks each time she enters or exits her new home. Oh, the quirks of Aix-en-Provence, where your front doorstep was shared with a boutique!
Four families passed beneath the colorful awning and brushed past the rack of summer dresses to access the hidden stairwell. Another hike up an old staircase to the 5th floor (no elevator) and we arrived in a charming studio with ancient red-tiled floors, light gray cupboards, and all around spaciousness! It was the perfect man cave for me (I'm only dreaming!)...but I knew it wasn't for my daughter. That is when I began thinking of my Mom, who just lost Mr John, her husband and who is about to move out of their condo--to live on the outskirts of Puerto Vallarto, in the barrio! Mom would love this place...which seemed much safer despite 5 steep flights of stairs and Mom's bad hip!
Realizing this wasn't the right place for Jackie (or Mom) and panicked about the high demand for apartments in Aix, I elbowed Jean-Marc, "should we take the previous one? We need to reserve it before the others get it!"
Jean-Marc agreed, casually pulling aside our realtor. "On le prend!"
Given The Checkbook Comment, earlier, I was surprised when the realtor agreed so easily, even assuring us we could sign for it back at her office. Alas, once we separated, we received the famous call: l'apart n'est plus disponible.
Now we were desperate. For the next visit, we stood facing two sweaty lovers, hickeys all over their necks. The man pointed to the mattress up in the loft and said: it comes with the studio....
I elbowed Jean-Marc and we backtracked to the door, down the dusty stairs, back out to the winding streets of Aix. Little did we know that we were about to find the perfect place, at our very next stop. As we wait for the paperwork to go through (not easy for a wine farmer and a blogger to prove a constant stream of income, given the weather and a few other factors!), we will believe our good fortune when we receive "les clés en main", or keys in the hand. The place has a mezzanine (a loft just big enough to hold a mattress--an advantage when it comes to limited floor space), which was Jackie's only wish, so she is very very happy!
Jackie's studio! You can see my hat, as I am flattened against the far wall, trying to photograph the size of the apartment.
Another advantage is the full size window, which leaves me with loads of nostalgia--and goosebumps. In 1990, two floors down and out on the street, I walked towards this window, and made a sharp left, on my way to to get croissants for Jean-Marc. Madly in love, I had no idea that the spirit of our daughter was looking out that very window, whispering to me down there on the street, "See you in the future, Mommy..."
Post Note: Throughout our visit, I got an even greater appreciation for an inspiring book I have just finished. Diane Covington-Carter's memoir about her time in Aix is a sheer pleasure to read. I did not want it to end! Remembering my own junior year abroad, I knew one thing to be true--I would have appreciated it even more had I had to wait for it! Having read Diane's book, I can now go back to Aix (thanks to Jackie's studette, i.e. my man cave), and discover all she wrote about, including her favorite hotel, café, and activities.
Read EIGHT MONTHS IN PROVENCE - You will absolutely love Diane's book. I recognized so many French Word-A-Day members in the reviews section for this book, and I've left a review as well! CLICK HERE to order.
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I love my new foutas towel and am finding many uses: pareo (beach wrap), beach towel, picnic blanket...
Mon panier. And I have gotten many requests for this market basket. You can find a similar style right here. I had mine custom embroidered in France.
TISANES - French herbal teas. My family drinks one every night, to help drift off to sleep ORDER HERE.
Good French moisturizer! My daughter and I continue to use and enjoy this popular French facial moisturizer. Don't miss all the reviews! Click here.
French groceries: Carte d'Or coffee, berlingots candies, cassoulet and more.
Laguiole steak knives are for sale in many of the local French market stands
French Kitchen Towels by Garnier-Thiebaut.
Espadrilles - seen them everywhere this time of year -in the south of France and elsewhere!
PARIS EIFFEL PEACE T-shirt - "so many people have stopped to ask me where I got it" -Betty.
Can you see the steam coming off that mattress? Because you were so nice to review all my product links above (thanks!), I'll show you the lovers' apartment that we visited, hickeys and all, before we found the right place for Jackie! Notice the mezzanine with mattress. Mezzanines are very popular in student housing in France. Is it the same where you are?
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For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety