Dec 24 2007

CS-ing in A-E-P

Published by at 1:30 pm under France,Southern France

Ben and I often discuss which city on our itinerary we would most like to actually live in. For me, Aix-en-Provence tops the list. It’s got a quintessential small university town appeal without losing any big city amenities. It’s walkable, beautiful, and lively.

But the best part about our week in Aix was couch surfing. What is “couch surfing,” you ask? is an online project that connects travelers around the world with locals willing to host them. Basically, you show up at a stranger’s house and that person is cool enough to give you a free place to stay and show you around town. We were aware of couch surfing prior to our trip, but have been wary of it: is it weird? is it safe?

After randomly giving it a whirl in Aix, I can officially say that couch surfing is DA BOMB and will change the way I travel. We were lucky enough to connect with two gracious hosts in Aix: the first half of the week we stayed with Simon (said Seemone) and Chloe, a young couple living on the outskirts of Aix. Simon, a lighting technician and avid French punk rocker, and Chloe, a student of acupuncture and Chinese medicine, gave us a room, introduced us to their friends and shared their knowledge of regional beers. The second half of the week was spent with Jean and Laurence, nuclear engineers in Aix, and their two daughters. Their family served us traditional French homecooked cuisine, showed us an amazing variety of French cheeses, and (unsuccesfully) attempted to teach Ben proper French pronunciation skills.

The best part about CS is that it’s like instantly having a local friend. You can experience the culture and place in a way that would be impossible otherwise. To illustrate my point, I present:

Five Awesome Things We Learned Thanks to Couch Surfing in Aix:

  1. The French know more about the Civil War than I do. When Chloe and Simon asked about Richmond’s tourist appeal, we were like, “uhh… we have Civil War statues?” At first they were confused. Then they were like, oh, of course, you mean the guerre de succession. Since the only thing I remember learning about France in school is “liberte, egalite, fraternite” (and I barely remember what that means), I was surprised that Chloe and Simon seemed so familiar with American history. We were even more surprised when they asked if we had a statue of General Lee. Then Simon broke out the source of their knowledge: a popular comic book series about the U.S. Civil War. We were unable to read the comic, but enjoyed the French artistic depicition of Confederate soldiers.
  2. My leg has ants! Do you know what that means? It means your leg has fallen asleep. It also means that you speak French. We learned this little translation factoid thanks to Jean, who was able to understand my “uh, what do you call it when your leg gets all, like, tingly?” question and answer it with, “oh yes, we call that having ants.”
  3. Provence is now known in my book as having the best Christmas tradition EVER: they eat THIRTEEN DESSERTS after their Christmas dinner. Granted, they are typically small desserts like figs and nougat. This is a custom I can really get behind and I’m trying to figure out a way to bring this Provencial tradition to the American South by talking my grandma into cooking thirteen varieties of pie next year. Even better, in order to have good luck during the new year, you must sample every dessert. It’s obligatory and guilt free! As luck would have it, the thirteen desserts festival was going on during our Aix visit. Ben and I ran around the festival’s tent, slyly sampling the various fares without actually purchasing anything.
  4. We were hanging out with Simon and some of his friends at a local pub when Simon pointed at me. “You finished your beer first. You must buy everyone at the table a drink.”

    I laughed as though he were kidding, until I realized everyone was staring at me expectantly. “Oh, you’re serious??” I said.

    “Yes,” Simon replied. “These are the rules. I’ll have a Leffe.”

    “Okay, I guess I’ll get this round,” I replied, a bit confused and a tad put out. Soon I discovered this is just the French way: you never, ever split the bill. Instead, everyone takes turns buying rounds. I noted that if the whoever-finishes-first-has-to-buy rule made its way to America, no one would EVER finish a beer.

  5. At 5:00 in the morning at an all-night cafe in Aix, a friend of Simon’s was trying to describe to me the various words the French have for love. French really is the language of love. She was struggling simply to define the various words using the limiting vocabulary of English. For instance, the French have different words to define various levels of platonic love. They also have different words for love itself — saying “I love chocolate” is a little bit different than saying “I love you,” isn’t it? While that difference is not reflected in English, there are different words for a love of chocolate and love of a person in French. That makes saying “je t’aime” to someone a really big deal.

Unfortunately, while we have many pictures to upload, the only internet cafe open in Prague on Christmas Eve is slow as molasses and I have to get busy eating dozens of Czech Christmas cookies. I imagine that no one is reading this anyway, as you’re probably busy eating holiday feasts and opening presents and visiting family. At least, I hope you are. It’s difficult to miss the holidays at home. Both Ben and I miss everyone so much. Much love to all our family and friends from Prague! Merry Christmas Eve!

NEXT: Marseille it ain’t so! »



10 responses so far

10 Responses to “CS-ing in A-E-P”

  1. Ben's Monon 24 Dec 2007 at 3:54 pm

    I’m reading.

  2. Ben's Momon 24 Dec 2007 at 3:55 pm

    Oops! I can read, but I can’t spell.

  3. Hollyon 24 Dec 2007 at 4:56 pm

    We love you and miss you, as well. Have a very Merry Christmas!!!

  4. Davidon 24 Dec 2007 at 5:10 pm

    merry Christmas, y’all!

  5. Brittany's momon 25 Dec 2007 at 9:26 pm

    merry christmas darlings!

  6. Aunt Judy and Uncle Davidon 27 Dec 2007 at 6:42 pm


    I agree about the 13 desserts I think that should be our mission when you return home… we can do it… I will help you… coconut, chocolate, caramel, lemon, lime, strawberry, blueberry….. the list goes on…. I have to stop now I am way to hungry discussing this..
    My absolute favorite dessert is creme burlee…. I hope you were able to sample those too…. Love ya and I am enjoying all the writings and pictures. Judy and David

  7. Andion 30 Dec 2007 at 4:04 pm

    Hey Ben & Brittany,
    I just read your last entry. You guys crack me up! And should think about writing a book on your experience ( I guess this is kind of like a book, huh?) Anyway, what caught my attention was the Civil War stuff and I don’t know much about it either. But you can let your friends know that your hairstylist’s great-great-great -great (not sure how many greats it is) grandfather is J.E.B Stuart. General I think? That’s really bad huh? But he has a statue on Monument Ave, I know that much. He also liked to drink bourbon and play practical jokes on Robert E. Lee!
    Well, I hope you have a super New Year! Take care,

  8. Darcieon 31 Dec 2007 at 9:19 am

    I agree about the book – you should publish the blog entries in a book form along w/ all of your awesome pictures. I really think it would sell! I can connect you w/ a publisher up here. :)

    Merry belated Christmas! It’s more like Happy New Year today.

  9. antoineon 04 Nov 2009 at 11:32 am

    we , french, call the Civil war the ” Guerre de Sécession ” and not “succession”! that was funny tho…

    btw ur blog is amazing.

    Come back to France!

  10. layer collar 24 inchon 19 Oct 2014 at 2:18 am

    At this time I am ready to do my breakfast, when having my breakfast coming over again to read
    more news.

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