Chapitre 22: Climbing through the Château in the Comte of Monte Cristo in Marseille, France

Marseille: “C’est sale” (It’s dirty).

Marseille: “It’s The ville (city) of pick-pocketers.”

Marseille: “C’est une ville effrayante” (scary).

These are just a few anecdotes out of all that we were told before making our first memorable trip to Marseille (during my study abroad in Aix in 2012).

Still, these stories and opinions didn’t prevent us from going!

After all, it wasn’t everyday we had the chance to visite a château,

so, we jumped on the Navette and prayed we wouldn’t look like easy targets.

5 Raisons to Comb Through the Château d’If in Marseille:

  • It’s on an îleThe only way to get to the château is by ferry (payant, bien-sûr!). Here’s one way to take a step back in time: (ignoring the moderne ferry ride) Once stepping foot on the île, take the prisonniers walk. 
  • It was a prison. There’s nothing like embracing the past through prison walls marked by anciens prisonniers…and it’s prisonniers mythiques as well. For exemple, Edmond Dantès was contained at d’If in Le Comte de Monte-Cristo by Alexandre Dumas’ (1844). Dumas’ novel gained enormous succès: It was translated around the world and adaptés and/or inspirés into 23 films. There’s even a salle in the château dedicated to these adaptations and stories. 
  • There’s an echo spot on the roof. With easy access to the roof, this spot is a must-try!
  • It’s free for personnes ages 25 and under. Other free tarifs: Passe Éducation (aka TAPIF assistants), Personnes handicapées and his/her accompagnateur, Carte Culture, Carte ICOM, and unemployed personnes with an Attestation from Pôle Emploi (the unemployment agency).
  • There’s a café. First of all, this is France. There Should be a café (it was expected); if there wasn’t, I’d have been déçue. Secondly, there’s no better way to enjoy a glass of vin before the ferry arrives than in front of a Château Médiéval.

QUICK: Practical Information:

  • Ferry costs: 10.80€/round trip (Vieux Portd’If and vice-versa) – Ferry hours for Frioul-If Express (weather permitting) can be found here.
  • Château costs: 5.50€/regular entrée, 4,50€ reduced entrée, free (as previously mentioned) for 25 or younger, Passe ÉducationPersonnes handicapées and his/her accompagnateur, Carte Culture, Carte ICOM, and unemployed personnes with an Attestation from Pôle Emploi (the unemployment agency).
  • Château hours: (weather permitting)  2 Janvier – 3 Avril 10:00-17:00 (daily); 4 Avril – 2 Octobre 10:00-18:00 (daily); 3 Octobre – 21 Décembre 10:00-17:00 (closed on Monday’s)

Le Château d’If isn’t the only thing to do in Marseille.

There’s also the Vieux Port,

The Porte d’Aix,

and the Basilique de Notre Dame de la Garde

– just to name a few…

Marseille is no Aix, but it certainly has quite a lot to offer touristes – juste don’t forget to make a climb up the Château d’If! ♦

“The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page.” Saint Augustine.


Chapitre 21: Déception in Saint-Tropez, France

Saint-Tropez was an excursion that I took during my studies in Aix.

I had heard so much about Saint-Tropez that when the possibilité of a trip to the ville halted in front of me, I jumped on the occasion to go!

Although I was highly déçue with how little this ville had to offer (it was small, there wasn’t a lot of activités, and the plage (beach) wasn’t crowded at all – I know this should be a plus, but I heard that hoards of vacationers flock to this place…I guess it was off saison?), I was pleased to spend some time basking beneath the soleil.

5 Raisons to Challenge my Déception of Saint-Tropez:

  • The Citadel de Saint-Tropez. It’s quite the hike to the Citadel, but the vue is worth it! 
  • The marché. While my friends and I were taking in the sights and sounds of this petite ville, we came across an Art Deco marché. Certainement, each ville has its fruits/vegetable marché – but, it’s not every day you see an Art Deco marché!
  • Le PortThe port in Saint-Tropez is full of riche-looking yachts, sailboats, and small fishing boats.
  • Église de Notre-Dame de l’AssomptionYou can see its gorgeously warm-colored tour almost anywhere in Saint-Tropez (even at the top of the Citadel). 
  • La Maison des Papillons. Most villes, including Saint-Tropez, have a Musée d’Art/Histoire; however, Saint-Tropez also has a Butterfly Musée!

Saint-Tropez was nothing like I imaginé: It didn’t take long to walk the entire ville – thus, there wasn’t a whole lot to do, either.

But, it’s quite pretty to admire.

Between the volets violets,

and its proximité the côte,

I managed to find some magique to the ville. ♦

“The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page.” Saint Augustine.

A Taste of Culture Japonaise at the Japan Expo Sud

It was a beau, brillant, and sun-filled day at Parc Chanot in Marseille. 

It was The almost-parfait day to wait 45 minutes in the line outside (despite having pre-ordered tickets online); the Mistral was at its peak. I was thankful to have put my hair into pigtails despite the fact that I must’ve looked like a 12-year old. At least my hair didn’t end up all snarled.

But, I fit in with this style, for I was at the Japan Expo Sud.

The Japan Expo Sud was a beau mixture of Japanese (or Japanese inspired) manga

(and animé, of course)

Full Metal Alchemist will always be my favorite animé.

and culture Japonaise.

Tanabata inspired Wish Trees.

5 Things That Définissent a Japan Expo:

  • Japanese (and Japanese inspired) manga and animé.
  • Cosplay…


(Even the vendeurs tap into the cosplay marché)


…and Scooby Doo…?

It must also be noted that whatever animated film/show (and even anything science-fiction) that was just released within the year (Japonais or not) will be displayed in one way or other at the Expo. Exemples: Star Wars; Deadpool…

Even vendeurs tapped into the marché.

…and the Lord of the Rings, which wasn’t released in 2016, but oh well, everyone likes a cool sword/dagger.

Oh, look! There’s Aragorn.

Though, I’m still baffled about how Scooby Doo fits into all of this…but, I love Scooby, so, I approve!

  • Japanese (inspired) sports…


…and board games.


  • Author signings and présentations.

L’autographe and dédicace from Reno Lemaire!

Reno Lemaire, auteur of Dreamland.

Reno Lemaire, auteur of Dreamland (Lemaire set the stage for French manga authors) .

  • Onigiri…



…and Rainbow Rice Cakes.

  • Old vidéo game consoles… 

    Oh look…there’s Scooby!

    …and des jeux vidéos.

Super Mario Duck Hunt.

Street Fighter.

The Japan Expo Sud fulfilled my taste of culture Japonaise…for the day.

All I need to do now is go to Japon (and maybe my love of culture Japonaise will be fulfilled for the year…).

Ma famille-outing at the Japan Expo Sud was quite a last-minute-but-super-awesome décision.

Next time, we will dress in full costume (on vous jure ! We swear!). ♦

Touring Tours

It was a warm, sunny autumn day when mon chéri and I hopped onto the Navette, a type of bus, and headed for the TGV, or high-speed train station, in Aix.


It’s way too early in the morning…

La Toussaint, or Fall break, had just begun and we weren’t going to let it slip by without going somewhere… so, where did we go? Tours.


La Gare de Tours (the Tours Train Station).

Tours is a ville, or city, in the heart of the Val de Loire, or Loire Valley, located in northwestern France. According to one of our tour guides, Tours used to be the capitol of France, so, naturally, there are 3,000 châteaux, or castles, in and around the city (after all, not only did the King have a separate château for hunting, his wife and mistress(es) each had a summer château and a winter château). So, what did we do while in Tours? Visited 7 châteaux (in 2 days) in the region and admired 2 châteaux from the extérieur (these châteaux weren’t open to the public). Our favorite château was Chenonceau.


Bienvenue, or Welcome, to our new home: Château de Chenonceau. 😉

The first château that we saw was le château de Tours (obviously, this was located in Tours). It was closed to the public, but it was still awesome to see from the extérieur.

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I’m from mid-west America, so, it’s not everyday I get to see a château. Thus I was thrilled just looking at le château de Tours from the outside… so, you can imagine my reaction when I got to actually go inside 7 châteaux.

The second château was Chenonceau – not to be confused with its location in the ville, Chenonceaux.

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Chenonceau was heavily influenced by Catherine de Médicis, Henry II’s wife.


Le Jardin de Catherine de Médicis.

It was also influenced by Diane de Poitiers, Henry II’s mistress.


Le jardin de Diane de Poitiers.

You can’t visit the Val de Loire, or Loire Valley, without seeing Château de Chenonceau because:

  • It’s a castle, not a palace that the French call a château.
  • The tower from the Medieval period still rests in front of the château.


  • It has a moat…with fish in it.

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  • It doesn’t over do it with the jardins, or gardens – there’s two main jardins (previously mentioned), 1 small jardin, and 1 labyrinthe…That’s it!
  • It holds a ton of authentic furniture pieces intricately carved from wood. I’ll never understand how wood can be turned into this:


Not to mention the ceiling…


…and the wood-panels on the wall…


  • The floor in the Galerie is covered in black and white checks. Chess anyone…?


  • The ceiling that’s not fabricated from wood is still just as awesome.


Clos Lucé was the third “château” we toured.

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It was more like a mansion than a château, which was a little disappointing, but it was interesting to tour. It’s most famous occupant was Léonard de Vinici when he worked with Francois I. So, the basement is dedicated to miniature models of his work.

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Le premier Tank.

The fourth château was Château Royal d’Amboise located in Amboise.

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This is a REAL château! It’s situated at the top of a hill/mountain with a beautiful view of the Loire on one side & the city of Amboise on the other.

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It doesn’t have a moat, though, which is disappointing; however, the guard’s room makes up for the lack of moat.


Next, we took a mini bus to Azay-le-Rideau to tour our 5th château, le Château d’Azay-le-Rideau.

Some cool things about this château:

  • Apparently, this is mine and mon chéri‘s home (our first initials are engraved on the door).


  • It has a moat! This is a must for any ‘real’ château.


  • The stained glass windows and the view of the château from these windows is awesome.


  • The ceiling in the stairwell is incredible (and different on each level).

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  • King Francis I’s symbole is everywhere.

Don’t mind me… I’m just putting logs the size of me in the chimney…

The 6th stop was Villandry.

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Let’s get something straight: Villandry is definitely not a château. Unfortunately, the French use the term château to describe many types of buildings…including palaces (even though there’s a separate word for palace, palais…). Luckily for us, Villandry had something else cool to offer (because we weren’t in la Valle de Loire to visit palais): gardens.

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Le Jardin d’Ornement.

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Le Potager, or the Vegetable Garden.

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 Le Jardin des Simples.


Le Jardin d’Eau, or Water Garden.

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Le Jardin du Soleil.


Le Labyrinthe.

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La Forêt.


The 7th château was Ussé, also known as le château de la Belle au Bois Dormant, or Sleeping Beauty’s Castle.

Château d'Ussé7

This château offered views of the cellar (sadly, it didn’t offer free wine tasting) and the stables; however, the moat looked as if it had been dried up for years. Every proper château needs a moat with water in it!

Château d'Ussé5    Château d'Ussé4

Ussé distinguishes itself from other châteaux through its use of mannequins. The mannequins, though extremely creepy, make the château appear lived-in and less museum-like. The most popular display, la belle au bois dormant, or sleeping beauty, appears in the tower.

Château d'Ussé9    Château d'Ussé10

The 8th château was le Château de Langeais.

Château de Langeais3   Château de Langeais2


2 reasons why Langeais represents a real château: 

  • It has a working drawbridge.

Château de Langeais1

  • A part of the medieval fortress still exists!

Château de Langeais5

The last château was a surprise from our tour guide.


It wasn’t open to the public because it’s still occupied by a family (I don’t remember the name), but the exterior was beautiful enough for me. It’s situated at the foot of two vignobles, or wine vineyards.

But, we didn’t just visit châteaux in and around Tours, we also explored Tours (starting with the Hôtel de Ville).

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We discovered L’église (church) Saint-Symphorien – as it is in the middle of being restored, it isn’t open to the public.

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We happened to show up when it was being cleaned, so, the doors were open, and, of course, the employees were more than happy to let us wander around while they cleaned. Needless to say, I was thankful I took allergy medicine before we left our apartment.

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In addition to L’église (church) Saint-Symphorien, we also visited Cathédrale Saint-Gatien.

Cathédrale Saint-Gatien6    Cathédrale Saint-Gatien2


The extérieur of the cathédrale was as awe-inspiring as the intérieur. The intérieur was spotted with stained glass windows and ribbed vaulting.

Cathédrale Saint-Gatien1    Cathédrale Saint-Gatien5

We also admired the jardin at the Beaux Arts Museum…

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The jardin was so peaceful, calming, and beautiful that we became one with it…

Beauxartsmuseumgarden3   Beauxartsmuseumgarden2

5 Reasons why Tours is worth Touring:

1. It’s proximity to châteaux (I only spent about 90% of this post drooling over 9 of them…).

2. The magnificant views of the Loire. The Loire (river) runs right through Tours.


3. It’s a bike friendly city. There’s even a separate bridge over the Loire for bikes (obviously, there’s a bridge for vehicles, too).

4. It’s a sport-friendly city. Literally, everyone goes for a run or plays soccer. In fact, the ‘bike bridge’ is divided into 4 lanes: 2 bike lanes and 2 pedestrian lanes. If you’re a ‘walker’, then, you best watch out for the runners… they come out of nowhere! I got lucky when I took this photo because the runners just passed by me.


5. There’s a restuarant called, “Au Lapin qui Fume,” equipped with an image of a bunny dressed in costume, or a suit, like my great grandpa, and smoking a pipe (just like him, too).

lapin1Also, the food lived up to the Lapin‘s reputation.


  Pavé de biche, poire sucrée, et citrouille purée (slab of deer meat, candied pear, and pumpkin purée).

Needless to say, every city needs this restaurant’s concept. ♦

Canoeing in Cassis

Aix is an amazingly beautiful city that’s full of things to AIXplore; however, it’s not able to offer Everything. Throughout the day, one can easily find the AIXpat walking among the numerous fontaines, or fountains, the Cezanne paraphernalia, Pizza Capri, and Montagne Sainte-Victoire… That is, until 14h (2:00pm) hits. At this time, the sound of dripping sweat hitting the cobble stone and asphalt streets can be heard from a kilomètre away. I found myself wondering, “where’s the beach?”

The beautiful thing about Aix in the summer is its proximity to cities bordering the Mediterranean Sea. This proximity enables AIXpats, touristes, and the like to travel easily to beach cities such as Marseille, Nice, La Ciotat, to name a few. Recently, mon chéri and I spent a day in Cassis (FYI: the southerners pronounce the ‘s’ ending).

Cassis 18

We left Aix at about noon, and took a car ride to the coastal city. With the windows down and music ringing in our ears, the 45 minute drive went by rather quickly. After finding free parking near Le jardin public, we grabbed his backpack and headed down to the beach. We had 1 thing on our minds: find the canoë-kayak place, Cassis Sport Loisirs Nautiques, where we reserved a canoë-kayak biplace, or 2 seats. We got lucky: it was right on the first beach we checked, Plage de la Grande Mer.

cassis 16

After signing some paperwork, handing over 1 ID, and looking at the map, we were directed towards the building with the canoë-kayaks, the oars, and the life-vests. The employee chose the oars for us. Who knew that choosing an oar would be so meticulous? Obviously, this was my first time in a professional  canoë-kayak. It took a few tries before the employee was satisfied with an oar for me… apparently, the size of the oar depends on your height. I’m 5’2”, so, I ended up with a small oar. It worked for me, though. After the oars were picked, we were given life-vests. Again, this posed a slight problem for the employee: A child’s life-vest or a small adult… I’m pretty petite, but I’m not That petite. After what seemed like 5 minutes, but was probably only a few moments, the employee decided I was an adult Small. So, we fastened our life-vests and then threw our stuff into the water-proof bucket. We strapped the bucket to the canoë-kayak, and with the help of one of the employees, we were pushed into the sea. The Mediterranean Sea. I was kayaking in the Mediterranean Sea. I couldn’t believe it!

As we bumped along the coast of Cassis, I knew I made one of the best decisions in my life: toss aside my fears of drowning and being sucked into the sea to experience nature at its finest. My heart was racing when we first began; however, as we glided past calanques and roman ruins, I began to calm down. “I can do this! I am doing this!” I thought, just as mon chéri decided it was time for us to belt out Au Bord de l’Eau by Gérald de Palmas. It was difficult to concentrate on both moving the canoë-kayak and singing, but I tried. Mon chéri was more successful than was I. As we belted, “au bord de l’eau / il y a cette fille qui m’appelle / elle me trouve beau / au bord de l’eau / je passe des heures avec elle,” I looked down into the clear, emerald colored water and thought, “this was the best decision Ever!” I looked up, expecting to see the sky, calanque, or more ruins; however, that was not the case. In front of us was only: Emerald…Large, choppy emerald. For about 20 minutes, I thought we were going to flip the canoë-kayak, get sucked under a huge wave, and then we were going to die. While mon chéri screamed, Ouais… wohooooo!” I was screaming bloody murder. It didn’t help that I was in the front. I screamed and cried for the entire 20 minutes it took to drive the canoë-kayak into the calanque, Port-Pin. It was difficult to move the canoë-kayak while screaming and crying, but  with encouragement from mon chéri, I was able to help steer it onto the beach.

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Despite this minor setback, I recommend renting a canoë-kayak to see the calanque from the sea as this magnificent view is only offered from the sea. If you’re not a do-it-yourself-sea-person, then a tour boat might be a better option as it offers the same views of the ruins and the calanque. The only setback to this option is that you don’t have the freedom to get off the boat and lay on the beach, swim in the clear water, or tour the ruins in the calanque because these boats are too large to stop at them (except at Port Miou). This was the website I used to rent the canoë-kayak: I recommend it mainly because they were more than understanding when I was unable to take the canoë-kayak on the return trip. Instead, they brought a small boat to come pick us up. It took over an hour for them to get us, but it was an enjoyable hour as we were able to spend more time on the beach in Port-Pin and more time canoeing in soft-wave waters. I felt a little silly for not being able to make the return trip, but I was comforted in the fact that I wasn’t the only kayak-er that thought it was too dangerous. In fact, all of the 2-person kayak-ers that stopped at Port-Pin shared similar feelings, though, one group decided to do the return trip after waiting for nearly 2 hours for someone to come get them. They figured the company had forgotten them. They had fear in their eyes as I watched them make their way to the edge of the calanque.

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After our canoë-kayak adventure, we decided to stop at Le jardin public, a free public garden. It was certainly a bird/duck sanctuary.

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Then, we walked around the port.

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Followed by an area where you can play Pétanque, or Boule (aka the French version of Bocce Ball) with a view of La fontaine du Square Gilbert Savon.

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The next stop was La Plage de la Grande Mer with a view of Le Château de Cassis.

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Then, we hit up le Quai Calendal – complete with views of the lighthouse and La Statue de Calendal, a statue dedicated to the soldiers who helped liberate France during WWII.

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And, finally, we stopped at a restaurant. We were starving, but also on a budget. The beach is lined with restaurants, but not exactly the type of restaurants one would think. It was lined with Pizzerias.

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We chose one named, The Bounty, and enjoyed a delicious mix of tomato sauce, eggplant, and 3 fromage, or cheese: mozzarella, Emmental (similar to Gruyere or the US idealistic “Swiss”), and chèvre, or goat.

cassis 3

5 reasons why Cassis is worth your visit:

  1. Cassis boarders the Mediterranean Sea. In fact, the clear, emerald water will hypnotize you…and before you know it, you’ll find yourself one with the waves. The beach itself is rocky, so, prepare your feet. If you have sensitive feet, then I recommend wearing water shoes.
  2. The coast of Cassis is held together by calanques (geographical rocky formations), which adds to the beauty of Cassis.
  3. As a result of #1 & #2, Cassis offers a variety of beach, mountain, and water activities. For example, you can go hiking in the calanques or you can take a canoe and view the calanques from the Mediterranean Sea. One of the perks of the canoe is that you can see the Roman ruins embedded in the calanques.
  4. Cassis offers a château, or castle, at the top of a cliff called, Le Château de Cassis. You can drive up to the château or you can hike up to it  it’s a bit of a climb, though, so strap on your hiking boots and be prepared for steep steps as you get closer to the château. The château dates back to the 11th century; however, it has since been purchased by a private company. Rooms at the château can be rented out for about $5,500-$10,000 a night.* Instead of paying a fortune to rent a room at the chateau, simply hike up to the top of the cliff and enjoy the panoramic views of the Mediterranean Sea, the petit port, the views of the calanques Port-Pin and En Vau, and the city itself.
  5. There are things to do if you’re tired of the beach and the calanque. For example, take a 16 minute walk (8 minute drive) southeastward of the Port de Cassis to visit the Clos Sainte Magdeleine. The Clos Sainte Magdeleine is a wine vinyard that specializes in vin blanc, or white wine, and rosé – both types of vin range in price from 14€ – 85€ a bottle (depending on whether it’s conventional or AB (Agriculture Biologique), or organic, and the age of the vin). A visit of the entire grounds doesn’t come without a cost; however, the magnificent garden view and historical explanation is worth the price: 14€ a person (7€ for 18 and under). S’il vous plaît, visit this website for more information: theAIXpatAIXperience is not affiliated with this webiste.

*Visit this website to book a room at Le Château de Cassis: theAIXpatAIXperience is not affiliated with this website. Thus, theAIXpatAIXperience gains nothing if you visit the website or use it to book a room at Le Château de Cassis. ♦

What did you enjoy the most about Cassis