Year Abroad Intro: Administration


So this is my third week in Aix-en-Provence, and it couldn’t feel more like home already. Yes, I asked for a room on the fourth floor because I thought I’d have a view, and yes, that did mean I had to carry my cases up four flights of stairs, and no, after all that I didn’t have a view, and no I’m not bitter about it, but it’s been a great start!
Aix is a gorgeous town of fountains and parks, of old streets and fashionable boutiques, hidden crêperies and late night bars. Admittedly, we had a shaky start, I’m not going to lie, French administration leaves much to be desired. For instance, take my arrival, the simple process of getting the key for my room. This process was not simple. To the dismay of everyone in the welcome office, I arrived at 4pm on a Friday. Now, this is the South of France, you’re lucky if you can rely on anything being open past midday, at which point they disappear for a lunch break that lasts 3 hours even though their door says they’ll be back at 1.30.
So it was Friday, the woman wanted to go home, she made this very clear. She sent me away to get insurance on the other side of town before she would give me my room (something she did to none of my friends). The last time I felt this cheated it was year 12 and my A Level French teacher had just separated me and my friend for talking (we weren’t even that loud, and no I’m not bitter about it)! However, I scuppered her masterplan by buying insurance online and returning in a flash, but she had another trick up her sleeve. At this point, around 4.30, her whole family turned up, even the dog came, and stood behind her, looking at the clock and talking about all the fun things they would do that weekend. By 4.50 she admitted defeat and handed over my key.
For the next two weeks things went swimmingly! I’ve got a great group of people, all girls, languages are very female dominant at Uni, and since French men don’t seem to understand the difference between “no” and “NO!”, I’m in the privileged position of being one of the few guys people seem to want to talk to. Every cloud hey?
So yeah, with EU money I’ve had a weekend away in Avignon, been burnt to a crisp on a beach in Marseille, visited Arles, guidebook in hand, to be a tourist for the day, and then topped it off with a two nights in Nice. Of course, all this is interspersed with a generous amount of time spent lying in the sun and the weekly event of “Bakeoff Wednesday” whereby I, and at least six other Brits cram ourselves into one room, teas in hand, fighting over the biscuits, to watch Mary Berry give newfound importance to puff pastry.
There’s no place like home.

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