Our Life in Aix

La Vie à Aix

Students are continuing to settle into life here in Aix, and are looking forward to les soldes, which start this week. Students began classes Monday and were thrilled to meet their enthusiastic French teachers, Pascale and Michèle. After classes our local leader Valerie prepared a snack of tapenade, melon and strawberries from the market. The daily market on the Place Richelme is beautiful and students enjoy stopping by the stalls to pick up fresh fruit and Provencal delicacies.

Walking in Cézanne’s footsteps

Tuesday was another gorgeous day, which we took advantage of by touring the painter Cézanne’s atelier and its surrounding gardens. We walked to the Terrain des Peintres, which boasts a beautiful view of the Mont Saint-Victoire, which Cézanne painted often. In the late afternoon, students were introduced to their Language Partners, young French students from Aix with whom they meet to practice their French and learn about their lives in France. Our group loved meeting with locals their age and getting the “scoop” on teenagers in Aix. Even after only a few days here, they were able to carry on lengthy conversations en français! They can’t wait to meet with their Language Partners again later this week.

Inspiring nights in Aix

In the evening we enjoyed a dessert of calissons, a traditional Provencal candy famous in Aix. We were then able to join a packed house in the St. Sauveur Cathedrale, one of Aix’s most famous churches, to hear an American youth symphony and choir perform. Formidable!

We celebrated the 4th of July with a special meal prepared by the chef of our student residence and and an afternoon swimming at the local pool. Bonne fête!

– Marion Phillips, US Leader

Wonderful days in Cassis and Aix

Journée merveilleuse à Cassis et Aix

All members of our group have arrived safely and were tired but in good spirits! They met our wonderful local leader Valerie. We enjoyed a delicious breakfast on the terrace of our hotel overlooking the Mediterranean.

Later in the day we explored the town of Cassis and the Calanques on a lovely boat tour. Some students enjoyed sitting in the “splash zone” up front! It was stunningly beautiful, and a great way to introduce the students to France.

Exploring Aix-en-Provence

We settled into our dormitory in Aix Saturday night and went on a guided tour of the town. We were treated to an outdoor orchestra on the Cours Mirabeau (the main boulevard in Aix) and enjoyed glaces artisanales (framboise, pistache, and citron were favorites) while listening to beautiful music and opera singers. Aix is a fantastic town to be in during the summer because there are always outdoor performances and concerts going on.

Sunday the group hit the ground running and visited many well-known sites in Provence. First we enjoyed a delicious olive oil tasting and learned how olives are harvested and then turned into different types of olive oil. Délicieux! Despite some rain, we braved the ruins of the chateau in Les Baux de Provence, exploring the ramparts and enjoying the views.

Gaugin & Van Gogh at Cathédrale d’Images

The students were blown away by the exposition of works by Gaugin and Van Gogh at the Cathédrale d’Images. This is in fact not a cathedral, but a former stone quarry that has been transformed into an exposition space where images of paintings are projected across the walls and floors and set to music. It was “the coolest thing we’ve ever seen!” It will be great having now seen many of Van Gogh’s paintings to visit the town of Arles this later this week, where Van Gogh painted some of his most famous works.

We then stopped at the Museé de la Lavande so that students could learn about the lavender plants that they see all over Provence.

The highlight of the day turned out to be the most simple – as it was a little chilly we stopped to warm up in a boulangerie in the town of Cavaillon. Students were treated to delicious chocolat chaud à l’ancienne and traditional French pastries. The young couple who had just opened the boulangerie were incredibly welcoming and brought their 2-year old son out to meet the group. The students enjoyed playing with him so much and wished they could take him with us!

All in all we spent a wonderful first weekend in Aix. This week classes begin and students will be able to start putting what they learn in the classroom to use in their daily lives here in France!

– Marion Phillips, US Leader

Bonjour et bienvenue!

Greetings from your Aix-en-Provence Trip Leader!

Bonjour students and parents! My name is Marion Phillips and I will be your trip leader in Aix-en-Provence. This will be my fifth summer working with American high school students in France, and my third summer leading a France trip for ECI. I fell in love with France during my junior year abroad in Paris, and returned there to do an M.A. I then spent three wonderful years teaching French at Lawrence Academy, a boarding school in Groton, Massachusetts. Currently I am pursuing a PhD in French Literature at UC Berkeley.


There is no better place to be than the south of France for the summer. We will be visiting historic sites and cities, taking in breathtaking views of Provence and the Mediterranean, and sampling delicious French cuisine. Students will be able to take their French language skills from the classroom to the marchés, cafés, and musées of beautiful Aix-en-Provence before having the opportunity to fully immerse themselves in French language and culture with host families in Hyères. Finally, we will get to know Paris, my adopted hometown. I look forward to meeting all of you and sharing this wonderful experience!

Please feel free to contact me with any questions at marionephillips@gmail.com

À bientôt,

– Marion Phillips, Trip Leader, Aix-en-Provence 2012