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I have never felt spring emerge the way I have in Aix-en-Provence. In April's infancy, the plane trees were ghostly bare and the shoppers at the outdoor markets were still bowing to the wind, heads down and tucked into their beautiful French scarves.

In a few short weeks the shiver has been replaced by billowing trees and saffron-colored bouquets of the season's first blooms. Shoppers linger in the markets to listen to musicians while feasting on quiche Lorraine and sipping fruity vin rosé. Bulbs are pushing through with ferocious tenacity and the wine makers are praying that no frost will follow the warmth of these early spring days. Everyone is outside any chance that arises for every possible moment. Cafes set up tables in every corner square, people watchers perch on bar stools along the Cours Mirabeau (Aix-en-Provence's most lively thoroughfare), and families teeter on the edge of fountains.

With a population of just 140,000, you might expect Aix to be a traditional Provençal town...but this city has a buzz that far exceeds the relatively small population. Some say it is the hip student crowd, the central location, or the pedestrianized historic center. It is all of those things and more.

It is the essence of French style, coupled with the colorful chronicled past, captured by artists such as Van Gogh, Matisse and Picasso for generations. The locals move through the city with purpose but without appearing hurried. There is a deep appreciation of beautiful things, something that is presented effortlessly through architecture, fashion and a confidence I have only ever witnessed in France.

The magic of Aix-en-Provence is that in 30 minutes my family and I can be in Cassis dipping our toes in the French Riviera. Other families do the same. While children ride on the Jules Verne vintage carousel, their parents savor wine perfumed by the sea. There is a sense that the sun doesn't set until the French have completed their day by par la mer (by the sea).

If we fancy a country picnic versus the seaside, we weave through vineyards in the lowlands to the picturesque villages of La Luberon in just 30 minutes.

Or, in less than 30 minutes in another direction, we can be hiking around Sainte-Victoire, a mountain so striking that famed artist Cezanne was said to have painted this marvel over 60 times. If we feel like venturing a bit further, perhaps an hour or two, Avignon, Nice, and Arles await our exploration.

Read on…

Editor’s Choice

Part-Time Living in Guanajuato, Mexico

We discovered our colonial highland home by accident. We were on a year’s sabbatical, exploring the popular expat haven of San Miguel de Allende, when a couple we knew invited us to join them on a day trip to the nearby town of Guanajuato. We climbed the steps from the underground parking lot to a view of lively plazas, colonial-style buildings in bright orange and turquoise, and plentiful pedestrian areas. After an hour’s stroll, we knew this was where we wanted to base ourselves in Mexico. After that first visit in 1999, we kept returning. Read on...

Cotacachi

Starting Over in Ecuador in Our 40s

Two years ago Rob Hamm and Tracey Krause along with their two children relocated from Winnipeg to Cotacachi, Ecuador. Their goal as a family was to experience a new culture, travel, and learn a new language—which they’ve successfully done. But, there was a catch. Rob and Tracey are only in their 40s and still needed to earn an income to support their family. In preparing for their change in lifestyle, Rob took his interest in photography to the point where his photos could provide income. Several months before coming to Ecuador he began submitting photos… Read on...

Puerto Vallarta, Mexico

We Spent a Year Exploring Latin America to Find Our Ideal Retirement Haven

During our months of preparation, we set about determining the criteria we needed to choose a location. The criteria we chose for ourselves initially were: a good health care system at a much lower cost; a stable government; not wanting a car, a walkable location with a good transportation system; good infrastructure; a Spanish-speaking country because Mike already spoke some but wanted to become proficient; a warm climate year round; and, of course, a lower cost of living. Read on...

Live in Chiang Mai, Thailand for $1,200 – or Less – a Month

There’s no shortage of natural beauty in northern Thailand. There are dozens of rivers like the Mae Ping, which originates in the forest-clad Daen Lao mountain range and flows down through the temple-laden city of Chiang Mai. Waterfalls gush into fertile valleys like Mae Sa, where you’ll find elephant camps, orchid farms, and miles of lush jungle. This is a peaceful—some might say serene—part of the country, where for very little money you can enjoy a high level of comfort. With just $1,200 a month a couple won’t want for much, and that includes rent. Read on...

Pay Nothing for Your Accommodation While You Travel the World

In exchange for looking after the house, garden, pets, and pool, my husband Michael and I have saved around $24,000 in accommodation costs. Whether you want a dream vacation or to sample a retirement destination, the trick to being successful is to stand out from the crowd. Competition is fierce, with many homeowners receiving 20 to 60 responses to their “housesitter needed” advertisements. Here’s how you can join this group of savvy travelers and score the best housesitting gigs around the world. Read on...

10 Reasons to Live in Costa Rica

International Living has been encouraging its readers to choose Costa Rica as an overseas destination since the 1980s. Some things have changed since then, but Costa Rica still remains a beautiful, great-value retirement destination. Long stretches of deserted and undeveloped beaches, on the Caribbean and Pacific Coasts…dense jungles teeming with exotic wildlife…towering volcanoes, lush green valleys, and hundreds of crystal-clear lakes, rivers, streams, and waterfalls…mesmerizing sunrises, sunsets, and star-filled evening skies…all these things… Read on...


Testimonials

I can’t tell you how excited I’ve become reading your magazines; they feel like they were written just for me. I keep asking myself, “Can this be true”? I am so excited to retire and begin the next chapter of my life; I keep going from IL magazine to Atlas and back to the magazine […] Read on...

Jim Roberts, Denver, CO

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