Abundance in Aix

A weekend in France, November 2016
Paris, Aix en Provence, France

Interested in a Music and Markets Tour? We’d love to hear from you!
We’re looking ahead to Spring – Aix en Provence for the Easter Festival.

The days have just sped by since we arrived in Paris last Friday, where we breakfasted in luxury in Le Train Bleu at Gare de Lyon after our overnight flight. cam15259A quick 3 hours on the TGV (fast train) and we were back home in Aix en Provence, and before we knew it, the Saturday market was calling, in full bloom. cam15269Due to major urban renewal work going on in the biggest market square, as well as Cours Mirabeau now filled with….well, you’ll hear about that later…the vendors have been moved to open areas near the Rotonde, the grand fountain at the end of Cours Mirabeau. Not this pretty fountain below – but since the market’s now there, it’s getting a little more attention than it used to!cam15275The stalls are as busy as ever – the move doesn’t seem to have hurt sales! And the abundance of fall produce graces every smiling vendor’s table.cam15277As we walk through the Place des Precheurs, the former market square, looking into the excavations preparing for pedestrianizing the spacious area, we notice a flyer about an afternoon modern dance in the excavations so after lunch we return to watch. Mysterious sounds from the bass initiate the performance, Souffle de Pierres – Breath of Rocks – then the elegantly supple dancer begins drawing our attention to the stones below. cam15302An associate reads passages from several authors about the meaning of archeological finds, and the former lives and history beneath our feet. Lying down on the stones, the dancer seems to fall asleep, then rises, hair unbound, cam15310portraying the energy simmering beneath. As she dances to the surface, then bows, we applaud…yet another unique taste of life in Aix.
There was music throughout the markets this morning, and as I walk through the streets later I see a trio spiffed up in suits, ready to play – cam15318-copyand as they sway melodically along the lane I wonder if I’ve stepped into New Orleans!
After dinner we’re out again, taking in the lights on Cours Mirabeau, lined for the season with Christmas chalets selling seasonal crafts and goodies,cam15323on our way to a string quartet with piano (yes, a quintet) concert at the Conservatory. The Vin Chaud (hot wine) booth, as always, is the busiest!  cam15328And the concert was fabulous (and free!) – one of our favorite quintets, by Schumann, performed to a packed house with warmth, excellence and verve by conservatory professors.
The Rotonde shimmers as we walk by on our way home – cam15329so fun to be here at this time of year!
We know the rain’s coming, so we enjoy as much outdoor time as possible on Sunday, strolling through the Mazarin Quarter after church – a poor dolphin on one of Aix’s most famous fountains is strapped to his post, loosened by rebels illegally climbing up the historic monument, and JUST after it was completely restored! cam15337We arrive at St. Jean de Malte just as their mass ends, cam15344and as people stream through the doors a postlude from the magnificent organ bursts out into the street.
One more concert completes the weekend – the Breakdown Quartet, cam15346with music of Gershwin, Piazzola and more – at an intimate salon not far from our home.
Aaah Aix – every time we come we love you more!

 

 

 

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Hilltop Highs in the Dordogne

Friday, September 30, 2016
Dordogne region, France

Interested in a Music and Markets Tour? We’d love to hear from you!  How about an unforgettable holiday with us at  New Years’ Jazz in Italy?

Beynac’s clifftop chateau is a stunner – from afar, beynacafaras well as close up. Wonderfully preserved through the centuries, beynacit was the setting of the 1998 movie Joan of Arc (in fact we were there during the filming – quite exciting to see the Maid herself trot by on an armored steed!)
The easiest way to access the fortress-castle is by driving quite a way inland from the river, then looping around to the upper parking – avoiding the challenging hike from the town below! We wound our way up, parked, then stormed the fortress ;), cam14865beginning at the lowest plateau,cam14869 then climbing up through different courtyards and towers, cam14881with spectacular views all the way up! cam14873kAfter peering off each side of the highest tower, cam14892we swirled down circular stairways to the lowest level, where the kitchen was set up as it was when knights occupied the fortress – cam14914swords at the ready at the tables. Kirk drove down to the lower parking and our guests and I stepped carefully down the ancient cobbled paths,cam14922 passing pretty homes that have hugged the lane for centuries. cam14927Our table awaits on the pretty terrace of La Petite Tonnelle, 06081403-le-tonnelle-beynac-table-on-the-terrace-recommended-by-ferme-aubergewhere the food is as delicious as the setting. Check out this unique gazpacho topped with a creme fraiche fluff – cam14935and of course there’s no better dessert than a luscious Café Gourmand!cam14937It’s a short drive to the riverside drama of La Roque Gageac, 06041403-la-roquewhere we walk up steep stairs to the cliff-hugging homes.cam14944 No, we did NOT climb that staircase tacked high onto the cliff  – see it above the roofs?!cam14948Last on our trio of Plus Beaux Villages today is hilltop Domme. Driving through one of the impressive gates, three of which remain in the powerful medieval walls, we then walk along the Belvedere (more awesome countryside views!) cam14951domme to the center, with its ancient market hall (the bastide town was founded in the 1200s by Philip the Bold). cam14955Domme is a great place to buy Dordogne specialties, and we wave goodbye with a few bags of chocolate covered walnuts (we passed those groves on the way here!) in tow.
Our days in this gorgeous part of France have been filled with such delights….there’s so much more we could see if we had more time, but we and our guests are thoroughly satisfied with what we’ve enjoyed.

 

 

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Gems of the Dordogne

Thursday, September 29, 2016
Dordogne region, France

Interested in a Music and Markets Tour? We’d love to hear from you!  How about an unforgettable holiday with us at  New Years’ Jazz in Italy?

Through verdant fields, rolling hills, and a shadowed forest we drive, coming out into the light of the golden village of Cadouin, famed for its abbey and cloister. Pass through the Porte Saint Louis, cam14743cadouinthe only remaining gate of the walls that surrounded the Abbey centuries ago, and the bulwark of a church towers behind the market hall. cam14772Founded in the 11th century, the somber Cistercian Abbey became a pilgrimage site due to a piece of cloth (brought back from the Crusades) said to be part of the burial shroud of Christ…bringing famed visitors such as Eleanor of Aquitaine and Richard the Lionhearted to this tiny town.
It was not until the 1930s that the piece of cloth was found to be from Egypt (that Arabic writing on the edges gave it away!), and the town lost its pilgrimage status. Today the main attraction of this Unesco World Heritage Site is the glorious gothic cloister cam14760dating from the 15th century (long after the simple bulk of the church itself), with intricately carved capitals,cam14749 keystones above (with a surprising abundance of curly kale!), cam14758and traces of medieval frescoes beside the bishop’s chair.cam14757Not far from Cadouin another ancient gem hides in yet another tiny hamlet, where the pumpkins are growing larger each daycam14775urval….the communal oven of Urval. Tucked behind houses and beside the village church, cam14777this is where the town baked their bread – can you imagine bringing your loaf (did each family have a particular emblem to identify their bread, I wonder?), then sitting in the square while it baked, chatting with your friends awaiting their loaves?
Departing the quiet village (didn’t see a soul!) we wind our way to the hilltop Farm Inn Le Tilleuils cam14777afor a fresh-as-can-be lunch. cam14791In addition to lunch, friendly Nadine offers every imaginable duck product for sale, all from their own farm. Such a peaceful place, cam14794as is much of this lush region of France.
Snaking along the curvy Dordogne, we arrive at Limeuil, another Plus Beaux Village, where the Vezere river meets the Dordogne.
cam14807Not far from the town hall, with its pretty promenade overlooking the rivers, a glassblower is at work on his special designs. cam14801We watch for a while, then tackle the steep lane leading to the top of town. Taking in the views, cam14809we head back to the car for a few hours in pretty Belvés cam14826before dinner. cam14823belvesMuriel, the doyenne of Clement V, loves to share her latest finds in the area, and has suggested a tiny new restaurant hidden in woods north of here – that’s where we’ll go!

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