An Amsterdam Weekend

An Amsterdam Weekend

September 16-17, 2017

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?

As we often do, we fit in a couple of days in Amsterdam before continuing to France for our Bordeaux/Dordogne tour in September, and stayed in a different part of town than we usually do. Still canal-side, as we love, right on the picturesque Brouwersgracht. Arriving early in the morning from our transatlantic flight, we dropped our luggage and went right to a nearby market on a sunshiney Saturday morning. What better way to begin our day than with our favorite Apple Cake and koffie verkeerd (literally wrong coffee – the best café au lait ever!) at Winkel, right by the Noordermarkt? Saturday’s market is an Organic Famer’s Market – excellent cheeses galore, of course! with a little flea market on the side.
In between hitting my favorite shops on Kalverstraat and finding a few birthday presents, we just stroll and take in this city that we love – charming storefronts in the Nine Streets, an antique haven on Prinsengracht,welcoming windows overflowing with blooms.Bite-sized pastries from Petit Gateau on Haarlemmerstraat hit the spot – that jolt of sugar keeps us walking along the canals, fighting off any jetlag for a bit longer. Dinner and another canalside stroll (can’t miss those  twinkly bridges at night!) and we’re off to bed.
Kirk has a few hours of work to finish off – nice view, isn’t it?! Then we enjoy our Sunday – what great weather we’re blessed with!
Isn’t this a lovely facade – cream, vines and blooms? A floating lunch is just the right goodbye to this canal-laced beauty – we’ll be back soon!

Antiques by the River

Antiques by the River

Easter Week 2017
L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue, France

Interested in a Music and Markets Tour? We’d love to hear from you!
We’re looking ahead to summer –  why not join us on the fabulous Amalfi Coast , in Provence, or Amsterdam?
Every weekend antiques fill the lanes of L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue – it’s the largest antique center in France outside of Paris – but two weekends a year, Easter weekend and around August 15 they burst through adjacent lanes and overflow into the grounds of the city park during the Antiques Fair. Easter Monday is the last day of the spring fair, and we have to take a roundabout way to the parking lot since the route we usually take is filled with booths and blocked off. We’re early enough to find a good spot, though, and soon are in the thick of the treasure filled paths. We wander by a few booths, then stroll into the center, admiring the pretty canals lacing the town. A pause at the historic Cafe de France, surrounded by vintage façades is always a must, along with a stroll past colorful shops adding to the charm of the townsuch an inviting place!
Now for the jam-packed town park – on the lookout for a panther, a bust, or an armoire? A lovely mirror (there we are!) or a pair of nicely weathered shutters? Or some vintage glassware (I would NOT want my fragile goods right in the playground, would you?!)?
There are also several “villages” of antique dealers in the town – a couple of dapper gents have paused for lunch beside one of the branches of the Sorgue. All of this wandering and perusing has us hungry too, so off we go to our favorite riverside haunt, Le Bellevue, to enjoy a delicious lunch. After a little more antiques-browsing we head back to Aix in time for an early evening concert…we’ll tell you about that tomorrow!


Bordeaux’s Bounty

Bordeaux’s Bounty

Saturday, February 13, 2016
Bordeaux, France

Interested in a Music and Markets Tour? We’d love to hear from you!
Why not celebrate Spring with us in Prague or Venice and the Veneto?

Passage Sarget proves the perfect spot for breakfast – a table for two in the quiet gallery, CAM10281 breakfastthe FT weekend in hand, a steaming cappuccino at the ready. Then we head for the other side of town, passing an elegant shop or two on the way.02131601 florist Our destination? The Flêche – the arrow or the spire – the pointy tall steeple of the church that names the quartier, Saint Michel. 02131601 st michaels fleche marketYet another stop on the Unesco World Heritage city trail, it’s surrounded today by the Saturday flea market. Table after table of exotic fabrics, 02131602 fabrics unlike provenceheadscarves, 02131602 neighborhood for headscarvesunusual produce too. Not a thing for our market basket – but certainly interesting!
Place de la Bourse, which we saw last night, deserves a daytime view as well.02131602 place du bourse mirroir when warmer Perhaps when we return in a few days the Miroir d’Eau, a shimmer of water between the Garonne River and the  Bourse, will be functioning. It’s off for the season now.
The architects of old Bordeaux do seem to have a thing for mascarons –02131602 so many mascarons nearly every building boasts a few of these each-one-unique faces!02131602 so many mascarons1Next on our route, the Porte Cailhau, a former defensive gate from the 1400s. 02131602 whats the nameWith mullioned windows, intricate carvings and turrets fit for a fairytale castle, it was clearly designed for beauty as well as defense!
Heading back towards the hotel for lunch, we pass a huge second-hand bookstore filled with treasures. 02131603 bookstoreSorry, Kirk, no room in our luggage!
There’s one more quartier we want to explore, the antique – and- brocante- filled Chartrons neighborhood. This pedestrian street beside our hotel was deserted when we walked to breakfast this morning – now we can hardly walk through the Saturday shopping crowds!02131603 deserted in the am jammed in pm satPast the public garden we go – 02131603 jardin long walk to chartronsit’s quite a walk to the Chartrons quartier – but we get there before the antique shops close.
Beside the beautiful St. Louis de Chartrons church, the Village Notre Dame is quite a treasure house – we wander through the rooms, 02131603 made it before antiquaires closedadmiring the beautiful old pieces and tastefully arranged still lifes – 02131603 tablescape for my homeI want this tablescape at home!
As the bells ring for evening mass we continue our stroll through the neighborhood, 02131604 bells for evening servicepeeking in windows, drawn inside the gleaming-golden church. 02131604 faithful few in glowing gilded interiorThen back to our neighborhood, and to an intriguing hole-in-the-wall we’d noticed beside the Porte Cailhau. The Zinc du Coin Chabrot is packed with locals, and we claim a table back by the kitchen. The menu’s on the chalkboard – we choose a few things to share – 02131604 zinc menuand the bottles are lined up on the bar, prices by the bottle or the glass written in white on each one.02131604 zinc du coin Delicious and fun – the kind of place that has us wishing our friends were along for the evening! 02131604 walk back to tower

Good night, Bordeaux – it’s been a pleasure!



Lunch with a View

Lunch with a View

Monday, February 16, 2015
Seaside South of France

Interested in a Music and Markets Tour? We’d love to hear from you!
We’re looking ahead to Spring – how about the Prague Spring Festival in May?

The doorbell rings Monday morning – first the electrician to fix a few things, then a morning meeting with potential renters for next year – a lovely couple who would take excellent care of Ambiance d’Aix and really enjoy their time here, I’m sure. Then we’re off to pick up a rental car for some out-of-town errands and pleasures. We stop at Columbus Café, checking it out for a possible meeting place for future Music and Markets Tours.02161501 am mtg tnen coffeeExcellent coffee and pastries, and what a beautiful use of this historic space, a centuries-old chapel!02161501 coffee angel

Who wouldn’t like an angel blessing their morning cuppa from above?!
Driving southeast, we soon dip down to the Mediterranean,02161501 dip down 2 sea

and not long after arrive at the charming home of Jean Marc and Kristin Espinasse. Kristin, whose French Word a Day blog has been a favorite of ours since she began it years ago,  shows off the improvements they’ve made since our last visit – embellished by a lavish gift of mimosa from a neighbor.02161501 kristin mimosa link to previous blog

Talking about the frigid snowy weather back in Virginia, we relish the beautiful day with an al fresco aperitif – their son Max, studying in Aix, is here today too. The South of France is sure a great place to be in February!02161502 aperoSurrounded by olives and pines, with views to the sea (continually improving as Jean-Marc lops off the tops of surrounding pines), this prime spot looks better than ever.02161502 horizon seaThe dining room used to have just a small window, and Kristi’s idea of a full wall of windows, with a spacious window-seat built in, has made all the difference.02161502 space view and window seat

Jean-Marc takes us down to his cave, filled with wines he’s gathered through the decades, and invites us to choose the wine for lunch. Kirk checks out the Italy racks,02161502 wine from cave

and this wine from Sicily, which Jean-Marc helped harvest and name (Rosso Azzurro=Rouge Bleu, the name of his vineyard in the Côtes du Rhone which we visited years ago02161502 wine from cave sicily photo of cave and link to previous blog st cecile goes great with Kristi’s delicious lunch,02161503 a tablecompleted with a raspberry tart we brought from an Aix patisserie.02161503 dessertDriving back towards Aix, Mt. Saint Victoire fills our vision – it looks so different – long rather than a triangular peak – from this direction!02161503 looks like diff mt

We’re on the hunt for a slender rail for the renovated bathroom stairway, and stop at a favorite destination, Materiaux Ancien, north of Aix. What a treasure trove of beautiful ancient objects!02161503 rail huntHow about a Washington monument for your front yard?02161503 wash monument for yard

Or a cooling basin for those hot summer days?02161503 wash monument or basinWe stop to talk with an ironworker too…but we still haven’t found just the right solution for our narrow bathroom stairs. Several times when we’ve talked with hardware salespeople or those involved in construction they listen to our description, ask us where our apartment is, and then knowingly nod, “oh yes, an Aixoise apartment…” . Guess Aix is notorious for these ancient historic places, where builders through the years have done their best to fit in the necessary modern trappings into any available space.



Antiques on the Islands

Antiques on the Islands

Friday, April 25, 2014
The South of France

Interested in a Music and Markets Tour? We’d love to hear from you!  Join us on a summer tour on the Amalfi Coast, in Provence, or in Amsterdam/Belgium

Off to another favorite today – the antique-filled village of L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue. As the name implies, it’s a collection of islands in the Sorgue river.

In years past the silk industry made the town rich, and here and there water wheels dot the rivulets running through town.

The charm seems effortless here – so many vintage treasures still remain in the town, such as this Café de France, on the register of historic cafés.

Retaining so much of its history, Isle-sur-la-Sorgue is a perfect place to showcase France’s largest antique center outside of Paris.
It’s obvious that each shop, whether showing off new goods or old, is proud to be a part of this lovely center.

Across from the Café de France is the village church, simple on the outside, but filled with gilded splendor within,

Vintage storefronts (this one’s still a home-goods store, as it was generations ago)

line up beside arcaded shops – a shoemaker worked here in the past.

As we’ve seen all over Europe, if the chairs are out, the antique shop’s open.

This one has beautifully crafted antique chairs galore – Jill may have found just the right one for her home in southwest France!

It’s lunchtime for shopkeepers – they’re closing up for the next couple of hours. So we find an interesting menu and a pretty spot by the river

and stop for lunch as well.

When the shops re-open, we’re ready to resume the hunt. This antique surrounded courtyard is a favorite.

We have great memories of finding just the perfect pieces for our Aix apartment in a couple of these shops. Anyone have a spot for a Eiffel Tower dining suite?

Back to Aix, we enjoy one last concert in the historic Jeu de Paume theater,

and finish our week together with a terrific dinner in tiny Millefeuille. As the name reminds us, a previous career of the chef-owner  was as a pastry chef – we make sure to leave room for desserts at this place! After an amuse bouche of carrot panna cotta topped with a pea-mint mousse and fabulous main courses,  we proceeded to those decadent desserts –

what a great finale!