Friends, Tastes, Strolls and Jazz in Aix

Friends, Tastes, Strolls and Jazz in Aix

Feb. 4-7, 2016
Cotignac and Aix en Provence, France

Interested in a Music and Markets Tour? We’d love to hear from you!
We’re looking ahead to Spring – Prague and Budapest, or Venice and the Veneto – join us!

I’ve been be-moaning the lack of a café gourmand on this visit, and this afternoon we decide to create our own. Our go-to guide for the latest events and restaurant openings in Aix, Aixcentric, recently wrote about the delicious pastries and coffee at Maison Cangina, and yes, the window is full of bite-sized temptations just perfect for my “needs”!02051601 bite size pastries Mini coffee eclair, tart citron, and chocolate opera cake accompany our coffee before a stroll home.
Our daily market walks continue – taking in winter colors as beautiful as anything we see in the summer. 02061601 market gorgeous in depth of winterAnd the mimosa is in bloom – 02061601 mimosa timealthough we know it doesn’t last long, we carry home a 3€ big bunch for the mantel to bring the sunshine in.
Saturday evening brings a concert we’ve been anticipating – Ellington Symphonique at the Conservatory. 02061602 ellington symphThe music’s fabulous, and that dancing conductor keeps me smiling. A late dinner at our house follows, with neighborhood friends (and musicians themselves) Jacques and Marylène. 02061602 neighborsThey’ve brought an appropriately named bottle of Jacques son’s wine02061602 winewhich is a perfect accompaniment to dinner.
Who doesn’t love a Sunday afternoon stroll? Ours takes us by the military school,02071602 afternoon stroll and on to the cemetery, 02071602 cemeterywhere Cezanne is buried with his beloved Mt. Ste. Victoire in the background. 02071602 cezanne and mt s vBon weekend!

Cezanne Was Here

Cezanne Was Here

Music & Markets April Easter Festival, 2015
Aix-en-Provence, France

Interested in a Music and Markets Tour? We’d love to hear from you!
We’re looking ahead to summer – join us on the fabulous Amalfi Coast in July?

Sometimes you’ve got to be creative and inventive on the spur of the moment, and this was one of those days. We walked to Avis to pick up our rental car, ready for a drive north to the Luberon, and what met us there? A big sign on the door with our name (along with a few others) saying that the office was closed today, giving us an option of picking up a car in another location. No phone call, no notice….don’t think we’ll use this company again! So since art is a major interest of Elaine’s we decided to walk (uphill ALL the way!)04061501 aix hike to Cezanne’s atelier this morning. 04061501 atelier cezanneWe’ve often stopped at this beautiful spot, appreciating the spacious grounds with many inviting sitting areas (where we’ve seen poets and artists at work)04061501 inviting gardens welcome to sit paint write think but have never gone inside. What a pleasure it was to see his high-ceilinged and well-lit workroom, with many of the props he used for still lifes right there, just as they were during his day (no photos allowed of the interior).
I’m sure this rear window was not covered with branches in his day. 04061501 rear window now treed over long slat to slide paintingsYou can barely see, from the outside, the top of the 6 foot tall narrow iron “door”  on the left through which he slid his landscapes when he wanted to be outside to work on them. After wandering the grounds,04061501 wandered aroundwe walked still higher up the hill to the Terrain des Peintres, a favored perch from where Cezanne painted many of his views of Mt. Saint Victoire.04061502 climb higher to favored perchWith views like this no wonder he chose this spot!04061502 no wonder with view like thisAn easy downhill walk all the way to Cours Mirabeau, and we’re seated in the sun for a delicious lunch at L’Estello,04061502 wonderful lunch on Coursso bright that a “hat” is required!04061503 a hat requiredWelcome to our place for an evening aperitif! 04061503 aperoAnd then a robust Mahler symphony, the stage packed with an orchestra 200 strong, PLUS a chorus of hundreds! Quite a contrast to last night’s two-person concert, and that’s how we like it – we include a variety of venues as well as ensembles, from full orchestras in a symphony hall to a duo in an historic intimate theater on a Music and Markets Tour – we love it all! 04061503 two on stage last night two hundred plus tonightMahler’s Second Symphony is known as the “Resurrection” and as the choir quietly joins the orchestra in the final movement, we’re waiting for what must be coming…the powerful full-voice jubilation of “Rise again, yes, you shall rise again, my dust”. I get goose-bumps just remembering it!


Views and Tastes in Aix

Views and Tastes in Aix

Thursday, April 24, 2014, continued
Aix en Provence, 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

Kirk and I often walk up the steep hill to Cezanne’s atelier and the Terrain des Peintres (Painters Garden) when we’re in Aix – the views towards Mt. Saint Victoire are what drew Cezanne here, and remain breathtaking to this day. On the way back to town from Cassis, we detour up the hill, find a parking place (not easy on this busy two lane road!) and lead the way up the zigzag path through the olive trees.

Our guests are as impressed as we always are, snapping photos of the view,

and noting the museum locations of the many canvases that were painted right here.

An exotic dinner awaits us in Aix – delicious Moroccan cuisine at Le Riad,

where middle Eastern themed tents are arranged around a delightful courtyard.

Bowls of steaming couscous and tagines of lamb and chicken, strewn with almonds and dried fruits,take us to the far reaches of Francophone influence – delicious!

A sampling of Moroccan pastries is the perfect light dessert,

served with coffee or tea – Ruth does a good job of  a high pour,

but not over her head as the waiter did!

A Well-Seasoned Update

A Well-Seasoned Update

Autumn, 2013

Interested in a Music and Markets Tour? We’d love to hear from you!  We’re looking ahead to Spring – May in Venice, Barcelona, or Prague, and our newest  – Aix en Provence for the Easter Festival (stay tuned for updates!)
Has Fall been as gorgeous where you are as where we’ve been? From France, to Italy, to New York, and right here in Virginia, we’ve been dazzled and delighted by the rich hues of autumn….here’s what we’ve been up to:
Our France/Italy adventure began in Paris, where the Luxembourg gardens slipped gracefully into their seasonal dress,

and then to our place in Aix en Provence, where the colors in the market enticed us every day… what can we make for dinner with this gorgeous squash?

We walked uphill out of town to Cezanne’s studio, remembering the thrill of holding one of his works (an autumnal landscape) owned by an Aixoise friend…. knowing that in a few weeks we’d be joining these friends in New York to watch the painting go on the block at Sotheby’s.

We always enjoy this walk, today tinged with fall colors, and imagine the artist climbing the hill for some of his favorite views of Mont Saint Victoire.

Next stop? Rome (our low-fare flight took us via Barcelona, so that day we had breakfast in France, lunch in Spain – at the airport – and dinner in Italy!), on our way to Molise. Molise? Never heard of it? Well neither had we….until Kolidur Tours, who is working with a special European Community commission to help the little region get onto traveler’s itineraries, invited us to come on an Educational Tour of the region. We’ve got lots more to tell about Molise, but keeping to our fall theme – here’s a colorful place to take a break in the pretty little village of Pescocostanza.

Sometimes coming back to Virginia is rather ho-hum, but not this time, because our son and family arrived the day after we did and we loved every minute of our fall week with them.

They live in Texas, so do not have the gorgeous colors that we have during this season… and this year’s colors have really been spectacular. Our morning walk around Lake Anne in Reston holds new surprises every day, as the leaves turn. Ivy took home a bag of oranges, reds and golds to show and tell.
Last but not least of our fall adventures – New York City! We arrived in time for the Sotheby’s auction, which was a wonderful experience – the excitement of the bidding, the chance to just sit and view one beautiful Impressionist work after another – spent some time with our Aixoise friends, and the rest of the time we walked and walked (and ate and ate!).

Here’s a fun and pretty brownstone from the Upper East Side – just one of the charmingly decorated homes we appreciated as we strolled the city streets.
What’s next for us? Back to France in a few days, and meanwhile we’re hard at work planning our newest tour in our beloved Aix en Provence… an early  spring week (April 19-26) of glorious music (from the new Easter Festival) and luscious sights and tastes in the south of France. We’ll be in touch with details soon!


Touching Cezanne

Touching Cezanne

Thursday, August 15, 2013 
The South of France

d in a Music and Markets Tour? We’d love to hear from you!  Join us on our fall tour  – delightful Bath for the Mozartfest
One more Aixoise market day for us – oh how we’ll miss this daily abundance of delicious freshness!  But what do we buy today? Not more of those luscious tomatoes, but something I’ve been checking all the ice cream shops for, in vain. Today I’ve found it – my favorite flavor, licorice! Can’t get that in the USA – at least nowhere I’ve been. So I contentedly lick my cone and watch the market action around me.
One last stroll down the Cours Mirabeau, packed with stalls overflowing with fabrics, clothes (I found a pretty sheer- over- opaque skirt here earlier this week), fragrant soaps and colorful espadrilles,

and then a stop by Paul to choose a jewel- toned tart to take to lunch today.

Mary Lou and Ken have finally gotten into their new home, and what a setting! Surrounded by vines, with plenty of  terraces to live outside as is possible for much of the year here. Their story of one delay after another sure reminds us of our tale of the summer of 2010 as we waited week after week to finally move into Ambiance d’Aix.
We were going to go to a nearby village for lunch, but their daughter Eva and her friend are visiting, and wanted to prepare the meal for all – and what a feast they’ve concocted!
All of the recipes were from the Polpo cookbook, and this appetizer, bruschetta with grapes, goat cheese and walnuts was our introduction to a wonderful lunch. Bright and bubbly spritzes completed the Italian theme.

When we had dinner with Philippe and Benedicte last Saturday, he had offered to show us his Cezanne, so we arrange a meeting at his office on the way back home, and Philippe fills us in on the history of the fall scene… probably painted not too far from their home!

“Here, he says,  ‘hold it and I’ll take your picture!”

The Delights of Aix

The Delights of Aix

August, 2013 
Aix en Provence, France

Interested in a Music and Markets Tour? We’d love to hear from you!  Join us on our fall tour  – delightful Bath for the Mozartfest

Confession time: after that long overnight transatlantic flight, a connection to another flight, just a couple of hours of sleep, meeting Kirk (who arrived on another set of flights) in the airport,  and a bus ride to Aix, I committed the unpardonable sin of FORGETTING TO SAY BONJOUR – horrors!!! to the young lady at the bus station kiosk before asking where the taxi stand was now located. I was put firmly in my place by her repeated BONJOUR as I asked my question. I kept thinking (jetlagged that I was) that for some reason she couldn’t hear me through the glass partition, and repeated the query several times. Finally I realized the “problem”, said Bonjour (the mandatory greeting when entering a shop or asking a question), and with a sniff and a nod the kid answered me. Welcome to France!
Normally we walk from the bus stop to our apartment – about 15 minutes – but since it was nearly 100 degrees F when we arrived, we made the quick trip in a refreshingly air conditioned taxi – a relief! And just as we’d asked, our housekeeper had closed the shutters after the last guests left, so the apartment was reasonably cool when we got inside. That’s the trick for these old Mediterranean homes… keep

the shutters closed during the heat of the day, open them up when it cools down, and the home stays comfortable. In fact quite cool in the mornings!
After settling in, we took our shopping list to the newly opened nearby Monoprix Gourmet  to pick up a few things for dinner, taking in all of the aperitif sippers filling the shady squares.

An early night and a good night’s sleep in a real bed, and we’re ready to REALLY enjoy Aix, starting off with an around-the-town (along the peripherique, the ring-road) morning walk, while the temp’s still comfortable. Good morning, Cezanne – we love your home town!

What a pleasure to choose our lunch and dinner from the abundance of the daily market on Place Richelme! We’ve gotten to know the lady who prepares beignets (fritters) of zucchini flowers along with her table full of produce, and ask her to choose a melon “for today” which we’ll slice and adorn with strips of flavorful jamón serrano (dry-cured Spanish ham).

And here’s the feast we enjoy – the photo doesn’t do it justice since we had the shutters closed at midday and the light was not the best. We crisped the beignets in a little oil in a sautée pan – they are NOT burned, just look that way – and rounded out the meal with the melon and ham, a few chunks of camembert, some olives, and a ruby red tomato…. all from the market just steps away.

Saturday is a major market day, when several of the squares in the center of town fill with edible and visual delights. Closest to us is the Place de l’Hôtel de Ville, the town hall square, adorned today with the thrice-weekly flower mart.Since we’ll be here for a while we choose a living plant rather than cut flowers for the mantel – lush white hydrangeas. Several vendors specialize in living plants, such as these morning glory and lavender, and others deal in only cut flowers.
The beautiful flower market always demands at least one photo… or, if you’re an artist, a canvas!

On the other side of Ambiance d’Aix, artists display their work on the place in front of Aix’s University of Political Studies, another lovely historic building in the signature golden stone of the town.
After church on Sunday we stroll across the Cours Mirabeau into the Mazarin neighborhood, passing a favorite fountain, the Quatre Dauphins. This is the “new” part of town, a precise grid of streets planned in the late 1600s, unlike the tangle of streets in the oldest part where we live. We have a 1:30 reservation for the Aix part of a special two- city exhibition, Le Grand Atelier du Midi (The Great Workshop of the South). The Musée Granet here in Aix hosts “From Cézanne to Matisse” and in Marseilles there’s “From Van Gogh to Bonnard”. We hope to make it to Marseilles to see the other part of this wonderful exhibition, here until October 13.
It’s fascinating to learn more about the multitude of world- changing artists who came to Mediterranean shores, inspired by the color and light.

There are several galleries on the Place de l’Archeveché next door to Ambiance d’Aix, and in the vaulted Cave aux Huiles beneath the cathedral annex Yves Calméjane is displaying his work until August 18. Landscapes of simple beauty line the stone walls, and Yves graciously stands beside his work for a photo. Wish we could take home an oil for over our Virginia fireplace!