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From Aix to Marseilles and Back Again

From Aix to Marseilles and Back Again

Thurs.-Fri., August 8-9, 2013 
Aix en Provence & Marseilles, France

Intereste
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
This morning’s walk takes us around Aix, past favorite squares and fountains, such as the majestic Rotonde at the end of Cours Mirabeau,
 

then we’re off to the markets, filling one square after another on this, one of Aix’s three major weekly market days. It’s already hot – and we laugh at these two cooling off on the Cour, then make the rounds of the fabric and clothing stalls spread down the boulevard, strolling along to the beat of a cool duo.

Calissons are Aix’s specialty candy, flat,football-shaped and pointed on both ends, sugar- sweet with almonds, honey and melon. Beside one of the best pastry and candy shops in town, Weibel, is a small production center for the sweets, and as an employee is replenishing the supply of the shop we can peek in – we’ve never seen the molds before.

What inspires us at the market today? How about some tomatoes and cucumbers to throw together an Italian favorite, Pan- zanella?  And a few things for dinner tonight too – friends are coming.
The bread and tomato salad is fabulous, spiked with basil, red onion and good olive oil… fragrant and delicious! We couldn’t resist a creme brulée caramel dessert when we were shopping for some dinner additions in Picard, a gourmet frozen food shop found all over France, and it is one of the best things we’ve ever put in our mouths!
The aperitif is ready, set out by the fireplace, and when Xavier and Michelle arrive they hand us a towel wrapped little bundle – what’s this?

A home-cured duck breast – wow! Xavier slices it up to add to our aperitif. Sounds like an easy recipe – perhaps well try it at home in Virginia, although duck breasts are much harder to find there than in France.
We’re enjoying cooler days this week, freeing us to be out and about more rather than hiding out in the darkened apartment during the afternoon… so we decide to take a bus to Marseilles to see the other part of Grand Atelier du Midi at the Palais Longchamp. What a gorgeous building – classical architecture, majestic fountains, livened up with a couple of pink dolphins in the pond. The Aix exhibition was focused on form, and this one, which I preferred, is on color.
The train line from Paris to Marseilles opened up in 1854, and artists were able to more easily travel south. This sentence epitomizes the exhibit, and the new world that opened up to them: “The artists…encountered the intensity of the light, which changed everything they thought they knew about color and tones.” Can you imagine how they felt? No wonder they went a little crazy with color in the Fauve period – pink olive trees? blue hills? orange water?

 

We walked slowly back towards the train station (the buses stop right by Gare St. Charles), down elegant Blvd. Longchamp, talking about what we’ve seen… a don’t miss exhibition, in our view!
The apartment buildings look more Parisian Belle Epoque than south of France here… and one after the other boast these signs – electricity on every floor – a big deal when these were built!
Just down from the station, on Cours Joseph Thierry, are a few restaurants and cafes, including Dame Oseille, where we chose an outdoor table on the breezy sidewalk. The blackboard, filled with daily specials, arrives tableside, and Kirk chooses (no surprise!) duck. I go for the goat cheese salad, and what a beautiful and delicious feast it turns out to be!
Free enter- tainment too –  leaping,
dancing bare- chested drummers!

Café Gourmand is on the menu – can’t miss that! And what a version this is – truly worth the name- with a coffee tiramisu, a perfect mini crème brulée, fruit, a lemon madeleine, and a wonderful Poire Belle Hélène (poached pear, rich dark chocolate, and whipped cream),

We finish off the day with another youth orchestra concert, this one featuring the instrumentalists from Iraq. After a couple of classical pieces, they pull out their typical instruments and delight the crowd with riffs on a Kurdish theme,

as the sun dapples the facades across from the Hôtel de Ville.