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Icy Fountains and Friends in Aix

Icy Fountains and Friends in Aix

Week of  January 16-22, 2017
Aix en Provence and Paris, 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.

When we were last in Aix in November, we left it all prepared for major painting, needed due to the damages suffered when our upstairs neighbor’s renovations caused a flood in our apartment in April. It took that long for the ancient walls to dry out enough to repair, and for the insurance company to decide on what to do. So we’re eager to see our good-as-new living room and study, and even though it’s after midnight when we finally walk in the door on Sunday night (Monday morning!) we walk around and take it all in, delighted with the result. The damage was mostly high up on the 12 foot ceilings, so was not immediately visible to anyone but us, so it’s hard to show the difference here – the entire rooms were painted. We can’t go to bed, late as it is, without putting a few things back where they belong, the antique trumeau (mirror with a painting) above the fireplace, the furniture where it’s supposed to be, a painting or two on the walls – but the rest can wait til tomorrow.
After sleeping late the next morning in our cozy warm home, we quickly eat breakfast and return to the beautiful lanes and squares of Aix, where the temps have not yet risen to freezing – not a common occurrence here! On Cours Mirabeau the water flows from one side of the Neuf Canons fountain, and remains frozen on the other. Winter seems to be a popular time for filming in Aix – perhaps because there are not crowds of day-trippers as in the warmer months. By the Palais de Justice a 70s crime show is in process – see the vintage police van and uniforms? And an episode of another series is filming on beautiful Place de Trois Ormeaux.
When we stroll by later at night all is calm once again…with Christmas lights still gleaming.
Good friends will join us for lunch, so out to the market I go early on Tuesday…but it’s so cold that all the flowers and produce are covered up! No wonder – they need protection on this 20 degree morning!
I return after a morning meeting with the painter, and find the market bursting with its usual rainbow of color.Jean-Marc and Kristi arrive with a decadent dessert and a prime rosé from their first official harvest at Mas de Brun – thanks to Kristi for these great photos! She also wrote about our time together on her lovely blog French Word a Day.
As the days pass, the market’s affected by the chill – very few vendors at our daily market on Place Richelme – the olive oil is solid rather than liquid, and  iced cherubs shiver on the Rotonde Fountain.
And we walk and walk, day and night, taking in the beauty of Aix – glorious whatever the weather!

Abundance in Aix

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!

 

 

 

The Charms of Aix

The Charms of Aix

Late July 2016
Aix en Provence, France

Interested in a Music and Markets Tour? We’d love to hear from you!
How about celebrating Mozart in the matchless city of Bath, England in November?

As I gathered the photos for this post, I realized that nearly all of them were about music or markets – no wonder we were inspired to name our tour company Music and Markets while here in the summer of 2002! The charms that drew us then still do! Although my delayed flight kept me from arriving in time for the market today, there’s still music right next door, and even though I’m jet lagged, how can I resist?07281601 As I listen to the wonderful Stoneleigh Youth Orchestra, and their guest soloist, I walk around and take in the beauty of Saint Sauveur Cathedral, pausing in the oldest part, the baptistry, its Roman vestiges combined with elegant additions through the centuries.07281601 baptistryFrance is experiencing a summer heat wave, which means I’m out early for errands on Friday – walking by the post office I notice many windows open to draw in as much cool air as possible before shutting tight in the heat of the day.07291601 bleached errands early windows open Our shutters are still open, but will be closed as soon as the burning sun hits them.
The market looks more beautiful than ever, and once again I’m amazed that this bounty and beauty is spread out EVERY day, just steps from Ambiance d’Aix!07291601 colors of marketI stay inside til the air cools a bit, then enjoy an evening walk, circling through the buzz of restaurant – filled Place Cardeurs.07291601 evening cardeurs resto buzz walk early and lateSaturday morning the BIG market returns (three times a week, Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday, it spreads throughout multiple squares and streets,07301602 precheurs but there’s a produce market on Place Richelme every day).
First stop, the flower market, 07301601 flowers satthen home to plop them on the mantel, 07301601 glads on the mantel then back to shopand out again to shop for lunch and dinner before walking to meet Kirk, who flies in today. These zucchini beignets, 07301601 zuke beignetsplus a fragrant melon and paper thin slices of prosciutto will make a perfect welcome-back lunch.
One stall after another begs for a photo – look at me, look at me!07301603 beg for photoHere’s my haul: this bowlful of yumminess will do just fine for lunch and dinner, no?07301603 whats for lunch and dinnerSunday’s full of more Aixoise charms – an afternoon concert at the church, a stroll to Pavilion Vendome with friends07311601 stroll with friends before dinner at our house, then a walk to Jas de Bouffan, Cezanne’s family estate, for an open-air showing of The Horseman on the Roof, 07311602 dinner then moviesome of which was filmed right in Aix.
More market bounty awaits us, delicious for both eyes and mouth, at a Monday night dinner at a neighbors home,08011601 dinner chez jeans and the next day vendors tempt us with more summer tastes 08031601 market temptationsand colors. 08031601 market temptations1Just loving life in Aix en Provence!

 

An Extravagant Saturday in Aix

An Extravagant Saturday in Aix

Saturday, May 21, 2016
Aix en Provence, France

Interested in a Music and Markets Tour? We’d love to hear from you!
Why not join us on our newest tour in September – Bordeaux and Dordogne?

Extravagant? Why? Because there is so much to enjoy in Aix today that we can’t even fit it all in! We begin by meeting friends for coffee at Pain Quotidien, 05211601 coffee with friendscatch up on each other’s news, and make plans to get together in August when we return (can’t wait to see Bénédicte,s latest garden folly – a treehouse!).
Then off we go to troll the markets – we need hats for tomorrow’s garden day. What do you think?05211601 hats for the garden 5 eEspadrilles, anyone?05211601 espadrillesWe pass by Cezannés last dwelling on our way home, noting the tall and wide window of the studio he had built on the top floor – 05211601 stroll by cezannes house upper studiowe’d never noticed that before, but recently read about it and looked high to see it for ourselves today.
Later we begin our gallery/museum wander…first the latest expo next door, beside the lovely cloister by the Palais de l’Archevêché.05211601 square archv galleries cloister The artist’s scenes of Venice remind us of our stay there earlier this year – could we fit a canvas in our suitcase??
This evening, from 7 until midnight, is Open Museum Night, and from one end of town to another there are special events in the glorious old buildings, all free entry. We begin at the Museum of Old Aix, where a guitarist strums on the grand staircase as we enter. 05211602 aix old museum guitaristThe rooms are filled with treasures of ages past – gorgeous mirrors, exquisite doll houses, 05211602 aix open museum from 7 12tall room dividers with scenes from centuries ago. And the building itself, a former home of an eighteenth century nobleman, remarkable both inside and out.05211602 museum of old aix ceilingNext stop, the Museum of Tapestries, in the Archbishop’s Palace just beside our apartment. Ascending the grand staircase, 05211604 stairwaywe pause in a room lined with fabulous tapestries05211602 palace tapestry museum as an ensemble warbles ancient Jewish tunes.05211602 palace art below music above video tooWe’ve visited Aix’s main art museum, the Granet, several times, but step inside the crowded courtyard to watch some energetic and emotional modern dance, then stroll through a room or two of art, 05211603 granetbefore walking by the Four Dolphins fountain on the way to Cours Mirabeau.05211603 quatre dauphinsThis evening is also the finale of Journées d’Eloquence, Days of Eloquence, literary performances commemorating the Resistance in France. We’ve seen readings in front of the Town Hall near our home, music and dance in an open-air shopping mall, and tonight, on the Cours Mirabeau,as a chorus sings and a narrator speaks, a line-up of actors dressed in World War II period uniforms and clothes help the audience picture what the words express. 05211603 rjournees eloquenceAn officer and staff roll off in the vintage car, flags fluttering, as the program ends.
At the other end of the Cours the full moon peeps above the horizon,05211603 rotonde moon and we walk by yet another of Aix’s beautiful fountains on our way to the last event of this extravagant Saturday.05211603 to pav vendome The Pavilion Vendome has been taken over by young artists, and one after the other flash their techno creations on the elegant façade 05211603 vendome atlantesas the crowd sits on the grass, oohing and aahing at the sight. A day FILLED with the delights of Aix!

Back Home in Aix

Back Home in Aix

Wednesday – Thursday, May 18-19, 2016
Aix en Provence, France

Interested in a Music and Markets Tour? We’d love to hear from you!
Why not join us on our newest tour in September – Bordeaux and Dordogne?

A flight from Prague to Paris, a bus ride to the train station, then a fast train whizzes us south through the lush Burgundy countryside,05181601 Burgundy and we’re back home in Aix! A few purchases to settle us in, a check-up of the apartment, which has suffered water damage from upstairs renovations of a neighbor, a good night’s sleep in our own bed, and it’s Thursday, market day. We have a morning meeting with our manager and the contractor who will manage the repairs needed (painting will have to wait until the end of the summer, to allow our three hundred year walls time to dry well) but before they come we happily head for the flower market. 05191601 flowersFull of gorgeous spring scents and colors, one stall after another tempts, until we settle on a gorgeous armful of peonies – white for fragrance, red for color.05191601 fragrant white irresistable color of redAfter our meeting, where we bravely try to comprehend the insurance requirements and details of repairs in French, we all agree that the damage could have been SO much worse. Isabel, our manager, just HAPPENED to stop by the apartment to drop off clean sheets and towels one morning, and was shocked to see water pouring from a ceiling light fixture and down the kitchen and living room walls. She quickly shut off the electricity, called the Pompiers (fire department) who came and shut off the water, then assessed the damage and dried the affected furniture. It seems that the plumbing problem began earlier the same morning, not before that – or the house would have been flooded! As it is, our home is still comfortable and live-able, with some stains on the walls and ceiling that will be taken care of at the end of the summer. Not as pretty as it was – but it will soon return to its former state – and even better, we hope!
We’ll work on deep cleaning later, but now’s the time to get back out to the markets before they close. Joining the chic shoppers on Cours Mirabeau, 05191601 join chic shoppers on courswe take in the change of seasons – colorful summer merchandise is ripe for the picking! 05191601 summer goodsA new swimsuit? Or a find-me-at-the-beach hat?05191601 summer goods1Peeking down a pretty lane, 05191601 take another route homewe take another way home, stopping for some delectable spring produce for lunch.05191602 bounty of springPeonies for the eyes, a crisp cool rosé to accompany lunch,05191602 by peonies lunch we’re happy to be back!

Markets of Provence – What a Delight!

Markets of Provence – What a Delight!

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?

Would we like to review the new Markets of Provence: Food, Antiques, Crafts, and More by Marjorie R. Williams asked St. Martin’s Press? Absolutely, we replied! And what a sensory and inspirational read it has been, virtually transporting us to some of our favorite villages and reminding us of those scents, sights, and flavors that always enthrall.CAM10582 Markets of ProvenceI was immediately drawn in with the Introduction: “What’s the best way to see, taste, and smell Provence? The answer, I believe, is to visit its markets…”
If you’ve read our blog or seen our photos on Instagram and Facebook, you KNOW we love our markets! And the markets of Provence actually inspired us, way back in 2002, to start Music and Markets Tours so we could share that love with others!
Arranged by day-of-the-week, Marjorie begins with the renowned L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue antiques market,CAM10582 Markets of Provence ISLSORGUE filling this charmer of a town on Sundays…who wouldn’t pause for a photo beside the “moss-covered waterwheels” while perusing the treasures spread out on tables and the ground?
Monday – Cadenet, with it’s little drummer boy statue anchoring the village market, 072406CadenetWednesday – Saint-Rémy-de-Provence, one of the best for sure,CAM10582 Markets of Provence SRemy taking over the historic center and beyond with one fascinating stall after another, and of course our beloved Aix en Provence, “a captivating city with architectural flourishes and gushing fountains” on ThursdayCAM10582 Markets of Provence aix (also Tuesday and Saturday, although there’s a produce market EVERY day on Place Richelme)…how soon can we get back?!
Snippets of information inform even those of us who’ve been enjoying these markets for years – who knew that “the most established stands at Provençal markets are often near churches?”
I love Marjorie’s description of Market Day Setup – we’ve often walked through the market squares of Aix early in the morning, as the vendors are doing just that: “Oysters are sorted by size as swiftly as hands of poker. Rotisseries fire up; chickens are slid onto long metal skewers. Finishing touches dress up the displays…”
Heading for the South of France, or just ready to reminisce over previous village visits? Click right here to order your own copy of  Markets of Provence: Food, Antiques, Crafts, and More– the perfect size to carry along as you discover this luscious region in the best way possible!
As I have, you’ll return to it again and again, transported to glorious Provence!