Shopping and Sea

Shopping and Sea

Friday, May 17, 2013 
Delights in 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

The last full day of our Grand Tour of Provence and the Riviera begins in Aix, where it’s time to catch up on shopping, a very easy thing to do with all of the enticing boutiques lining the lanes.  Steve’s lucky friends and family will love their tablecloths and napkins, I’m sure – I certainly do!

In between shops, Kirk shows off some of our favorite squares and sights in the town… such as Place Albertas,

then we hop in the car and head for the coast, and another favorite, the colorful seaside village of Cassis.
Soon we’re heading out to sea for a tour of the beautiful calanques, fjord-like inlets between Marseilles and Cassis,

and beyond the harbor it certainly gets rougher… hold on!

The sea’s much calmer as we enter the cliff-edged cove, the farthest of the three calanques we’ll visit, En Vau.

Turquoise crystal water laps on a tiny beach – a perfect place for a quiet nap on a warmer day….

Then back to charming Cassis

under a bristling fortress,

for a little more retail endeavor,where Steve finds an elegant Provençal souvenir  for almost everyone in the Souleiado boutique. The friendly salesladies are happy to model one scarf after another, and then wrap each one beautifully.

Then back to Aix, leaving some time to pack for tomorrow’s departure before an Apero at our place (thank you, Steve, for that gorgeous scarf I’m wearing – what a wonderful memento of this fabulous week together!)
before a marvelous dinner at Poivre d’Ane on Place de Cardeurs. We choose the Chef’s Inspiration multi- course feast… beginning with a terrine of foie gras and smoked duck breast, garnished with a colorful pansy.
We assured Steve that the portions would be small since there were at least five courses… but, after with the Sea Bass with caramelized turnips (!) and champagne sauce,

and continuing to the tender lamb and spring vegetables,

we’re quickly filling up with delicious- ness.
Of course we do manage to guard room for dessert, and agree that this has been a fine finale to our many wonderful dining experiences of the week.
Before flying out on Saturday, Steve back to the States and we on to Venice for our next tour, we had breakfast in an Aix institution, the Deux Garçons on Cours Mirabeau, where Cezanne and Zola used to hang out in the same Belle Epoque ambiance that remains today.

And Steve was privileged to experience another French institution, the GREVE, or strike, as a raucous group marched through the airport as we were checking in, chanting and singing and flaunting their signs. We asked a few people what the strike was about, but no one knew, and the signs touted ” We strike because in France it is a RIGHT” ….. ok. Thanks for the experience, and au revoir France. We’ll be back as soon as we can!

Spring Days in Aix

Spring Days in Aix

from Easter Sunday to May, 2013 
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.

We’re back – and that impossibly blue sky stops us in our tracks once again as we’re walking to the apartment from the airport shuttle bus, towing our suitcases.
There’s been so much to do as we’ve been getting ready for two tours, and working with clients towards future ones, so I never had time to finish our tales of the last trip, and must tell you at least about the Easter Monday concert at the cathedral. Billed as “the Joy of Easter”, it was presented by the cathedral organist, and after several pew- shaking pieces from the organ, she presented one friend or group of friends after another… a mens ensemble, then her husband, who played, accompanied by the organ, on a saw, then a hurdy- gurdy —has the cathedral ever been filled with such sounds before??

And the piece de resistance? An historically dressed group of hunting horn enthusiasts.
They stand with their backs to the audience to play, since the horn is held over the shoulder with the flare facing backwards. Although this video is dark, you’ll want to hear the unique sound of these brasses, played without valves – just the shape of ones lips creates the correct note.
Now fast forward to May, where we’ve arrived on a bright spring morning, with a new-to- us request on our Brussels layover. As we waited by the gate for our connection to Marseilles, we were called over the loudspeaker, and two officially dressed agents asked us to come look over our checked luggage. What??? So we stood by as they went through our suitcase in a private room. What caused this? A can of paint which, along with a tube of grout and a few other D-I-Y products, put an alert on our suitcase. Was our paint water-based? Yes – and it’s a good thing, since we now know that oil-based paints can NOT be brought into the European Union!
So we and our bags got on the plane and made it quickly to Marseilles, then Aix, where the streets are MUCH fuller than they were in early April… and the Petite Train now chugs through the narrow lanes, introducing tourists to the sites.

Paint, clothes, and all else safely tucked into Ambiance d’Aix, we head out to take care of errands before our Provence/ Riviera tour starts tomorrow. A combo entertains a plaza full of aperitif- sippers in front of the town hall,

and the sun illuminates the beautiful facade of the post office, an old man depicting the staid Rhone River, and a young female, one leg racily slipping over the side, the rowdy Durance River.

We’re delighted with a nearby restaurant we’ve been wanting to try, Le Poivre d’Ane. It’s too cool to sit outside, but our table by the open front door, beside a big window, gives us the al fresco feeling we enjoy, and dinner is just superb… beginning with first courses garnished with beautiful flowers, which our server encourages us to eat.
We’re so pleased with the place that we make reservations for us and our tour guest for next week – it’s good enough to share!