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Van Gogh Was Here

Van Gogh 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?

We’ll walk in the steps of another great artist who was inspired by the south of France, Van Gogh. Driving north through the Alpilles, we’re charmed by the yellow carpet of wildflowers under the olive trees. Van Gogh colors – yellow and blue!04081501 Alpilles driveThe carpet continues beside St. Paul de Mausole outside of St. Remy de Provence, where Van Gogh checked himself in after the ear episode, and spent a prolific year of painting. 04081501 another art focused dayEaster is early this year, so there are just a few pansies in the cloister – not warm enough for more blooms,04081501 asylumand just a lone iris in the fields (last year we were here later and the garden was a purple haze!). 04081501 iris loneContinuing in the steps of the masters, we’re enveloped in the Giants of the Renaissance, this year’s theme at the Carrieres des Lumieres in Les Baux. 04081501 ren giantsThe cavernous rooms of a disused bauxite (yes, it’s named after Les Baux) quarry provide gigantic screens for richly hued photographs of locations or artworks, all accompanied by glorious surround-sound music.What a thrill to be immersed in the beauty of the Sistine Chapel, noting details impossible to take in in the actual room in Rome. 04081501 thrilling surrounded sistineWell this has been a full morning – now for some delights for the palate after all these other sensory pleasures! And where better than the wonderful Bistro du Paradou? Today’s Prix Fixe lunch begins with a Frisée Lardon Salad, and unlike previous meals it’s not plated, just brought in a big bowl for us to dish out ourselves – fun!04081502 bistro foreverAnd then a favorite cool weather French specialty, cassoulet – we’ve never had this here before either, and it is one of the best we’ve tasted! 04081502 cassouletAnd you know what’s next, right? That amazing cheese platter, in which we make a hefty dent 😉04081502 that amazing cheese basketAfter dessert and coffee on the terrace, 04081502 then dessert on terracewe’re on our way back to Aix, passing a surprising addition to the Maussane des Alpilles town hall – knitted patchwork cozies on the huge tree and the balcony and lamposts!04081503 art contemporary maussane mairieI glance down a side street as we roll through the town –  “Oh please stop!” This wisteria draped cottage just cries out for a photo!04081503 stop for wisteria
An evening concert of clarinet, viola and piano in the elegant Jeu de Paume,04221405 ceiling

then it’s time for a bit more to eat before we turn in for the day….crepes at Crepe Sautiere, in an old olive oil mill in the center of town. This one has a bump in the middle – ice cream!04081504 bumpy crepe after jeu de paumeBonne Nuit, Aix.

Fountains and Picnics

Fountains and Picnics

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?

Another artful day in Aix, with visits to the Musée Granet, a peek at a few more fountains, 04071501 view more fountainssuch as this one on Cours Sextius, with a traditional Provençal drummer/piper like those we enjoyed at a Santons festival last year.
Then lunch in the prettiest garden 04071501 bloomsbeside the gorgeous Pavilion Vendome.04071501 art galleries and a picnicThese Atlantes always seem rather worried to me – especially the one on the right. 04071501 looking worriedCan’t you just hear him saying “Oh no!” as he slaps his forehead?
Our evening concert is the Talens Lyriques, with a program of sacred baroque repertoire led by keyboard player Christophe Rousset, in the Cathedral.04071502 tonights concert in cathedral led by harpsichordIsn’t this an exquisite harpsichord?04071503 keyboard on top of organWe finish the day with a Moroccan feast at Le Riad – walking in the chilly evening made us eager for the hot mint tea, but I was too late to get a photo with our waiter holding the teapot skyhigh!04071503 walk to Riad chilly poured highA warming and delicious tagine really hit the spot – 04071504 best tagine in AixLe Riad’s our favorite place in Aix for good Moroccan cuisine.

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!

 

Aix is a Feast!

Aix is a Feast!

Easter Weekend, April 4-5 , 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?

We’re eager to meet our Music and Markets guest, Elaine, and walk through market squares over flowing with jazz and early spring produce on the way to her hotel.04041501 aix market VIDEO TOO and tour beginsWhat a joy it is to share favorite sights and places once again – all the way from the thermal waters that brought the Romans here centuries ago04041501 termes to Saint Saveur Cathedral, begun not long after the Romans were here.04041501 cathedralWe fill our afternoon with one beautiful square after another, checking out fountains and vistas, take a break, then meet again for a special first-night dinner at Aix’s favorite celebration restaurant, Le Formal.04041502 trio From the foie gras, 04041502 dinner foie gras firstthrough the lamb medley, 04041502 lamb medleyto ” Chocolate Tempation”  we’re delighted, 04041503 chocolate temptationas always, with chef Jean-Luc’s creations.
Easter Sunday rings in with a rousing organ trumpet voluntary at the cathedral.04051501 Easter music video too Elaine’s been studying French and the three of us can follow the Easter sermon pretty well, and then ” share the light”  with the candles handed out as we entered. 04051501 sharing the lightThere’s a lot more going on in Aix today – it’s the first Sunday of the month, so the Place de l’Hôtel de Ville is filled with vintage books rather than flowers.04051502 first sunday book fair where flowersAlthough it’s cool, the beaming sun encourages an al fresco lunch on Place des Tanneurs…04051502 lunch al frescocompleted with my all-time favorite dessert, Café Gourmand!04051502 my faveAnother first Sunday event, the monthly antique and vintage fair, fills the Cours Mirabeau.040515023 cours first sunday antiquesLater, our neighbor, Jean Claude, welcomes the three of us with an aperitif and a tour of his marvelous ceramic collection 040515023 pre concert aperobefore we enjoy the first of our scheduled concerts, an evening of breathtaking violin and piano in the Grand Theatre. We had not heard Maxim Vengerov before, and although we’ve enjoyed other world-renowned violinists through the years, his tender rich sound just enthralls – a new favorite violinist!040515024 marvelous concert From Prokofiev to Dvorak, Kreisler to Paganini (whose Caprice # 24 in F minor had the audience break out in applause after one fabulous pizzicato variation!) we were on the edge of our seats. A couple of French encores, Faure’s Apres Une Reve (which I love playing with my cellist friend Sarah) and Massenet’s delightful Meditation had us humming in memory as we walked past the Rotonde in the moonlight. 040515024 rotonde moonThis first concert of the week will be hard to beat!

Back Home in Aix

Back Home in Aix

Thursday-Friday, April 2-3 , 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?

We say goodbye to a gray drizzly Paris, (and after an hour and a half whizzing south, finally see the sun somewhere over Burgundy)04021501 burgundy sun finally

then hello Aix, where the sun almost always shines!04021501 hello again rue adansonSettling in, we take it easy since we’re still struggling from the colds we got from standing out in the rain before going to Paris, stroll around at sunset, 04021501 sunsetand by Friday we’re ready to go.
We walked through the flower market on our way home yesterday just a little too late – the vendors were loading blooms into their trucks. But friendly Martine is on Place des Precheurs today, 04031501 am flowers too late yesterdayand I walk home past a favorite square with an armful of spring pastels for our mantel.04031501 by favorite place on way backLong-stemmed tulips in a pale apricot – delicious!04031501 long stemmed tulips this timeMusic and Markets Aix Easter Festival Tour starts tomorrow, and today we’re running errands: picking up concert tickets, finishing up bathroom painting, and trying out new-to-us restaurants. Aix’s one historic center Michelin-starred restaurant, Pierre Reboul, has a playful, less expensive, sidekick next-door, Petite Pierre. Is this the coolest take on caesar salad?! 04031501 michelin in town caesarAfter an interesting and delicious main – a Pastilla of lamb, shredded and wrapped in phyllo, chocolate, always a good choice, is the finale.04031501 reasonable treatsMore errands,always a pleasure when there are so many interesting things to notice as I walk – such as this Spanish-themed Repetto window. 04031501 repetto spainWe take the “long” route to dinner, just to enjoy a few more views on the way to try out another new to us restaurant. 04031503 eveningHidden in plain sight, right on a main shopping drag, is a creperie in an old olive oil mill. We’ve passed it for years, never noticing, until Lynne wrote about it on her Aixcentric blog. Well obviously everyone else knows about it – as we sit and enjoy our dinner every table is eventually filled – good thing we called to reserve!04031503 resto researchAnd the crepes are delicious, along with some unusual pear cider. Yes, we’ll be bringing our Music and Markets guests here, and telling our Ambiance d’Aix renters about it too! 04021502 goodnight moonGood night, Aix – it’s wonderful to be back!

Aix Files – Renovation – 4

Aix Files – Renovation – 4

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.

What a gorgeous day we had yesterday – almost springlike in Paris! This Monday morning it’s back to “gray Paree”  as we say goodbye from Gare de Lyon, returning to renovations in Aix.11241401 au revoir parisAs always, there’s a huddle around the track display, and when the quai (track) flashes up on the board for our train, we join the gang heading south, and this time our car’s close – the second one in line. Sometimes we have to walk what feels like a mile, beyond the shelter of the roof soaring high above to a far-away car.11241401 awaiting quai infoJust as a reminder, this is what the kitchen looked like before we started the renovation.11171401 Apt kitchen nowToday it doesn’t look too much different from when I left on Thursday, but it’s the first time Kirk has seen the work in person (we’ve been Skyping so he can watch the progress virtually).11241402 not much differentAfter sitting so long on the train, we’re eager to get out and about. Dusk falls early now, around 5, and the Christmas lights glitter on the Place de l’Hôtel de Ville (town hall) as we walk by, greeting the mayor on her way home with a Bon Soir.11241403 eve walk hi to mayor just leavingThere’s not much business at the Christmas chalets on Cours Mirabeau on this weeknight, we pretty much have the boulevard to ourselves!11241403 mirabeau very quiet weeknightWe pick up Vietnamese take-out on our way home and enjoy it by the fireplace.11241403 take out asian for dinnerSylvie, our contractor, comes by Tuesday morning and we talk about what’s next, measuring the space required for the ladder to the mezzanine.11251401 kirk and sylvie measuring“Please have the electrician move the fuse box to a less obtrusive place,” we request. It shall be done!11251401 please move the box yes thereThen we’re off to pick up a car and shop the big box stores outside of town for ideas for the much-needed bathroom renovation. The shower/ bath is rather cramped now, and we’re going to change it to just a big walk-in shower, called a Douche Italienne in France. We’re also getting paint for the kitchen and looking for a ladder for the mezzanine, which proves harder to find than we thought. We’ve seen, in person and in photos and TV shows, ladders up to sleeping mezzanines, rather like a library ladder. But it seems they have to be ordered online. We find the best option, and will return to get it on Friday before we turn in the car.
It’s time for a more substantial meal, after our sandwiches on the train, take out Asian, and yet more food-on-the-run while shopping today. And every little errand or outing right in the historic center continues to be a delight, as we walk by the holiday twinkles of the Hôtel de Ville again.11251402 quiet square mayor gone already flowers three times weekBistro Latin is our choice for dinner tonight. As we enjoy a delicious three-course meal (bon prix-qualité, just 15 euros for the Menu Bistro, with a choice of 4 excellent items for each course) we remember our first meal here, in 1998, for a New Year’s eve feast of 10 courses or so…the Feast of Saint Sylvestre. The decor has changed, but the food’s still very good, and tonight, rather than revelers upstairs and down, there are just a few tables filled. We finish with one of the best Moelleux au Chocolate (molten chocolate) that we’ve had anywhere,11251402 yummy dinner Bistro L memories one of the best moellouxand walk home through the discreetly decorated Place de l’Archeveché –11251403 discreet deco on placeBonne Nuit, Aix!