Aix Files – Renovation – 2

Aix Files – Renovation – 2

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.

First one in the door this morning? The electrician…whose initial task is to move the electric box in the space that was formerly shelves, and soon will be boxed in on this side, opened out to the hall as a laundry closet.11191401 am electrician move box so wall can be brokenThen I’m out the door, on the way to our chosen baker, Farinoman Fou for his Wednesday special, the apricot hazlenut loaf – my favorite!11191401 baker favoriteKitchen deprived as I am, I ask if he’ll cut the petite loaf I choose, and he obliges, with difficulty as it’s still so warm and soft, fresh from the oven.11191401 petite loaf slice svp hard cuz warmA couple of slices and a Flat White from Coffee to Go and there’s  my breakfast.
An unexpected change in plans began last night, when our dear friend Karen invited us to Paris for the weekend. I was able to change Kirk’s Marseilles flight, arriving Saturday morning, to Paris (no charge for a mileage ticket change, thanks to United status – a valuable benefit for us!), then worked on train travel for myself, and for our return to Aix on Monday. My walk to the Aix train station to pick up the tickets takes me by more fall beauty,11191401 pretty everywhere to train station plans changed last nightand, kitchen or not, I can’t resist a stroll through the market. Look at these hearty porcini! Some of them are fist sized – what a great meal they’d make, brushed with olive oil and grilled….11191401 porcini some fist sized if I had a kitchenBack in the kitchen, I hear the electrician grunting and mumbling as he chips off the conduit lining the walls – “it’s glued on TIGHT!” he tells me.11191402 chip offAnd pretty soon the box is off the old wall,11191402 remove boxand moved to its new home.11191403 boxed moved electrician goneYesterday as I was walking I noticed a pretty little lunch spot, so I’m trying it out today.11191403 fannys for lunchI’m amazed at how these two ladies have fit everything PLUS the kitchen sink into such a tiny space…just beyond a few tables squeezed into the front.11191403 just two ladies tiny spaceA delicious indian-spiced pork dish fills me up so much that – can you believe it – I can’t manage a café gourmand! I will have to come back and try it another day.
It’s so lovely out – worth more walking, as I marvel at the fall colors,11191404 afternoon walkand the stunning blue sky.11191404 stunning blue I can’t wait til Kirk gets here to enjoy this with me!



Museums In and Out in Aix

Museums In and Out in Aix

September 2014

Interested in a Music and Markets Tour? We’d love to hear from you!  How about an unforgettable holiday with us at  New Years’ Jazz in Italy

One more meeting, then we can put kitchen renovation plans aside and ENJOY wonderful Aix for our few remaining days!
Masterworks of the Pearlman Collection, Cézanne and Modernity, at the Musée Granet has been on our radar on our last few visits to Aix – it’s here for just a few weeks more so we’re on our way now. Of course we have to stroll through the market on our way  – aren’t those petite pumpkins adorable? 

Familiar works by Manet, Degas, Gauguin, Van Gogh, Modigliani and of course, Cezanne, fill the area set aside for the special exhibition. The open, airy rooms are an excellent foil for the marvelous works of art.
For a few years, the Chapelle des Pénitents Blancs, constructed in the mid 1600s, has been under renovation to be an extension of the Granet, and opened in May of 2013, during the Marseilles Provence Annual Year of Culture. We’ve heard rave reviews about this space and collection too, so that’s on today’s schedule as well.

But first, lunch! Checking out nearby restaurants, we’re attracted by La Locanda’s Friday special, aioli. A common Friday offering, this simple but delicious platter of steamed vegetables and cod is served with garlic mayonnaise – and this one’s the garlic-iest we’ve ever tasted!

Although we’ve had aioli at friends homes, this is the first time we’ve ordered it at a restaurant in Aix, and we laugh at our choice – an ITALIAN restaurant for this south of France dish! But the southern Italian chef does a fine aioli… we’ll have to come back and try his Italian offerings.

And now to Granet II…where the Planque Collection, on loan to Aix for fifteen years,  is showcased. Composed of masterpieces from the late 19th and the 20th centuries, including Degas, Monet, Renoir, Braque, Picasso, and more, is beautifully hung under the vaults of the ancient chapel – a wonderful use of one of the many ancient religious buildings in historic Aix.

From an art-filled chapel, to a living museum of a town, we walk through the sunny fall afternoon, passing an antiquaire who advertises his opening not by the usual chair, but by this charming old pram.

Reveling in the beauty of Aix, we stroll across town to an old favorite, the Pavillion Vendome.

Children race their scooters and bikes around the rose garden, lovers sit on shady benches, as the Aixoise enjoy this beautiful place as much as we do.

Markets and Friends in Aix

Markets and Friends in Aix

September 2014

Interested in a Music and Markets Tour? We’d love to hear from you!  How about an unforgettable holiday with us at  New Years’ Jazz in Italy

Continuing to intersperse our kitchen renovation meetings and research with some south of France fun, we can’t miss a daily walk through the market, where fall is definitely making a change in the offerings.

The thrice-weekly pottery vendor in Place des Precheurs adds a splash of color every season of the year – I’m always tempted by his wares!And I’m hoping for more shelf space after the kitchen renovation…to display some of these pretty pieces!

We’ve blogged several times about Le Bouddoir on pretty Place des Tanneurs, and suggest it to new friends from Washington for lunch one day – they enjoyed it as much as we do!

Monika’s Tartare met her high standards,

and after hearing about Café Gourmand, she tried that out (along with me, of course – wouldn’t miss it!).

It’s always a great idea to have three or four desserts rather than just one, right?

Dining Low, Dining High – it's all good!

Dining Low, Dining High – it's all good!

Summer in Aix 2014

Interested in a Music and Markets Tour? We’d love to hear from you!  How about an unforgettable holiday with us at  New Years’ Jazz in Italy

Ikea is the first suggestion everyone makes for kitchen renovation, so we’ve rented a car to begin our kitchen research. When most locals hear the village name Vitrolles, two things come to mind: the Aix TGV station, which is in that area, and Ikea, the closest one to Aix in an industrial zone outside of Vitrolles.  But last Sunday, at the monthly art fair in Aix, we were intrigued by the intricate map-like work of a young artist, and several of her pieces were of the rust-hued cliffs and pretty lanes of Vitrolles. So after perusing cabinets and counter-tops at Ikea, we drove into the village, in search of the top-rated and simply named eatery,  Restaurant du Village. And from first glimpse, we were charmed by this quiet hamlet, sloping lanes crowned with a crumbling fortress.

Right in the center of the tiny town is the restaurant, and the few mid-week guests are all seated outside on the terrace.

Across the street, electric-blue morning glories tumble down a roof, those cliffs, recognized from the artist in Aix, in the distance.

Lunch, a bargain at 3 courses for 12.50€, is delicious – and my main course of Millefeuille d’Aubergines (an eggplant “napoleon”)  is SO good that I ask how it’s made. After describing the process, our server (who sometimes cooks as well) offers Kirk a taste. She brings a handwritten recipe, explaining further details, and that  “taste”, which turns out to be even more than my main dish! Caramelized bananas are the tasty finale,

and we take a few more minutes to stroll the town before returning to Aix. An archway leads up to the fortress – would be a fun hike for a future visit.

Walking back to the car via another road, we see that the tower is backed up by extensive ruins.

Thursday, and we’re counting the hours until Kirk’s latest project is turned in this afternoon…so I’m off to the market while he slaves at his desk. Place de l’Hôtel de Ville is again overflowing with blooms today,

along Cours Mirabeau the clothing and home-goods vendors do a brisk business,

and Farinoman Fou (the crazy flourman) has our favorite breakfast loaf, brimming with hazelnuts and dried apricots, on the shelf.

We’ve packed a suitcase for a night in the countryside, checking out a new hotel we’ve heard about, Les Lodges St. Victoire.
Another of the many things we love about Aix is that within minutes one can be out in lush green countryside…and as we drive out of town, the road is soon canopied with trees, birds and cicada song trilling through the air.  Our table’s waiting at Le Saint Estève – with a view to match the service and cuisine!

Yes, this is the “dining high” of the title – and from first view of the terrace, there’s an enveloping ambiance of quiet elegance and abundance, that relaxed bliss that anything you want would not be too much to ask. My first course of wild mushrooms on pastry comes laden with truffles – why not?!

And even the bread is remarkable – a warm crusty turnover filled with black olive tapenade is too good to resist.

Kirk’s melt-in-your-mouth tenderloin is superb, but he has to leave too soon…work to do before the final conference call – we’ve already set up an office for him in our room.

I’m in no hurry…just want to sit and sip and enjoy the view.

No dessert, merci. But before I leave, the waiter brings out a “compliments of the chef” assortment of delicious bites. Why, this could be a café gourmand!

So I order a café and nibble…oh my, have you ever heard of pastis marshmallows? Perfect for this licorice-lover. And the golden mirabelle plums are at their peak, a splendid mouthful each. These yummy morsels will be a lovely treat for Kirk when he’s done, so I take at least half of them back to the room.
Slipping into a bathing suit, I sit by the pool, feeling decadently relaxed

and around 4 o’clock I’m happy as can be when Kirk, project completed, joins me –

now we can BOTH take it easy!


More Music and Markets in Aix

More Music and Markets in Aix

Summer in Aix 2014

Interested in a Music and Markets Tour? We’d love to hear from you!  How about an unforgettable holiday with us at  New Years’ Jazz in Italy

Is that a mid-August hint of fall I see in the market today? 

Tour groups and shoppers all stop to listen to a combo by the clock tower,

and by afternoon the Place de l’Hôtel de Ville shows what “dappled” is all about.

Xavier comes by with his drill so we can discover if the space below the bathtub is useable. We’re surprised to find that under our tub is someone else’s closet, so no, we can NOT use that space as we renovate the bathroom. These old buildings are full of puzzles and quirks!

Tuesday morning the crowds are so thick that it’s hard to see the flowers for sale!

The honey man’s on site on Place Richelme, rain or shine – we’ve even seen him on a rare snowy winter day!

Our neighbor’s window boxes are the prettiest they’ve ever been – merci beaucoup.

They came over to take photos of them too!

Our friend Gloria is living in Villefranche -sur-Mer for the summer, and has come to Aix for the day to shop. We meet for lunch at Brasserie Leopold in the Hotel St. Christophe. We’ve been told that this is a favorite hang-out of the mayor, but we don’t see her here today. Their 12.50 € three course lunch is one of Aix’s best bargains, and the included dessert is a Café Gourmand – my favorite! Can you identify the 5 mini desserts?

Another combo keeps things lively as the day wanes –

the music and markets just won’t stop in Aix!

That's Life in Aix

That's Life in Aix

Summer in Aix 2014

Interested in a Music and Markets Tour? We’d love to hear from you!  How about an unforgettable holiday with us at  New Years’ Jazz in Italy

August 15 is the biggest holiday of the summer in France and Italy, Assumption Day, when Catholics believe that Mary was transported miraculously to heaven. Although the countries are not that religious now, the day’s still a great excuse for a final summer vacation, so the autoroutes are jammed with travelers heading south, and Aix is full of smiling visitors. We’ve been expecting more peals than we hear every day from the cathedral belltower, and as the bells sound, the faithful troop into mass.

Without fail, the market sets up, business as usual, the saucisson man offering nibbles of his sausages,

the vegetables arrayed as if ready for an artist  – we’re not the only ones stopping for a photo every day!

Le Bouddoir is one of the few restaurants that offer specials even on a holiday – most places clearly state that their “plat du jour” is available only for workday lunch. So we check out their three choices of the day, and happily enjoy a delicious meal from the smiling staff for the second day in a row.

Saturday brings the flowers back to the Hotel de Ville square,

and brides as well – I didn’t catch a photo of the happy couple in the square, but noticed the petals on the cobbled courtyard of the town hall, where the official ceremony takes place.

During July and August, each evening, and on Sunday during the day, booths of enticing treats line the Cours Mirabeau,

and after church we stroll down the broad walkway, tasting the spice cake, smelling the lavender, trying on the hats.

The latest exposition in the Gallerie d’Art du Conseil Général des Bouches du Rhône on the Cours is photography of artist’s ateliers, from Picasso to Warhol – the photographers often as renowned as the artists.

Recognize Picasso?

And here’s Pollack, caught in the act. This is a terrific little free gallery, provided by the Bouches du Rhone, which is the state or province within which Aix is found. Their motto is Ici La Cuture est Partout – here culture is everywhere. Just ONE of the reasons we love Aix!

We’ve reserved a table on the rosé fountain square that we like so much – have noticed this restaurant, l’Incontournable (the essential, this means, the owner tells us)

and are happy to find that the food is as good as the setting – with intriguing Asian flavors keeping our tastebuds guessing.

Then it’s back to the office (in the apartment) for Kirk, who’s continuing to work very long hours even on the weekend – we’re fitting in a bit of together time and fun in bits and pieces!