Parading in Aix

Parading in Aix

One last post of a party-day in Aix, then we’re off to Barcelona and Prague!

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?

It’s our last day in Aix – one more stroll through the market,04111501 am one more marketone more round through favorite squares,04111501 am sights to hold til next timeone more lunch with friends – on Xavier’s terrace,04111501 one last great lunch on the terracehigh above Place Cardeurs.04111502 above cardeursAnd now for the BIG reveal – the bathroom is painted and ready for prime time!04111501 bathroom1Here it is – up the stairs, where there was a bathtub and shower, is now a shower room, with plexiglass from floor to almost-ceiling on the left.
Looking down from the shower, 04111501 bathroom 2and in the door – we love it!04111501 bathroomThe Bande Desinée festival kicks off this evening on Cours Mirabeau, with “Little Nemo” floating on his bed amidst  dragons, carriages, balloons, dancers – what a party!!04111502 blast of a goodbye video tooThis dragon practically kissed me on the head!04111502 dragonsWow, Aix, what a way to say goodbye!
Au revoir – 04111502 goodnight and goodbye

we’ll see you again, as that really means!

Aix Files – Renovation – 5

Aix Files – Renovation – 5

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.

We have the rental car until noon today, Friday, so off we go again to Castorama, a large hardware store, to pick up the ladder we decided on on Wednesday. All of the “big box” stores are always outside of towns, in purpose-built areas called “Zone Industriel” or “Commercial”.
We also find that the bathroom cabinets that we liked at Leroy Merlin, another big box store, have to be ordered, so we go ahead and place the order. All of this takes more time than we had planned on, and we make it back to Aix close to the noon drop-off time (and closing time for the rental agency), which means that I get to carry the ladder home in the rain (not my usual type of task!), from a drop-off point as close as Kirk can get on the ring-road, and he goes straight to the car drop off.
After dropping off the ladder, I walk to meet Kirk, coming back from Hertz near the train station, and pass the emptied-out market on the way. The green suits are hosing the stone pavements, picking up the trash, and soon the Place Richelme will transform into a bustling afternoon-into-night bar scene.11281401 pm market cleanupLunch today? Not an elegant French repast, but a couple of carefully chosen items from the Monop quick meal case and a pint of gazpacho, eaten on the tables thoughtfully provided in Monoprix’s city center shop. We’ve sure taken advantage of this well-stocked three-floor spot alot since they opened last year. 11281401 no workers today but needed before monday leroy merlin ladder in rain elegant lunch a monopWe’re expecting the plumber and electrician this afternoon too, but there’s another change in plans – these tasks were supposed to be done before Monday, when appliances will be delivered, but that work has been pushed back. Sylvie works with us to ensure that the appliances will be installed correctly by her team since Darty (rather like our Best Buy in the States – an excellent and reliable company we’ve used since our first French home purchase in 2004) won’t be able to do so due to the electric and plumbing not being ready..
It’s too soon for Kirk to begin the painting – he has to wait as long as possible for the plaster to dry. But there are always things to do, such as finding wood to extend the too-short ladder we’ve just brought home. Down the creepy stairs he goes11281401 to cave to get wood for bottom of new short ladderto the ancient cave, showing all of its 300 plus years.11281401 underground shows its age“You won’t believe what I found!” he exclaims as he comes back in the apartment….a ladder that’s JUST what we need! I’ve only seen the cave (our storage area) once or twice since we bought the house, and he goes down maybe once or twice a year, so neither of us have a good recollection of what’s actually there, left from previous owners (we have searched for treasure, but none to be found). 11281401 you wont believe what I foundI try out the curtain we brought from the States  – a temporary solution for the laundry closet until we find a vintage door. 11281402 try out curtain on closetThe rain’s finally stopped, and it’s time for an evening walk –bonne nuit, Aix!11281403 rain stopped walkSaturday dawns bright and beautiful, a perfect market day. Flowers on the Hôtel de Ville square,11291401 flower martand more flowers on Place Richelme – nasturtiums to adorn a platter.11291401 flower sneaked into food martEvery once in a while the sisters garbed in blue have a stand at the market, and today they’ve brought in Christmas decor from their gardens.11291401 nuns once in a whileMaison d’Espagne shows off a paella at the door – we consider some for lunch, but when we pass by after marketing it’s all gone!11291401 popular paella gone laterLe Bouddoir has become one of our favorite Aix restaurants, with their three daily specials, an excellent value at 12:50€. They’ve just returned from holiday, so we’re happy to enjoy lunch there today. Kirk takes in the beauty of the day at the fountain on Place de Tanneurs before we continue our errands. 11291402 bouudoir lunch back from vacationChristmas shopping is a pleasure, as we begin a Santon collection for our grandaughter Ivy, choosing just the right ones that we hope will delight her from the Santonniers Fair. 11291402 santon tradition for ivyAnd now begins the painting – not the entire kitchen, since there’s still work to be done, but the walls behind the cabinets which will be installed next week. Kirk flies back to Virginia Monday so now’s his chance. First the sanding to make it as smooth as he wants,11291403 had to wait to paint sand firstthen finally the painting, with blanc cassée (broken white). It’s looking better all the time!11291403 then paint blanc casseeAnd a good night walk11291403 walkdown Cours Mirabeau…


Mountains, Markets and Music

Mountains, Markets and Music

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

The buzz continues from morning til night in Aix… when we walked through Forum des Cardeurs, which is packed with restaurants, after 10 Tuesday night nearly every table was still filled, families, friends, couples and groups laughing and chatting as they sipped and supped.

Wednesday began with crashing thunderstorms and heavy rain, but by 11 the sun was out and the market was bustling. We always look forward to Zucchini Beignets from our favorite produce vendor – something I don’t make, but am happy to buy!

As quiet as our lane, rue Adanson, is, it’s always surprising to see the crowds just a block beyond us – and today the main street through old town is packed!

We have an early morning date on Thursday, and meet our neighbors at 6:15 to drive to the countryside for a hike, which they’ve planned so that we can arrive to the view of Mt. Saint Victoire as the sun rises – and it was worth getting up early!

The hike continues to a large dam, built in 1952, and now a part of EDF, France’s electric company.

With such an early start, we’re back to Aix in plenty of time for the big Thursday market. Even if we’re not buying, we enjoy joining the crowds strolling down Cours Mirabeau, where, under the gaze of Good King René,  the clothing vendors spread out their wares just on Thursdays.

You can stylishly outfit yourself from head

to toe.

You can usually find great deals at lunchtime in France on weekdays, and Le Bouddoir on charming Place des Tanneurs is one of the best options in town, with not just one Plat du Jour (dish of the day), but THREE. It’s a lovely place for an alfresco meal, and my pork tenderloin in a grainy mustard sauce is super, as is Kirk’s roulade of sole.

While we were waiting for our table (reservations recommended, especially if you want an outdoor table) Kirk read through a promotional book about Aix hotels, restaurants, and boutiques, and noted one just down the street that had been recently renovated and upgraded, so we decided to check it out.
The Hotel de France receptionist showed us a couple of rooms – really nice, spacious, lovely decor.
The breakfast room was highly touted in the book – a valued historic spot that we were not aware of  – so we made sure to see it too.

The balconies from the front rooms look out on Place des Augustins, with double-glazed windows which keep the rooms peaceful and quiet.

This Place is always packed with diners, walkers, and even cars driving around the star-topped fountain – one of the places where it’s an obstacle course to walk!

The OFJ (youth orchestra) is playing again tonight, this time atop the terrace of the Grand Theatre (where we attended several marvelous concerts on our Aix Easter Festival Tour). The percussion gang lets everyone in hearing distance know that the show’s about to start. Great views, aren’t there? See the cathedral belltower, of which we often post photos when we walk out our front door?

And there’s that mountain where we hiked this morning…

One ensemble after another treats us to chamber music, prefacing their piece with an informative and playful introduction – this quartet is playing a snippet of Mendelsohnn’s wedding march before reminding us that he composed much more than that, drawing on his many life experiences,

and playing one of his beautiful string quartets.

Sparkling Celebrations in Aix

Sparkling Celebrations in Aix

Holidays in France, 2013
Interested in a Music and Markets Tour? We’d love to hear from you!  We’re looking ahead to Spring – May in Venice, Barcelona, or Prague, and our newest  – Aix en Provence for the Easter Festival.

Aix is all a- glitter with holiday lights… no water in the Rotonde fountain, just a cascade of twinkles.

Celebrations in France started the week BEFORE Thanksgiving, with the annual Beaujolais Nouveau  unveiling. It’s still being promoted, so we thought we’d check it out for ourselves with a meal, although in past years the new wine has been rather lackluster and uninteresting. We’re happy to report that THIS years BN is very good…an indication of an excellent vintage, so we can expect the finer wines of this year to be great!

An after-dinner stroll down the Cours Mirabeau is always a pleasure, and even more so with the Christmas lights all aglitter.

The annual Christmas market lines the avenue, the Alpine chalets filled with handcrafts, mittens and scarves, and the ever- popular vin chaud. Yes, it’s cold enough in Aix to relish a cup of hot spiced wine

or a paper cone filled with hot- off- the- fire roasted chestnuts.  

Something else to celebrate with our neighbors sends us to the bakery for a warm baguette,

and the Fromagerie for a choice of delectable cheeses to share.

We’re invited to the inauguration of a new sound system in their Cave d’Opera,

and with flutes of champagne in hand, raise a toast as we’re immersed in glorious Puccini, Verdi and more.

And the music continues upstairs, in their veritable museum of a home, shelves and armoires filled with exquisite antique porcelain. We (carefully) sip our coffee from delicate 17th century French soft- paste blue and white cups,


then stroll home through the Place de l’Archveché, thankful once again for this privilege of living in the midst of centuries of history.

Bling and Bach in Aix en Provence

Bling and Bach in Aix en Provence

late November, 2012
Aix en Provence, France

Interested in a Music and Markets Tour? We’d love to hear from you!  Next on the itinerary: Our spring tours in Barcelona, Venice or Prague


Aix welcomes us back with bling of its own – it’s not just Paris who knows how to dress up for the holidays! The elegant Rotonde fountain at the end of Cours Mirabeau drips with glittering lights rather than water.
We schlepped a 6 foot drapery rod and lining material back from the Grands Magasins (department stores) of Paris – another plus of traveling by train rather than air – and now the work begins, actually on Thanksgiving Day!

I’m sewing the lining onto the backs of our striped drapes, for a prettier view than the additional set of curtains left by the previous owner that met the eye in the foyer.

Kirk finds his drill and installs the brass rod, replacing a sagging wooden pole that’s been doing the job since we bought the apartment. Now doesn’t it look nice?!

And here’s the new lining – it looks better in person than the photo.

Our reward for the work of the day? Aperitifs and enjoyable conversation with our wonderful neighbor across the street, then a leisurely stroll down sparkly Cours Mirabeau, where the Christmas Market chalets, filled with toys, gifts, warm hats and gloves, line one side of the street.

The Vin Chaud (hot wine) both is the busiest of all,

and gleaming Good King Rene watches over the children’s rides set up at the far end of the Cours.

We’re invited for dinner at another friend’s home on Friday, and I must share this intriguing first course – a platter of five different kinds of smoked fish. I am usually not a fan of smoked items, but each one of these, from mackerel to tuna to three kinds of salmon, were absolutely fabulous, mild and full of flavor, served with blinis and tzatziki.
We asked Xavier where he found so many different kinds of smoked fish, and he described a sailor’s boutique with all kinds of boating equipment and clothes, but also food that would travel well on the sea, such as this amazing selection of smoked fish. The cool and creamy tzatziki (a tangy Greek yogurt/cucumber dip) was perfect with it – I’d love to find some really good smoked salmon and serve this myself!

We’ve been cooking at home (when not invited out!) while in Aix, and treat ourselves to lunch out on Saturday, our last day here, at a place we read about on Aixcentric and have wanted to try – Le Comte d’Aix. I’m sure no one’s surprised that we both choose to complete our dining in Aix with  perfectly cooked duck breast, served with a sweet tart apple reduction – delicieux!
We began our latest visit here with a surprise concert in the cathedral last Sunday, and finish it tonight with an evening of Bach , presented by the J.S. Bach Academie -Aix,  in one of the protestant “temples” as they’re called. A fitting musical finale as we look forward to the holidays.

Au revoir Aix – we’ve enjoyed your Christmas sparkle!
And we wish all of you a wonderful Christmas – may it be filled with love, beauty, and joy!


A Smorgasbord for the Senses

A Smorgasbord for the Senses

Aix en Provence, France
October, 2012 
Interested in a Music and Markets Tour? We’d love to hear from you!  Why not join us in Italy for New Year’s Jazz? 
When I was a child in southern California one of our favorite family restaurants was a Swedish Smorgasbord (buffet) in Huntington Beach… I can still taste that delicious sweet rye bread and remember the exotic delights filling the table. Our last few days in Aix feel like a buffet of delights too… for the eyes, the ears, the tastebuds.
There’s usually at least one concert in town whenever we’re here, and this week it’s L’Orchestra I Sedici (the Sixteen) with an evening concert at the nearby Saint Saveur cathedral. Founded by Luigi Sagestrano a decade ago, the orchestra was comprised of sixteen string virtuosos. Today it has grown to thirty, and their lush sound soars to the arches of the cathedral as we sit, enthralled with their music. Their bio describes how they choose their performance venues carefully – places with a history: royal salons, chateaus, architecturally fascinating houses…and this cathedral with its layers of history dating as far back as Roman times. “The music needs an appropriate venue”.  We’ve invited our neighbor Mrs. Tomme to join us, and what a treat it is to walk five minutes from our apartment to hear such glorious music in such a gorgeous setting!
Here’s a snippet of their performance of  Dvorak’s Nocturne in B Major, Opus 40. One of the encores is Dvorak’s Waltz in A Major and I’m humming that graceful melody as we walk home.
We met some new neighbors at the Syndic (like a co-op) meeting earlier this week, and they’ve invited us for an aperitif Saturday. The conversation, with 3 French couples and us, flies fast and furious (not OUR conversation, but our ears flew to keep up!) and the aperitif evolves into a delicious dinner, followed by music at around midnight. Our hostess loves to sing jazz and Brazilian music, and pulls out a bunch of scores for me to try. First time I’ve played at midnight, and after a lengthy dinner and lots of wine!

We walk to church, on the other side of town, Sunday morning, and afterwards along the Cours Mirabeau, where artists and artisans have set up booths for the day.

Palette at the ready, this vendor works on his next landscape as we watch.

Then home, to our own smorgasbord as we clean out the frig before our early morning departure. It’s sure more fun eating a “finish it all or throw it away” feast here than in Virginia… wedges and scraps of runny cheeses, a few tasty olives, leftover squares of pissaladiere (an oniony pizza), Iberico ham from Spain and chunks of melon so sweet it tastes like summer…
Au revoir, Aix, we’ll be back as soon as we can – tomorrow we head north for jazz in Nancy!