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Welcome to the Garden!

Welcome to the Garden!

July 2017
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?

Today’s lunch is in the delightful garden of our friends Philippe and Bénédicte, beginning with aperitifs before moving to the table under the ash tree in the garden. Philippe tells us that when they bought this property years ago, before they built their home he used to take a mid day break from his nearby office and come sit under the tree – it’s his favorite place in the garden.
Bénédicte is an interior and exterior designer extraordinaire – we love all of the unique touches in the garden such as this gypsy wagon in one corner, and the latest addition, a treehouse from which Philippe snapped this photo. The yummy al fresco lunch included cheeses, bien sur, and  figs from their tree, then Philippe picked a few for us to take home – as luscious to taste as they are to look at!

 

Here and There in the South of France

Here and There in the South of France

July 2017
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

Not a day goes by that we don’t walk through the market – a visual feast, which always includes smells – breathe in the lavender, the olives, the goat cheeses – and sometimes tastes urged on us by friendly vendors. So even if we’re on our way elsewhere we must walk through the daily market on Place Richelme.
Evenings find us at friend’s homes – in the countryside near Bandol, east of Aix, or up near the rooftops of Aix on a terrace, where grill-master Xavier tosses something fabulous onto the heat.One day friends come into town for the market, and we meet for lunch at the legendary Deux Garçons, where Zola and Cezanne used to hang out. A couple of ladies order the Plateau des Fruits de Mer, towering piles of fresh seafood, but find they can’t quite finish it up – Kirk to the rescue! Three of the group were our first visitors to Ambiance d’Aix the week we bought it in 2010, so we convince them all to stop by on their way to see the cathedral – first time we’ve ever had 15 people in our apartment! On one scorcher of a day we buzz over to the beach – hot as it is, the water’s still chilly and refreshing, and the sea breeze even cools down everything at night more than in the city, as we find when we spend an evening with friends in Cassis. Out the window we watch as water jousters practice for the upcoming tournament. “Who are you rooting for, the red or the blue?” asks Yann.
Corey’s tablescapes are always as lovely as they are delicious – dig in! As usual, I’m entranced by the view, changing by the minute.Before dessert we all walk out to the lighthouse and back – the purple glow marks Chez Gilbert, and the apartment above we’re getting to know and love.
Thanks, friends, for memorable moments!

 

 

Summer Fun in Aix

Summer Fun in Aix

July 2017
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

What’s new in Aix? The bell tower of the cathedral is now out of its scaffolding, pristine and gleaming in the summer sun. Under the dust of years, it was never apparent that the crown on top is a paler stone – now it’s clearly obvious!
The market is calling…and the most-photographed stall of all is as eye-poppingly gorgeous as always!We’re here long enough this time that we can create a window box or two, and what fun it is to choose just the right blooms for the bedroom and study windows.A bit of blue, white and red for France’s national day hits the spot!This is the first time we’ve been in town for the Festival d’Aix, and in addition to the operas taking place in several venues (sometimes we can hear the music from the adjacent Archbishop’s Palace Garden) there are musicians involved in the operas and award- winning string quartets playing in the courtyard of a nearby historic building – one evening was filled with Turkish influenced Greek music – unique!Every Sunday night open-air movies are projected in one park or another, and we stroll through the rose garden of Pavilion Vendome, spread out our blanket, and take in a show as night falls.

How about a lunch date in seaside La Ciotat? Kristin, of French Word a Day, discovered a great little place in the center and has reserved a table for us in a pretty square.Corey and Yann, who we’ve visited in Cassis a few times, and Jean-Marc and Kristin meet us there, and we savor one delicious course after another, lots of laughter and fun interspersing each bite. Back in Aix, it’s Open Gallery night, and we walk from one to the other, sipping the wines, sampling the snacks, and appreciating the art – the swaths of aqua ink in this gallery were among my favorites. One morning we bump into a neighbor on the edge of town, and happily accept his invitation for lunch in the seaside town where they’re housesitting. From their hillside abode in Carry-le-Rouet, the views across the water to Marseilles are superb – I can’t take my eyes away!
Change into your suits, we’re instructed….no need to ask us twice! Apero by the pool, lunch on the patio of the lovely home, then hours relaxing in the sun…oh this must be vacation!

 

 

A Day in the Luberon

A Day in the Luberon

Easter Week 2017
The South of 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

We’re sharing some favorite villages of the lush Luberon region north of Aix with our Aix Easter Festival tour guest today. And as she collects artisanal pottery, we’re seeking out more than just fabulous vistas. At the top of the russet-hued village of Roussillon is a tiny boutique specializing in local ceramics – and now Janice has a few choice pieces that will wing their way to her US home! From atop the Castrum we take in the views – the shocks of red clay amidst the dark green of the pines, a lone poppy in the grass,a chateau nestled far below. It’s a perfect day to take in all the colors of Roussillon. In the parking lot below, market stalls cluster among the surrounding colors. Beside the cliffs, scraped in decades past for their ochre pigments, we pause for lunch, then we’re off to our next village, Lourmarin. On the way we pass Bonnieux, tumbling picturesquely down a hillside – it always demands a photo stop!
After zigagging through the Luberon range, we coast down to Lourmarin, with its elegant chateau, and wander through the peaceful lanes for a bit before returning to Aix.
This evening’s concert is in the historic Jeu de Paume, a restored handball court originally constructed for the entertainment of the nobility in the 1700s. Beneath this elegant ceiling we listen to tenor Mauro Peter sing Schumann, Strauss and Liszt, ably accompanied by Helmut Deutsch on the piano, before completing our day with a Moroccan feast at Le Riad – the best tagines in town!  Our waiter effortlessly pours tea from yards above the cups – that takes some practice, I believe!

Performances and Picnics in Aix

Performances and Picnics in Aix

Easter Week 2017
Aix-en-Provence, France

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?

Yesterday we came back from L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue in time for an evening of organ and string quartet in the peaceful elegance of St. Jean de Malte, in the Mazarine District. On the way back to our apartment we detoured, drawn to Place Richelme by the strains of Mozart….and found a “You’re the Maestro” event – as the Knights, a talented group from New York City, played the overture of The Marriage of Figaro. As we watched, a gentleman of a certain age masterfully took charge, then a lady waved her dog’s paw to conduct, a lively young man jumped around on the podium as he took his turn, and from a window high above a mademoiselle aerobatically conducted as the orchestra turned to face her. What fun – you never can tell what will happen on the streets and squares of Aix!
Today we’re shopping for a picnic in the garden…some hearty prosciutto here, fruit there, popped into our market basket to enjoy by the blooms in Pavilion de Vendome. More music awaits us tonight – but first, an Aperitif Dinatoire (that means enough finger food to make a dinner!) at our home.We’re delighted with this evening’s performance – entitled Brothers and Sisters. Four groups of siblings, in a variety of combinations, entertain us with Schumann, Brahms, Franck, and a world premier of Thierry Escaich’s String Sextet – the composer taking a bow after the musicians at the end. And the finale to this evening? A streetside crepe filled with nutella – yum!

 

Showing Off Aix

Showing Off Aix

Easter Week 2017
Aix en Provence, France

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?

It’s our chance to show off our much-loved city of Aix this week, as we begin another Aix Easter Festival Tour. From markets in bloom to historical collections in the Museum of Old Aix, from favorite squares such as Place Albertas to Mary and saints keeping watch from neighborhood corners, it’s truly a pleasure to share!
Of course the cuisine is a big draw too – I’m excited to introduce my all-time fave dessert,  Café Gourmand, to our guest! And then there are the venues in which we enjoy our meals – the weather is perfect for al fresco dining.
Before our first concert of the tour, in the Grand Theatre, we’re invited to our neighbors for a lavish Aperitif, and a viewing of their exquisite museum-quality collections.As we walk back from the concert the Rotonde gleams a goodnight. Sleep well, tomorrow will be full of more discoveries!