Summer Days in the South of France

Summer Days in the South of France

August 2015
Aix en Provence and more of the south, 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?

Playing tourists in Aix, we stop by what drew the Romans here millenia ago – the warm waters. Those Romans did love their baths  – as we saw last month in Pompeii! Today the Termes Sextius are in an elegant building,08101504 thermes elegant now but the ancient baths are visible below the surface. 08101504 thermesDid you catch a glimpse of the meteor shower last week? Since we’re in a town, we couldn’t get a view without light interference, but leaning back on a car in a parking lot upper deck we saw a few “shooting stars”…Cassidy spied the most, three. 08101504 meteor gazing round midnightPavilion Vendome is another favorite spot – we’ll enjoy some music here later on our trip, when Musique dans la Rue begins.08101504 vendomeThe market’s always a draw whether we’re tourists or not – so many interesting things! 08101505 more marketsAnd new inspiration every day – what’s freshest, most fragrant, most beautiful?08161501 inspirationIt evolves easily to dinner!08161501 lunchA dinner party calls for a trip to the Fromager – the cheese-man, who ages each one to perfection. I wish you could SMELL and not just see!08161502 cheese for dinner partyOh yes, there are always errands to do. Kirk borrows a tall ladder from Xavier and finishes the painting in the kitchen and bathroom – yay, it’s done!08161502 painting kitchen and bath borrowed ladderYou probably remember by now that Saturday is one of the big market days, when the stalls multiply and spread from one square to another. The cheese and wine shop in Passage Agard offers us a taste of rosé and an interesting goat cheese – an ingot (because of its shape) so delicious that we just HAVE to take one home.08161502 tastingThat evening, as we walk down to Amorino for Cassidy’s at-least-once-a-day gelato, 08161503 strolling cours with conewe hear music as we approach Place Richelme – it’s tango night! 08161503 evening walk tangoMonday morning we pick up a car for a few days of exploring further afield. First on the list, our favorite seaside village, Cassis. 08171501 car cassisThis Florida girl has asked for some beach time! She doesn’t get to lie in the shadow of an ancient fortress on the Florida beaches, I’m sure!08171501 fla girl wants beachAs always, Cassis charms us with its inviting and colorful lanes – 08171502 balconywouldn’t you love to enjoy your morning coffee on this pretty balcony?




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.

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.

C’est le Weekend – in Aix

C’est le Weekend – in Aix

Weekend., August 10-11, 2013 
Aix en Provence, France

d in a Music and Markets Tour? We’d love to hear from you!  Join us on our fall tour  – delightful Bath for the Mozartfest
Last night was the highlight, for us, of the youth orchestra summer residence when the fantastic Italian young musicians played at the Grand Theatre. Our seats were perfect  – up close so we could see as well as hear as they played Ravel, Saint-Saëns and Stravinsky. Our upcoming evenings have gotten so full that we won’t have the opportunity to hear any more performances, so we’re glad to have had the privilege of taking in this one.
What inspires us at the market on Saturday? Tomatoes once again!
Today we layer them with fresh mozzarella and plenty of basil for a scrumptious Caprese, and slice up a tradition baguette to mop up the juices. A tradition baguette? Yes – the ones with pointed (handrolled) rather than rounded ends are made by hand in the old fashioned way, beginning with a long slow rise, no quick- acting yeast for these loaves! The slow fermentation gives a tangy sweetness to the dough, and accounts for lots of uneven cavities in the bread and a chewier texture. You can definitely taste the difference!

We bumped into the Fastiers, who own the apartment we rented in January 2010, one market day earlier this week, and they’ve invited us for dinner this evening. Their home outside of Aix is surrounded with a garden of delights and we spend the entire time outside enjoying it all. Last time we were there was in the winter, so we’ve not seen it in all its summer glory. Dozens of koi fill a pretty pond,

a pool shimmers in the twilight,

and we begin with aperitifs in a breezy open- air living room

before finishing up with dinner by candlelight – dreamy!

Sunday night we’re back in a garden – that of the Pavilion Vendome in Aix, for an open- air movie night

Divorce, Italian Style keeps the crowd laughing…  after a few  flickers and an erratic stop and start, the old – fashioned projector starts as the stars twinkle above. It doesn’t get dark til about 9:30, so we’re out late once again… getting home at the end of this fun weekend at nearly midnight.

Beauty Inside and Out in Aix

Beauty Inside and Out in Aix

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? 
Thermes Sextius in Aix – those healing springs that drew the Romans to establish this town centuries ago – still entice with their relaxing waters and treatments. And from September 14 to October 13 they’ve been the site for a beautiful exposition of works on the theme of water as well.
Fifty works, of sculpture, painting, photos and installations, from fifty artists are beautifully displayed
in the spacious halls and rooms of the entry to the spa. Beneath the figure above one can see the original Roman baths and the source of the springs. 

Not far from the Thermes is a place we return to on nearly every visit to Aix, the beautiful gardens of the Pavilion Vendome. There’s a special exhibition in the pavilion too, with memorabilia and furnishings from the time of Henri Dobler, who purchased and restored the gorgeous property in the early 1900s – but no photos allowed.
As we were searching for an apartment in Aix in 2010, the expert assistance of Aline Mineur was invaluable. She’s now working with Avenir Immobilier, and she was the one who helped us really understand what it was we wanted… and that took looking at TWENTY TWO properties before we found our much-loved Ambiance d’Aix. We’ll never forget her phone call – “I’ve found what you wanted – it will come on the market in two days!” And she was right  – this was it! We’ve tried to get together on previous trips, but the timing has not worked out. Finally Aline is coming for coffee and we can show her how we’ve made the place “ours”.  Busy as ever, she gets a phone call within minutes of coming in the door… another sale coming soon!
Then we give her a tour of the apartment, and she’s as delighted as we are with our Aixoise home. We sit and chat over a café gourmand, and make plans to get together again when we’re back in town. And what goodies were in THIS café gourmand? A cannelé ( fluted chewy cake typical of Bordeaux), a raspberry tartlet, a caramel cream filled butter cookie, and a vanilla meringue – perfect little bites from a nearby bakery, one of the few that makes mini treats as well as the normal sized pastries.

An afternoon stroll through the Mazarine quarter completes another lovely day in Aix.

Lunch on the Beach

Lunch on the Beach

The South of FranceAix and around
Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Interested in a Music and Markets Tour? We’d love to hear from you!  Join us on our featured (and expanded!) summer Amsterdam/Belgium tour!

Have car, will travel – we’re off to the beach today, and not just any beach, but one of the calanques (fjord- like inlets)  of Marseilles that we’ve heard about for years, Sormiou.  Oscar and Anne- Marie (Aix friends and author of Taking Root in Provence) have enthused about this little-known cove, with a casual restaurant or two, and we’re eager to experience it for ourselves. We asked the locksmith who was at the apartment on Monday, whom we knew was from Marseilles, about getting there, we asked Jean- Marc, who grew up nearby, about getting there, so had lots of info about doing so.
But when we arrived, after a round- about tour of Marseilles, at the entrance of the now-a- national- park of the calanques, we were told that we could not drive down, but would have to park the car and walk a very rough (not in THOSE sandals, I was told) 3 kilometer path up the steep hill and down to the cove. Strike one…
But you know us, we adapt! Down the coast is lovely, and familiar to us, Cassis, so we wind along the cliffside roads, find a parking place, and walk down to the port. We won’t be able to relax in a secluded cove, but we’re determined to have lunch as close to the beach as possible! We’ve often had a good dinner by the port, but I want sand on my toes today….

La Grand Large (a local name for the Mediterranean, I learn from Anne- Marie later) fits the bill, with a couple of fresh delicious salads so abundant that even Kirk can’t finish his choice.

We cool off further with a toe-dip in the lapping sea,

then drive up along the cliffs, past the loudest cicadas we’ve heard this summer, and back to Aix.

We’re meeting Madame Tomme at the opening concert of the month -long Academie Internationale des Nuits Pianistiques, which is in one of our favorite Aixoise places, the garden of Pavilion Vendome.

Daniel Wayenberg, a frequent performer and recording artist around the world, composer, and former professor of piano at the Rotterdam Conservatory, thrills with a marvelous program of Beethoven, Brahms, Chopin, and Stravinsky.

We stroll during the inter- mission, enjoying this lovely place, where we’ve often enjoyed a picnic, an event, or just a relaxing pause.