Saturday, May 21, 2016
Aix en 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?
Extravagant? Why? Because there is so much to enjoy in Aix today that we can’t even fit it all in! We begin by meeting friends for coffee at Pain Quotidien, catch up on each other’s news, and make plans to get together in August when we return (can’t wait to see Bénédicte,s latest garden folly – a treehouse!).
Then off we go to troll the markets – we need hats for tomorrow’s garden day. What do you think?Espadrilles, anyone?We pass by Cezannés last dwelling on our way home, noting the tall and wide window of the studio he had built on the top floor – we’d never noticed that before, but recently read about it and looked high to see it for ourselves today.
Later we begin our gallery/museum wander…first the latest expo next door, beside the lovely cloister by the Palais de l’Archevêché. The artist’s scenes of Venice remind us of our stay there earlier this year – could we fit a canvas in our suitcase??
This evening, from 7 until midnight, is Open Museum Night, and from one end of town to another there are special events in the glorious old buildings, all free entry. We begin at the Museum of Old Aix, where a guitarist strums on the grand staircase as we enter. The rooms are filled with treasures of ages past – gorgeous mirrors, exquisite doll houses, tall room dividers with scenes from centuries ago. And the building itself, a former home of an eighteenth century nobleman, remarkable both inside and out.Next stop, the Museum of Tapestries, in the Archbishop’s Palace just beside our apartment. Ascending the grand staircase, we pause in a room lined with fabulous tapestries as an ensemble warbles ancient Jewish tunes.We’ve visited Aix’s main art museum, the Granet, several times, but step inside the crowded courtyard to watch some energetic and emotional modern dance, then stroll through a room or two of art, before walking by the Four Dolphins fountain on the way to Cours Mirabeau.This evening is also the finale of Journées d’Eloquence, Days of Eloquence, literary performances commemorating the Resistance in France. We’ve seen readings in front of the Town Hall near our home, music and dance in an open-air shopping mall, and tonight, on the Cours Mirabeau,as a chorus sings and a narrator speaks, a line-up of actors dressed in World War II period uniforms and clothes help the audience picture what the words express. An officer and staff roll off in the vintage car, flags fluttering, as the program ends.
At the other end of the Cours the full moon peeps above the horizon, and we walk by yet another of Aix’s beautiful fountains on our way to the last event of this extravagant Saturday. The Pavilion Vendome has been taken over by young artists, and one after the other flash their techno creations on the elegant façade as the crowd sits on the grass, oohing and aahing at the sight. A day FILLED with the delights of Aix!
Tuesday, August 6, 2013
Aix en Provence, France
Interested in a Music and Markets Tour? We’d love to hear from you! Join us on our fall tour – delightful Bath for the Mozartfest!
An early morning walk along a trail above the little Torse River begins our day… and we get a little closer in these ruins of an old property.
An impressive stairway down from street level is now gaudy with grafitti – a grand entrance to an extensive mansion, now just scattered stones and walls. The kind of place that begs for a story of what once was…
And here’s another snippet of times gone by… the entrance to an Aixoise girls school, in lovely Art Nouveau style, from when the sexes were separated in school.
Later in the afternoon as we’re relaxing after lunch we’re pulled to the front window by a rousing brass fanfare... ah, they’re rehearsing for an evening concert – we’ll be there!
Early in the evening there’s a larger crowd than usual milling around Place Richelme. What’s going on in front of the Pain Quotidien – black-shirted youth with instruments in hand?
And why do people have music pinned on the back of their tees???
And what is this lone piccolo trilling in the Place? Aaah, it’s a flashmob kicking off the annual Youth Orchestra residence at the Grand Theater here in Aix…. and Wagner’s Ride of the Valkyries gathers brass from one corner, strings from another, and percussion down the middle – wow!
Every summer a hundred or so young French musicians come to the Grand Theater of Provence here in Aix to work, exchange ideas and perform, and this year they’re joined by top young musicians from Spain, Italy, Israel and Iraq.
The first concert of the season is right next door at the Place de l’Arche- veché,
and we join the crowd
(grab any seat you can!) to enjoy the music, from classical,
to jazz, snapping fingers keeping the beat, and a finale that draws a crowd of dancers to the front.
Our sweet neighbor, Madame Tomme, invites us and our upstairs neighbors for an aperitif at the popular café on the corner of the place – merci!
Aix en Provence, France
Wednesday, August 23, 2012
Interested in a Music and Markets Tour? We’d love to hear from you! Why not join us in Bath, in November, for the Mozartfest?
I recently read a paragraph about Paris by a favorite author, in which she wrote “what is most remarkable to me is simply this: Paris is the triumph of making every day a heightened experience of being alive.” I am so aware of that here in Aix as well – we never know what surprises a day may bring!
Around 4:30 I walked into the study, in the front of the apartment overlooking the lane and the adjacent square, and heard some wonderful music – obviously more than a busker or two. “Honey, there’s something going on in the square – let’s go!”
And what did we find? A terrific orchestra from Holland, the Ulysses Ensemble, who take a week every summer, choose a European country, and share their talents in a few cities. Luckily for us, they chose Aix en Provence, and the square right beside our apartment today – a lovely surprise!
It was a rousing Mozart piece that called up to our window, but we have to share more of this wonderful music with you – not just one clip today! Young and old enjoyed the music,
and as we listened, I browsed an art gallery on the square.
They played everything from classical, to classic Piaf, to jazz and movie themes. Really impressive talent… those who sang also played instruments. They all met in conservatory years ago, and for 12 years have taken a summer week – “it’s the best week of my year” – said Mathias, who played cello and sang, and travel just for the love of music.
“That’s all for now, says the conductor, “come see us later at the square down the road (Hôtel de Ville).” and as the crowd disperses, the ensemble all begins to sing “Goodnight Sweetheart, it’s time to go” – we’re all smiling as we move on.
So we and they take a dinner break – and our surprise treat from the morning open-air market is beignets, fritters of zucchini flowers, a specialty we’ve previously enjoyed only in restaurants. We normally find only uncooked produce in the market, but one enterprising lady decided to fry up a mound of crispy fritters to show what could be done with the zucchini flowers she was selling. We have easily been getting our 5 fruits and vegetables a day here in Aix – lunch was gazpacho, and now more delicious fresh produce for dinner: crescents of fabulously sweet Provençal melon draped in prosciutto, and a few fritters each – yum!
Then we’re off to the Hôtel de Ville square, where another treat awaits us. Our neighbor Stephane had just let us know that a local chef, Thomas Richard from Aix, is a finalist in the Master Chef competition, and would be there with his fans to watch the show on a screen set up in the square, with a pre- show interview by Stephane. As we walk into the square Stephane spies us and waves us over, introducing us to Thomas,who works in the restaurant of Hotel Le Pigonnet and filming as we talk to him and meet his parents. Will we be on Provence Plus TV? Perhaps!
That’s Thomas in the gray tee shirt – can you tell that’s his dad beside him? Like father, like son!
While I watch the show, Kirk helps the Ulysses Ensemble find a better place for their evening concert, since this square’s already “taken”.
They end up in Place Richelme, where we’d gotten our beignets at the daily produce market earlier today, so we finish our wow of a day with yet another great concert, still smiling as we walk home.