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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!

Spring Beauty in Aix

Spring Beauty in Aix

Sunday, April 2, 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?

We arrived in Aix over two weeks ago, and it’s been non-stop ever since, enjoying the sunny south from Spain all the way to Italy, and finally back to Aix where at last I can scribble a blog post. When we arrived on Saturday the 1st it was pouring rain, and for the first time we couldn’t enjoy our walk from the airport shuttle stop to our home in Aix…a taxi whizzed us and our luggage through the storm.
Happily, the sun showed it’s face on Sunday – there’s that blue sky we know and love! So before leaving for the next part of our trip (after less than 24 hours in Aix) we sought out the spring blooms – gracing the Palais de Justice, circling the Rotonde fountain, peeking over a garden wall and and draping a home in  the Mazarin quarter – wouldn’t you love to sit on that balcony, sipping a glass of rosé?!
Well we’re certainly in the mood to begin the garden tour of the Riviera to which we’ve been invited – next stop, Nice!

 

Icy Fountains and Friends in Aix

Icy Fountains and Friends in Aix

Week of  January 16-22, 2017
Aix en Provence and Paris, France

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.

When we were last in Aix in November, we left it all prepared for major painting, needed due to the damages suffered when our upstairs neighbor’s renovations caused a flood in our apartment in April. It took that long for the ancient walls to dry out enough to repair, and for the insurance company to decide on what to do. So we’re eager to see our good-as-new living room and study, and even though it’s after midnight when we finally walk in the door on Sunday night (Monday morning!) we walk around and take it all in, delighted with the result. The damage was mostly high up on the 12 foot ceilings, so was not immediately visible to anyone but us, so it’s hard to show the difference here – the entire rooms were painted. We can’t go to bed, late as it is, without putting a few things back where they belong, the antique trumeau (mirror with a painting) above the fireplace, the furniture where it’s supposed to be, a painting or two on the walls – but the rest can wait til tomorrow.
After sleeping late the next morning in our cozy warm home, we quickly eat breakfast and return to the beautiful lanes and squares of Aix, where the temps have not yet risen to freezing – not a common occurrence here! On Cours Mirabeau the water flows from one side of the Neuf Canons fountain, and remains frozen on the other. Winter seems to be a popular time for filming in Aix – perhaps because there are not crowds of day-trippers as in the warmer months. By the Palais de Justice a 70s crime show is in process – see the vintage police van and uniforms? And an episode of another series is filming on beautiful Place de Trois Ormeaux.
When we stroll by later at night all is calm once again…with Christmas lights still gleaming.
Good friends will join us for lunch, so out to the market I go early on Tuesday…but it’s so cold that all the flowers and produce are covered up! No wonder – they need protection on this 20 degree morning!
I return after a morning meeting with the painter, and find the market bursting with its usual rainbow of color.Jean-Marc and Kristi arrive with a decadent dessert and a prime rosé from their first official harvest at Mas de Brun – thanks to Kristi for these great photos! She also wrote about our time together on her lovely blog French Word a Day.
As the days pass, the market’s affected by the chill – very few vendors at our daily market on Place Richelme – the olive oil is solid rather than liquid, and  iced cherubs shiver on the Rotonde Fountain.
And we walk and walk, day and night, taking in the beauty of Aix – glorious whatever the weather!

An Extravagant Saturday in Aix

An Extravagant Saturday in Aix

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, 05211601 coffee with friendscatch 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?05211601 hats for the garden 5 eEspadrilles, anyone?05211601 espadrillesWe 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 – 05211601 stroll by cezannes house upper studiowe’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.05211601 square archv galleries cloister 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. 05211602 aix old museum guitaristThe rooms are filled with treasures of ages past – gorgeous mirrors, exquisite doll houses, 05211602 aix open museum from 7 12tall room dividers with scenes from centuries ago. And the building itself, a former home of an eighteenth century nobleman, remarkable both inside and out.05211602 museum of old aix ceilingNext stop, the Museum of Tapestries, in the Archbishop’s Palace just beside our apartment. Ascending the grand staircase, 05211604 stairwaywe pause in a room lined with fabulous tapestries05211602 palace tapestry museum as an ensemble warbles ancient Jewish tunes.05211602 palace art below music above video tooWe’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, 05211603 granetbefore walking by the Four Dolphins fountain on the way to Cours Mirabeau.05211603 quatre dauphinsThis 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. 05211603 rjournees eloquenceAn 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,05211603 rotonde moon and we walk by yet another of Aix’s beautiful fountains on our way to the last event of this extravagant Saturday.05211603 to pav vendome The Pavilion Vendome has been taken over by young artists, and one after the other flash their techno creations on the elegant façade 05211603 vendome atlantesas the crowd sits on the grass, oohing and aahing at the sight. A day FILLED with the delights of Aix!

A Whirlwind Paris Weekend

A Whirlwind Paris Weekend

August 8-10,2015
Paris, 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?

Just a weekend in Paris before heading south – with our grandaughter! How would you spend that time in the City of Lights? What would be your must-sees? Or must-tastes?
Our early morning flight from Dulles arrived even earlier than scheduled, so we were ready for breakfast as soon as we dropped off our luggage at  the hotel – 08071602 breakfastpain au chocolate was Cassidy’s choice, and then we hit the ground running, stopping first by Notre Dame,08071602 notredame then walking through the Louvre courtyard, staying outside to keep awake!08071602 the louvreThen back to the hotel, where our room was already prepared, nice and early, so we could change into lighter clothes as the temps rose in Paris. After more French tastes –  08071602 welcome changemoules-frites for this adventuresome eater- 08071602 x moules fritesfollowed by an Amorino gelato (yes, Italian tastes too!), 08071603 amorinowe crashed on our beds for a short nap.
Next Paris icon? Montmartre! 08071603 montmartreThose steps will wake us up again!08071603 montmartre after napHotel Welcome, our simple and comfortable lodging for the weekend, is in a terrific location – on Rue du Seine just off Rue de Buci, surrounded by some really good restaurants, cafes and bakeries. Cassidy wants to try a Savoy fondue place, so that’s our dinner, then we’re off to sleep early, almost before the sun sets (yes, that’s the Eiffel Tower, from our 5th floor window).08071603 to bed after early dinner tartifletteSunday morning calls for some good strong coffee to get us started, and Malongo is just down the street.08071701 breakfast malongo One of Paris’ best markets, Bastille, is on Sunday 08071701 market bastilleand we find some treasures to take home – marinieres (striped sailors tees) for us,08071701 market bastille marinieres a handcrafted tote for Cassidy. We’re offered lots of nibbles along the way too – sausage from one stall, nougat from another, a piece of ripe peach here, a crouton with tapenade there.
One of Paris’ most beautiful and historic squares is not too far away, the Place de Vosges, 08071701 vosgesand under the surrounding arches a very talented harpist stops us in our stroll. And soon we’re in the thick of the hopping Marais district, where Uniqlo has opened one of their newest locations in an historic Ash Factory (where cinders from jewelers waste were sifted through in search of gold generations ago). 08071702 uniqloI love how the Parisian team has designed the simple Uniqlo basics – such style!08071703 accessories from tees sweaters etcA peek into the courtyard of the Carnavalet museum, 08071702 carnavaletsome bulot (seasnails) for lunch, 08071703 seasnailsand more music on the streets – Dixieland08071702 dixieland video too hasn’t she got the moves?! On the way to our next Paris icon we pass a magnificent man in his flying machine – 08071703 the magnificent man in histhe Marais is full of interesting characters!
Have you guessed where we’re heading next? The Pompidou! 08071704 cassidys good at selfiesA stop at the quirky Stravinsky fountain,08071704 fountainthen a vintage shop,08071704 vintagethe Hôtel de Ville (town hall), where a serious game of beach volleyball is going on, 08071704 volley beachand we metro to dessert by the Tuileries. Any guesses?
The most luscious hot chocolate in the world, in my opinion –08071705 angelina dessert in the Belle Epoque beauty of Angelina!08071705 belle epoqueA stop next door, to goggle at the magnificent lobby of Hotel Meurice, 08071705 meuriceand Cassidy leaves her mark on the framed ice. 08071705 meurice c was hereA late afternoon break, then escargot and a croque monsieur for dinner08071705 snails and croque in the sunset,08071705 sunset and then  – can’t miss it! – the twinkling Eiffel Tower (it glitters like diamonds for 5 minutes on the hour after dark) before bed.08071705 twinkleWe fit in one more Paris favorite Monday morning before hopping on the train to Aix en Provence, the beautiful Luxembourg Gardens,08101501 garden summer plantings obviously well-watered even in the unprecedented heatwave of July and August. 08101501 plantingsWe take in today’s  regatta, going strong on the pond,08101501 regattaread and relax together, 08101501 wait and readthen head for the Gare de Lyon, home of the gorgeous Train Bleu restaurant,08101502 gare de lyon

where we board the TGV (FAST train) to Aix. She’s snoozing at 300 km/hr! Have we exhausted you too?!08101502 hurtlingWelcome to Aix – 08101502 to aixcan’t wait to share our home with the first family member to visit!

 

 

 

From Aix to Marseilles and Back Again

From Aix to Marseilles and Back Again

Thurs.-Fri., August 8-9, 2013 
Aix en Provence & Marseilles, France

Intereste
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
This morning’s walk takes us around Aix, past favorite squares and fountains, such as the majestic Rotonde at the end of Cours Mirabeau,
 

then we’re off to the markets, filling one square after another on this, one of Aix’s three major weekly market days. It’s already hot – and we laugh at these two cooling off on the Cour, then make the rounds of the fabric and clothing stalls spread down the boulevard, strolling along to the beat of a cool duo.

Calissons are Aix’s specialty candy, flat,football-shaped and pointed on both ends, sugar- sweet with almonds, honey and melon. Beside one of the best pastry and candy shops in town, Weibel, is a small production center for the sweets, and as an employee is replenishing the supply of the shop we can peek in – we’ve never seen the molds before.

What inspires us at the market today? How about some tomatoes and cucumbers to throw together an Italian favorite, Pan- zanella?  And a few things for dinner tonight too – friends are coming.
The bread and tomato salad is fabulous, spiked with basil, red onion and good olive oil… fragrant and delicious! We couldn’t resist a creme brulée caramel dessert when we were shopping for some dinner additions in Picard, a gourmet frozen food shop found all over France, and it is one of the best things we’ve ever put in our mouths!
The aperitif is ready, set out by the fireplace, and when Xavier and Michelle arrive they hand us a towel wrapped little bundle – what’s this?

A home-cured duck breast – wow! Xavier slices it up to add to our aperitif. Sounds like an easy recipe – perhaps well try it at home in Virginia, although duck breasts are much harder to find there than in France.
We’re enjoying cooler days this week, freeing us to be out and about more rather than hiding out in the darkened apartment during the afternoon… so we decide to take a bus to Marseilles to see the other part of Grand Atelier du Midi at the Palais Longchamp. What a gorgeous building – classical architecture, majestic fountains, livened up with a couple of pink dolphins in the pond. The Aix exhibition was focused on form, and this one, which I preferred, is on color.
The train line from Paris to Marseilles opened up in 1854, and artists were able to more easily travel south. This sentence epitomizes the exhibit, and the new world that opened up to them: “The artists…encountered the intensity of the light, which changed everything they thought they knew about color and tones.” Can you imagine how they felt? No wonder they went a little crazy with color in the Fauve period – pink olive trees? blue hills? orange water?

 

We walked slowly back towards the train station (the buses stop right by Gare St. Charles), down elegant Blvd. Longchamp, talking about what we’ve seen… a don’t miss exhibition, in our view!
The apartment buildings look more Parisian Belle Epoque than south of France here… and one after the other boast these signs – electricity on every floor – a big deal when these were built!
Just down from the station, on Cours Joseph Thierry, are a few restaurants and cafes, including Dame Oseille, where we chose an outdoor table on the breezy sidewalk. The blackboard, filled with daily specials, arrives tableside, and Kirk chooses (no surprise!) duck. I go for the goat cheese salad, and what a beautiful and delicious feast it turns out to be!
Free enter- tainment too –  leaping,
dancing bare- chested drummers!

Café Gourmand is on the menu – can’t miss that! And what a version this is – truly worth the name- with a coffee tiramisu, a perfect mini crème brulée, fruit, a lemon madeleine, and a wonderful Poire Belle Hélène (poached pear, rich dark chocolate, and whipped cream),

We finish off the day with another youth orchestra concert, this one featuring the instrumentalists from Iraq. After a couple of classical pieces, they pull out their typical instruments and delight the crowd with riffs on a Kurdish theme,

as the sun dapples the facades across from the Hôtel de Ville.