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Prayers and Plagues

Prayers and Plagues

As we’ve guided our guests through the beautiful town of Aix en Provence for the past 17 years, we’ve pointed out the many niches,

filled with Madonnas and saints, on corners of buildings, explaining that “in medieval times these comforting icons were installed during the plague so that the quarantined residents, unable to attend mass,  could instead pray to these figures that they could see from their windows”.

Did we ever imagine that, once again, the world would be confined to their homes as we are today? France is currently on a 15-day lockdown in a bid to halt the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.
We can see the cathedral bell tower from Ambiance d’Aix, our home in Aix en Provence – do you think that would “count” as a prayer niche?!

One of the things we love about our French home is the sound of those church bells. On Wednesday last week church bells rang out throughout France for 10 minutes, beginning at 7:30 pm, as an act of solidarity and hope, and people were encouraged to light candles in their windows at the same time.
In secularized France, I wonder if many now look out their windows to the Madonnas and pray?

Even if not, those peaceful Mother and Child statues

seem to bless the lively squares below (can you spy the figure on the corner?).

I think of this one as the market Madonna.

A rare snow draped the shoulders of this one a few years ago.

Just around the corner from our home is this unusual Black Madonna,

on the corner of  “scrape your elbows” lane – a cobbled path so narrow you have to hold your arms against your body as you walk through.
Pray we will, that this virus will soon be conquered,

and the calm Madonnas can smile down on busy-once-again squares!

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!

 

 

The Charms of Aix

The Charms of Aix

Late July 2016
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?

As I gathered the photos for this post, I realized that nearly all of them were about music or markets – no wonder we were inspired to name our tour company Music and Markets while here in the summer of 2002! The charms that drew us then still do! Although my delayed flight kept me from arriving in time for the market today, there’s still music right next door, and even though I’m jet lagged, how can I resist?07281601 As I listen to the wonderful Stoneleigh Youth Orchestra, and their guest soloist, I walk around and take in the beauty of Saint Sauveur Cathedral, pausing in the oldest part, the baptistry, its Roman vestiges combined with elegant additions through the centuries.07281601 baptistryFrance is experiencing a summer heat wave, which means I’m out early for errands on Friday – walking by the post office I notice many windows open to draw in as much cool air as possible before shutting tight in the heat of the day.07291601 bleached errands early windows open Our shutters are still open, but will be closed as soon as the burning sun hits them.
The market looks more beautiful than ever, and once again I’m amazed that this bounty and beauty is spread out EVERY day, just steps from Ambiance d’Aix!07291601 colors of marketI stay inside til the air cools a bit, then enjoy an evening walk, circling through the buzz of restaurant – filled Place Cardeurs.07291601 evening cardeurs resto buzz walk early and lateSaturday morning the BIG market returns (three times a week, Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday, it spreads throughout multiple squares and streets,07301602 precheurs but there’s a produce market on Place Richelme every day).
First stop, the flower market, 07301601 flowers satthen home to plop them on the mantel, 07301601 glads on the mantel then back to shopand out again to shop for lunch and dinner before walking to meet Kirk, who flies in today. These zucchini beignets, 07301601 zuke beignetsplus a fragrant melon and paper thin slices of prosciutto will make a perfect welcome-back lunch.
One stall after another begs for a photo – look at me, look at me!07301603 beg for photoHere’s my haul: this bowlful of yumminess will do just fine for lunch and dinner, no?07301603 whats for lunch and dinnerSunday’s full of more Aixoise charms – an afternoon concert at the church, a stroll to Pavilion Vendome with friends07311601 stroll with friends before dinner at our house, then a walk to Jas de Bouffan, Cezanne’s family estate, for an open-air showing of The Horseman on the Roof, 07311602 dinner then moviesome of which was filmed right in Aix.
More market bounty awaits us, delicious for both eyes and mouth, at a Monday night dinner at a neighbors home,08011601 dinner chez jeans and the next day vendors tempt us with more summer tastes 08031601 market temptationsand colors. 08031601 market temptations1Just loving life in Aix en Provence!

 

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.

Aix is a Feast!

Aix is a Feast!

Easter Weekend, April 4-5 , 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?

We’re eager to meet our Music and Markets guest, Elaine, and walk through market squares over flowing with jazz and early spring produce on the way to her hotel.04041501 aix market VIDEO TOO and tour beginsWhat a joy it is to share favorite sights and places once again – all the way from the thermal waters that brought the Romans here centuries ago04041501 termes to Saint Saveur Cathedral, begun not long after the Romans were here.04041501 cathedralWe fill our afternoon with one beautiful square after another, checking out fountains and vistas, take a break, then meet again for a special first-night dinner at Aix’s favorite celebration restaurant, Le Formal.04041502 trio From the foie gras, 04041502 dinner foie gras firstthrough the lamb medley, 04041502 lamb medleyto ” Chocolate Tempation”  we’re delighted, 04041503 chocolate temptationas always, with chef Jean-Luc’s creations.
Easter Sunday rings in with a rousing organ trumpet voluntary at the cathedral.04051501 Easter music video too Elaine’s been studying French and the three of us can follow the Easter sermon pretty well, and then ” share the light”  with the candles handed out as we entered. 04051501 sharing the lightThere’s a lot more going on in Aix today – it’s the first Sunday of the month, so the Place de l’Hôtel de Ville is filled with vintage books rather than flowers.04051502 first sunday book fair where flowersAlthough it’s cool, the beaming sun encourages an al fresco lunch on Place des Tanneurs…04051502 lunch al frescocompleted with my all-time favorite dessert, Café Gourmand!04051502 my faveAnother first Sunday event, the monthly antique and vintage fair, fills the Cours Mirabeau.040515023 cours first sunday antiquesLater, our neighbor, Jean Claude, welcomes the three of us with an aperitif and a tour of his marvelous ceramic collection 040515023 pre concert aperobefore we enjoy the first of our scheduled concerts, an evening of breathtaking violin and piano in the Grand Theatre. We had not heard Maxim Vengerov before, and although we’ve enjoyed other world-renowned violinists through the years, his tender rich sound just enthralls – a new favorite violinist!040515024 marvelous concert From Prokofiev to Dvorak, Kreisler to Paganini (whose Caprice # 24 in F minor had the audience break out in applause after one fabulous pizzicato variation!) we were on the edge of our seats. A couple of French encores, Faure’s Apres Une Reve (which I love playing with my cellist friend Sarah) and Massenet’s delightful Meditation had us humming in memory as we walked past the Rotonde in the moonlight. 040515024 rotonde moonThis first concert of the week will be hard to beat!

Easter Celebrations from Morning til Night!

Easter Celebrations from Morning til Night!

Easter Sunday, April, 2014
Aix en Provence, France

Interested in a Music and Markets Tour? We’d love to hear from you!  Join us on a summer tour on the Amalfi Coast, in Provence, or in Amsterdam/Belgium

We’re welcomed to Saint Sauveur Cathedral by joyous melodies from the organ and trumpets,

and the mass opens with ” He is Risen!”


Protestants all, we feel very welcomed and included in the resurrection celebration,

and as is traditional in Aix, a short combined service of all Christian denominations, with ministers from many congregations participating,  follows the mass. Then of course there’s the “cup of welcome”   – kirs passed out to adults, juices to children.
We explore the Roman traces exposed in a corner of the cathedral as we sip.

Easter lunch is at Bistroquet, where a few of us enjoy our second  foie gras appetizer of the tour… and we’ve just started!

French resident Jill gives Ruth and I scarf tying lessons… perhaps we’ll ” get it”  by the end of the week!

We are so enjoying leading a tour from our home in Aix – what a pleasure to invite our guests over once again,

for an aperitif before our first concert of the Festival de Paques.

It’s a thrilling introduction to the festival, as Gustavo Dudamel leads the Goteborg Symphony in a marvelous program of Strauss, Mozart,

and what turns out to be a favorite of all the group, Sibelius’  symphony number 2. Can tomorrow be even better?!