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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?

 

 

 

Ghosts in the Garden in Aix

Ghosts in the Garden 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?

Goodbye Paris, from yesterday’s summer sunshine, you’ve returned to Gray Paree, but we’re heading south to the sun!

A quick three hours plus, and we’re back in Aix, with an afternoon full of southern French heritage to enjoy. Each year the local government produces a beautiful book detailing the treasures of the area open for visitors on this special weekend.
We quickly drop our luggage at the apartment and get to Thermes Sextiux, the thermal waters that drew the Roman legions to Aix, where there’s a concert in the gardens.

A flute quartet, their sweet melodies wafting through the gardens and ancient stones,

accompanied by that legendary water,

plays a wonderful welcome back to Aix, our much-loved  ville d’eau, ville d’art (town of water, town of art).
Crossing the Cours Mirabeau, where vintage cars round the fountains, chugging up and down the boulevard,

we’re now in the Mazarin Quartier, with its beautiful seventeenth and eighteenth century mansions backed by spacious gardens.We’ll return this evening to see the interior of the Hôtel d’Olivary, and this afternoon will see the garden.

As do all who stroll through this elegant quarter, we’ve snatched glimpses of some gardens through the doors and gates, but this walled garden has stayed hidden until now.
“We are the phantomes de la jardin,” the ghosts of the garden, the gracious ladies introduce themselves. A charming touch…

Some places that are open this weekend are too far to access without a car, but Pavilion de Trimond, east of town, is reachable on foot. Tucked between modern buildings on a main axis out of town, it’s hidden behind a simple garden door. Walk under a long pergola, and through an ivy-twined entry,

and this peaceful oasis awaits.

Built in the beginning of the 18th century for a parliamentary family of Aix (which was the capitol of Provence at the time),

the petite home has kept its accompanying grounds intact, with several pretty fountains,

an old swimming pool (doesn’t look like it’s had much use this summer)

and lots of benches and tables for friends and family to enjoy the greenery. The current owners, chatting with friends,

have kindly opened their home for a few hours on Saturday and Sunday, and even the inside, cozy and lived in, both upstairs or down through the ivy draped entry, is open to view.

Back home to Ambiance d’Aix, our own little piece of French heritage,

where we unpack and eat dinner, then back to the Mazarin Quartier for a candlelight tour of the Hôtel d’Olivary, no photos allowed. Filled with treasures, furniture, ceramics, painting and decor gathered by the family through the centuries, we walk, desperately trying to keep up with the VERY fast-talking young guide. Our French is definitely not up to this!!

We finish our weekend of French heritage in the garden before strolling home through the Sunday-night quiet of the streets.

 

Music and Markets in Aix begins!

Music and Markets in Aix begins!

Easter Weekend, 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

After a wonderful Music and Markets week, so full of delights from early til late, I finally have time to share some photos  – on the flight home!
It’s always a pleasure to step out the door of Ambiance d’ Aix and see what’s up in this lively town.
The latest exhibition spills out on the square from a gallery,

the Saturday flower market draws a crowd – artists sketching, groups snapping photos, ladies choosing blooms,

and buskers entertain the shoppers – here a music-box clown, here a popular combo.

We meet our tour guests for an al fresco lunch on Place de Tanneurs, followed by a tour of Aix.

Beginning with the Romans, we check out the vestiges of the baths (in the Thermes Sextius, now a luxury spa) which made Aix such a desirable location for those war-weary world-conquerors.

 Inside the cathedral, built atop the forum,

yet more traces of ancient Rome remain – such as a few columns in the ancient baptistry.

A volunteer guide offers tours around the lovely cloister, which is usually closed – so we enjoy learning more together about this peaceful, flower-filled spot,

each intricate capital telling a story.

Answering questions as we stroll, we don’t even make it to Cours Mirabeau before it’s time to change for dinner… and finish our Aix introduction at elegant Place Albertas.

Chef Jean-Luc welcomes us to Le Formal, the every-popular Aix favorite, and we all
choose the tasting menu,

discovering together his creations…. each one a mouthwatering delight, from scallops

to chocolate baskets.

We never tire of sharing wonderful Aix… the sights, the tastes, the sounds.

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.

There’s  Music in the Streets!

There’s Music in the Streets!

Aix en Provence, France
Friday, August 24, 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?

We’ve been looking forward to this weekend, when the annual Musique dans la Rue begins. After enjoying the terrific free concerts in beautiful Aixoise locations last year, we knew that we’d like to be here every year at this time, if possible.
This morning we walk over to the Thermes Sextius – what drew the Romans here millenia ago, and a still- popular benefit of the town.

The warm springs, discovered in the 1st century before Christ, still flow today, and a snazzy spa is built over the site.  One of the fountains on the Cours Mirabeau is warm too, steaming mysteriously in the winter.

The first concert of the series is at Place Albertas – a fun and engaging combo who had everyone singing along to “When You’re Smiling, When You’re Smiling…” – a great start to the music.

The next one’s in the Mazarine District, the newer
(17th century) part of Aix. We walk by a favorite fountain, the Quatre Dauphins, one our way to the church of Saint Jean de Malte (John of Malta).

Are you lookin’ at me??

Walk down rue Cardinale, and there’s the church, with people already starting to gather to listen to the music on the square outside.

This time, it’s a clarinet quartet, with music from Strauss, Brahms, and Dvorak.

 

 

 

As we stroll home we pass another Nicolas Lavarenne sculpture – this one’s my favorite – a figure balanced and relaxed on a swinging rope – impressive artistry!

 

 

One more concert for today, the same jazzy combo, this time in front of the Town Hall. And there’ll be more music tomorrow!