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Friends and Family in Aix en Provence

Friends and Family in Aix en Provence

Thanksgiving 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 Spring – Aix en Provence for the Easter Festival.

What’s first on the Aix to-do list when we arrive? Flowers, of course! And what a glorious morning we have for our first market foray! The usual produce, flowers, clothes and textiles fill stalls, and the annual Santon Fair is set up beyond the grand Rotonde fountain at the end of Cours Mirabeau – every imaginable figure for your creche scene.Most of the week we’re walking around familiar lanes, but for a couple of days we rent a car to see friends further afield. After a near-freezing morning, we’re off to La Ciotat, where we’re surprised to see hardy souls braving the water – from stand-up paddlers beyond the waves, to swimmers and sunbathers. Our friends Jean-Marc and Kristin (author of one of our favorite blogs, French Word a Day) have recently moved here from a few miles away, and after that chilly start to the day, it’s turned out to be perfect for a garden lunch. Kirk channels Van Gogh in one of Kristin’s hats, and we while away the hours together in the sunshine.After stopping for some big box store supplies outside of Aix while we have the car, we take a side road home and pull off to take in a glorious sunset.One more day with a car, and we’ve invited new friends Jim and Brenda to see more of the area – the lush and varied Luberon north of Aix calls us today, beginning with ochre-toned Roussillon, always a favorite.Rewinding south towards Bonnieux, we pause at Pont Julien, a hearty Roman relic that survived when new bridges perished in floods over the centuries.
Just down the road is bonnie Bonnieux, where we pause for a look across the rooftops and the lower church – to the valley beyond. A few elegant doorways from centuries ago attest to the former wealth of the village, popular again since Peter Mayle’s A Year in Provence. Pulling away towards Lourmarin, we’re grabbed with the sight of the village tumbling down its hill, framed in glorious autumn colors – wow!Between Bonnieux and Lourmarin we stop for a half kilometer hike down a path beside an old mill trace to a stone bridge built by the pre-Luther Protestants called Vaudois. They left Italy where they were known as Waldensians and where they developed considerable skill as stone masons. This low, short bridge over the insignificant Aigue Brun stream has as an anchor on the right, a stone concave fan. Those Vaudois cut and laid those stones with such skill that the bridge still stands after about 500 years.
Last stop, chic Lourmarin, with its eye-catching chateau. The guys pause for a coffee while Brenda and I peek in the shops.
Mt. St. Victoire greets us in the sunset as we approach Aix, where a surprise awaits us. Our friend Xavier told us to call him when we got back since he had something to bring us. He’s a collector of contemporary art, but has saved for us a piece from his parent’s estate that he gave to them years ago – of a place he knows we enjoy. Venice! We’ve been looking for something for this corner – how nice to have a piece with a personal connection!
Friends and family make life so delightful….the family arrives tomorrow!

 

 

 

Here and There in the South of France

Here and There in the South of France

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

Not a day goes by that we don’t walk through the market – a visual feast, which always includes smells – breathe in the lavender, the olives, the goat cheeses – and sometimes tastes urged on us by friendly vendors. So even if we’re on our way elsewhere we must walk through the daily market on Place Richelme.
Evenings find us at friend’s homes – in the countryside near Bandol, east of Aix, or up near the rooftops of Aix on a terrace, where grill-master Xavier tosses something fabulous onto the heat.One day friends come into town for the market, and we meet for lunch at the legendary Deux Garçons, where Zola and Cezanne used to hang out. A couple of ladies order the Plateau des Fruits de Mer, towering piles of fresh seafood, but find they can’t quite finish it up – Kirk to the rescue! Three of the group were our first visitors to Ambiance d’Aix the week we bought it in 2010, so we convince them all to stop by on their way to see the cathedral – first time we’ve ever had 15 people in our apartment! On one scorcher of a day we buzz over to the beach – hot as it is, the water’s still chilly and refreshing, and the sea breeze even cools down everything at night more than in the city, as we find when we spend an evening with friends in Cassis. Out the window we watch as water jousters practice for the upcoming tournament. “Who are you rooting for, the red or the blue?” asks Yann.
Corey’s tablescapes are always as lovely as they are delicious – dig in! As usual, I’m entranced by the view, changing by the minute.Before dessert we all walk out to the lighthouse and back – the purple glow marks Chez Gilbert, and the apartment above we’re getting to know and love.
Thanks, friends, for memorable moments!

 

 

Impossible Blues!

Impossible Blues!

Easter Week 2017
The South of 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

It’s the battle of the blues today – between the sky and the sea, it’s a toss-up as to which is the blue-est!
Fisherman are already back from their early morning hunt, and speedily filet their catch for savvy shoppers – get here early for the freshest lunch in town!Before we head out to sea ourselves, we can’t miss the Friday market – one of the prettiest in the region, scarves wafting in the breeze, and more blues vying for our attention. The day couldn’t be better for our sail to three calanques, fjord-like inlets along the coast towards Marseilles. A few hardy souls are sun-bathing and swimming – it’s still a little chilly, in mid-April, for my taste.
But not too chilly to for an al fresco lunch of Moules- Frites (Mussels and Fries) by the port. Cassis, you’ve shown off superbly today!

An Evening in Cassis

An Evening in Cassis

Tuesday, April 11, 2017
Cassis, 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 just can’t stay away from the seaside, can we?! Cassis, as any of you who’ve been reading this blog for a while know, is one of our very favorite places near Aix, but this time we’re even more excited than usual to be there. After visiting our friends Corey and Yann for the first apero in their Cassis renovation last summer, and following the extensive work on the property in Corey’s delightful blog, Tongue in Cheek, we’re now meeting to see the finished ancient fisherman’s house in person!
We arrive early, just to enjoy wandering the seaside for a bit – and to take in that unbelievably blue sky!Unlike the scribbled and ripped election posters in Aix, all eleven candidates are pristinely presented in Cassis – there must be fewer rowdies here 😉 As we now know, an “outsider”, not from an established political party, has won – here’s hoping that Macron can lead in positive ways in the country!
We climb the steep narrow stairs to the “fisherman’s house”  – “Voila”  says Corey – and we say WOW! We’ve brought some favorite cheese from our fromagere in Aix, and Corey adds it to her inviting spread on the table. As we nibble, I can’t stay away from the view, returning to the window again and again to watch the changing light. What a dream location!
Yann arrives, fresh from trying out a sailboat that he’s been GIVEN – can you believe it?!We stay far later than planned, enjoying the company, the conversation and the ambiance, and pause for a look around as we depart – you know we’ll be back soon!

 

 

 

A Seaside Favorite in the South of France

A Seaside Favorite in the South of France

Tuesday, Feb. 2, 2016, continued
Cassis, France

Interested in a Music and Markets Tour? We’d love to hear from you!
We’re looking ahead to Spring – Prague and Budapest, or Venice and the Veneto – join us!

We’ve got a few errands to do, while we have a car, on the way home from Jean-Marc and Kristi’s, but we can’t pass the exit for Cassis without stopping! Yes, our favorite seaside village awaits – 02021604 cassis colorswith the beach much quieter than when we were here in August with our grandaughter Cassidy!02021603 to cassis beach unlike augStrolling down towards the lighthouse, 02021604 cassis out to lighthousewe take our time, awaiting the sunset.02021604 cassis out to lighthouse1 As it slips below the western cliffs,02021604 cassis til sun sets in the west the lights twinkle on by the port 02021604 lights twinkle onand in the fortress above.02021604 twinkle fortAfter finding just the right light for the renovated kitchen (the last bit of work – replacing the dangling lightbulb) in the large shopping area nearby,  we’re back in Aix.
Just around the corner02021605 back in aix resto around the corner are a couple of new restaurants, and tonight we try The Bistro on Campra, a haven of very traditional French cooking. Dinner is delicious – 02021605 back in aix new resto trad frenchwe’ll recommend this to Ambiance ‘d Aix renters!

 

 

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?