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!
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!
Summer in Aix 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?
Two more days to revel in the beauty of the south of France – how shall we fill them? First we head north to visit friends east of Vaison la Romaine. That’s an area we’re very familiar with, but the GPS routes us on country roads through deeply wooded hills and past an impressive chateau – with not a glimpse of anything we’ve ever seen before!
Stephen and Joy are in a beautiful stone mas (country home) and before relaxing out by the pool, we tour the breezy and lovely rooms – isn’t this a dreamy bedroom?
Their daughter, a photographer extraordinare, has claimed the room above the living room for her studio – an inspiring place to work!
We’ve often spent time with these long-time friends in Paris, where they live, and they stayed in our home in Virginia earlier in August, but we’ve rarely an opportunity to just relax together, and the pool’s just the perfect place for that.
And then, lunch – in another blissful setting…
and Stephen has prepared his “famous whole fish” – stuffed with rosemary from the garden, grilled over the coals. Oh is it good!
The cheeses couldn’t be more local – from the village over the hill that was settled by “’68ers” – those rebel students who gladly left Paris for a simple life in the south. Joy tells us that the Friday evening market is a don’t- miss and quite an experience.
She and I pick figs to eat with the cheeses – getting even MORE local!
Another hilltop beauty winks goodnight as we drive home.
Our last day – and we head south to the shore, not wanting to miss a glimpse of the sea on this trip!
The Calanque de Figuieres on the west end of La Ciotat boasts of being an independent republic, reminding us of the Conch Republic, the Florida Keys where we lived decades ago.
The view’s terrific, and so is lunch,
with figs (Figuiere is a fig tree) a part of every dish, such as my Salade “comme à Nice” – like in Nice
and Kirk’s fork-tender Lamb Shank.
The open-air tables fill quickly as we eat, and after that delicious meal we walk under the fig tree
and down to the tiny beach.
All we know of La Ciotat is the big cranes hovering over the industrial port that we’ve seen from afar when visiting Jean Marc and Kristin on the other side of the big bay in St. Cyr sur Mer…there’s got to be an old part of town….yes, and what a beauty!
Well we’d better get back to Aix to finish the packing in time for a few more concerts….
A talented tango trio
in the beautiful courtyard of the town hall first,
then, strolling through some favorite squares, we’re hailed down by friends and join them at their front table to listen to a rousing brass group….
Au Revoir, Aix – we’ll be back soon!