Thanksgiving Week, 2017
Aix en Provence, France
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!
Easter Week 2017
The South of France
We’re sharing some favorite villages of the lush Luberon region north of Aix with our Aix Easter Festival tour guest today. And as she collects artisanal pottery, we’re seeking out more than just fabulous vistas. At the top of the russet-hued village of Roussillon is a tiny boutique specializing in local ceramics – and now Janice has a few choice pieces that will wing their way to her US home! From atop the Castrum we take in the views – the shocks of red clay amidst the dark green of the pines, a lone poppy in the grass,a chateau nestled far below. It’s a perfect day to take in all the colors of Roussillon. In the parking lot below, market stalls cluster among the surrounding colors. Beside the cliffs, scraped in decades past for their ochre pigments, we pause for lunch, then we’re off to our next village, Lourmarin. On the way we pass Bonnieux, tumbling picturesquely down a hillside – it always demands a photo stop!
After zigagging through the Luberon range, we coast down to Lourmarin, with its elegant chateau, and wander through the peaceful lanes for a bit before returning to Aix.
This evening’s concert is in the historic Jeu de Paume, a restored handball court originally constructed for the entertainment of the nobility in the 1700s. Beneath this elegant ceiling we listen to tenor Mauro Peter sing Schumann, Strauss and Liszt, ably accompanied by Helmut Deutsch on the piano, before completing our day with a Moroccan feast at Le Riad – the best tagines in town! Our waiter effortlessly pours tea from yards above the cups – that takes some practice, I believe!
Monday, April 21, 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 off to the rolling hills and perched villages of the Luberon today, and make a quick photo stop in Lourmarin, where the tour buses are already rolling into town,
and another pause before passing Bonnieux.
We’re on our way to rosy Roussillon, a stunner for those who are seeing it for the first time, and a well-loved favorite for us who return time and again. All three of these lovelies are officially designated ” Most Beautiful Villages of France” – no wonder!
Taking our time,
we pause for photo after photo,
relishing the ochre hues.
Jill chose a perfect outfit for this town, didn’t she?!
We’ve left plenty of time for a leisurely lunch at L’ Arome in Bonnieux, recommended by our friends the Woods, whom we joined last spring on one of their Luberon Experience days.
Each dish is as beautiful as it is delicious, from this salmon tartare,
to my fork-tender lamb, the best I’ve ever had!
Ruth comments, not for the first time (she and Sam are on their third Music and Markets tour, and Jills on her sixth!), that we really should call our tours Music and Marvelous Meals rather than Music and Markets – what do you think?
Back to Aix, where we gather at Bar Teddy atop the Grand Theatre for a light apero (yes, it has been a few hours since lunch!)
and share the program notes that Stephen Ackert, Music Director of the National Gallery of Art, generously prepared for us.
Tonight’s eagerly anticipated concert, Yo-Yo Ma and Kathryn Stott, is even better than imagined. Delphine, our contact at the Easter Festival, with whom we met with in November as we planned the tour, chose wonderful seats for us – we’re in the center, fifth row, and feel like the duo are playing right to us! The program is delightful, taking us around the world via Stravinsky, Villa-Lobos, Piazzolla, de Falla and Brahms, and they respond to the thunderous ovations with several fabulous encores – an unforgettable night of music!
Saturday, March 30, 2013
South of 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.
La Belle Cour is as pretty as can be, ready for our spring and summer renters, so we’re on our way to Aix for a couple of days filled with friends, music and the delights of Provence. A quick shopping spree Saturday morning to pick up gifts, dessert for tomorrow, and that Ambiance d’Aix necessity, fresh flowers.
then we’re back in the car for a countryside drive to the lush Luberon, an hour or so north. We zig and zag up over the Combe de Loumarin,
and soon the graceful tumble of Bonnieux, our destination, appears ahead. Kathy and Charley Wood, fellow
Slow Travel Tours members, have invited us for lunch in their new apartment and we are eager to see lovely Bonheur en Bonnieux. What a marvelous setting – bakeries, cafes and boutiques just steps away, views of the beautiful countryside from every window and this inviting terrace – a cozy and charmingly decorated two bedroom haven in one of Provence’s most delightful villages!
We love hearing the tales of finding antiques, beds, the many touches of sunny yellows and reds, dealing with France Telecom and the electric company (!!) and are reminded of our weeks of getting Ambiance d’Aix ready for renters, as the Woods have done.
The Woods have spent many a month here for a decade or more, and Bonnieux is the base for their Luberon Experience tours, so every few feet we’re stopped with a cheery greeting from a friend. We’re thrilled, with them, that they’ve now established a home here – what a treasure!
We complete our Luberon afternoon with a stop at what’s probably our favorite village in the region, Roussillon. You know you’re getting close when the russet cliffs appear by the road.
No matter how many times we visit, we always take more photos here than anywhere else – can you blame us?!
On the edges of town, you can still see where the ochre was harvested – scraped off generations ago – in shades from palest yellow to blood-red brick. Today synthetic paints have replaced the ochres used in times past.
a rainbow row of homes,
one tucked right into the red rock,
others scattered among the cliffs.
We linger til sunset, watching the colors change,
Bonne nuit, Roussillon, it’s been a pleasure!!
The lights of Lacoste, the ancient stronghold of the Marquis de Sade, shimmer a wink goodnight as we drive home to Aix.