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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!

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!

Provençal Tastes, Sights, and Sounds

Provençal Tastes, Sights, and Sounds

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

Come along for a day filled with provençal delights, beginning with the Wednesday market in St. Remy de Provence…stalls fill the charming squares,their colorful produce enticing – how about Kristin Espinasse’s (of French Word a Day) Tarte à la Tomate with a few of these beauties? 
Palest blue shutters whisper “south of France” on this boutique, one of the many enticing home-goods shops worth a visit.
Sated with sights and smells, we’re ready for lunch at Kirk’s all-time favorite, Bistro du Paradou, down the road towards Le Baux de Provence. It’s Wednesday, and rabbit is today’s main dish, but the meal begins with MY favorite of their first courses – meltingly succulent aubergine, with a side of rich tomato coulis. After the remarkable cheese basket, a meal in itself, we finish with dessert and coffee, then trundle out to the car to make our way to an olive oil mill.
With the hilltop ruins of Le Baux in the distance, we walk through the mistral-tossed olive groves before purchasing a tin or two of some award-winning oil.
Beneath that menacing fortress are the towering rooms hollowed out from bauxite quarries, now the Carrières de Lumiéres – Quarries of Images, a sound and light spectacle that is a highlight of our Provence tours. This year (the spectacle changes yearly) the artists Bosch, Brueghel and Arcimboldo are featured – a more gruesome, at times, focus than we’ve ever seen here. Not one of our favorites – but worth a visit regardless to be surrounded by art and sound – a unique experience.
Senses sated, back to Aix we go – more Provençal delights await us tomorrow!

Markets of Provence – What a Delight!

Markets of Provence – What a Delight!

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?

Would we like to review the new Markets of Provence: Food, Antiques, Crafts, and More by Marjorie R. Williams asked St. Martin’s Press? Absolutely, we replied! And what a sensory and inspirational read it has been, virtually transporting us to some of our favorite villages and reminding us of those scents, sights, and flavors that always enthrall.CAM10582 Markets of ProvenceI was immediately drawn in with the Introduction: “What’s the best way to see, taste, and smell Provence? The answer, I believe, is to visit its markets…”
If you’ve read our blog or seen our photos on Instagram and Facebook, you KNOW we love our markets! And the markets of Provence actually inspired us, way back in 2002, to start Music and Markets Tours so we could share that love with others!
Arranged by day-of-the-week, Marjorie begins with the renowned L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue antiques market,CAM10582 Markets of Provence ISLSORGUE filling this charmer of a town on Sundays…who wouldn’t pause for a photo beside the “moss-covered waterwheels” while perusing the treasures spread out on tables and the ground?
Monday – Cadenet, with it’s little drummer boy statue anchoring the village market, 072406CadenetWednesday – Saint-Rémy-de-Provence, one of the best for sure,CAM10582 Markets of Provence SRemy taking over the historic center and beyond with one fascinating stall after another, and of course our beloved Aix en Provence, “a captivating city with architectural flourishes and gushing fountains” on ThursdayCAM10582 Markets of Provence aix (also Tuesday and Saturday, although there’s a produce market EVERY day on Place Richelme)…how soon can we get back?!
Snippets of information inform even those of us who’ve been enjoying these markets for years – who knew that “the most established stands at Provençal markets are often near churches?”
I love Marjorie’s description of Market Day Setup – we’ve often walked through the market squares of Aix early in the morning, as the vendors are doing just that: “Oysters are sorted by size as swiftly as hands of poker. Rotisseries fire up; chickens are slid onto long metal skewers. Finishing touches dress up the displays…”
Heading for the South of France, or just ready to reminisce over previous village visits? Click right here to order your own copy of  Markets of Provence: Food, Antiques, Crafts, and More– the perfect size to carry along as you discover this luscious region in the best way possible!
As I have, you’ll return to it again and again, transported to glorious Provence!

Sunrise and Seaside in the South of France

Sunrise and Seaside in the South of France

Wednesday, February 18, 2015
Aix & Cassis, France

Interested in a Music and Markets Tour? We’d love to hear from you!
We’re looking ahead to Spring – how about the Prague Spring Festival in May?

In addition to working on our bathroom renovations (Eager for the big reveal?? So are we!) we’re researching a private tour for photographers, and high on our list are sunrises and sunsets! So we’re up early, ready to climb the hill north of town to one of Cezanne’s favorite perches, with superb views of his much-loved Mt. Saint Victoire. Rosy color paints the horizon,02181501 am mt st vand birds twitter around copies of Cezanne’s masterworks, painted from this very spot.02181501 am terrain de peintresHere comes the sun, little darling! 02181501 here comes the sun little darlinBack home for coffee, then we’re on our way back to Cassis. Although the boat-rental stand’s posted hours are 9:30-4:30, they were long gone by the time we arrived (well before 4:30!) yesterday, not expecting any customers on a winter day, so here we are again…and can easily get all the information we need from the helpful ladies in the kiosk.
Of course it’s never a hardship to visit this adorable seaside town, and we’re early enough today to see what the fishermen have snagged…a monkfish and an eel here,02181502 cassis fishermena prickly pile of sea urchins there. 02181502 cassis sea urchinsAnd to make our visit even better, it’s market day! An operatic duo entertains shoppers (I saw these two ladies singing at the Aix market yesterday – they get around!) 02181502 n even better its market day video too heard yesterday at Aix marketAs always, we’re enticed by the scents, sights and sounds of a bustling market – olives here,02181502 olives tapenadeseggs and goat cheese there,02181503 eggs and goat cheesea busy repairman plying his trade.02181502 repairHere’s a good language lesson – can you tell me what Apres and Avant mean?02181502 theres a good french lessonWe usually spend our time strolling the colorful harbor here, but the streets, too, are full of beauty…a faded facade,02181502 more than a port pretty village too old facadescolorful trim,02181503 seaside colorsa terrace lush with orange and lemon bushes. 02181503 sea view terraceContinuing to hunt out views for our photographers, we climb (by car) high above the town to Chapelle St. Croix, a sweet quiet spot 02181503 seeking photographers views above village chapel saint croixwith a lovely vista of the coast. 02181503 seeking photographers viewsOne more stop before we turn in the car…we’ll spend the rest of our time here on foot. Years ago we stayed at the elegant Hotel Pigonnet, and remembered their gardens, with a spot from which Cezanne is said to have painted. 02181503 stop by pigonnet gardensEven in winter the manicured expanse is lovely…we well recall sitting by the pool, strolling through the boxwood parterres – isn’t it beautiful? Just one more Aixoise treasure….there are so many!

 

Music and Markets in Aix

Music and Markets in Aix

The South of FranceAix and around
Saturday, August 4, 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? 
 

Season after season, the beauty of the markets cries out for a photo as we pass by… memories to sustain us until our next visit.

And as we stroll, sniff and sample we’re serenaded by a new- to- us market entertainer, singing as he rolls the music through his player.

We continue our wander through the market squares, passing through the Passage Agard , where there’s a new Fromagerie – now this shop would definitely pass EU regulations, unlike the open-air vendor where we picked up a sniff-worthy, unrefrigerated, drippy and delicious Brebis (sheep cheese.

A wall of nicely priced wine is a worthy backdrop to a rosé tasting, and upstairs is a smart bistro, topped with a terrace – a good addition to the neighborhood.

Walking through the orderly (unlike the old medieval center, with narrow twisted lanes) Mazarin Quarter, we follow the jive of a lively combo playing on Cours Mirabeau – they’ll be performing in the upcoming Jazz à Pertuis, north of Aix, for the 14th Festival of Big Bands.

And we fit in one more performance of the Nuit Pianistique, this time at the Darius Milhaud (an Aixoise composer) Conservatory.

The bass and “Bande Electronic” duo plays contem- porary music…. the job of the stripe-shirted “performer” is to press the button of the machine – a tape recorder? – when it’s time to add the pre- recorded shrieks, scrapes, and howls to the acoustic bass. Need I say that we much preferred the afternoon band?!