14 juillet – Celebrate!

14 juillet – Celebrate!

July 14, 2017
Aix en Provence, 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?

France is celebrating today, and so are we – It’s Kirk’s birthday! As you may remember, he LOVES spending it in France since the whole country parties for him 🙂
How does he want to start the day? With a walk up the hill to Cezanne’s atelier and oft-used painting perch beyond, now the Terrain de Peintres, showcasing several of his portrayals of Mt. Saint Victoire painted from right in this spot.
In the afternoon we take in Aix’s newest museum, the Hôtel de Caumont in the Mazarine district. We were there years ago when it was the headquarters of the Music Conservatory, and although we’ve attended a concert in the courtyard, this is the first time we’ve been inside since the complete and lavish restoration. As we walk through the rooms with decor faithful to the 18th century, the period of the building, I’m reminded that a friend encouraged me to see the interior to get ideas for decorating our apartment of the same era. Our budget is not quite the same as the Caumont 😉
Upstairs, the rooms are always devoted to a particular exhibition, and until October 15 Sisley the impressionist is the beautifully curated collection. The rooms are spacious and uncrowded, allowing us to absorb the superb paintings at our leisure.More than any other artist Sisley draws you into his spacious landscapes. You feel as if you’re walking under that vast sky, brushing your fingers in the rippling river, listening to the twitter of birds in the trees. We’ve been to countless museums in our lives, but this is a new favorite…and the visit will be memorable since it’s part of our birthday celebration!
From top to bottom the Caumont is a treasure…and then there’s the tea room and garden! After sipping a cup in the shade, we snap a birthday selfie then just sit and enjoy – even on a hot summer day it’s cool and comfortable in the garden.
The party’s not over yet! After a delicious birthday dinner we listen to a string quartet in another beautiful mansion’s courtyard, then join the revelers on Cours Mirabeau – watching all ages sing along to French pop standards that we’ve never heard before – even the très cool teens and twenties sing the oldies as they dance!
Bonne fête, France, and Joyeaux Anniversaire, Kirk!


Mountains and Music

Mountains and Music

Friday, August 21, 2015
Aix en Provence, 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?

Ali and Roxana have introduced us to some beautiful areas around Aix, as they are avid hikers. They always climb Mount Saint Victoire at least once on their trips, and last night they invited Cassidy to join them on today’s morning jaunt. Actually, she (and we) just thought it was a hike – we didn’t realize that she’d be topping the mountain! So early this morning our normally late riser is up and out the door, ready to experience the south of France countryside up close and personal.08211501 am hike group I’m not sure when she realized that she was going to climb this iconic crag, Cezanne’s favorite subject.08211501 am hike The climb involved scrabbling up on hands and knees at some points, but she made it to the top!08211501 mt topWe find out about this adventure when they all return to Aix, around 4 hours after they left – and are WOWED!
Can you guess what filled the afternoon? LOOOONG naps for all the climbers!
Tonight’s the first night of Musique Dans la Rue, our favorite Aix festival – 120 ” Moments Musicaux” from 6 to 9 each evening, for 9 days. Of outstanding quality, and all free, the concerts are in some of Aix’s most beautiful courtyards and squares, in parks and even parading through the town. The first concert is in the courtyard of the Hôtel de Ville,08211502 nap then music a superb Schumann Quintet (string quartet with piano), followed by a jazzy combo from Marseilles in the square outside.08211502 string quartet inside jazz outsideThen we choose an interesting program of early music described as “A Promenade through Musical Baroque Europe”. Before and in between the pieces the musicians read from a letter from a Russian princess traveling through Europe listening to different composers – Handel in England, Vivaldi in Italy, etc. 08211503 entry of caumontBut the French is SO fast that we catch very little – but we do enjoy the music and the locale, the courtyard in front of the Hôtel Caumont, Aix’s newest museum.
A stroll around town, a bite to eat, then home through dusky lanes –08211503 home LOVING life in Aix!

Mountains and Music

Mountains and Music

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? 

Our overnight at beautiful Hotel les Lodges Saint Victoire put us the closest we’ve been to Cezanne’s mountain, and an afternoon drive and walk got us even closer.

We continued to be surprised at the depth of the countryside feel – just minutes from bustling Aix. Loved this vintage road sign directing us back to the city.

And just down the road, an old 2 Chevaux – we do see more of those in the country than in the cities.

We got a lazy start Friday – enjoying a lavish continental breakfast on the terrace of the hotel, then driving southeast to the Bandol area for lunch at Mary Lou and Ken’s.

Mary Lou’s latest novel in the Verlaque and Bonnet Mysteries  series featuring an Aix lawyer and law professor will be out in a few days, and we heard juicy details of the next one in the works. When we first met, Mary Lou and Ken were living in Aix, but have settled in happily to life in the country – who wouldn’t love this vineyard – surrounded beauty?!

On our way back to Aix we stop at Suffrene, a recommended Bandol vineyard tucked beneath the hilltop village of Le Castellet

to pick up a bottle to bring to our neighbors this evening.

We get back to Aix just in time to climb the stairs to the Oordobadis, with whom we hiked last week. Ali leads us to the table, describing the apertif feast as “Colors of Provence”  – gorgeous, and delicious too!

We’ve been blessed with such wonderful neighbors in Aix – thankful!
Saturday finds us back at the market, picking up all that we need for lunch with friends. Walking under the clock tower, where a mime entertains, we pass through the flower market,

where a table of flower children begins their fun early in the day.

Fresh flowers on the mantel, lunch all ready, we await our guests…

and soon we’re sharing stories  with Jean Marc and Kristin (whose French Word a Day is a favorite of all of us francophiles) and Anne and Aldo.

JM and Kristin brought the most delicious ice cream we’ve EVER tasted for dessert…6 glass pots of pure and intense flavors – passion fruit, pistachio, dark chocolate and more. What a treat!

Thanks, friends,

for traveling from hours away to join us!
Tonight is the first night of Aix’s last festival of the summer, Musique dans la Rue, and Anne and Aldo stay a bit longer to catch the first couple of concerts with us  – first, medieval tunes in the courtyard of the Hôtel de Ville,

then a lively and colorful chorale in the Place de l’Archveché – with an impressive Star Wars rendition.

Each half hour from 6 to 9 pm there are two or three choices in some of Aix’s most beautiful squares, cloisters, and courtyards.
We say goodbye to Anne and Aldo and finish our evening with a Beethoven Quintet in the St. Catherine of Sienna courtyard, a new venue for this year,

followed by a Soirée Ravel by one of the best pianists we’ve heard – glorious music! And all just steps from Ambiance d’Aix!


Les Lodges St. Victoire РLuxe, Calme et Qualit̩

Les Lodges St. Victoire РLuxe, Calme et Qualit̩

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? 

Follow the route Cezanne east from Aix, and within minutes you’ll be in the countryside he loved and painted, leaving us a vision of peaceful Provençal beauty. Just a little longer on the winding road, and a discreet sign on the right points to Hôtel Les Lodges Sainte Victoire and the celebrated Le Saint Estève restaurant. There are no roadside notifications to let you know you’re getting close, because Les Lodges is in a protected natural area, the Grande Site Sainte-Victoire – no signage allowed.

The gates swing open as we approach, and once inside we find that we have no desire to leave…the 5 hectare grounds surrounding the hotel invite a wander,

or a dip in the infinity pool,

or simply a relaxing glass of rosé under the plane trees.

The thirty five rooms, spacious and plush with every amenity and modern furnishings,

offer marvelous vistas of the surrounding park. We’d suggest a ground-floor room with terrace – ours was in the oldest part of the building, with an ancient door surround leading out to the shaded park

the perfect place for an apertif-with-a-view on a summer evening, Montagne Sainte Victoire shading to rose as the sun sets.

Want to relax even more? A full- service luxury spa is part of the property as well.

The day begins with a continental breakfast like none other – not just coffee and croissants here!

Restaurant Le Saint Estève, which received its first Michelin star just 6 months after opening, is open for lunch and dinner Tuesday through Sunday. Whether from inside or out on the terrace, the views are superb, matching the marvelous cuisine of Chef Mathias Dandine. Click here for more details of our lunch at Saint Estève.

Luxe, Calme and Qualité – our take on Baudelaire’s phrase – describes perfectly the serenely luxurious haven of Les Lodges Saint Victoire.

Mountains, Markets and Music

Mountains, Markets and Music

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? 

The buzz continues from morning til night in Aix… when we walked through Forum des Cardeurs, which is packed with restaurants, after 10 Tuesday night nearly every table was still filled, families, friends, couples and groups laughing and chatting as they sipped and supped.

Wednesday began with crashing thunderstorms and heavy rain, but by 11 the sun was out and the market was bustling. We always look forward to Zucchini Beignets from our favorite produce vendor – something I don’t make, but am happy to buy!

As quiet as our lane, rue Adanson, is, it’s always surprising to see the crowds just a block beyond us – and today the main street through old town is packed!

We have an early morning date on Thursday, and meet our neighbors at 6:15 to drive to the countryside for a hike, which they’ve planned so that we can arrive to the view of Mt. Saint Victoire as the sun rises – and it was worth getting up early!

The hike continues to a large dam, built in 1952, and now a part of EDF, France’s electric company.

With such an early start, we’re back to Aix in plenty of time for the big Thursday market. Even if we’re not buying, we enjoy joining the crowds strolling down Cours Mirabeau, where, under the gaze of Good King René,  the clothing vendors spread out their wares just on Thursdays.

You can stylishly outfit yourself from head

to toe.

You can usually find great deals at lunchtime in France on weekdays, and Le Bouddoir on charming Place des Tanneurs is one of the best options in town, with not just one Plat du Jour (dish of the day), but THREE. It’s a lovely place for an alfresco meal, and my pork tenderloin in a grainy mustard sauce is super, as is Kirk’s roulade of sole.

While we were waiting for our table (reservations recommended, especially if you want an outdoor table) Kirk read through a promotional book about Aix hotels, restaurants, and boutiques, and noted one just down the street that had been recently renovated and upgraded, so we decided to check it out.
The Hotel de France receptionist showed us a couple of rooms – really nice, spacious, lovely decor.
The breakfast room was highly touted in the book – a valued historic spot that we were not aware of  – so we made sure to see it too.

The balconies from the front rooms look out on Place des Augustins, with double-glazed windows which keep the rooms peaceful and quiet.

This Place is always packed with diners, walkers, and even cars driving around the star-topped fountain – one of the places where it’s an obstacle course to walk!

The OFJ (youth orchestra) is playing again tonight, this time atop the terrace of the Grand Theatre (where we attended several marvelous concerts on our Aix Easter Festival Tour). The percussion gang lets everyone in hearing distance know that the show’s about to start. Great views, aren’t there? See the cathedral belltower, of which we often post photos when we walk out our front door?

And there’s that mountain where we hiked this morning…

One ensemble after another treats us to chamber music, prefacing their piece with an informative and playful introduction – this quartet is playing a snippet of Mendelsohnn’s wedding march before reminding us that he composed much more than that, drawing on his many life experiences,

and playing one of his beautiful string quartets.

Views and Tastes in Aix

Views and Tastes in Aix

Thursday, April 24, 2014, continued
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

Kirk and I often walk up the steep hill to Cezanne’s atelier and the Terrain des Peintres (Painters Garden) when we’re in Aix – the views towards Mt. Saint Victoire are what drew Cezanne here, and remain breathtaking to this day. On the way back to town from Cassis, we detour up the hill, find a parking place (not easy on this busy two lane road!) and lead the way up the zigzag path through the olive trees.

Our guests are as impressed as we always are, snapping photos of the view,

and noting the museum locations of the many canvases that were painted right here.

An exotic dinner awaits us in Aix – delicious Moroccan cuisine at Le Riad,

where middle Eastern themed tents are arranged around a delightful courtyard.

Bowls of steaming couscous and tagines of lamb and chicken, strewn with almonds and dried fruits,take us to the far reaches of Francophone influence – delicious!

A sampling of Moroccan pastries is the perfect light dessert,

served with coffee or tea – Ruth does a good job of  a high pour,

but not over her head as the waiter did!