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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!

 

 

 

A Saintly Celebration

A Saintly Celebration

Sunday, November 30, 2014, Aix en Provence

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.

Today Aix celebrates the Santonniers, those local artisans who craft the multitude of terracotta creche figures, Santons (little saints) so beloved by Provençales.
Unlike the simple nativity scenes seen in the States, here in Provence the whole town turns out…the butcher, the baker, the candlestick maker and more. 11301404 santons1The colorful scene spreads far and wide, with tiny stone windmills, fields of lavender, sheep traversing the village as in the transhumance. They’re fascinating and joyful scenes, growing each year as each family adds to their collection, passed down from generation to generation – there are hundreds available!11301404 santonsAlthough Aix’s  Foire aux Santons (Santon Fair) has been open for a few weeks already, today the Mass of the Santonniers takes place, and the official blessing of the booths.
Expecting a big crowd, we arrive at St. John the Baptist church a half hour before the 9:30 Santonniers Mass…and we’re the only ones there besides a few charmingly garbed singers and drummers!  We eagerly look each time the door opens to appreciate the cozily layered outfits – warm winter capes over quilted skirts for the women, spiffy vests adding a layer for the men.11301401 entertained by entry of participantsWe’ve got plenty of time to investigate this colorful yet simple church, 11301401 am early

and learn more about the beautiful Provençale outfits. Each white cap, of lace or linen, is different and denotes family rank and village.11301401 learned about boutis and hatsThe mass begins with provençale songs, accompanied by the tambour/flute band to the left.11301401 singers and drummersFrom head to toe, the chorus is quite in character – I love the details!11301401 singers detailsMany in the congregation are in Provençale dress too – I want an outfit!  Most are typical of the countryside and village, 11301402 congregation toobut this couple (on the far end) and young man are dressed to the nines in velvet, fur and lace – more city style. 11301402 elegant tooAfter a thoughtful sermon, when we’re reminded that we are the clay in the hands of the Master Potter, God, the priest invites the children to bring their santons for a blessing,11301402 santons blessingthen it’s time to file out and parade through the oldest part of town 11301402 sermon then parade through center and to Cours

and down Cours Mirabeau.11301403 down the coursNow we can really see all of the elaborate dress of some of the participants,11301403 in costumeas they follow the drummers and pipers.11301403 piping drumming one hand eachHere’s that classy duo, looking as if they belong right on Cours Mirabeau.11301404 arlessiene rather than countryThe musicians pause at the Santon exhibit,11301404 by santon displaythen continue down to the booths of the Santonniers, and the drums play on as the priest makes his rounds, sprinkling the booths with holy water and pronouncing a blessing on each. We’ve had singing and music, now it’s time for dancing!11301404 dancingSeveral of the choreographed dances tell a story – meeting, fighting, making up.
11301404 dancing after blessingThe detailed dances are passed on from old to young – the pride of tradition is obvious!11301404 moreWhat a treat it’s been to be in town for this wonderful celebration!

 

Aix Files – Renovation – 5

Aix Files – Renovation – 5

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.

We have the rental car until noon today, Friday, so off we go again to Castorama, a large hardware store, to pick up the ladder we decided on on Wednesday. All of the “big box” stores are always outside of towns, in purpose-built areas called “Zone Industriel” or “Commercial”.
We also find that the bathroom cabinets that we liked at Leroy Merlin, another big box store, have to be ordered, so we go ahead and place the order. All of this takes more time than we had planned on, and we make it back to Aix close to the noon drop-off time (and closing time for the rental agency), which means that I get to carry the ladder home in the rain (not my usual type of task!), from a drop-off point as close as Kirk can get on the ring-road, and he goes straight to the car drop off.
After dropping off the ladder, I walk to meet Kirk, coming back from Hertz near the train station, and pass the emptied-out market on the way. The green suits are hosing the stone pavements, picking up the trash, and soon the Place Richelme will transform into a bustling afternoon-into-night bar scene.11281401 pm market cleanupLunch today? Not an elegant French repast, but a couple of carefully chosen items from the Monop quick meal case and a pint of gazpacho, eaten on the tables thoughtfully provided in Monoprix’s city center shop. We’ve sure taken advantage of this well-stocked three-floor spot alot since they opened last year. 11281401 no workers today but needed before monday leroy merlin ladder in rain elegant lunch a monopWe’re expecting the plumber and electrician this afternoon too, but there’s another change in plans – these tasks were supposed to be done before Monday, when appliances will be delivered, but that work has been pushed back. Sylvie works with us to ensure that the appliances will be installed correctly by her team since Darty (rather like our Best Buy in the States – an excellent and reliable company we’ve used since our first French home purchase in 2004) won’t be able to do so due to the electric and plumbing not being ready..
It’s too soon for Kirk to begin the painting – he has to wait as long as possible for the plaster to dry. But there are always things to do, such as finding wood to extend the too-short ladder we’ve just brought home. Down the creepy stairs he goes11281401 to cave to get wood for bottom of new short ladderto the ancient cave, showing all of its 300 plus years.11281401 underground shows its age“You won’t believe what I found!” he exclaims as he comes back in the apartment….a ladder that’s JUST what we need! I’ve only seen the cave (our storage area) once or twice since we bought the house, and he goes down maybe once or twice a year, so neither of us have a good recollection of what’s actually there, left from previous owners (we have searched for treasure, but none to be found). 11281401 you wont believe what I foundI try out the curtain we brought from the States  – a temporary solution for the laundry closet until we find a vintage door. 11281402 try out curtain on closetThe rain’s finally stopped, and it’s time for an evening walk –bonne nuit, Aix!11281403 rain stopped walkSaturday dawns bright and beautiful, a perfect market day. Flowers on the Hôtel de Ville square,11291401 flower martand more flowers on Place Richelme – nasturtiums to adorn a platter.11291401 flower sneaked into food martEvery once in a while the sisters garbed in blue have a stand at the market, and today they’ve brought in Christmas decor from their gardens.11291401 nuns once in a whileMaison d’Espagne shows off a paella at the door – we consider some for lunch, but when we pass by after marketing it’s all gone!11291401 popular paella gone laterLe Bouddoir has become one of our favorite Aix restaurants, with their three daily specials, an excellent value at 12:50€. They’ve just returned from holiday, so we’re happy to enjoy lunch there today. Kirk takes in the beauty of the day at the fountain on Place de Tanneurs before we continue our errands. 11291402 bouudoir lunch back from vacationChristmas shopping is a pleasure, as we begin a Santon collection for our grandaughter Ivy, choosing just the right ones that we hope will delight her from the Santonniers Fair. 11291402 santon tradition for ivyAnd now begins the painting – not the entire kitchen, since there’s still work to be done, but the walls behind the cabinets which will be installed next week. Kirk flies back to Virginia Monday so now’s his chance. First the sanding to make it as smooth as he wants,11291403 had to wait to paint sand firstthen finally the painting, with blanc cassée (broken white). It’s looking better all the time!11291403 then paint blanc casseeAnd a good night walk11291403 walkdown Cours Mirabeau…

 

Traditions in Aix

Traditions in Aix

Holidays in France, 2013
 
Interested in a Music and Markets Tour? We’d love to hear from you!  We’re looking ahead to Spring – May in Venice, Barcelona, or Prague, and our newest  – Aix en Provence for the Easter Festival.

Today we visited Aix’s second largest church, Saint Jean de Malte, to see the nativity scene.

Dozens of foot tall “Santons” dressed (in the style of 150 years ago, when the Santon tradition began and when these were made) to show their occupation

gather from all over Provence to visit the barn where Jesus was born.

In the chapel next to the nativity scene, we were startled to see three large bronze bells on display. The church steeple has been ringing only one of its four bells since 1793 when Napoleon commandeered the other three to make cannons for an assault on Toulon. Recently the town of Toulon gave some of the cannon captured in the battle to Aix to melt down and re-form into bells. One bell, named Jeanne was paid for by the candy makers of Aix who specialize in the famous Calissons d’Aix. Jeanne is decorated with a band of the little football shaped almond and honey delicacies around the top and bottom of the bell. The inscription notes that the bell was cast in 2013 during the pontificate of François and that Jeanne “sings the delicious wisdom of God”