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Van Gogh Was Here

Van Gogh Was Here

Music & Markets April Easter Festival, 2015
Aix-en-Provence, France

Interested in a Music and Markets Tour? We’d love to hear from you!
We’re looking ahead to summer – join us on the fabulous Amalfi Coast in July?

We’ll walk in the steps of another great artist who was inspired by the south of France, Van Gogh. Driving north through the Alpilles, we’re charmed by the yellow carpet of wildflowers under the olive trees. Van Gogh colors – yellow and blue!04081501 Alpilles driveThe carpet continues beside St. Paul de Mausole outside of St. Remy de Provence, where Van Gogh checked himself in after the ear episode, and spent a prolific year of painting. 04081501 another art focused dayEaster is early this year, so there are just a few pansies in the cloister – not warm enough for more blooms,04081501 asylumand just a lone iris in the fields (last year we were here later and the garden was a purple haze!). 04081501 iris loneContinuing in the steps of the masters, we’re enveloped in the Giants of the Renaissance, this year’s theme at the Carrieres des Lumieres in Les Baux. 04081501 ren giantsThe cavernous rooms of a disused bauxite (yes, it’s named after Les Baux) quarry provide gigantic screens for richly hued photographs of locations or artworks, all accompanied by glorious surround-sound music.What a thrill to be immersed in the beauty of the Sistine Chapel, noting details impossible to take in in the actual room in Rome. 04081501 thrilling surrounded sistineWell this has been a full morning – now for some delights for the palate after all these other sensory pleasures! And where better than the wonderful Bistro du Paradou? Today’s Prix Fixe lunch begins with a Frisée Lardon Salad, and unlike previous meals it’s not plated, just brought in a big bowl for us to dish out ourselves – fun!04081502 bistro foreverAnd then a favorite cool weather French specialty, cassoulet – we’ve never had this here before either, and it is one of the best we’ve tasted! 04081502 cassouletAnd you know what’s next, right? That amazing cheese platter, in which we make a hefty dent 😉04081502 that amazing cheese basketAfter dessert and coffee on the terrace, 04081502 then dessert on terracewe’re on our way back to Aix, passing a surprising addition to the Maussane des Alpilles town hall – knitted patchwork cozies on the huge tree and the balcony and lamposts!04081503 art contemporary maussane mairieI glance down a side street as we roll through the town –  “Oh please stop!” This wisteria draped cottage just cries out for a photo!04081503 stop for wisteria
An evening concert of clarinet, viola and piano in the elegant Jeu de Paume,04221405 ceiling

then it’s time for a bit more to eat before we turn in for the day….crepes at Crepe Sautiere, in an old olive oil mill in the center of town. This one has a bump in the middle – ice cream!04081504 bumpy crepe after jeu de paumeBonne Nuit, Aix.

Fountains and Picnics

Fountains and Picnics

Music & Markets April Easter Festival, 2015
Aix-en-Provence, France

Interested in a Music and Markets Tour? We’d love to hear from you!
We’re looking ahead to summer – join us on the fabulous Amalfi Coast in July?

Another artful day in Aix, with visits to the Musée Granet, a peek at a few more fountains, 04071501 view more fountainssuch as this one on Cours Sextius, with a traditional Provençal drummer/piper like those we enjoyed at a Santons festival last year.
Then lunch in the prettiest garden 04071501 bloomsbeside the gorgeous Pavilion Vendome.04071501 art galleries and a picnicThese Atlantes always seem rather worried to me – especially the one on the right. 04071501 looking worriedCan’t you just hear him saying “Oh no!” as he slaps his forehead?
Our evening concert is the Talens Lyriques, with a program of sacred baroque repertoire led by keyboard player Christophe Rousset, in the Cathedral.04071502 tonights concert in cathedral led by harpsichordIsn’t this an exquisite harpsichord?04071503 keyboard on top of organWe finish the day with a Moroccan feast at Le Riad – walking in the chilly evening made us eager for the hot mint tea, but I was too late to get a photo with our waiter holding the teapot skyhigh!04071503 walk to Riad chilly poured highA warming and delicious tagine really hit the spot – 04071504 best tagine in AixLe Riad’s our favorite place in Aix for good Moroccan cuisine.

Cezanne Was Here

Cezanne Was Here

Music & Markets April Easter Festival, 2015
Aix-en-Provence, France

Interested in a Music and Markets Tour? We’d love to hear from you!
We’re looking ahead to summer – join us on the fabulous Amalfi Coast in July?

Sometimes you’ve got to be creative and inventive on the spur of the moment, and this was one of those days. We walked to Avis to pick up our rental car, ready for a drive north to the Luberon, and what met us there? A big sign on the door with our name (along with a few others) saying that the office was closed today, giving us an option of picking up a car in another location. No phone call, no notice….don’t think we’ll use this company again! So since art is a major interest of Elaine’s we decided to walk (uphill ALL the way!)04061501 aix hike to Cezanne’s atelier this morning. 04061501 atelier cezanneWe’ve often stopped at this beautiful spot, appreciating the spacious grounds with many inviting sitting areas (where we’ve seen poets and artists at work)04061501 inviting gardens welcome to sit paint write think but have never gone inside. What a pleasure it was to see his high-ceilinged and well-lit workroom, with many of the props he used for still lifes right there, just as they were during his day (no photos allowed of the interior).
I’m sure this rear window was not covered with branches in his day. 04061501 rear window now treed over long slat to slide paintingsYou can barely see, from the outside, the top of the 6 foot tall narrow iron “door”  on the left through which he slid his landscapes when he wanted to be outside to work on them. After wandering the grounds,04061501 wandered aroundwe walked still higher up the hill to the Terrain des Peintres, a favored perch from where Cezanne painted many of his views of Mt. Saint Victoire.04061502 climb higher to favored perchWith views like this no wonder he chose this spot!04061502 no wonder with view like thisAn easy downhill walk all the way to Cours Mirabeau, and we’re seated in the sun for a delicious lunch at L’Estello,04061502 wonderful lunch on Coursso bright that a “hat” is required!04061503 a hat requiredWelcome to our place for an evening aperitif! 04061503 aperoAnd then a robust Mahler symphony, the stage packed with an orchestra 200 strong, PLUS a chorus of hundreds! Quite a contrast to last night’s two-person concert, and that’s how we like it – we include a variety of venues as well as ensembles, from full orchestras in a symphony hall to a duo in an historic intimate theater on a Music and Markets Tour – we love it all! 04061503 two on stage last night two hundred plus tonightMahler’s Second Symphony is known as the “Resurrection” and as the choir quietly joins the orchestra in the final movement, we’re waiting for what must be coming…the powerful full-voice jubilation of “Rise again, yes, you shall rise again, my dust”. I get goose-bumps just remembering it!

 

Aix is a Feast!

Aix is a Feast!

Easter Weekend, April 4-5 , 2015
Aix-en-Provence, France

Interested in a Music and Markets Tour? We’d love to hear from you!
We’re looking ahead to summer – join us on the fabulous Amalfi Coast in July?

We’re eager to meet our Music and Markets guest, Elaine, and walk through market squares over flowing with jazz and early spring produce on the way to her hotel.04041501 aix market VIDEO TOO and tour beginsWhat a joy it is to share favorite sights and places once again – all the way from the thermal waters that brought the Romans here centuries ago04041501 termes to Saint Saveur Cathedral, begun not long after the Romans were here.04041501 cathedralWe fill our afternoon with one beautiful square after another, checking out fountains and vistas, take a break, then meet again for a special first-night dinner at Aix’s favorite celebration restaurant, Le Formal.04041502 trio From the foie gras, 04041502 dinner foie gras firstthrough the lamb medley, 04041502 lamb medleyto ” Chocolate Tempation”  we’re delighted, 04041503 chocolate temptationas always, with chef Jean-Luc’s creations.
Easter Sunday rings in with a rousing organ trumpet voluntary at the cathedral.04051501 Easter music video too Elaine’s been studying French and the three of us can follow the Easter sermon pretty well, and then ” share the light”  with the candles handed out as we entered. 04051501 sharing the lightThere’s a lot more going on in Aix today – it’s the first Sunday of the month, so the Place de l’Hôtel de Ville is filled with vintage books rather than flowers.04051502 first sunday book fair where flowersAlthough it’s cool, the beaming sun encourages an al fresco lunch on Place des Tanneurs…04051502 lunch al frescocompleted with my all-time favorite dessert, Café Gourmand!04051502 my faveAnother first Sunday event, the monthly antique and vintage fair, fills the Cours Mirabeau.040515023 cours first sunday antiquesLater, our neighbor, Jean Claude, welcomes the three of us with an aperitif and a tour of his marvelous ceramic collection 040515023 pre concert aperobefore we enjoy the first of our scheduled concerts, an evening of breathtaking violin and piano in the Grand Theatre. We had not heard Maxim Vengerov before, and although we’ve enjoyed other world-renowned violinists through the years, his tender rich sound just enthralls – a new favorite violinist!040515024 marvelous concert From Prokofiev to Dvorak, Kreisler to Paganini (whose Caprice # 24 in F minor had the audience break out in applause after one fabulous pizzicato variation!) we were on the edge of our seats. A couple of French encores, Faure’s Apres Une Reve (which I love playing with my cellist friend Sarah) and Massenet’s delightful Meditation had us humming in memory as we walked past the Rotonde in the moonlight. 040515024 rotonde moonThis first concert of the week will be hard to beat!

Easter Celebrations from Morning til Night!

Easter Celebrations from Morning til Night!

Easter Sunday, April, 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 welcomed to Saint Sauveur Cathedral by joyous melodies from the organ and trumpets,

and the mass opens with ” He is Risen!”


Protestants all, we feel very welcomed and included in the resurrection celebration,

and as is traditional in Aix, a short combined service of all Christian denominations, with ministers from many congregations participating,  follows the mass. Then of course there’s the “cup of welcome”   – kirs passed out to adults, juices to children.
We explore the Roman traces exposed in a corner of the cathedral as we sip.

Easter lunch is at Bistroquet, where a few of us enjoy our second  foie gras appetizer of the tour… and we’ve just started!

French resident Jill gives Ruth and I scarf tying lessons… perhaps we’ll ” get it”  by the end of the week!

We are so enjoying leading a tour from our home in Aix – what a pleasure to invite our guests over once again,

for an aperitif before our first concert of the Festival de Paques.

It’s a thrilling introduction to the festival, as Gustavo Dudamel leads the Goteborg Symphony in a marvelous program of Strauss, Mozart,

and what turns out to be a favorite of all the group, Sibelius’  symphony number 2. Can tomorrow be even better?!

In the Air and on the Ground

In the Air and on the Ground

Thursday, April 17,n
2014
to 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

What a difference in the views from the air as we take off from Brussels – the browns and grays of winter, seen just a couple of months ago, have sprung into brilliant yellows and lush greens of spring.

From the air, to the bus, and startlingly green trees already in full leaf… again, what a contrast to views not so long ago on our February shuttle bus to Aix. Poppies slash red along roadside fields, and here and there a purple-y redbud tree dots the landscape. Isn’t spring a delight?!

I’m on my own, with just a carry-on bag. Kirk will bring the checked luggage tomorrow, flying the same route, via Brussels, as I have. And, as I hoped, I can quickly exit the airport following my 11:40 landing, make the noon shuttle to Aix, and get here in time for the Thursday flower market. Choosing’s always such fun… even when I’m dragging my suitcase along! Today the tulips win…and they’re a perfect spring touch for the mantel.

I make quick work of the baguette sandwich I picked up after getting the flowers and then head out for shopping and errands. It’s one of those glorious sunny days we love so much in Aix, and so does everyone else – the fountain on Place de l’ Hotel de Ville makes and inviting seat for a picnic or a phone conversation.

Just off the Cour Mirabeau this trio tower draws a crowd each time I pass by.

You can see people looking from every angle, discussing with their friends ” how do they DO that?”. The top figure is a dummy, but the middle one seems to be balanced on a ball, effortlessly held by the man seated on the ground. Hmmm….an Aixoise mystery.