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Those Paris Streets

Those Paris Streets

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?

Do you have a favorite Parisian street? Perhaps one where a writer, such as Camus, spent time? Or a musician, such as Chopin? A scientist, such as Marie Curie?
Susan Cahill’s latest book, The Streets of Paris, takes us through many a much-loved lane or quartier in the steps of famous Parisians, from Héloise and Abelard’s medieval love story beside Notre Dame, to Giacometti’s studio tucked away in the 14th arrondissement. The streets where these brilliant characters, ancient and modern, lived and worked become the stories for those who love to walk, to discover, to explore deeper into the mysteries of Paris.
Let’s choose one of those characters – how about Chopin, one of my favorite composers? Imagine him inspired by the beauty of the garden he often enjoyed on Rue Chaptal in the 16th arrondissement, creating one of his exquisite nocturnes….the melody is running through my head as I write…
16 rue Chaptal is now the Musée de la Vie Romantique, and Ms. Cahill walks us around the neighborhood, in the composer’s steps. She also includes a “Nearby” list in each chapter highlighting suggested cafés and restaurants, worthwhile sights (a “secret garden”!), museums or churches.
Of course changes come through the decades, but quite often we can experience a spot very much like those who came before – is that Camus’ table at Brasserie Lipp on Boulevard Saint-Germain? The desk where Marie Curie studied in the Sainte-Geneviève Library on Place du Panthéon? 
An enriching read, lovely for dreaming when I’m not in Paris, and for discovering new delights when I am.

Welcome to the Garden!

Welcome to the Garden!

July 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?

Today’s lunch is in the delightful garden of our friends Philippe and Bénédicte, beginning with aperitifs before moving to the table under the ash tree in the garden. Philippe tells us that when they bought this property years ago, before they built their home he used to take a mid day break from his nearby office and come sit under the tree – it’s his favorite place in the garden.
Bénédicte is an interior and exterior designer extraordinaire – we love all of the unique touches in the garden such as this gypsy wagon in one corner, and the latest addition, a treehouse from which Philippe snapped this photo. The yummy al fresco lunch included cheeses, bien sur, and  figs from their tree, then Philippe picked a few for us to take home – as luscious to taste as they are to look at!

 

Antiques by the River

Antiques by the River

Easter Week 2017
L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue, France

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?
Every weekend antiques fill the lanes of L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue – it’s the largest antique center in France outside of Paris – but two weekends a year, Easter weekend and around August 15 they burst through adjacent lanes and overflow into the grounds of the city park during the Antiques Fair. Easter Monday is the last day of the spring fair, and we have to take a roundabout way to the parking lot since the route we usually take is filled with booths and blocked off. We’re early enough to find a good spot, though, and soon are in the thick of the treasure filled paths. We wander by a few booths, then stroll into the center, admiring the pretty canals lacing the town. A pause at the historic Cafe de France, surrounded by vintage façades is always a must, along with a stroll past colorful shops adding to the charm of the townsuch an inviting place!
Now for the jam-packed town park – on the lookout for a panther, a bust, or an armoire? A lovely mirror (there we are!) or a pair of nicely weathered shutters? Or some vintage glassware (I would NOT want my fragile goods right in the playground, would you?!)?
There are also several “villages” of antique dealers in the town – a couple of dapper gents have paused for lunch beside one of the branches of the Sorgue. All of this wandering and perusing has us hungry too, so off we go to our favorite riverside haunt, Le Bellevue, to enjoy a delicious lunch. After a little more antiques-browsing we head back to Aix in time for an early evening concert…we’ll tell you about that tomorrow!

 

Showing Off Aix

Showing Off Aix

Easter 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 summer –  why not join us on the fabulous Amalfi Coast , in Provence, or Amsterdam?

It’s our chance to show off our much-loved city of Aix this week, as we begin another Aix Easter Festival Tour. From markets in bloom to historical collections in the Museum of Old Aix, from favorite squares such as Place Albertas to Mary and saints keeping watch from neighborhood corners, it’s truly a pleasure to share!
Of course the cuisine is a big draw too – I’m excited to introduce my all-time fave dessert,  Café Gourmand, to our guest! And then there are the venues in which we enjoy our meals – the weather is perfect for al fresco dining.
Before our first concert of the tour, in the Grand Theatre, we’re invited to our neighbors for a lavish Aperitif, and a viewing of their exquisite museum-quality collections.As we walk back from the concert the Rotonde gleams a goodnight. Sleep well, tomorrow will be full of more discoveries!

Paris When It Shimmers

Paris When It Shimmers

A Holiday Weekend, November 2016
Paris, 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.

Those holiday windows and city lights call out to me every year, and the ones I enjoy the most are in Paris, so if I have the chance, I’m there! We finish up our errand-filled week in France with a speedy trip to the capital, past vineyards, fields and forests more golden cam15407than when we sped south a week ago.
Dropping off our bags at a new-to-us right-bank hotel near the Seine, we quickly hop on a bus to meet our Virginia friends Sandy & Ed (who spend a couple of months here in fall and spring) at the Grandes Magasins (department stores) – first stop, Galeries Lafayette, where white is the theme this year. cam15418One “polar bear express” window after another, cool white and blue, delight the kids peering in.
The piece de resistance, as usual, is the massive tree, a white paper goliath towering to the top of the balconies. cam15420Not my favorite of their trees – I prefer a little more color – but worth seeing. Shouldering bravely through the crowds, we head for Printemps, where the colors enchant, each window featuring a designer: can-canning shoes from Jimmy Choo, cam15426videosparkly baubles from David Yurman, chic French fashions prancing on a catwalk…cam15429Oh yes, more my style! Such fun to gaze along with all ages – the windows aren’t just for kids!
Dinner with another friend provides a chance to catch up – it’s been too long – at a charming little bistro (thanks, Alec Lobrano, for your always-excellent recommendations!), Le Petit Cler, cam15441and we make tentative plans to meet in the countryside when we return in the spring for the annual Rendezvous France event.
In no hurry to get back, we walk all the way to the hotel, through the 7th arrondissement, sparkling its pedigree with the famed tower in the background, cam15442and across the river to the popular Grand Roue (big wheel), cam15455then on to the Ducs de Bourgogne, our home (which we recommend – for quiet comfort, excellent location, and friendly helpful staff) for the next couple of nights.
One of our favorite Paris markets is the Bastille (what fun it was to introduce our grandaughter to the markets we delight when we were in Paris together the summer of 2015!) and we find an inviting café to fortify us for the hunt cam15462before meeting Sandy and Ed at the 14th of July column. cam15465videoA jazzy combo gets everyone into the buying spirit.
I find the perfect scarf (crafted from a sari remnant by a savvy entrepreneur) for a new sweater, and Sandy finds an irresistible bracelet or two. cam15467It’s the food stalls, through, that keep me oohing and aahing. A cascade of Coquilles St. Jacques, cam15473an artist’s palette of colorful vegetables, cam15474it’s such eye-candy! And the buzz and interest of shoppers intent on finding the best for their Sunday lunch is infectious – truly one of Paris’ most vibrant markets.
Then we’re free to wander through the always-delightful Marais, peering into inviting courtyards,cam15482 pausing for the soprano trilling melodies through the arches surrounding the Place de Vosges, cam15485detouring to take in a vine-draped façade.cam15497Another market takes place daily along the river – the bouquinistes, showcasing their used books, postcards, or calendars, from ancient to modern. cam15503Isn’t it wonderful that although so much changes, that so many things stay the same? These storied vendors have occupied this spot since the Middle Ages!
One last walk through the shimmering streets, cam15512and we fill up a few tables in Sandy and Ed’s favorite restaurant, Petit Pontoise. cam15516We’ve heard so much from them about their friend Daniele, front and center, through the years that we feel as if we’ve already met! And our good friends from Aix, Jean G and Jean C, are in town so we get to introduce them to our Virginia friends for the first time! Back and forth the conversation spins between French and English, with everyone enjoying each other and the delicious dinner, then we’re off, walking together along the Seine, saying goodbye-til-the-next-time, and heading our separate ways. Two delightful days in Paris – ALWAYS a good idea!

 

Abundance in Aix

Abundance in Aix

A weekend in France, November 2016
Paris, 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.

The days have just sped by since we arrived in Paris last Friday, where we breakfasted in luxury in Le Train Bleu at Gare de Lyon after our overnight flight. cam15259A quick 3 hours on the TGV (fast train) and we were back home in Aix en Provence, and before we knew it, the Saturday market was calling, in full bloom. cam15269Due to major urban renewal work going on in the biggest market square, as well as Cours Mirabeau now filled with….well, you’ll hear about that later…the vendors have been moved to open areas near the Rotonde, the grand fountain at the end of Cours Mirabeau. Not this pretty fountain below – but since the market’s now there, it’s getting a little more attention than it used to!cam15275The stalls are as busy as ever – the move doesn’t seem to have hurt sales! And the abundance of fall produce graces every smiling vendor’s table.cam15277As we walk through the Place des Precheurs, the former market square, looking into the excavations preparing for pedestrianizing the spacious area, we notice a flyer about an afternoon modern dance in the excavations so after lunch we return to watch. Mysterious sounds from the bass initiate the performance, Souffle de Pierres – Breath of Rocks – then the elegantly supple dancer begins drawing our attention to the stones below. cam15302An associate reads passages from several authors about the meaning of archeological finds, and the former lives and history beneath our feet. Lying down on the stones, the dancer seems to fall asleep, then rises, hair unbound, cam15310portraying the energy simmering beneath. As she dances to the surface, then bows, we applaud…yet another unique taste of life in Aix.
There was music throughout the markets this morning, and as I walk through the streets later I see a trio spiffed up in suits, ready to play – cam15318-copyand as they sway melodically along the lane I wonder if I’ve stepped into New Orleans!
After dinner we’re out again, taking in the lights on Cours Mirabeau, lined for the season with Christmas chalets selling seasonal crafts and goodies,cam15323on our way to a string quartet with piano (yes, a quintet) concert at the Conservatory. The Vin Chaud (hot wine) booth, as always, is the busiest!  cam15328And the concert was fabulous (and free!) – one of our favorite quintets, by Schumann, performed to a packed house with warmth, excellence and verve by conservatory professors.
The Rotonde shimmers as we walk by on our way home – cam15329so fun to be here at this time of year!
We know the rain’s coming, so we enjoy as much outdoor time as possible on Sunday, strolling through the Mazarin Quarter after church – a poor dolphin on one of Aix’s most famous fountains is strapped to his post, loosened by rebels illegally climbing up the historic monument, and JUST after it was completely restored! cam15337We arrive at St. Jean de Malte just as their mass ends, cam15344and as people stream through the doors a postlude from the magnificent organ bursts out into the street.
One more concert completes the weekend – the Breakdown Quartet, cam15346with music of Gershwin, Piazzola and more – at an intimate salon not far from our home.
Aaah Aix – every time we come we love you more!