We were in Aix en Provence 12 years ago when we got the call my mom died unexpectedly. We never really experienced Aix as it became a blur of changing flights to get home for the funeral, crying in the markets as I looked for trinkets for gifts.
This time, we knew to stay in the center city close to the famed markets and ancient, narrow allees where you can wander from patisserie to boulangerie to our hearts (but not our feets) content. And that’s just what we did on our first hot, humid and sultry day in Aix. Wander, eat, repeat.
In the afternoon, we walked 3 minutes to a chateau cum hotel cum art gallery called Hotel Caument. Inside this gorgeously preserved villa, we saw a wonderful Exhibit of Raoul Duffy’s colorful seaside paintings. A new artist for us. We also learned about Cezanne, an adopted son of Aix who passionately painted their scenic mountains.
That night, after a dinner of grilled fish and the famed Provençal bouillabaisse, we returned to our intimate, converted 12th century convent cum hotel. But instead of a peaceful walk back, the streets were ablaze with another heat— France’s annual night of music on June 21. Who knew!
On every corner were small bands and duos plus a a full stage on the main Cours Mirabeau, with musicians singing and playing everything from rock to rap to jazz. There was even a marching band banging their way through the alleys till 12:30 am. The streets were packed with people grooving, drinking and consuming vast quantities of ice cream. What an experience!
Day 2 was an entirely different experience. It was a rainy morning when we headed into our stick-shift car and drove an hour into the countryside to see the famous lavender fields of Provence. It is peak lavender season now and we were treated to field after field of shimmering purple fronds. And, miraculously, no one else was around due to the rainy weekday. All we could hear was the ecstatic buzzing of the bees! Music of another sort.
After that we drove to Chateau du Coste, a vineyard I’d read about for its amazing architecture and sculptures. Oh and wine was pretty good, too. Napa could learn a thing or two from this winery’s operation.
After tasting wines for free, we had an alfresco lunch with a glass of wine. Then we grabbed the map and toured the immense property finding sculptures and buildings by the likes of Frank Gehry, Tadeo Ando, Calder, Louise Bourgeois and more. So much magical art across a gorgeous vineyard and trails.
And to top it off, there was a surprisingly good exhibit of Bob Dylan’s paintings in one gallery.
It was a perfect day of scenery, Art wine and architecture.
We had a quick pizza dinner near our hotel and packed for the last leg of our Southern France journey.
I promise you more great art along the way but make no promises for This region’s version of June Gloom!