Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Trip Report: France 2011, September 29 - Aix-En-Provence

We stayed at the Aquabella Hotel in Aix-En-Provence. It is a modern hotel, but it is surrounded by remains of the past.  The one quirk in our room is that the toilet is in a small closet, separate from the shower and sink. At one side the Tourreluque Tower and part of a 14th Century wall bracket the swimming pool, and the ruins of the old Roman Baths, Thermes Sextius, can be viewed through a window on the side of the hotel.
Tourreluque Tower

Thermius Sextius, through glass
We start the day with a buffet breakfast at the hotel. It is typical of all the breakfast buffets that are to follow, in a trip that I end up dubbing "The Trip With Too Much Food"*. There is a good array of fresh (ripe!) fruit, some dried fruit, dry cereals including muesli, several kinds of yogurt, lunch meat, cheeses, spreads, nut and fruit butters, jam, jelly, marmalade, honey, several types of dairy butter, juice, scrambled eggs, sausage and/or ham and/or bacon, a selection of breads (wonderful croissants), etc...  One appliance mystifies me - a square vat of hot water with handles coming out of it. It turns out to be an egg cooker. You select a raw egg, put it in the wire scoop at the end of the handle, and immerse it in water until it is cooked exactly like you like it. (Or not, my one try resulted in a mess.)
Egg cooker

In the morning our group does a walking tour of Aix-En-Provence, ending up near the Cours Mirabeau. We pass historic buildings and monuments, flower markets and flea markets. Afterwards we go our separate ways until lunch at a local cafe, Chez Laurette, near the town hall.  In different parts of the old town the pavement is marked with plaques or studs indicating Cezanne's footsteps.  A free map indicates 36 places in Aix-En-Provence associated with this famous artist.

Mount Sainte Victoire and snails
After lunch we re-group and take a bus to visit the L'Atelier De Cezanne where Cezanne set up his studio. The house and grounds are filled with tourists, and we have to wait to climb the stairs for a quick peek.  The top floor space is large, and is filled with Cezanne's personal effects, but it is dry and dusty.  There are a few spots of color in the pottery and a bowl of fruit set up as if it were going to be the subject of a painting. A slideshow of his work in one corner seems out of place.  We are asked not to take pictures. Then we take a bus to view Mount Sainte Victoire, often painted by Cezanne. The field from which we view the mountain seems to be filled with small white flowers - on closer observation I see that they are snails!

Dinner with the group in La Crep' Sautiere.

*We usually travel quite frugally, picking up snacks from local markets and very occasionally having a meal in a restaurant.  This trip gave me a new admiration for French cooking.

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