The final leg of our journey took us down to Aix en Provence, where we rented a very comfortable two bedroom apartment, within easy walking distance of all the sights. We had been fortunate with unseasonably warm weather in the Loire Valley, and looked forward to soaking up the spring sunshine in Aix before returning to the chilly climate of Canada in a few days time.
The first order of business was having a stroll along the Cours Mirabeau, the wide thoroughfare bordered by plane trees that runs through the centre of town. Lined with cafes, brasseries and shops, it’s a lively scene. Chris and Paul had been to Aix before, and Glenn had spent almost a year there in his misspent youth; they provided excellent guidance. By then it was late afternoon, and we soon found ourselves sitting in one of the brasseries for a glass of wine and some excellent oysters to tide us over until our evening meal.
Aix is famous for its markets, so the following day saw us back at the Cours Mirabeau, which is the site of the textile market. Having four granddaughters, I was an eager consumer of the smocked dresses, which were crafted in a more modern, comfortable version of the traditional style. They were well made and reasonably priced, so I picked up four coordinating dresses in navy and white. I’m happy to report the little girls got a great deal of wear out of them and looked adorable.
Satisfied with that purchase, we made our way over to the food stalls. Such abundance! Flowers, spices, produce, fish and meats. Spectacular!
The following day we visited the Palais des Papes in Avignon. This massive fortress was the seat of six popes during the 14th century, but fell into disrepair when the papacy returned to Rome. It’s not an inviting edifice, but it leaves one with a real sense of the tremendous organizational machine that operates behind the scenes of the Holy See.
On our way back from Avignon, we visited the Pont de Gard. This spectacular display of Roman engineering is part of the ancient Roman Aqueduct of Nîmes which runs for almost 50 km. It is incredible that this structure was built without any modern tools or equipment and still stands today. Keep this in mind next time your contractor complains about how complicated and difficult it is to repair something…
Our final day trip was to Cassis, an ancient fishing port just east of Marseille. It was a glorious, warm day and we basked in the sunshine as we strolled along the harbour before settling in for lunch at one of the dockside restaurants. I was ecstatic to find linguine with clams on the menu – Manilla clams – the best kind for that dish!!
The following day we took the TGV from Aix en Provence back to Paris for our final night before flying home. Friends from Canada met us for dinner that evening. They were just beginning their vacation and we had a lively evening catching up with them, priming them with recommendations, reminiscing about our marvellous time in France, and eagerly planning our return.
Au revoir! See you again soon.