Friday, September 29, 2017

Aix marks the spot

I left the lovely Avignon for the absolutely-charming Aix-en-Provence. I ended up taking the TGV train there, which was amazing. I had to take a brief train from the Avignon station to the Avignon TGV station, which was 10 minutes outside of town.

 At the station, I ran into a fellow from the Avignon hostel named Daniel. Daniel was from jolly ol' but had lived in Oz and all over. He was busking around Europe with a guitar and amp. We chatted about various spots, and I think I convinced him to head south to Morocco. The TGV train came and we flew from Avignon to Aix in just 20 minutes, it was a veritable bullet.  It depresses me so much that we have nothing comparable in the US, and that we are falling so far behind in infrastructure. This is what happens when you squander billions (trillions) on foreign military adventures while never investing in infrastructure at home....but I digress....anyway, we whizzed to the Aix TGV station, and Daniel and I caught a bus into the Aix city centre, which took as long as my trip from Avignon.

Daniel was a bit under-the-weather and staying outside of town, so we parted company and I trudged my way through the main Aix thoroughfare, the lovely tree-lined Cours Mirabeau and into the old quarter of the city. 

There were not any hostels in town so I rented a little studio on AirBNB.  I grabbed the keys where they had been left at a pizza shop and headed to the little flat.  It was in a great location, just off the city hall square.  I settled in and did some bucket laundry--hanging my clothes to dry out the window in the afternoon sun. 

After a light lunch, I wandered about the charming Viel Aix (old Aix) with its narrow passage ways, and back down the Cours Mirabeau with its tree-lined boulevard adorned in autumn foliage and bubbling fountains in the center.  Aix is just charming beyond compare, and I took it in over coffee in the square and Amorino gelato. As the gelato-artisan decorated my pistrachio-chocolate-cafe gelato rose of an ice cream cone, I told her about how I once biked 25km from Tours to Amboise just for Amorino.  She declared I was quite the gourmandise.  

I spent the afternoon taking in the lovely alleyways, little bubbling fountains and charming squares filled with farmers' markets.  Aix is just lovely.

For dinner, I decided to treat myself to some Provencal cuisine at a nice restaurant called Jacquou Le Croquant.  Having been called a gourmand earlier in the day, I went for the gourmand menu, a three-course tour-de-force.  The appetizer was a delicious salad with thin sliced smoked duck, curried chicken, legumes and prunes.  That deliciousness was followed by grilled aigulletes de canard (duck filet) in a prune sauce with all sorts of provincial sides.  The piece-de-resistance was the dessert, which was a chocolate fondant.  The waitress said it is was between a mousse and a cake.  It was between the 6th and 7th layer of heaven.  It was a soft but firm hunk of perfect chocolate with some chantilly cream and vanilla sauce on the side.  In total, the meal plus a glass of wine came to 30 euros (about $36).  Not bad and well worth the price.

The following day, I woke up early and wandered a bit through the quiet streets.  I made my way down to Cours Mirabeau towards the Musee Granet but I arrived a little too early for its autumn hours.  I returned after lunch to the excellent museum with some stellar Cezannes (he was a local to Aix) and other fine works. 

More importantly, there was a second wing of the Musee Granet in an old chapel that was housing the Planque collection.  Named for Jaque Planque, who was a very important art dealer in the 20th century, the exhibit showed his collection and detailed his relationship with the likes of Picasso among others.  His collection was exquisite.  All sorts of wonderful Picassos (they had been friends) and other legends of modern art.  The collection was stellar and the stories about his collecting were quite interesting.  In addition, he was quite a talented painter and I was impressed with some of his works.  It was one of the best, most-interesting exhibits I have seen in a long while.  My grandparents would have truly loved it.

I had a quiet night back at the studio, cooking dinner and watching movies. 

I definitely could have stayed longer in Aix, it was charming beyond compare.  C'est la vie, so it goes for my life on the road.

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