Tuesday, November 15, 2005

A&G Off to France--Day Eleven

(Author's note: This entry is the eleventh of two weeks of daily entries about our trip to Provence. And this entry is written by Amy, and you will soon learn why.)

26 October 2005

We wake up and poor George is not feeling well (which is why I'm writing today's entry). I'm not feeling great either so we opt to skip petite dejeuner and start our trek to Aix en Provence. This is the longest single drive of our trip so we decide on the most expedient route which is the A8, our first big trip on the "auto route." I drive and George sleeps, er, navigates. The auto route isn't much different than any freeway that I've driven on (except that it isn't free, it is quite chere...but they do take credit cards!). The only difference is that they have large signs warning you of weather and road conditions in French, so we never quite know exactly what they are trying to tell us. One such sign I swear warned us of men diligently working ahead... but when we reached them, they were lunching. I wonder if the sign was updated in the mean time? The speed limit is 130kph, 110kph in rain... since the weather was nice, we got to drive legally at 80mph! nice.

As we near our destination, a lovely mountain range come into view, Montaign Ste-Victoire.

It is a mountain range that Cezanne was quite fond of, and you can see why. I'm not sure our picture does it justice. Also along the way, there is a massive basilica in St-Maximin-la-Ste-Baume that boasts of relics of St Mary Magdalene. When we see it off the A8, we must go. So we exit the A8 and head towards St-Maximin. When we get into town, it is market day, and we miss the turn and somehow lose site of the basilica. I know, I know, I said it was massive (it was!) which is why it is noteworthy that we lost site of it. It was probably for the best as George didn't look like he could really make a walk through a basilica anyway. [George note: Although I had hoped that the healing powers of seeing Mary Magdalene's skull might have cured me.] So we head on to Aix on the N7.

As we pull into Aix, we try our normal strategy of driving in the direction of centre ville and the information de tourism...but then the signs stop directing us to our destination and I swear we just about make it all the way around Aix when we spot an unofficial "centre ville" sign that takes us through a parking lot alley, and dumps us on a road that ends up running into the street our hotel is on. We park and find Hotel Saint Christophe hoping that we can check in and get George to bed. Our room is odd (the bed is in a loft up a rather steep staircase), but it has a great view of St. Victoire. George settles in to sleep and tells me to not let him stop me... but I'm not sure what to do. George is the tour guide! He's also the journal writer and food critic.

I try to figure out the highlights of Aix, and head out with a map the hotel left in our room and a guide book. I walk down the Cours Mirabeau, which is that main street billed as "one of the grandest, most beautiful avenues ever built." It is tree lined, but the trees have recently been trimmed so it wasn't at its most beautiful. I walk through winding streets to find the Hotel de Ville, and then on to the Cathedrale St-Sauveur.

It is a lovely cathedral, but it is missing two of the three things pointed out in the guide book. The doors are suppose to be sculpted walnut from 1504, but they are covered up. There is supposed to be a triptych of "The burning bush" but is also missing. I do, however, get to see the large pipe organ.

Leaving the church, I read that the Atelier Paul Cezanne was just a short walk from where I was. I decided to check it out. I was also a bit curious because I believe Paul Cezanne was one of the great men's sperm that is stolen in Roald Dahl's "My Uncle Oswald." Anyway, as it turns out, Cezanne's studio is up hill! So I get my up hill walking in for the day after all. The Atelier turns out to be a bit strange. You pay to see his studio which is basically a room with old bottles and stuff... however, there are vases and other objects that have been in his paintings. The urn that was in the Cezanne print in our hotel room was on a shelf in the studio. I guess there is something to be said for being in the studio of a great artist.

I head back to the hotel to see how George is doing. By evening, he is feeling better and he agrees to go to dinner with me. We eat at Le Bistro Latin. George barely eats which doesn't make our waiter happy, but I'm just happy not to be dining alone. The food is good but not great [George note: but much cheaper than the places we have been eating--at least I'm not wasting an expensive meal] and we order a half bottle of Domaine de Val D'Aran Bandol Rose to go with our fish.

We go back to the room and turn the TV on to see The Lady Eve on TV with French subtitles. We decide that screwball comedies don't translate very well with 40's slang like "positively the same dame."


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