Tuesday, November 15, 2005

A&G Off to France--Day Twelve

(Author's note: This entry is the twelfth of two weeks of daily entries about our trip to Provence.)

27 October 2005

I awake feeling better if not best, but I'll be damned if I'm going to miss two days of vacation. I still am uncertain enough I decide we shouldn't venture to Marseille, what we originally planned to do this day, as we mostly wanted to go to have the real true bouillabaisse, and that seems like too much of a feast for my just finding normalcy stomach. I even pass on coffee this morning. French coffee. So maybe I still am not feeling so well.

Although pretty much any ailment short of the black death (which I really shouldn't joke about given Provence's history but) could be cured by a visit to Bechard, a patisserie/chocolaterie that's been in business for 100 years. Everything looks delectable and here looks aren't deceiving (we will return for sandwiches for lunch and tomorrow's breakfast, too). If it could fit in our suitcase, we would have brought Bechard home with us, way before any French children and even the A180. Anybody can have the love of a devoted youth or a cool car, but few can have the world's best almond croissant and chocolate eclair.

Amy then opts to live Groundhog Day and takes me through the old town on the walk she did the day before (but we pass on Cezanne's atelier, since there are no Cezannes there). Aix is full of markets this Thursday: an everything-on-sale flea market along the Cours Mirabeau (some women buy their fine lingerie on the street, which just seems to be asking for trouble); a seafood market including sea urchins:

A vegetable market including flowers:

A flower market for those who didn't buy theirs with their vegetables:

And a mushroom market, because this is Provence (plus the Log Lady from Twin Peaks might stop by):

None of these markets were running when Amy did her solo walk, so at least it's not a complete repeat of the day before for her, plus the roads are so pell-mell that you never quite take the same route to anywhere in Aix even if you hope to do so. She also gets another special treat as a tour is examining the carved doors of Cathedrale St.-Sauveur and we both get to see this:

A far sight better than anything I could make in shop. Inside the church, I take many of the same pictures she took the day before, so it is true that after 8 years of marriage you start seeing things the same way.

After lunch of our Bechard sandwiches we decide we should take another shot at the basilica Ste-Marie-Magdalene (that's Mary Magdalene for those of you who don't read French) in St-Maximin-la-Ste-Baume (whoever named stuff in France must have gotten paid by the hyphen). On the way we look for and find (!) Chateau Simone, not only one of the best wine producers in the region but also named after a cat I had for 16 years (or at least she would have liked to think so). We consider tasting, but it seems so calm--that is, non-touristy--that we just poke around and are leaving when someone pops out of the office. Still, a wine from the region called Palette has to be cool, because it reminds me of one of my favorite character actors, Eugene Pallette, who just happens to be in the movie from the night before The Lady Eve. We continue heading out on the N7, the impressive Mount St-Victory to our left, and my lap, as it did for much of the trip, looking like this, although it's only a trick of the photograph that is seems we left an iron on the map. There are no irons in France, and 100% cotton me was often wrinkled, not to mention my clothes.

We also find the basilica in St-Maximin, as there's no market in town this day to block the streets. It's hard to miss as it's one of those fantastic soaring Gothic cathedrals that seem both impossibly grounded and about to leave the earth, perhaps pulled away by the menacing gargoyles that always seem a bit too scary for a house of God, but what do I know, I left the church.

It's incredible inside, full of that fervid religious art that makes commitment to a higher power and the need to be committed blur. It's also got an amazing pipe organ we wish we could hear (or sneak up and play with, not that we'd know how). Of course the kicker is the chance to go to the crypt and see the crypt master, or mistress, as the case may be, for legend has it that skull in the bronze gilt reliquary staring back at you is Mary Magdalene's. It is pleasantly spooky, whoever she is.

We walk about the town a bit, just to balance the secular with the religious. Not much is happening, except for this belltower that looks like a science fair project solar system model gone haywire:

In the evening, having chosen not to go bouillabaissing--it sounds so involved, what with the soup first and the massive platter of fish second and the croutons and rouille all along the way, that it deserves its own verb--we wander about reading menus, or at least the parts we can translate, trying to figure out where to eat. We settle on the peculiarly named Juste en Face, which attests to the Northern African influence in France that you might have heard a thing or two about in the news of late. Instead of rioting, the menu offers a tasty mezze first course and then meals cooked in tajines, including Amy's lamb and my monkfish. We sit outside in an area full of other outdoor restaurants, and as the whacky Google translation function attempts to describe, "the in love ones will appreciate this place." We did, along with the a bit young and therefore more rash than bold 2004 Marquis d'Fonsequille Vacqueyras we drank.

And for one last picture a bit out of sequence, Amy mentioned we had a room with a view, and we did, and it went a little bit like this:


Post a Comment

<< Home

eXTReMe Tracker