For Easter weekend and because even the most resilient eskimo needs some sunshine and warmth, we headed South for the long weekend with one objective: R&R in the sunshine. The minute we got off the TGV in Aix-en-Provence, we knew we had made the right decision. A beautiful 17C wind flirted with our skin and the warm feel of the sunshine tickled us happy. We were very lucky with the weather the first two days. Clear blue skies and fluffy white clouds. Although the temperatures did drop to 7C at night, it was still warmer and definitely more pleasant than Paris’ still-chilly temps.
I dont know about you but I had heard a lot about Aix-en-Provence and I mean A LOT. I expected a charming, quaint, posh sleepy town that is full of locals and boutique-everything’s… shops, hotels, restaurants. The experience was quite the opposite. It is a rather big city, quite commercialized and (it hurts me to say it but) quite ugly in some parts. A bit too modernized and really full of non-posh people, lots of immigrant communities and a shocking level of poverty as witnessed on the streets. We were shocked to find that the number one rated restaurant on Trip Advisor was a sushi restaurant…really? Sushi? There was a diverse array of restaurants from all walks of the world…Japanese, Persian, Indian, Lebanese…you name it.. but very few quintessentially superb Provençal restaurants. Being major food lovers and appreciators of a fine meal, we were disappointed on this front. We ate in the No. 2 ranked restaurant “La Cerise Sur le Gateau” on our 2nd night. It’s a “bio” or organic restaurant that seats only 14 people with just one big-bellied jovial man running the whole show. It feels like eating in someone’s kitchen. The atmosphere was utterly charming, the food great but not exceptional. If you are ever in Aix however dont miss it, this is one of the few genuine meals you can have.
Now dont get me wrong. I may have been a tad disappointed because my expectations were super high but I had a wonderful time nontheless. I also managed to capture all the charm and whimsy of this place in photographs so you can experience it like I imagined it. Untainted, untouched and old. I fell in love with the scattered Italian-style fountains, the ochre yellow buildings, the Tuscan style cypress trees and the Aixian’s unique French accents. They will not pronounce “provence” with the typical “-aunce” ending for example; but rather with an “ance” ending… very funny and extremely charming. The Aixians are kind, genuine people and one of our favorite experiences there was the Sunday morning market. We bought fresh fruit, herbs and sun-dried tomatoes and tasted some of the best strawberries we had ever had in our lives at a small fruit vendor in downtown Aix. The breed is called ciflorettes. If you ever get a chance to try them, dont think twice.. they are pale in color, almost verging on pinkish white but so so filled with flavour and intensely sweet.
Given we had two days left to our weekend and given we had already seen of Aix what we could, we rented a car on a whim and headed off to a new adventure after the Sunday market… more on that in my next post. Stay tuned ( ;