Published: April 28th 2011April 26th 2011
The thermal fountain ... also called the Moussue
Today I spent the day in Aix-en-Provence. This is actually one of the places that I was most looking forward to visit. The reason being that when I was 13 I had a pen pal called Florence and she was from Aix. I don’t know if back at that age, I ever had the notion that I would one day make it to Aix-en-Provence.
Aix is relatively close to Marseille needing only a 45 minute train ride to get there (and of course much faster if you hop on the TGV … but there’s a budget … so no TGV’s for these little jaunts!). The small Aix-en-Provence train station is located very close to the old part of Aix and the most interesting part of this town, by far.
My visit would start at the Cours Mirabeau which is a shaded boulevard lined with cafes and boutiques and is dotted with fountains along the way. The most interesting of all of these fountains is the Fontaine d’Eau Thermale which apparently spouts water at 34C. It is nicknamed the “Moussue” because it is essentially a big ball of moss. I dipped my hand in the fountain (I had to check
J'aime la Provence
of course!) and the water was relatively warm but not anything that I would have called “thermal”. Oh well …
This took me to the Place des Pêcheurs where a small, eclectic market was taking place. I struck up a conversation with one of the vendors (who of course noticed my accent!). He loved the Québec humour and movies and I on the other hand love the movies of France. So we had quite a lively conversation. I was also his first customer so that made it that I got a good deal on a couple of souvenirs. He knew a couple who lived in Ottawa … Ingrid something or other … and he asked me if I knew them. Mmmm probably not …
I kept wandering through the market being entertained by all of the different products. There was lavender, of course. There were soaps but the highlight was all of the different farmers and food products. I could not walk ten steps without having someone wave different samples my way. I tasted different tapenades, bread dipped in local olive oil and cheese. There was also a man who had cured sausages and he was quite chatty
and quite generous with his samples. I asked him if he made the sausages himself and his reply to that was something to the effect that he did not have time to kill the pig AND come and sell it at market. His uncle was the sausage maker and he was the seller in the family. I tasted cured sausages made of duck and “taureau”. It was definitely an overload for all of the senses. I did manage to grab a “fougasse” which is a traditional bread stuffed with something or other. Mine was stuffed with cheese and olives. Quite the hearty “petit déjeuner”.
I continued making my way through the narrow backstreets of Old Aix and simply being entertained by the small shops and cafes. One of the things that amused me to no end was the small buses that ran in the old part of Aix. Because the streets are narrow, a regular sized bus cannot fit through there so they have small buses that fit probably around 10 people and an even smaller one called “La Diabline” which seat probably four people.
I was tempted by the Amorino Gelato again. This was the same shop
that I had found in Paris and I just could not resist the temptation. This time … chocolate and mango … yum! I seem to be saying yum a lot on this trip! What can I say ... I love food.
This took me to the Mazarin district of Aix and I stopped in to the Musée Granet. I am not knowledgeable about art in any sense of the word and I am sure that some of it is just lost on me. At the same time, how often would I have the chance to be in the presence of original Cézanne’s and Picasso’s. And in the end, there is always some pieces that just outright stand out for me. So this time around I discovered Alberto Giacometti. I had never heard of him but his paintings and sculptures were interesting to me. One of the pieces that also caught my attention was Cézanne’s paint palette which was still heavily encrusted with paint. And of course, there was a whole section dedicated to François-Marius Granet whom the museum is named after. Many of his paintings were set in Rome of which I recognized many of the sites and which
I will be visiting again in a few weeks.
I continued walking through the small streets and eventually circled back to Cours Mirabeau and stopped in at a café for an early supper. I chose the Salade Sud Ouest. I saw “magret de canard” and did not really read any further. This beautiful salad was brought to me and it had the duck and some prosciutto and it looked like the best salad ever. A few bites in, the waiter rushes out with a small bowl and says “nous avons oublié les gésiers!!”. Gizzards … and when in France, gizzards it was. I’ve always said that travelling is not about the souvenirs or the photos that you bring back but it’s all about the experiences. Eating gizzards in a café in France is an experience pure and simple. I ate every single bite and it was delicious!
And that would take me to the time when I had to hop on the train back to Marseille. There was a woman across the aisle from me reading a newspaper and that is when I realized that I am completely out of touch with the outside world. I have turned
on the television a bit and watched the news channel but of course all of the news is focused on what is going on on this side of the world. The big news (and one that has captivated my attention … Nancy Grace would be all over this one!!) is the story of Xavier Dupont de Ligones who is currently a fugitive after killing his wife and his four adult children. It’s scandalous to no end. There was also the death of an actress who lived in Saint-Cyr-sur-Mer. The only reason that caught my attention was because of that woman Michelle who invited me to supper at her house lived in this little town. But yes apart from that … clueless. So if anything big happens … please someone email me!!
There are more photos below