Friday, July 8, 2011

France, part three: Provence!

This is the last installment of my photos from France.

Anna and I spent five days exploring Provence.  We stayed in the beautiful city of Aix-en-Provence, in the heart of the old part of the city.  The narrow street and stone houses were beautiful.  We enjoyed walking the winding alleys, finding surprises around each bend.

Aix is a city of fountains.  There were dozens in the streets we walked, sometimes in a corner, but more frequently where two or more streets intersected.  The main street, the Cours Mirabeau, has a large one at the top of the street.  This one, the quatre dauphins, was my favorite.

Flowers were in bloom everywhere- we saw a lot of this pink oleander.

One of the evenings we were there, we were fortunate to enjoy a free public concert, inaugurating the upcoming opera festival in town.  The London Symphony Orchestra and soloists performed highlights from the opera La Traviata.  Earlier in the evening we scoped out the venue at the top of the Cours Mirabeau.  The seats were available by prior arrangement (which we hadn't made).

And here is what it looked like just as the concert was starting.  The area was packed and the audience listened with rapt attention.

One morning we stumbled on this market.  So colorful!  Anna bought us strawberries and cherries for our picnic lunch that day.

We spent a full day driving down along the coast of the impossibly blue Mediterranean sea.  This cliff is along the coast near the small resort town of Cassis.

Along the wharf in Cassis.

In Cassis, we went on a chartered boat tour of the calenques or creek inlets, fragile, beautiful areas.  Here is Anna aboard the boat.

On our way back to Aix, we drove along the Route des Cretes, which scales the cliff to the east of Cassis and affords wonderful views from above of the town and sea.

Another full day we spent exploring two ancient ruins.  The first was at Les Baux de Provence.  This medieval settlement, built on a promontory of les Alpilles mountains, was originally constructed to defend the area from invaders.  The village is quite charming and the fort settlement very interesting to explore.

Provence is famous for growing many beautiful things- olive groves, sunflowers, and of course lavender.  It grows everywhere, and on a windy day like we had as the mistral wind gusted, the scent is unmistakeable.

Set against blinding white gravel paths, the purple flowers are stunning.

In Les Baux, they even pave the streets with it.

Just north of Les Baux, near the outskirts of the town of St. Remy is the excavated Roman settlement Glanum.  Our visit was a bit of an afterthought, but I had a feeling that it might be interesting.  We ended up spending two hours exploring the site.

Amidst the remaining stone walls were remnants of capitals, culverts, sculpture, baths and cisterns.

And so I bid adieux with a glass of my favorite afternoon refreshment while we were in Provence, pastis, or liquid Good-n-Plenty as my brother-in-law calls it.

One warm afternoon in Aix we even had the pleasure of enjoying our cool drinks (pastis for me, iced chai latte for Anna) at a cafe with some live jazz.

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