Wednesday, February 06, 2013

Lovely Aix-en-Provence

Keenan and I have been back from Malaysia and Hong Kong for less than one month yet our holiday felt like ages ago. It's been busy at work  and I have been traveling every week for work, first to Luxembourg, which I won't even bother writing about as I was in meetings for the entire day but the fresh blanket of snow made the city quite picturesque. Then it was on to Warsaw, Poland, where I spent two nights at the Mercure Grand. Again I was jumping between meetings at the Norman Foster-designed Metropolitan Building and it was far too cold (-10C!) to explore the city. I'll be returning at least twice more in the late spring and summer so I'll write about Warsaw then. 

Keenan's work trips usually takes him to more interesting locales than my work trips although he would disagree... sometimes. Last Friday, he had business in Marseille and as I have always wanted to go to Aix-en-Provence (known as Aix  as in the letter "X"), we decided to make it a quick weekend trip to Aix, a classically Provencal town, and home to some famous writers and artists including Van Gogh and Cezanne. Aix, located just 30 minutes, from the gritty port town of Marseille, Aix is rich in architecture, history, and literature thanks to its famous universities. The centre of town is compact with a narrow pedestrian streets flanked by adorable little cafes, restaurants, and water fountains -- lots of water fountains. Of course, the granddaddy of all fountains in Aix is Cours Mirabeau right on the main drag of Aix. 


We didn't have an agenda in Aix other catching up on sleep and enjoy some local Provencale cuisine. As Friday was technically a 'working' day, we spent the afternoon responding to emails out of our stylish flat that we found on AirBnB well until dinner time. The flat owner had such an eye for detail from the layout of the kitchen to the bathroom and the decor on the walls; it was so comfortable that it was hard to leave. Our time in Aix went something like this for the next 48 hours:

Eat. Sleep. Repeat. 

Recommended by our taxi driver, she directed us to a local restaurant called Cote Coeur, an Italian-French inspired restaurant tucked away from Coeur Mirableu. Most restaurants on the main drag are quite touristy, but not Cote Coeur -- the restaurant was packed with local people, which we took as a good sign.  It was a pleasant place to relax after a long work week; the wait staff was attentive and the host was friendly and Irish-born Chef Ronan Kernen had served up some inventive dishes at this tres chic restaurant. We both ordered a beef dish -- beef fillet for me and beef with foie gras cannelloni accompanied by  a side salad and a strong bottle of local red from the St. Tropez area. Perfectly enjoyable evening.

We slept in on Saturday and crawled out of bed in time for a late lunch at Chez Charlotte, a small homey family-run restaurant on Rue des Bernandines. The menu was limited, offering only two choices for appetizer, mains, and desserts but solid. It was like eating at your aunt's house. We ordered the steak tartare and roast lamb, half a carafe of the house red, and apple crumble for dessert. Yummers. 

One of the best thing of coming to France in January is all the sales ('soldes') which makes a trip to Paris, or elsewhere in France, is worth the trip itself. Oui Oui! Two hours of window shopping later, a new pair of tall black leather boots came home with me, just in time for some snow flurries here in London. We then spent the rest of the  afternoon exploring the narrow streets, soaking up the sun, and indulging on some decadent French pastries. Later, it was on to dinner at Le Passage, a trendy 'Buddha Bar-inspired' restaurant, serving all the French classics with a modern twist. 

We spent Sunday having a leisurely brunch at a local brasserie and bar for some croque madame and frities whilst swooning over an adorable puppy English bull dog. Brunch then turned into dunch, and soon enough we were well on our way to the airport, just in time to watch Keenan's beloved San Francisco 49ers in the Superbowl. Enough said...Keenan is still drowning himself in sorrow, after all 'I waited 19 years for the 49ers to get to the Super Bowl.' Let just say Monday was a painfully (and emotionally) long day at work. 

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