Sunday, July 21, 2019

Four days in Provence - Aix - Meyrargues

Four days in Provence - Aix-en-Provence - Meyrargues

We traveled to the South of France and stayed in the city of Aix-en-Provence in the Centre Ville as our base of operations. Aix-en-Prce' as it appears abbreviated on roadsigns is thirty miles north of the coastal port city of Marseille, the largest city in the region of Provence, which is the state in the southeastern corner of France from the Rhone River east to Italy along the Mediterranean coast. 

We stayed in an Air-BNB apartment with three bedrooms and three baths, living room and kitchen with a wonderful patio overlooking the rooftops with the hills in the background. 

Our apartment was a block walk to the main expansive plaza street Cours Mirabeau that extends from the Fontaine de la Rotonde circular at the bottom to the anciant historic Fontaine Moussue midway, up to Fontaine Du Roi René in the square at the top. The street is filled with shops, merchants, banks, cafes, restaurants and the marketplace of merchants that set up daily until evening along both sides of the expansive street. 

There is much to explore in the city centre, within a short walking distance of our apartment, scores of restaurants bars, bistro’s, pizza parlours, and dozens of sidewalk cafes. 

Most of the eateries are authentic French but there are restaurants serving and catering to wide range of international and ethnic cuisines – Thai, Japanese, Lebanese, Korean, English pubs, Indian, Italian, Mexican and American. There are several ‘specialty’ restaurants with their own focus menu such as ‘Croique Jacque’ that specializes in duck, duck and duck in several variations. 

For Dejeuner (breakfast) there are dozens of Patisserie Boulangerie and cafes that serve the traditional Petit Dejeuner (little breakfast of croissant and coffee). 
Many restaurants open only for dinner, many open for lunch, close up for the afternoon and reopen for dinner. 

There are but a few ‘fine dining’ establishments one finds or expects in the big cities of Paris, London, New York or Chicago which avoids the car payment costly meals with expensive wine lists. 

Wine selections are moderate and modest with focus on Southern French regional wines from Cotes de Provence, Luburon, Languedoc, the Rhone River valley regions, and a handful of offerings from Bordeaux and the Borgogne. 

During the day, the main Cours Mirabeau street is filled with a festive market with scores of merchants setting up pop-up stands selling sportwear, jewelry, art, leather goods, nougats, cheeses and regional fashions. 

Street musicians play to the crowd at all hours and at prime time a small band played to the crowd as couples danced nearby.

A highlight of our visit was an evening with our ‘host’ family, Jean Claude and Mireille, parents of Phillip who was an exchange student that lived with us on two different tours. His residency and friendship with our son Alec contributed to Alec’s fluency in French. Visiting the region to see Phillip and meet his family was one of the reasons for our trip, together with our son and Viv, his fiancée, to the south of France. 

On Saturday evening we journeyed northeast of town to the Village of Meyrargues where we were treated to a traditional Provencal dinner – beef in mushrooms, garlic and a red wine reduction, simmered for two days resulting in a rich thick stew. This was served over polenta.

We dined in the garden in a delightful setting in the back yard below the picturesque Meyrargues Chateau castle up on the hill above the house.  

Before dinner we enjoyed a couple of preparations of tapenade, made from olives and olive oil pressed from the trees on the property. We then enjoyed pate' foie gras, both served with baguettes and an assortment of breads. These were served with a wide assortment of juices, waters and wines starting with Veuve Virey Champagne Brut Rose, then Veuve Virey Champagne Brut.

Our dinner course was accompanied by a selection of wines from Jean Claude's personal wine cellar - Gevry-Chambertin Vieilles Vignes Bourgogne (Red Burgundy) followed by a 2007 Domaine de la Maurelle Gigondas Southern Rhone, leading to a Bordeaux, Bernard Magrez, Chateau Perenne Cote de Blaye Cru Borgeois 2004

Bernard Coillot Gevry-Chambertin Vieilles Vignes Bourgogne

Following the main course was the salad course – the freshest greens imaginable served in simple olive oil, with or without garlic.  This was accompanied by a Provencal Coteaux du Provence Rose, the traditional and signature wine of the Luberon. 

Bernard Magrez Chateau Perenne Cote de Blaye Cru Borgeois 2006

Domaine de la Maurelle Gigondas 2007 

Turning to the cheese course, we were served a selection of six French cheeses – Roquefort, a creamy Camembert, Goat Cheese, a cow’s milk cheese, an Ementhaler and a Brie. All were delicious and each was presented with a tutorial on its history, geography and preparation. 

The cheese course was accompanied by one’s choice of the selection of wines and of course champagnes. 

The final course included a selection of no less than six flavors of Artisan Glacier en Provence - ice cream – Sorbet Citron with Basil, Coconut with Chocolate, Melon, Lavender with Honey, Peach sorbet, one with a touch of chocolate, and one with herbs de Provence.

The lavender and honey was an incredibly unique signature offering from the Luberon - a fascinating experience – a cross between a culinary sensual overload 
and perfume! 

Check out for more postings on following days in St Tropez and Chateauneuf-du-Pape, and our follow on trip to Bordeaux.