My Trip to France – Art, Food, Wine, Beauty

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Long, long pending posts about my France & Italy trip in March 2010. It was so amazing that I wrote this one How to Make the Most of Your Travel Experience just to share my views on traveling! With some 1200 photos, umpteen curios, plenty of cheese and wine and some fantastic people, this turned out to be one of the best trips to Europe that I have ever had. My posts are going to be less about documenting every place we visited and more about the enjoyable moments. Is this for myself or readers? Both, I think!

Aix-en-Provence

Starting with the South of France, where our friends, Tanvi & Julien played gracious hosts to perfection, & their little son, Rohan, was the sweetest face to see every morning with that bright, beaming smile. The town of Aix-en-Provence is picture perfect (as is everything else in the region). Originally called Aquas Sextias & in existence since 122 BC, it has a lovely main street with a large fountain, Cours Mirabeau. We stayed at the Mazarin Quarter which had everything from a cinema hall to proximity to the markets. There’s a lot of emphasis on dressing well, as evidenced by people even taking their dogs for a walk. The clothes, scarves, hats, shoes are all in harmony and the sneakers & rough-it-out pants look makes you really stand out.

Mazarin Cinema Aix-en-provenceThe Market, Aix-en-provenceApart from wandering around the Aix markets (& loving every minute of it!), the highlights of the trip were the visit to Cezanne’s studio & the climb up St Victoire. Cezanne was born in Aix and worked here & the roads are marked with a seal around all the places where he lived/ studied/ worked. His studio (Atelier Cezanne) is a huge room with windows from floor to ceiling, where his clothes & his art tools are still preserved. No photography allowed inside. I just loved seeing that room with large easels and the old furniture. A master artist’s place of work. Climbing the St Victoire, that appears so often in Cezanne’s work added to the charm of Provence. On the way down, we stopped at a cafe where I got locked inside the loo for almost 15 minutes until Louella (my travel partner) came looking for me!  It was not a particularly new occurrence as the waiter opened it very matter-of-factly with a knife and waltzed off.

France is all about wine and cheese and desserts and we had our fill of everything. Multi-course meals with different wines for each course, cheese platters… aah my mouth waters just thinking about it. The sensuousness of Europe is enhanced by the food & drink, such an integral part of the experience. I know the tendency (given our supremely jaw-socking exchange rate) is to eat budget food, & that’s what I have done before myself, but eating more like the locals gave an entirely different perspective to the place. The lunch at Julien’s parents place in particular was lovely,  but more than that the architecture and decor of the home was even more beautiful.

Arles, Marseille, Cassis

We also used Aix as a base and visited nearby towns & villages. We visited Arles, Marseilles and Cassis from here as day trips. Arles is a village famous for it’s Roman Amphitheatre dating back to the 1st century BC. It looks like time stood still here, with it’s quaint square & intricate doorways. It’s charming to walk through and lined with little shops that you feel like stopping at.  Marseilles was very different, the port town, hub of the region and full of life. The walk to the BBoats at CassisasilCalanques at Cassisica of the Notre Dame on top of the hill took us through many of the little streets & houses, a throw-back to scenes from movies made in the 40s & 50s. The port itself is very busy & full of large boats. By this time we were also getting used to the fact that salt doesn’t find it’s way into the food much. Sitting in a cafe watching the world go by was one of our favourite activities. Cassis, which we would not have gone to, had it not been for Julien’s recommendation, was beautiful. The quintessential rich coastal town with mansions overlooking the ocean, majestic boats and fast cars. It’s known for the Calanques – limestone cliffs in stark contrast to the aqua blue waters. They were created around 12,000 years ago & actually surrounding valleys, but the ocean levels rose after the ice age. Going to Cassis & doing the walk up the Calanques is highly recommended. It provides spectacular views of the coastline.

Nice & Eze

After spending a week in Aix & around, we said goodbye to T, J & R and moved to Nice. Since we were visiting in March, it happened to rain on the days that we were there, so we go to see a different side of it. It’s sunny 300 days of the year, we were told… I guess just not when we were there. Nice has lots to see & many parts of it look just like they are out of a movie set, which isn’t surprising given how perfectly co-ordinated everything is. Place Massena, the large square is the hub of plenty of activity including live performances on the street. We saw one by Native Americans & even bought their CDs. The antiques market in Cours Saleya was the most memorable part of the Nice, with curios, art, prints, clothes, furniture. I bought an Art Deco cup & saucer & a few other pieces here, browsing was just as much fun. Nice in the old quarter is full of tiny cobbled streets & old style lanterns but also houses pubs and restaurants, most of which have an open air section. Lou managed to get locked in the loo (ironic, eh?) this time round! We had some delicious salad with goat cheese & also the local specialty

From Nice, we also went to Eze, a charming medieval village through which you can spend atleast half a day walking around. It was covered in mist & we felt like we were in a fairytale. The old structures are intact and homes and shops are all there, housed in stone covered walls. From the Jardin Exotique (Exotic Garden), you can see Nice & the Cote D’Azur (The Azure Coast) – there is nothing like it! If there was one place that left it’s mark on us, it was Eze. Dreamland personified (Not the Inception kind).

EzeFrom Nice we flew to Rome, which will be the subject of another post, with much drama at the Nice airport when we almost missed our flight because we were sitting the wrong section. We would have in fact missed it were it not delayed by 40 minutes, a fact we learnt only after much panic stricken running through Nice airport.

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  1. More pictures please:) Love the shot of Calanques.

    You girls really had a thing about loos, huh? Or perhaps it was just France. I remember an automated loo in Paris that gave me nightmares. The door opened every 15 seconds. Definitely a reversal of your experience:))

      • Namrata B
      • August 8th, 2010

      Haha. Well we definitely didn’t have the same experience! 15 seconds is a bit soon isn’t it?!

  2. French wine is really delicious.

    • Namrata B
    • August 9th, 2010

    oh, absolutely! i want to go back already!

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