November 27, 2017

Calisson d’Aix a Sweet Almond Candy for a Queen of Provence

Calisson d’Aix a Sweet Almond Candy for a Queen of Provence

Calisson is a specialty candy from Aix en Provence made with almonds. There are several versions of the story surrounding how, and when this sweet treat was first made. The French are certain the invention was theirs. It may have been as early as 1473 in honour of the King, Roi René’s second wedding, or later on as production, trade and development expanded. The first story involves a bride who was to be queen. She appeared dour, possibly unhappy with her lot in life. The tale whether true, or not, is that she smiled when she tasted candies. (more…)

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October 16, 2017

Pablo Picasso at Rest near Aix-en-Provence

Pablo Picasso at Rest near Aix-en-Provence

Château de Vauvenargues is located in the village by the same name, a few kilometers from Aix-en-Provence. This castle has a lengthy history.  The present structure was built on the site of a former Roman settlement. Over the centuries, Provencal counts and then the Archbishops of Aix occupied the castle. Clearly, it pays to be the doctor of a king; in 1474 Roi René gifted the Château to his physician Pierre Robin d’Angers. (more…)

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October 2, 2017

Learn about Casanova and the Jardins d’Albertas of Bouc-Bel-Air in Provence

Learn about Casanova and the Jardins d’Albertas of Bouc-Bel-Air in Provence

Whether fiction or not, Nutmeg thinks it is appropriate that Casanova the infamous Venetian writer, gambler and reputed womanizer is weaved into the history of les Jardins d’Albertas. This garden, owned by the Albertas family, is located just a few minutes outside of Aix-en-Provence in the town of Bouc-Bel-Air, where the ancient village was built on a bouc (small hill). The roots of the Albertas family stretch from Alba, Italy to Aix-en-Provence, where their influence on the Provençal city is notable. Henri and his son Jean-Baptiste d’Albertas, both held the high-ranking title of Président de la Cour des Comptes (Court of Auditors). One of the most recognizable and photogenic squares in Aix is Place d’Albertas.  This sunny plaza carved out of the narrow winding streets of the old town resembles a small Italian piazza. Henri felt that the exterior of his home and his “view” were not distinguished enough. He commissioned a local architect to renew the façade of his house and establish a vision for the future square. The work done in 1745 included the demolition of buildings across from his house in order to create the plaza. The fountain was only installed in 1912. It was Henri’s father Marc Antoine, who through marriage had acquired a plot of land outside of Aix-en-Provence in 1673, now known as the Jardins d’Albertas. The land had previously been envisioned as a garden although it was Jean-Baptiste who developed plans for the classical Franco-Italian garden. The drawings from 1751 include a chateau that was never built. Jean-Baptiste was assassinated in 1790, on the eve of the French Revolution, and never witnessed his vision completed. The garden was neglected for many years; it was not until 1949 that Jean d’Albertas began restoration work. Towering plane trees provide a leafy parasol for the driveway and garden’s entrance. Visual dimension is created within the rectangular plot by multiple terraces. Symmetrical water basins and statues form a highly appealing result. It is almost surreal on a blistering Provencal day to believe that there are natural spring sources feeding the water features. In reality, it is clever engineering creating the supply of water to decorative ponds and fountains, as well as liquid nutrition for the plants. The official entry to the Jardins d’Albertas is through an imposing metal gate, which is adorned with the Albertas’ family crest. On the right, just after the gateway is la salle de fraicheur designed as an imitation grotto. You need to allow your eyes adjust to the dim light and let shoddy first impressions go, the spider webs certainly do not help. Spend a few moments and you begin to recognize remnants of seashells that would have at one time decorated the entire ceiling. Empty alcoves remain, begging their statues of the seven planets to return. The Grand Canal is a large rectangular basin establishing the horizontal width of the garden. A statue of Neptune contemplates his fluid mirror, which reflects his botanical surroundings. This pond with its concrete border physically defines the boundary of the garden and symbolically represents a private river. A grass lawn leads to the next water feature, le Bassin des 17 jets, or so it was named on the 1751 plans. Here, eight tritons blow water jets from their horns, and the back wall of this fountain creates the physical edge of the first level. The fountain appears to be almost announcing the heavyweight of testosterone emotion just behind it. Four male statues stand ready for military action at the edge of this second level. Hercules, David, Mars and the gladiator Borghèse are a powerful stone representation of mythical heroes.   It is only in the final section where the garden has a slight feminine touch with two sphinx statuettes bearing the Albertas’ family crest.   The garden is easily covered in an hour although you may want to linger in some of the shady sections and contemplate what it may have looked like had the original vision been achieved. The unfinished garden might be a little like the Casanova love story. The famous man is said to have stayed in Bouc-Bel-Air in 1769, but did not realize that Marie-Anne d’Albertas was his previous lover. They never met again. Download and Travel with us This article is now available as a mobile app. Go to GPSmyCity to download the app for GPS-assisted travel directions to the attractions featured in this article.

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June 8, 2015

Top Reasons to Explore Sete

Top Reasons to Explore Sete

Recently, Nutmeg introduced her friend Nancy McGee the founder and visionary behind Absolutely Southern France. You can read the full article here. Nancy moved to Sète, the ‘Venice of Southern France’ after 20-years in Aix-en-Provence. Here, is how Nancy describes the two areas: (more…)

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April 20, 2015

Discover Absolutely Southern France

Discover Absolutely Southern France

Nancy McGee installed herself in France some 30-odd years ago. A Canadian by birth she speaks both official languages (French and English) thanks to her French-Canadian mother. Nancy says that growing up in Baie Comeau, Quebec for those who do not know the geography is “ Basically not very far from the North Pole.” (more…)

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January 7, 2013

Marseille Provence 2013 European Cultural Capital

Marseille Provence 2013 European Cultural Capital

August 2012 was scorching in Provence; late summer on the Mediterranean coast meant daytime temperatures of 35C. Summer crowds sweltered in the breathless, port of Marseille as they waited in queues for ferries to the nearby L’archipel du Frioul. The normally beautiful city skyline was filled with busy construction cranes. Drivers and pedestrians were equally frustrated with each other, as they crawled through gridlock, a maze of diversions, temporary hoarding and restricted views. Nutmeg had booked a few nights in the port city. Ginger was speechless. (more…)

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May 30, 2012

Aix en Provence Travel App Edible Heritage

Aix en Provence Travel App Edible Heritage

Nutmeg owes an enormous thank you to friends and family for their patience in the last several months, as they endured her chronicles of how to develop a travel application. Enfin! – Finally! Edible Heritage Aix en Provence the App, a new pocket travel companion, is for sale and ready to be downloaded to your mobile phone. (more…)

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October 24, 2011

A Day in Brittany Without Leaving Aix en Provence

A Day in Brittany Without Leaving Aix en Provence

Ginger and Nutmeg have a dear friend in Aix en Provence who is a proud Breton by origin. Although, Delphine has lived in the south of France for a number of years, she stays close to her roots by running a delightful crêperie in the heart of Aix-en-Provence, called Crêpes Cidre & Compagnie. One hot day in August, Ginger and Nutmeg had a crêpe-making lesson from the expert, and a brief introduction to another culture. Here, are a few ABCs in order to better appreciate the natives of northwestern France. (more…)

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April 11, 2011

What is there to like about Aix en Provence a Dog’s View

What is there to like about Aix en Provence a Dog’s View

Ginger and Nutmeg are a bit distracted by our move from Aix en Provence to Eygalieres, so it is once again my turn for a bit of “air-time”.  Here is my rebuttal to Nutmeg’s last post “Our Favorite things about Aix en Provence“. I have never lived in a place quite like Aix en Provence.  When I was a young puppy I lived in the woods in Vermont, and putting on a collar was a dress-up occasion.  Then I moved to Calgary. Ginger came to pick me up in Montreal and took me on a long trip to that strange place (Calgary).  We arrived and there was another dog who looked like me but she was not very interested in me.  My roaming space much reduced, in fact it was a bit like a sardine can after Vermont.  The good news is Ginger and Nutmeg made lots of trips to Canmore, where we could swim and run around like black Labradors do. Aix en Provence is a place where I go for lots of walks but never go off leash.  Nutmeg says it is because there are no parks.  I think it is because of all the tempting scraps on the ground.  We walk every morning up the famous Cours Mirabeau, it is lovely and often there are a few morsels of food on the ground from the restaurants along our way. It is possible Nutmeg might be right, the single park that is close to our house is locked on weekends. (more…)

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April 4, 2011

Our Favorite Things about Aix en Provence

Our Favorite Things about Aix en Provence

Aix en Provence is often referred to as “Cezanne’s city”.  It is hard to miss the “Steps of Cezanne” emblems on the sidewalks of Aix, these symbols lead tourists to some of the more famous sites for Cezanne.  The problem with looking at your feet to follow the little emblems, is you might miss some of the sights along the way.  Nutmeg could fill a book and several photo albums to really describe this city.  Aix en Provence has a long history (founded in 123 BC) as a centre built over hot springs or “thermes”.  Aix is a student town, tourist town, the official centre of the 13th department of France. (more…)

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