Monthly Archives: April 2018

The Ochre Streets of Aix

Le Mazerin cinema in a historical building; Aix-en-Provence

Intending to visit the Granet Museum in Aix en Provence, it takes some orientation to find the place, but no complaints here, the streets of Aix are so attractive, and thus distracting, that it is easy to forget where you were heading to.

Fountain of the Four Dolphins; rue Cardinale

The reasons why the streets are so charming is that the town dates back to 123 BC, went through a longtime development of Roman, Spanish and French influences, came to prosper after the 12th century, and .. all this is still tangible and visible when you walk through this warm ochre-colored environment.

A delicatessen shop since 1830 in a well preserved building

The French know how to preserve all that is beautiful. Aix en Provence became an artistic and educational centre in the 12th century and has remained like that to today. The Impressionist art of Paul Cezanne, who was born here, is still alive, among other art forms like opera and dance. So is Aix an international centre of study, keeping the place young and creative.

At the corner of Chapelle Granet which has become an art museum

Rue Marius Reynaud one of the commercial streets of Aix

Today Aix-en-Provence is everything: a wonderfully quiet yet dynamic town with ultra luxury shops and commercial centre, fine French cafés and restaurants, a university centre, a living art centre, and more. It is the well-preserved historical architecture that holds it all together. Especially in this age of ultra modern, Aix is ultra pretty.

Place de Hotel de Ville

Oh, we discovered the Museum Granet was closed, because it was Monday. No problem, we will be planning another trip soon. Aix en Provence is only 30 km from Marseille, and this region is called PACA: Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur, which has a great train system.

Dark and light

The Calming Power of La Côte Bleue

The calming power of la côte bleue; Nathan at Ensuès-la-Redonne

One of the main reasons why I can enjoy regular outings along the coast of Marseille is that Nathan, who is an autist and has a high energy level, finds his deep calm by being in natural settings. He has a personal preference for beautiful spots that are mostly off the tourist track. With all its sculpted mountains, blue sea and fresh air, it is easy to find true repose here in South France, one that reinvigorates the total being.

Houses dotting the Calanque here have private staircases leading to the sea

A half hour train trip, over viaducts that date back to around 1907, takes you to Ensuès-la-Redonne, a lovely small village where we – John, Nathan and myself – visited the little Vieux Port that is situated below the railway station. Those who have their houses built on the Calanque that surrounds the port, enjoy amazing views, with private staircases that take you down for a dip into the ice cold sea.

The Marseille-Miramas train passes every hour over the viaducts that were build around 1907

Content and ready to take the blue coast train back to Marseille

As it is still Spring with the sun less intense, sitting here peacefully and relaxed on large boulders, is all what it takes to come back to a true state of well-being. Even the train trip is an easy going affair that takes you along panoramic views of the ever fascinating coastline.

La Redonne Ensuès seen from its viaduct

High, Wild and Wholesome

Marseille, Frioul Island and Ile d’If seen from Notre-Dame de la Garde

One unique location is also the heart of Marseille: the basilica Notre-Dame de la Garde, it stands elevated on a limestone rock formation that is part of the mountain range surrounding the city. From this height you have a 360° view that makes you aware of the natural beauty the city is nestled in: the Mediterranean sea and the Calanques.

The rich blossoms of the Cercis siliquastrum, Judas tree, can be seen everywhere, in and around Marseille

The favorite Corniche part of the city that winds along the picturesque coastline

A proof that Marseille has integrated the ‘wild’ that surrounds it is Calanque Sormiou, the 9th district.  It was formerly a small fishing village while it is now a modest place for boat owners to rent small accommodation for their weekend and holiday boating adventures, and for true hikers to explore the mountain range, high and low. 

A view of Marseille seen from Calanque de Sormiou, the 9th district of the city

At Calanque de Sormiou, there are similar Pine trees along the coral green sea that I photographed at the neighbor Calanque: Morgiou. However, here the green parts in the waters are much larger. The inviting and refreshing sea with its deep colors, set in a highly diverse limestone mountain range, make for a wholesome counterbalance with the dynamic buzz of the as diverse city that is Marseille. 

My favorite site and sight: small Pine trees at a colorful sea

Inviting waters at Calanque de Sormiou

Pine tree reaching over to the other side; Calanque de Sormiou

Green Skies White Blossoms

Green sky at Port d’Alon

The calendar I have this year contains twelve paintings by Vincent van Gogh. I noticed that he often uses a unique color green to depict the sky. Of course, Impressionist painters can use any color to convey their impression of a scene, but it made me wonder if there is actually such a thing as a green sky. Or, do you need a painter’s eye to see it?

Seascape with green sky; Calanque de Port d’Alon, between La Ciotat and Toulon

Magically enough, there was a clear green sky during a visit to Calanque du Port d’Alon. Adding to that, in the same area, of Saint-Cyr-sur-Mer, there was farmland with blossoming fruit trees that reminded me of one of my favourite paintings by van Gogh: ‘Amandier en fleurs’, ‘Blossoming Almond tree’ which is set on a pale sea-green sky.

White on Blue

These were not almond blossoms but the flowers of the Mirabelle tree, a plum variety. Taking photos of one artfully pruned tree in full bloom, the sky in the background was deep blue. I could have changed it into sea-green, in photo-edit on my computer, but that’s not me.

Mirabelle blooms against blue sky