Sunday, June 21, 2009

Sipping wine in the south of France: Aix en Provence, France


Destination: Marseille, France & Aix en Provence, France

Where we stayed: Crown Princess

Best of: The market in Aix had incredible cheese & meat. That along with a fresh baguette and a bottle of wine made a wonderful picnic!

Worst of: We paid 3.50 euros (almost $5!) for a cappuccino...way over priced but set in a lovely square with friends. Lesson learned, buy your drinks at the counter and pay 1/3 to 1/2 the price.

We docked in Marseille, the busiest port in the Mediterranean and second largest city in France. The city has little to offer tourists, but in its outskirts lies the Provence and Luberon regions, two of the most stunning and fertile areas in France. The region is well known for growing spices and even has it's own blend; Herbs de Provence can be found in almost any supermarket. The region is also well known for producing fine quality soaps, most notably using lavender and olive oil.

With so many places to see and experience, choosing where to go in the region for a day is difficult. We opted to spend the day with some friends we had met on the ship in the town of Aix-en-Provence, or just Aix. We spent the day casually strolling through town, checking out a church, and just simply taking in the atmosphere. Aix is the home of the elite and wealthy and it shows in the tree lined streets, trendy shops and cafes. Grabbing a cup of Joe and watching the world go by is just the thing to do in this town, albeit, you end up paying more if you sit down. France operates on a two tier system whereby takeaway is a different price than eating in. Basically, you pay for the view.

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In the middle of town was the daily farmers market. Unlike other markets we have been to in developing and third world countries, the market here was about as upscale as a market can get. Here, presentation matters. The French take pride in their food and it shows. The fresh fish is well presented on the ice, the hand made meats and cheeses are delicately placed out on display, and you won't find a moldy strawberry in this bunch. Handicrafts and handmade soaps are also out for sale in the tiny market. We opted to pick up lunch here and have a picnic later. After picking up our cheese, meat, some bread and, of course, some wine we headed for the tree lined main street where we did a little people watching as we enjoyed our meal.

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We finished our little picnic and met back up with our friends for the return to the ship vowing that we would have to come back to this region and experience it a little more! Next stop, our first stop in Italy; Livorno with Lucca and Pisa calling!

To see more pictures of Aix-en-Provence click here.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Actually, it's typical in Europe (especially cruise ship ports of call!) to charge more for sit-down versus take-away.

Some restaurants will charge extra for use of their utensils, place settings, napkins. And some will place a bread basket on your table (without asking) and later charge you if you eat even a bite.

This is typical in Europe, not just France. Especially in touristy areas.

But...compared to the states, the prices are still reasonable. Starbucks makes a terrible cappuccino for much more (and they expect a tip!).

Have fun. And be wary of that seemingly "free bread"...