Friday, 17 August 2012

Day 9 - Aix-Un-Provence

Narrow streets in Aix-un-Provence
I'm starting to feel like I'm in a James Bond movie and arriving in Monte Carlo has certainly helped with that delusion! I'm extremely grateful for this opportunity and I'm very aware its unlikely to come again and that so few have the luxuries we are experencing. Hopefully you'll understand that my daily comments are not by way of bragging but simply the expression of the wonder of it all.

I will also add our gratitude to Candice Liddle of Escape Travel for listening to our vague generalities and turning them into entrancing specifics.

We farewelled Nimes, heading east to Aix-un-Provence (pronounce X and known as that by the locals). Its a very pretty city, with the city centre the usual collection of a wide boulevard joined by a rabbit warren of narrow streets and two and three storey buildings which rise straight from the kerb. You navigate these mostly from the cobblestone roadway, jumping to the one person wide footpath - and that person with narrow shoulders - only when a scooter comes  roaring past, sounding like a model aeroplane on steroids. Buildings end in sharp cornered angles where streets (an exaggeration for what we would call lanes in Australia) end in confusing confrontations loosely termed intersections. Here in Aix, life is less threatening, with few gypsys and concern for personal possessions.

Sue and I wandered, stopping to talk with other members of our tour group when happenstance bought us together but also offering "bonjour" to any local who might allow us to road test our infantile French. I am able to speak enough to be polite ad order food. Sue, on the other hand, just speaks English in a near perfect French accent, mostly giving the impression she is taking the piss. Its an English heritage she was gifted by her mother.

Down one such narrow street, Sue had a lovely twenty minutes buying a handbag, the verbal exchange conducted entirely in two different languages with no point of confluence except goodwill. It was the warmest conversation she had experienced in weeks. Meanwhile, a few doors away, I was able to resolve the issue of data for the iPad in the local Orange shop - France's equivalent of Telstra and just as despised - with a lovely lady who was honest and direct and spoke as much English as I do French but we both ended in laughter and a warm handshake.

Our time in Aix closed with cafe beside a magnificent fountain in the main square, served by a singing waiter. If there is a happier man in France, it will be an even bigger treat.

View of the French Alps
from St Paul
From Aix, we went further east to Nice, where we will return on Monday for five nights. Our destination was the walled, hilltop village of Saint-Paul de Vence carved into the side of the rocks and a placed where cars cannot go. The thoroughfares are only wide enough for pedestrians! This is largely an arts community and if I had endless financial resources, some of the amazing paintings we saw would have ventured back to Australia. The cemetery is the final resting place of Marc Chagall, a Russian-Jewish painter of the avaunt garde, whose 98 years ended in St Paul. His grave is covered in stones, in the Jewish tradition. Great views and fascinating nooks and grannies. We ate what will likely be our most memorable lunch, on the balcony of a restaurant chiselled into rock face and overlooking the valley below. Our seats were allocated after Sue flirted with the waiter.

Sue having a
"Marilyn Moment"
The remainder of the afternoon was given over to the trip and arrival in Monte Carlo, Monaco. More on this place later but to imagine it, go with opulence and beauty and you'd have found a good place to start. We ate at an Italian restaurant, a rope's toss from the most expensive boats I have ever seen. Most of them could have easily been the watery possession of a James Bond villain. After dinner, we wandered back to the Fairmont Hotel, our exclusive hotel (our standard room normally costing 650Euro per night), past the Casino. The car park had at least three Ferraris, an Aston Martin and a Lamborghini and the folks wandering in wore gowns that made Sue gape. We reverted easily to a couple of hicks from country Australia.

At one point I found a large grate which was expelling air from the road tunnels below and convinced Sue she should stand there for a photo. Her dress went over her head in the manner of Marilyn Monroe in the Seven Year Itch. The crowd of pedestrians passing by showed their appreciation.

This is a surreal experience but we are staying grounded. Hanging on our balcony is our collection of sox and undies. Drying your smalls in such an swank setting has a typically Australia feel to it, especially as our room faces the gaming tables at the Casino above.

No comments:

Post a Comment

All comments will be moderated before being posted.