Aix Cathedral

As I have mentioned in my previous post, le lundi, aka Monday, was a no-no day to do sightseeing because everything noteworthy is closed – throughout the country, almost all of the public attractions are open on Sunday and closed on Monday.

After finishing lunch, we made a beeline to Monoprix on Cours Mirabeau. ‘I hope they have another one.’, mum said excitedly.

She bought a teal green knitted top at their branch in Avignon and she really loved it. The style and the material were very flattering to her so she was hoping if she could find the similar one in black.

Unfortunately, they didn’t have it. In fact, they didn’t have anything we saw in their Avignon store. How can it be possible? Mum and I were puzzled.

After leaving the store empty-handed, we decided to wander around the old city centre…

The rain had stopped and the pedestrian came out onto the cobbled backstreets. Aix-en-Provence was a very attractive city with honey-coloured buildings and numerous leafy squares. However, the signs of economic recession, such as boarded-up shop fronts and shop windows plastered with “solde!”signs, were everywhere…

We wanted to visit somewhere noteworthy in the city, therefore, we headed to Paroisse Cathédrale Saint Sauveur Aix-en-Provence, aka Aix Cathedral…

The cathedral was not as humongous as the ones in Reims and Strasbourg. However, the history of the shrine was as old and as interesting as theirs.

During the Roman occupation, the place, where the present church occupied, was dedicated to Apollo, a Greek sun god.

After the Romans left, the first Christian church was built by Saint Maximinus of Aix during the 1st century. The saint arrived to Aix-en-Provence with Mary Magdalene and spent his lifetime spreading the teaching of Jesus Christ.

The first modest shrine was destroyed by the invading Saracens in the 8th and 9th centuries.

From the end of the 12th century, Aix-en-Provence became the capital of Provence and just as the city’s prestige and importance increased, so the need for a larger place of worship surged.

From the early 12th century, the construction of a new church started and the Romanesque style structure was dedicated to the Virgin Mary (Notre Dame de la Sède).

Like many of historic buildings in Europe, the church was made from several architectural styles – from the 12th century’s Romanesque to the 18th century’s neo-Gothic. It was a joy to look around and discover pieces of history etched on the stone works.

‘Let’s go back to the car park before the rain starts again!’

The walk was short and easy..

Now, we will do another grocery shopping at our favourite Carrefour and head to the hotel.

By the way, a hotel we stayed in Aix-en-Provence was a bit of disaster. I chose it because it was right next to a multi-story car park and I thought it would make mum’s life easy. However, the hotel was very basic and out of date. It reminded me a student dormitory! Even though the owner was very helpful and friendly, I wouldn’t go back there in future…

Kaori by Kaori Okumura

Le Diabline of Aix-en-Provence

Our impression of the city could have been more positive if it wasn’t so dull and chilly when we hit the pavement of Cours Mirabeau.

It was Monday and most of the galleries and museums were closed, therefore, not many people were out there. And also, a very turbulent weather system was causing a havoc all over the country and we had been very lucky not to be caught up in it so far.

While we sat in one of the cafes and pondered what to do next, mum complained how chilly she felt and was regretting about leaving her scarf in the car.

Mum, you do this all the time! One moment, she complains how boiling hot it is and next moment she changes her mind and starts piling herself up with layers of clothings.

Anyway, we decided to go back to our car which was parked in the car park at the north end of Rue Mignet so she would stop sniffing.

‘Ok, let’s find another Diabline ride!’

Le Diabline was similar to our favourite in Avignon, La Baladine, and like her counterpart, they circulated in the city centre, serving mainly for older residents who had limited mobility.

Here comes Le Diabline!

You raise your hand and it will stop for you if there is a space available – the car has only four seats. But not to worry because a troop of the cars are on road and you will be able to hop on the one before too long!

We hitched a ride on Circuit Ligne C (green one)…

Paying the fare was a little different from La Baladine. In Avignon, we paid 0.6€ for every ride but to use Le Diabline, we had to buy a card each and to stick the card into a machine – the blue one behind the rear seat. I can’t recall how much the fare was but it was around 1€.

Oh no, the rain starts to come down…

A view of the driver’s seat…

We were supposed to get off at Place Bellgarde but our Diabline pulled up at the beginning of Rue Mignet.

It started to rain harder and we didn’t like the thought of being thrown out from the car at that moment…

Are they terminating here? There was an old French madam with us and we all looked at each other quizzically? ‘En casse?’ I asked. The driver laughed and answered ‘Non, non!’ but whipped out her mobile phone and started to talk to someone.

‘Oh well, we will have to be on this a little longer.’ Eventually, the driver climbed back into a driving seat and started the engine.

These are the tickets we bought on Le Diabline…

While we headed back to Cours Mirabeau on another Le Diabline, we had an amusing encounter with a Corsican man. As we settled into our seat and exchanged bonjour, the man with a deep tan told us that he knew a very famous Japanese man. ‘I know Hirohito!’ Oh god, the Showa Emperor?! I felt rather uneasy because, you know, the history, WWll etc. So I just smiled back to him. He then beamed, ‘We had a great emperor too!’ ‘You mean Napoleon?’ He nodded enthusiastically and grabbed my hand for a firm handshake. Then, he started to rant how the French took over Corsica and he hated the French. And there was another passenger who was the French and she took an offence and started to complain. Oh my, the looks of disdain on their faces! We got off at Cours Mirabeau and the others, the Corsican and the French continued their journey…

At an Italian restaurant on Cours Mirabeau, we had pasta with cream and smoked salmon…

Since the rain has stopped so we can walk around the city centre!

Mum and I decided to explore the city…

Kaori by Kaori Okumura

We love Carrefour

During our road trip, we used the French supermarket chain Carrefour often, and especially, We liked their organic range very much. Their readymade salads were a godsend when we became weary of eating out in unfamiliar places.

Thanks to free-roaming by O2, we could find branches of Carrefour on the road and replenish our supplies…

We made a detour to the supermarket before we arrived at Aix-en-Provence…

Mum bought boxes of Calissons d’Aix-en-Provence for her friends. We also bought milk, water, strawberries, a box of Kleenex and pastries.

We visited this Carrefour almost everyday while we stayed in Aix-en-Provence…

Regarding supermarket shopping bags, I thought the French were doing a lot better than the British. I bought this large reusable shopping bag at the Carrefour in Limoges and used it throughout our trip. Unlike the British chains, the French counterparts didn’t give out any plastic bag and the only alternative was paper bags. Why don’t they do the same in the U.K???

Even if the chains increase the price of the bag to 10p, it won’t encourage lazy people to bring their own bags. The only way to reduce the plastic waste is making single-use plastic bags UNAVAILABLE!

Kaori by Kaori Okumura

Lourmarin & Cadenet

The next place we visited before Aix-en-Provence was Lourmarin. The village was listed as “one of the most beautiful villages in France” and we were intrigued by the claim.

A carpark by the perimeter of the village appeared to be full so we proceeded further into the heart of the village and managed to find a space on the street lined with large trees.

The time was around half past two o’clock and the street was very quiet. We saw all the gift shops and cafes were open but they weren’t at all lively.

Lourmarin was famous for its castle. Apparently, the castle had an amazing stone staircase which resembled a fusilli pasta. ‘Mum, do you want to see the castle?’

She pondered for a while but in the end decided not to visit the building because her knee was hurting. ‘I am sorry if you are missing out on opportunities because of me.’, she apologised.

To be 100% honest, Lourmarin didn’t leave me with much impression. The landscape wasn’t as spectacular as Gordes or Roussillon – just didn’t possess the same “wow” factors of the aforementioned places.

After leaving Lourmarin, we drove past Cadenet…

I can’t remember why we pulled over there and then. But anyway, we decided to stop.

A vast vineyard!

We climbed back to the car and headed to our next destination, Aix-en-Provence…

Kaori by Kaori Okumura

Roussillon

Our next destination was a commune called Roussillon. A guidebook recommended the place as a “must-see” so we decided to lunch there.

What made Roussillon unique was its reddish rocks and soil which added rosy and orangish tones to the scenery. It was due to the earth in the area was rich in clay with ochre deposits – ochres were pigments ranging from yellow and orange to red.

Unlike Gordes’, Roussillon’s carpark and the vicinity were very quiet…

Ragged rock face was punctuated by openings and doors…

Are they some sort of storage, like railway arches? What the inside is like?, mum and I were very curious…

We didn’t came across a single soul while we sauntered towards the village centre. Where was everybody? Not even the sound of everyday life, such as the sound of TV or washing machine, was heard from the walls which lined a narrow street…

Heavenly scent of jasmine greeted us…

Psssss, it’s so quiet. We must keep our voice down…

Around Place de la Mairie, there were a plenty of eateries and we decided to have lunch at one of them.

We were ushered to a narrow staircase which led us to an outside seating area…

The terrace commanded a fine view of the valley…

As we settled into our seats, the weather seemed to be going south and the wind started to increase the strength. ‘Oh god, I hope it will stay dry…’, mum frowned while she looked on one of the staffs struggling to secure a canopy above the terrace which was flapping rather wildly.

For our lunch, we ordered their plat du jour, steak!

Mmmm, it was delicious. A couple, who were seated next to us, saw what we were tucking in and ordered the same dish!

After lunch, I left mum in Place de la Mairie and went to fetch our car.

‘Where does this path lead to?’ I couldn’t resist my curiosity so decided to do a quick detour…

The narrow passage led me to a higher ground…

And I found more cafes and restaurants…

There were small gates and passages everywhere. Very intriguing…

One of the stairs led me to an open terrace which offered another great view over the Luberon Valley…

It was so tempting to climb up another path to see if any hidden gem would await me…

However, I resisted the temptation because mum would be worried if I failed to return soon…

Kaori by Kaori Okumura

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