May 12 Aix-en-Provence
After touring Avignon the next stop was the town of Aix-en-Provence which I had heard described as a little Paris minus the museums.
Our French tour guide Thibeaut told us that roughly 150,000 people live in Aix and many artists have spent time here, including Cezanne, Pablo Picasso, Van Gogh and Monet.
I loved the city of Aix with its trees lining the main street, le Cours Mirabeau, and all the activity. These trees are called plain trees and they are the French version of the sycamore in America.
Since today is Saturday the market was open and Thibeaut told us that this is where you can buy things for half the price of what they would cost in shops.
I found some wonderfully aromatic French soaps for one euro here. These are the same that I had seen in Eze and Nice for 2.60 and 3 euros so I bought some.
There are over 40 fountains in the city and the most impressive one is the Rotunda Fountain which was built in 1860.
I had taken a photo of it on my camera phone and used it as a landmark to navigate back to the bus stop. When I was lost I showed it to a few locals and instantly had directions back to the meeting point.
I was in my glory browsing around and taking photos. I loved all the little shops and the people.
I found the French people to be very friendly and nowhere did I detect any anti-American sentiment. Most spoke a few words of English but were friendly to me even though I spoke no French!
I found an amazing candy shop which also sold cookies and I bought some here. When I explained that this was my first visit to France the sweet girl working there told me in English that I must make a wish, that it is tradition, so of course I did!
After arriving back at the ship by 3:30,the latest time allowed, it felt good to freshen up and relax a little. That night I decided to eat at one of the specialty restaurants, La Cucina, and it was great. For the additional $10 it was totally worthwhile. I had a glass of pinot grigio from the Venezia region of Italy to go along with fried calamari cooked perfectly (very lightly).
There was a complimentary antipasto of prosciutto, artichokes, roasted red peppers and polenta which was perfectly seasoned.
Next came the caprese salad made with fresh tomato and mozzarella. I knew enough to order only the primi piatti of tortellini with cheese and skipped the main course.
This way I could have the ricotta cheesecake and a caffè macchiato.
Needless to say it was too much food but it was delicious!