Anne & Kirk Woodyard – Music and Markets Tours
Let’s begin our day with a walk around town, crossing the iconic fountain-dotted Cours Mirabeau into the Mazarin quarter where the streets are perpendicular to each other, as opposed to the warren of medieval streets on the other side where we live. We’ll pass by the high school where youngsters Emile Zola and Paul Cezanne were classmates. Approaching the intersection with the fountain of the Quatre Dauphins, we remember our first visit here nearly 25 years ago when we stayed at the Hotel des Quatre Dauphins.
Just down the street is an old candy shop (boasting the Aix specialty, calissons, of course) with a charming mosaic of the fountain in a previous century above the window – recognize that fountain? Up the long gentle incline to the Cathedral of St. Jean de Malte, from where we turn down the Rue d’ Italie to the ring road. We walk the entire east side then across the north side to the Pavillon Vendome, where only a couple of other people enjoy the morning in this opulent private home turned public space… I’d be happy to begin every morning here watching the sun illuminate the golden stone mansion, glisten off the spray of the fountain, and awaken the sleepy flowers.
The several-times-weekly transformation of the centers’ medieval streets and plazas into a vital, bustling market has already taken place, so we head through the Place d’ Hotel de Ville to the ever-popular Patisserie Weibel for croissants and coffee on Place Richelme.
What catches our eye in the market squares today? A spring frock here, always enticing Provençal fabrics there, fragrant lavender in abundance.Let’s pause for lunch under the plane trees on the Place du Tanneurs – Le Bouddoir is always a favorite, their daily specials well-priced and delicious, especially when accompanied by the house rosé!
How about some chocolate for dessert? Heading back down the shady Cours Mirabeau toward the statue of Good King Rene, we stop in Yves Thuries, where the goodies come from Cordes sur Ciel. Everything is tastefully prepared and they sell the chocolate-coated almonds out of a glass urn by the kilo. Dessert for today and a few days in the future!
At 7:00 PM we go back to the Cathedral of St. Jean de Malte for the daily vespers service. People are pouring out following a wedding service and the fragrance of little piles of lavender flower buds all over the steps follows us into the cathedral. Guests throw little purple and white paper rose petals and lavender instead of rice at the newlyweds and the multigenerational crowd was dispersing as we were going in for vespers.
The inside is plain, with upwards pointing spotlights highlighting the beautiful golden stone of the interior walls. A very impressive mostly blue stained glass gothic arch fills the wall at the back of the cathedral. A small square modern depiction of Jesus’ transfiguration hangs on the right. For vespers, we’re given a song book to follow the selected numbers listed on a wooden display. The priest comes out of a side door a little late; it could have been he who just finished performing the wedding ceremony. He lights all the candles around the altar while we sing the first song. The worshipful, sometimes lively melodies with several ladies harmonizing to priest’s tenor part put the cathedral in a distinctively reverent mood. We try to keep up, but we keep losing the words and though the four parts are written out like our hymn books, the moves in the melodies are still difficult to anticipate.
Day or night it’s a delight to walk through Aix-en-Provence – through daily bustling markets, or evening buzzy squares filled with diners.
Et voila – a taste of the delights to be found in lovely Aix!
|The best way to describe us (Kirk and Anne Woodyard) is that we’re interested in the stories that make the places we visit come alive.|
We’ve visited Europe more times than we can count, learned some entertaining stories there, and met some warm and helpful people who also enjoy the wonders of music and life in Europe. We look forward to sharing these stories and friends and experiences with our Music and Markets guests.
Since 2003 we’ve hosted Music and Markets tours in France, Italy, the Netherlands, the Czech Republic, England and Spain, and in 2019 added Wonder Tours with a more intentional concentration on art and architecture, local culture, food and wine, and less time dedicated to concert-going.We also design and host custom private tours – previous locations include many French, Spanish, British and Italian regions.
Between our music-related travels, we enjoy our home in the south of France. While both of us have experience in organizing travel and music groups, Kirk’s background is in project management and competitive writing, and Anne is an accomplished pianist with over forty years of teaching and performance experience.
Slow Travel Tours is an affiliation of small-group tour operators who offer personalized trips in Italy, France and other European countries.