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Christmas In Provence: Express Guide
Christmas In Provence: Express Guide

Video: Christmas In Provence: Express Guide

Video: CHRISTMAS IN PARIS | A Paris Christmas Market, Lights u0026 Activities Guide (That You Can't Miss!) 2022, December
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Provence is not only lavender fields, hot sun and rose wine, it is all the gastronomic power of France in miniature, centuries-old perfumery traditions, blue skies overhead all year round and the ability to live as if every day is a work of art. Coming here on Christmas means “immerse yourself in a real fairy tale,” the experts of the HotelTonight service are sure, but not the one that is created for tourists throughout Europe, but the one that the French do for themselves every day.

Day 1: get lost in the streets of the city

Anyone who has not yet been to Aix-en-Provence should first of all get acquainted with Boulevard Mirabeau - the main landmark in this small town, shining on the map of the Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur region, not far from Marseille. Mirabeau manages to divide the city into two completely different parts. On the one hand, there is the Old Town with cobbled streets, wrought-iron balconies and windows with petunias on the windowsills, on the other - the more modern Mazaran quarter with much wider streets and tall houses, which were loved by the aristocracy that lived here in the 17th-18th centuries.

Another reason to head straight to Boulevard Mirabeau is the traditional Christmas market, which will be open until December 27, both there and at the nearby Place Jeanne d'Arc. The main difference between the local fairs and European ones is that only in Provence (as well as on the Cote d'Azur) you can try a set of 13 Christmas desserts and meet the festive evening itself a little differently than in most European cities.

It is customary to set a large long table, at the head of which will be seven main courses (all without meat). There is no exact list, they vary from family to family. After supper, believers usually go to the Christmas service in one of the churches in the city and after that they gather again, but now on the table are desserts symbolizing Jesus Christ and the 12 apostles. One of the most famous in this 13-part set is called the "Four Poor Men (or Beggars)" - it was once made "in honor" of the needy orders. Raisins symbolize Dominicans, figs - Franciscans, hazelnuts - Augustinians, almonds - Carmelites. It is also worth trying the oil pump (zhibase or fugase - something like a pretzel), white and black nougat, dried figs and macaroons.

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All 13 desserts can be bought at the fair, as well as chocolates of all shapes and sizes, macarons, foie gras, different types of olives and honey, bread with ginger, mulled wine and much more. Do not forget about Calissons - the famous Provencal sweets made from almonds and candied fruits. For non-gastronomic goods, look out for local ceramics and earthenware, lavender in all shapes and conditions, and Provencal handicrafts. And this is in addition to traditional Christmas toys, figurines and decorations.

A visit to one of the Aix-en-Provence coffee shops will be an excellent end to the day. The most famous in the city is called Les Deux Garçons and is located on the same noteworthy boulevard Mirabeau (exact address: 53, Cours Mirabeau). In this cafe, which opened in 1792, they drank coffee (and not only) Paul Cezanne, Jean Cocteau, Jean-Paul Sartre and Emile Zola. Every guest of the city should do the same on the eve of 2016. A few more points of the obligatory program: a magnificent fountain in the Place d'Albert, the Cathedral of Saint-Sauveur, the house of Paul Cézanne on the Rue de Opera (rue de l'Opéra, 2) and his atelier.

Day 2: Old Town

Despite all the aristocratic spirit of the Old Town and its rich history, Gothic cathedrals get along well with the young creative energy that students of the local university and the European Academy of Music annually feed on. It is thanks to them that something is constantly happening in Aix-en-Provence. You will surely find yourself at a street concert of one of the local bands, walking in the center: they come out to play in the evenings and on almost all holidays.

The second day can start with the Fondation Vasarely contemporary art gallery (1, avenue Marcel Pagnol), founded in 1966 by Victor Vasarely, the French-Hungarian artist who founded op art and became its most famous representative. Get ready to see a lot of abstraction and geometry: optical illusions are at the core of his creativity. For more classical art, go to the Granet Museum (located on Place Saint Jean de Malte), where works by Rembrandt, Guardi, Ingres, Cézanne and many others are exhibited.

Afterwards, stroll through the old center, drop by the small designer shops, or simply have a coffee in one of the city cafes. Be sure to check out the organic cosmetics stores - you will see them more than once. One of the most famous is called La Compagnie de Provence (63, rue des Cordeliers). According to the creators, everything in it is made on the basis of products of local origin (in general, you will often come across a kind of philosophy of local consumption in Provence): this is a cherry-based shower gel, moisturizing creams with olive oil, and handmade soap with nuts and figs.

Also worth a visit is L'Esprit des Lieux en Provence (10, rue Gaston de Saporta). They sell various gizmos for the kitchen and home in the Provencal style. From the unusual - folding cheese knives, handmade trays, carved wooden photo frames and many similar items. If you didn't manage to get to the concert of street musicians, and your soul asks for music, go to dinner at the Le Passage restaurant (10, rue Villars), where almost always someone is playing. If you want to feel all the peculiarities of the local cuisine, go out of town. For example, in La Villa Gallici Restaurant (Avenue de la Violette), where you should try basil soup, meat with garlic aioli sauce, apple dessert pomme flambée and anise liqueur pastis, so beloved by all French people.

Day 3: Mistral and Provencal Markets

In winter, it is almost impossible not to meet the mistral in Provence. This is a gusty strong wind, which seems to control everything. If not, get up early and go to local markets. In summer, of course, they make a much greater impression due to the variety of vegetables and fruits, but even now they are worth attention. If only for the sake of observing how the French bargain and communicate with each other, how much grows here in winter, as well as for the smells of freshly baked bread and croissants.

The most vibrant market within the city is located in Place Verdun. There is one more - on the Richelme square. After visiting them, take a look at the local flea market. Even if it is closed due to the holidays, do not worry: the antique shops of Aix-en-Provence are no less good. La Taverne de Platon (25 rue des Tanneurs), Arbaud Antiquités (19 Cours Mirabeau) and Couleur Indigo (11 rue Matheron) are worth a visit.

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In general, it is sad to come to Provence for just a few days: there is too much to see. This is the Verdon Gorge, and the old port in Marseille, and the thousand-year-old bridge Pont du Gard, and the orange city of Roussillon, and the cozy Cassis … And you should definitely go to the museums of Van Gogh, Renoir and Cézanne, go down to the sea by train du Peigne. Yes, it will take longer than a regular train, but a small trailer will take you through charming villages and river valleys, eventually taking you to Nice Central Station. Anyone who celebrates Christmas in Provence should definitely return there in the summer: rent a car, forget about time, drive into ancient castles and villages, discovering all the diversity of rosé and all the versatility of Provencal cuisine.

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