on the road

Provence – Part 3 – Aix-en-Provence

Getting back on track.  Blog interrupted due to my work schedule. I was in beautiful Vancouver, British Columbia this week.

Okay, I’m back.

France.

Where were we?

Our first view of the castle
Our first view of the castle

Ah yes, we left Avignon and traveled to Aix-en-Provence.  Well, actually, we went to a place called Le Barban. Our accommodations here were in a medieval period castle, Chateau Le Barban.  It was everything a castle should be!  Large, imposing, lots of stone, and lots of beautiful history. The narrow road up from the (public) parking lot to the private lot was difficult to navigate, again, and the car bottomed out a few times.  But, we pulled in, found our hosts and were escorted to our room.  First set of stairs – 21.  Second set of stairs – 21. Third set of stairs 21. Ah there’s the sky again! We’ve reached the top after 63 stairs up. (No elevators, it’s medieval!)  We stepped out onto a gorgeous terrace area, breathed in the beautiful fresh air and noticed that our hostess was still going.  Oh dear!  I turned around to see sets of stairs shaped like a horseshoe heading up yet again… and up we went, and into the castle again, and up more stairs and more stairs.  All in all, it was 110 steps from the entrance up to our room.  I told Scott I would be content just to stay in our room for the duration and not leave.  The thought of doing those stairs again, wow.

Our room was spectacular, the view even more so.  With a flourish that only the French can do so well, Gislaine threw open the windows and shutters to behold our view!  Three words:  Oh Wow, Wow. Maybe the 110 step climb carrying luggage was worth it! She quickly said “Cocktail reception at 7:30 on the terrace before dinner” and with that she was gone!  We were left to enjoy our room. the large imposing door – very ‘castle like’ had a skeleton key lock which I just had so much trouble working. The bed was gorgeous.  The bathroom was bigger than my entire master bedroom at my home!  A giant claw-foot tub, a beautiful Italian shower, double sinks, a small table, a couple of chairs, more windows…. you get the idea. I could have moved into the bathroom and lived there quite happily!  The bedroom and bathroom were both decorated with beautiful pieces of art.  The bedspread, bed curtains, wall coverings, and window coverings all matched.  In my house, that would look way overdone, but in a castle? It was perfect.

open air and beautiful view
open air and beautiful view

At the reception we met the other guests, a young French couple enjoying a night away.  Their English was way better than our French! After drinks and hors d’oeuvres on the terrace, our hosts Gislaine and Bertrand, led us to the castle’s historic kitchen where they seated us and then said goodnight.  The dinner was spectacular!  We had lamb shank with all the fixings.  I wish I had a picture of dinner and the five courses, but I didn’t think our French dinner companions would understand my obsession with photographing my food!  Sigh.  No pictures, sorry!  We were able to communicate so well together, we laughed, shared stories, just really enjoyed getting to know them.  Of course, after dinner, we had to climb up the stairs again – in the dark!  However, since we were already about halfway up, we only had about 47 steps to go.  Not so bad!

More of our view
More of our view

The next morning we had a delightful breakfast and met Jacqueline!  What a delight this woman was!  She served our breakfast to us in the same kitchen. Her English was really good as well, although she kept apologizing for it.  We learned she was born and raised in Aix-en-Provence.  Scott told her that when we visited the city that day we would look for the historic plaque marking her birthplace.  She laughed!  We really liked Jacqueline.  Before we left for the day, we took the castle’s historic tour.  Unfortunately, it was all in French and we really couldn’t follow along.  We were given written English translation but you could tell it didn’t quite match what our tour guide was saying. Regardless, it was good to see the entire castle!

Gorgeous, yes?
Gorgeous, yes?

Off to Aix we went!  We parked the car and spent the entire day walking.  Really, it was so much easier!  I fell in love with this absolutely picture perfect place!  So many fountains.  So many boulangeries. So many artisans. We had cafe at a cafe, surprise! Later in the day we returned to the same area to have dinner.  I was really loving all this outdoor dining.  I have never eaten outdoor so much in my life!  It was fabulous!  We learned that Aix-en-Provence would be the dominant city of Provence if it weren’t for its close proximity to Marseilles. From the 12th Century to the Revolution Aix was the capital of Provence.  The whole of the old city of Aix is surrounded by its ring of beautiful boulevards.  The streets are alive with people, tempting restaurants, cafes, and shops.  We took so many pictures in Aix.  I’ll post a few here below.  Such a gorgeous city.  Gorgeous.  But our day had to come to an end.  Sadly.  We headed back to our castle.

Images from Aix-en-Provence

DSC_0251 DSC_0248 DSC_0263 DSC_0256 DSC_0243

Driving along the roads back it hit me.  “Scott, we did a tour of the castle this morning up and down those stairs, we’ve been walking ALL day in Aix. I’m exhausted.  And guess what?  We still have to climb back up those 110 steps!”  From Scott… no comment!  🙂  I’ll tell you one thing, my poor aching feet enjoyed that tub!

The next morning, at breakfast, we spoke briefly with Jacqueline. Such a sweetheart of a lady!  Back upstairs to pack up and head out.  Next stop – The Riviera!  Oh ya baby!  What I’ve been waiting for the whole trip!!

Horseshoe stairs from terrace to the rest of the castle, at dusk
Horseshoe stairs from terrace to the rest of the castle, at dusk
Jacqueline!
Jacqueline!
Breakfast in the historic kitchen, filled with beautiful antiques of the period.
Breakfast in the historic kitchen, filled with beautiful antiques of the period.

Okay, next stop: The Riviera!

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