First Days, Aix-en-Provence.

The day began at 4:00 a.m., with a wake-up alarm and a shower, followed by a ride service to the airport. We learned, on arrival at the airport, that our transportation service accepts only cash and checks, no credit cards. Their website makes no mention of accepted modes of payment. Fortunately, I could cover the $75+ tip with cash I intended to convert to euros.

An astonishingly easy breeze through the TSA checkpoint (TSA precheck) gave us much time to eat and dawdle. Then, our flight to Atlanta, where we had a 3-hour layover. Delta’s odd inability to explain where the premium versus riff-raff check-in lines did no irreparable harm to our ability to check in for our flight to Amsterdam. Aside from noticing that the space between aisles had declined by about three inches since my last flight, there was no real issue. And we had a window and aisle seat in a 2-seat section of the row, so that was a boost. Two movies, a few word games, and an utterly unsuccessful attemt to sleep, punctuated by a couple of meals and snacks, we landed in Amsterdam just before 6 a.m., where we deplaned, walked the distance equivalent to two marathons to get through immigration and customs, and then waited for our flight to Marseilles.

In Marseilles, we got our bags in relatively short order, then went outside the secure area where our guide awaited. The bus driver led us to a small coach, where we waited for awhile before some more from our group joined us, and then the driver drove us to our hoten in Aix-en-Provence. Ourroom was not immediately ready, but it was not too long before we were given our keys and sent up to unpack, nap for a while, then shower and go back downstairs for a meet & greet, where we enjoyed a glass of champagne before we all walked to dinner at Restaurant Jardin Mazarin, where we had a fabulous meal including wonderful breads, foi gras with toast points and strawberry jam, guinnea fowl, tiramisu, wine…there may have been more, but that was enough.

After waling back to the hotel, my sister and I chatted while I had another glass of wine from the lobby honor bar. When I got upstairs, my wife was ready to go to sleep, as was I. In spite of having been sleep deprived, I was unable to sleep through the night, but got enogh to get me through the following day, which began with breakfast.

Breakfast was delightful, with croissants, champignons with rissoto, bacon, yoghurt with fruit, espresso, and a bit more I don’t recall. Then we walked around Aix-en-Provence for a few hours to get a lay of the land and see some intriguing architecture (and hear a history of Provence from our guide for the day, Pamela, who showed us an interesting slide show about Aix-en-Provence.

Then, it was off to lunch at Cafe de Verdun, where we enjoyed a wonderful salad of Provence, served with wine, of course. Thence, we were off to an exhibition of the impressionist art of Joseph Mallord WilliamTurner at the Hôtel de Caumont.

After viewing the exhibit, Janine and Libba and I walked along the Cour Mirabou, a spectacular tree-lined boulevard lined with shops and restaurants and vendors, where we stopped for wine and people watching.

After a walk in the rain back to the hotel, we rested for awhile in advance of dinner. More about that later. Later, I’ll post photos.


About John Swinburn

"Love not what you are but what you may become."― Miguel de Cervantes
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