If you need to get from Paris to Provence, the TGV, France’s bullet train, is the way to go. At speeds up to 200 miles an hour, the journey is a mere three hours long, and that includes one stop along the way. Even at the high speed, you enjoy the gorgeous scenery on the way south.
The fun went up a notch or ten on our second day in Aix when we met Jill Mitchell, our wonderful guide for three days. Before we go any further, the question I’m getting asked a lot is how did I find Jill? My favorite blog (even more than our own!) is Tongue in Cheek, written by Corey Amaro. If I could only read one blog, this would be my choice. She is an American who has lived in France for the last 20 years or so and loves old French stuff. Her writing is poetic as well as chock full of useful info. Last year sometime, she recommended Jill Mitchell of Le Trip as a guide in the Provence area. I checked out Jill’s website and began an email correspondence with her. From her first reply, I knew we would be a great team.
Okay, back to Aix. We meet Jill, and she is wearing a vintage, red fun fur jacket, a jaunty cap, cargo pants and has her plaid plastic rolling cart in hand. It was love at first sight! We headed to the three-times-a-week small flea market in Aix on foot. We scored right away with a lovely religious painting and fabulous painted wood gambling chips that say Provencal on them. (They will be showing up as components in some found objects necklaces I’ll be selling in the future.) Jill is also an American who has lived in Paris and Provence for a while. Her French is perfect. She would negotiate on my behalf, while gathering all sorts of information about the objects we were buying.
Then if you learn nothing else from me ever again, two very important words to learn in French are DEPOT VENTE – thrift store! Jill led the way down an alley to one of the most amazing shopping experiences of my life – vintage French stuff with bargains everywhere. It was a dream come true. The quality was high, the prices were low to reasonable and the inventory ranged from furniture to books to household items. Clothing was the only major food group missing. I knew we (my strong and patient husband Raoul and I) were hand carrying everything back in four suitcases, so the weight and size of something made a difference in my selection. It was truly painful to leave rustic pottery pieces and crystal chandeliers there. Believe me, next time I’ll have shipping figured out.
Raoul and I visited San Remy the following day and really enjoyed the weekly morning market there.
Day four in Provence found us taking a private cooking class with Chef Marc Heracle at his dreamy chateau. Jill had arranged this class for us and gave us detailed instructions of how to meet her outside of town. Then she would drive her car ahead of us so we could follow. We got miserably lost trying to drive out of Aix, and gave her a call to tell her we would be late. She came and rescued us! The thoughtful service we received from her was like this the entire week.
We loved our cooking class.
We loved the chateau.
We loved the buildings surrounding the chateau. This one’s interior was covered in shell mosaics and pieces of charcoal from the 1700s.
We’ll save our weekend of shopping and sailing on the Mediterranean for the next blog post. In the meantime, go check out Jill’s website and blog, and start practicing your French. -- Beth
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