Farewell, indeed, to our ever-present motif of the past two weeks, Mont Sainte-Victoire, as seen from platform 4 at the Aix-en-Provence TGV station. The past two days have been a whirlwind of activity as we sought to get in a few last minute bits of sightseeing, packed and shipped a box to Arizona through Le Poste (prepaid up to 7 kilograms for 55€, it’s a good thing our handy-dandy travel scale is convertible from pounds to kilograms as we pushed the weight and box capacity right to both limits). I packed a few souvenirs, my paintings of the steeple on Couvent des Augustins and Mont Sainte-Victoire, along with some odds and ends that we are not using. It is amazing how much stuff we thought we would need and really didn’t. We are considering the shipping costs from both the St. Pancras in London (ouch, that one left a mark) and Aix as a learning experience for what not to bring next time. So Friday was pretty much spent in doing all of that and just walking around Aix one more time enjoying the sights, sounds, and culinary delights of the Centre Ville, along with a stop to enjoy a couple of rounds of Kilkennys with our amiable waitresses at O’Sullivan’s Pub.
Yesterday, we took a driving tour of Arles and Les Baux de Provence. It was sort of a whirlwind tour, but we did spend some time walking around Arles and visiting La Cathedral and the old Roman amphitheatre. Meeting back up with our small group (a very nice couple from Istanbul, who were celebrating their 50th anniversary, Miss Cyd and me, plus multi-lingual Alexander, our tour guide), we drove through Les Alpilles to Les Baux de Provence. We only had time to visit les Carriéres des Lumieres at the bottom of the hill or the medieval village at the top. Based on recommendations from our friend, Michel, and our landlord, Jean-Philippe, we chose the Carriéres. This was a great choice. The AMIEX film of “Les Geants de la Renaissance” was beyond description (and beyond the skills of the translation of the website linked here. It is far better to read the information in the original French. As an example, “Carriéres des Lumiéres,” which literally means “Quarries of the Light,” gets translated as Career Lights and there are numerous other mistranslations in the linked translated site, but the English website does provide a good overview of the AMIEX process). The artwork of DaVinci, Michaelangelo, and Raphael was set to classical music and projected onto the walls, roof, and floors of the quarry galleries. The different paintings, sculptures, and drawings faded in and out and flowed up and down the walls in time to the music. All-in-all, words and mere photos fail to adequately describe this sensory experience. It is really something that must be seen first-hand to fully appreciate. I will post a few photos here in a pale simulacrum of the reality. Miss Cyd says she felt like Alice in Wonderland, sort of like walking into a fractal world of the paintings with images 6o feet tall surrounding us and moving through the spaces.
This morning, we rose early, packed up, cleaned the apartment, and caught our cab to the Aix TGV station for our train to Paris. We are on-board the train as I compose today’s blog, so it truly is farewell to Aix and now we are looking forward to our stay in our new flat, Studio St. Germaine des Pres, in the 6th Arrondisement. We thoroughly enjoyed our stay at La Méjanes and will certainly stay there again, if it is available, when we return to Provence next year before the ISEOR/Academy of Management conference. I plan to submit a solo paper on team dynamics to present there. After discussions last week with my research colleagues (the good doctors, Marilyn Harris and Anne Hallcom) subsequent to my visit with Monsieur Bonnet at ISEOR, we may also submit a paper relative to our ongoing research into the doctoral journey. We are getting very close to winding up that research effort and writing our book, so the 2016 ISEOR/AoM conference will be the perfect venue to tie it all together, since we formalized our research collaboration by presenting our first joint paper there in 2009.
Speaking of La Méjanes, our landlord, Jean-Philippe Vauthier, could not have been nicer and more supportive of a great experience in and around Aix-en-Provence. He provided us with many good tips on places to go, things to see, and restaurants to enjoy. Jean-Philippe even made dinner reservations, set up a car and driver whenever we needed one, and just generally made our visit to Aix a total delight. He communicated with us by texts and emails. Whenever we had a question, he responded quickly and effectively.
For our final dinner in Aix last night, Jean-Philippe made reservations for us at the Bistro Petit Pierre (or Petit ∏R, as the sign outside stated), a small restaurant at 11, rue Saint Jean, near La Méjanes. The food was exquisite, the wine was a locally sourced vintage blanc blend that our sommelier, Paul, recommended to go with our entrees, and the ambience was thoroughly enjoyable. Le Petit Pierre seems to be frequented mostly by locals as it is off a small side street far from the madding crowds. A family of four came in to dine with their enormous Irish Wolfhound, who was very well behaved and stretched out on the floor beside the table, except when one of the girls slipped it a morsel. He (we assumed his name must be Gaspar 😉 ) was so big, all he had to do was lift his head off the floor to accept his tidbit, then stretch back out contentedly. This meal was the perfect ending to a perfect stay in Aix-en-Provence. I can and will highly recommend La Méjanes to anyone who wants a central location for exploring old Aix, with easy access to the bus lines and local attractions. Another good tip is to visit the Office of Tourism at Le Rotonde. If you go there, be sure to ask for Carolina. She is very helpful and worked with us to set up discount tickets for the Passport de Cézanne, the trip out to Arles and Les Baux de Provence, and just generally provided great information and advice on the area (in English!). When we go back, we will stay longer, rent a car for day trips, and branch further afield to enjoy more of the lovely landscape and countryside.
Ok, enough gushing over the laid-back Provençal life, now we are gearing up for a more metropolitan sojourn in Paris. We had an excellent ride up from Aix on the TGV. I caught up on some work done along the way, while Miss Cyd got in some quality knitting time. We plan to visit a few museums (the Louvre, the Musée d’Orsay, l’Orangerie, Versailles, the Jardin des Tuilleries, …, all right, all right, so we are going to see MANY museums) and visit local sights like Cathédrale Notre Dame de Paris (which is just a few blocks from our flat in St-Germaine des Pres) and the Eiffel Tower, which a short Métro ride away from our neighborhood Odeon stop to the Bir-Hakeim stop on the Left Bank. However, I also plan to spend quite a bit of time painting Les Ponts de la Seine over the next two weeks. I adequately tested my plein air equipment in Provence and I am pleased with its portability, the set-up and break-down time, and its stability as a painting platform. I am prepared to attack my canvases with audacity and alacrity to produce my series of Les Ponts. Given that I may not have sufficient time to paint all 37 bridges within the Boulevard Périphérique du Paris on this trip, I plan to start with the bridges on and around the Ile de Cité, as those appear to be the most historic and scenic bridges in Paris. We will reconnoiter all of them first, take photos from upstream and downstream vantage points and inevitably some bridges may be painted en atelier rather than en plein air. Alas, so many wonderful sites, so little time.
Fortunately, we found time this evening (after settling in and meeting with our landlord, Thierry) to walk down the Seine toward Notre Dame for a bit and stop over at our favorite bar in Paris, The Great Canadian Pub, to enjoy a few Kilkennys and have a plate of killer chili Nachos for dinner, while we watched a bit of the Masters and talked with some folks from the USA who were in town for the Paris Marathon this weekend. It is good to be back here and we are looking forward to the next two weeks of visiting museums, sketching and painting, and strolling leisurely through the streets of Paris.
Welcome to Paris, the City of Lights, and our home in the Studio St-Germaine des Pres for the next two weeks.
Joe and Cyd