Monday, August 29, 2011

Aix-en-Provence, France - July 2011

The first two ports of call on our Western Mediterranean cruise this summer were Toulon and Nice.  It was a pleasure to tour parts of the Cote d'Azur, also known as the French Riviera.  I really enjoyed the south of France much more than Paris.

We arrived at the port of Toulon on a Sunday.  Our shore excursion was to Aix-en-Provence, which was the home of Paul Cezanne.  It was a charming old town (isn't everything in Europe?) that was just a delight to explore on foot.  

The tour bus dropped us off right beside this lovely fountain that led into the heart of the town.  One side of this thoroughfare was lined with cafes while the other side contained street vendors peddling everything from herbs to artwork.  Isn't it just darling?

Annie ended up with a pair of pretty little handmade silver earrings.  I spied the homemade macaroons in a rainbow of colors/flavors and couldn't resist.  You know how they are on these cruise ships, barely enough food around to keep a body going.  Annie and I pointed out macaroons to the older gentleman manning the booth.  We purchased the following flavors while I tried not to drool on these little morsels of baked goodnes: chocolate, orange, coconut, lemon and almond - yum!  He spoke no real English and we could only respond with "merci" after he had bagged up our impromptu snack we nibbled while strolling through the rest of the stalls.

As this was the first day of shore excursions on the cruise, I figured everyone would be in top form.  Of course, I was mistaken and this became a daily grind... waiting on the idiots that somehow made it to adulthood without the ability to tell time.  I couldn't help but feel sorry for the poor tour guides.  They gave out maps, explained where we were and practically branded on our foreheads what time we needed to meet in order to depart for the ship.  Every day they also warned us that they would NOT wait for us longer than a few minutes past the designated meeting time since we were on a schedule.  

And in Aix, the sweet little French tour guide meant what she said.  She waited on a tardy couple for 15 minutes, then called the ship to get permission to leave.  She had already scouted the area for a bit on foot and even had the bus drive around the fountain a few times so she could look for them.  I felt like she gave it her best shot.  Later than evening, while we were making our way down to the dining room for dinner, we spied the couple that was left behind.  They approached us to ask what time the guide told us to meet back at the bus.  We told them 12:15.  They thought she said 12:40.  What struck me as terribly ironic is that the lost couple spoke French, so I'm not sure why they didn't clarify the time with the guide since French was also her native language.  The couple told us they had to catch both a train and taxi in order to return to the ship before it left port.  I imagine it was an expensive lesson in punctuality for them.

Here are Annie and Claire posing in front of a smaller statue on a side street. 

This is a painting post impressionist artist Paul Cezanne created of Montagne Saint-Victoire.  We passed by this mountain as we drove to Aix.  Cezanne featured it many times in his paintings since he had a view of it from his home. 

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