Our experience of ordering things in Aix-en-Provence is limited to two establishments. One is the world famous place where Cezanne took his coffee, where Camus drank and many of France’s intelligentsia frequented. It’s the sort of place one really should go to when visiting the Mirabeau. The other is a simple tabac called Le Gauloise (yes, after the cigarettes) which sits right beside the cathedral and isn’t famous anywhere.
Today we visited both and have very different opinions of them.
In one of them we sat and had a delightful lunch in the shade with a slight breeze cooling the 30 degree heat. The waiter was charming and jolly and couldn’t have been better. In the other we were ignored while waiters sped by us and then told us to wait when we asked for some service. Needless to say we didn’t.
Now you’d think that a world famous cafe would only get to be so by giving some sort of service but it seems that isn’t so. While Le Gauloise was exemplary in it’s treatment of its customers, the Cafe de Trois Garcons was appalling. Now, personally, I don’t care because I’m never likely to go there again but I think other people who visit the place should stand warned. I shall be reviewing them on Trip Adviser accordingly.
We were only on a short visit in Aix on the way to our next accommodation near Beaucaire. It followed a drive that followed the Verdon river until it emptied into the Durance and we joined the expressway heading west.
Reaching the outskirts of Aix we were going to head for the ring-road in order to find some parking but then, with great cheers, we found a Park and Ride! So we parked Celine then jumped into a handily waiting bus for the trip into town. Our handy little ticket gave us access to the bus for the entire day, for anywhere in the town, for nothing. That’s right. Nothing. We just had to pay for the parking when we returned for the car.
Given the roads we travelled down in the bus, Mirinda was very pleased we didn’t have to drive in. It was a bit too lemon squeezy for her taste…and I didn’t want the stress. So, relaxed and still happily married, we left the bus on the ring-road and walked into the centre. And that’s where we found the wonderful tabac Le Gauloise.
When Mirinda asked the waiter if he had a menu he replied that he was the menu and proceeded to rattle off the three dishes they made. We both chose the dish of the day and had a delicious lunch of pork, cabbage and salad before heading next door to have a look at the cathedral.
Sadly it was not a good day for cathedral visiting as some old woman was having her funeral. In fact, as we started to walk towards the big doors to go in, a couple of sombre looking chaps opened the back of a hearse and started dragging a coffin out complete with a small photograph of the occupant (which is how I know it was the funeral of an old lady). I didn’t feel right about accompanying the coffin through the doors so we decided to give it a miss.
Instead we threaded our way down through the old streets passed numerous nougat shops, macrons and tourists. It was delightful. We wound up at the Plaza Madeleine which is presently under renovation. Because Aix was previously a Roman town, any large scale work has to have archaeologists involved in the digging phase which we saw as we walked between the Heras fencing.
After a bit of drooling for past glory, we continued walking down towards the Mirabeau, a gloriously wide shared space with restaurants on one side and austere offices on the other. It makes for a beautiful vista and at least one side is always in shade.
We walked down to the fountain then back to the Cafe de Trois Garcon where we thought, like Cezanne, we’d partake of a coffee (or perhaps beer). We sat down, Mirinda answered a rather brusque waiter that we wanted coffee and we just waited. It was a long time however, we were in the doorway and the breeze was delightful. Actually I should be thanking the cafe because we managed to cool down and rest our feet and it didn’t cost us anything. After sitting for long enough we simply gathered our stuff together and left.
We then headed for the bus stop to take us back to Celine where we discovered that the whole expedition had cost us just €2.20. When you consider we didn’t pay anything at the world famous cafe de la Trois Garcons, the whole visit had been a total bargain.
We then had the horrendous ordeal of getting out of Aix and back onto the expressway to Arles.
Eventually we turned into the long, narrow driveway to Domaine de clos, our home for the next five nights. It’s a converted olive oil farm and is delightfully isolated and restful and without kids. Perfection in a farmhouse.
After a bit of a rest, we drove into the small canal edged town of Beaucaire for dinner. Unfortunately one side of the canal/marina is being done up and is a bit of a mess. Still, we found a parking space and headed across to the Cafe Vintage only to be told we were too late because he had stopped serving food. It was 8:45 which is hardly late. So we moved along to the next place which may have been called Cafe de la Soliel (or something like that) where a very ebullient chap smiled and showed us to an outside table.
The food was okay (Mirinda was less enthusiastic than me and I wasn’t exactly what you’d call enthusiastic) but the highlight was the odd characters. There was the waitress who whispered, getting quieter whenever she was forced to repeat because you didn’t hear her the first time. There was the strange trio of people; a French couple in their mid to late 50’s with a 30 year old chap covered in tattoos who’s French was about as fluent as mine who kept repeating everything he said as if saying ‘vacance’ three times made it more understandable. There was the older Germanic sounding fellow and his (Mirinda reckoned she was Japanese) female companion who insisted that all intellectuals should be killed.
I have to say that it all made for a most entertaining meal which more than made up for any lack of imagination on the plates.