France Culinary Travel Diary – First stop: Aix-en-Provence
First stop is the medieval town of Aix-en-Provence, in France’s South, slightly North of Marseille. It’s only April so the town is still a little sleeply, coming out of its winter hiatus, prepping for the tsunami of tourists that will flood Provence during the summer months.
The main drag, Cours Mirabeau, is 100% geared for these visitors, with Paris-style bistrots and Irish pubs overlooking the fountains and designer stores. They’re great for aperitif and people watching and our favourite was Bar Le Grillon. But, it’s the back streets that were far more interesting food wise and also where the Saturday markets are held. This is what I missed most about France and Aix did not disappoint!
It was a slightly drizzly morning when the Madame and I stepped onto the sandstone pavement, bright eyed at 7am thanks to some residual jetlag. We followed the locals as they weaved their way through narrow alleys and lanes, until we were warmly greeted by stalls upon stalls of the freshest and brightest looking vegetables, meats, fruits and flowers, protected from the weather by a canopy of elm trees.
I bought a fresh punnet of strawberries, a saucisson de Taureau and some Herbes de Provence, but if I’d had a little kitchen I would have gladly bought some Tomates de Marmande which were vibrant red and as big as two fists, fresh oysters and Homard Bretons (lobster) and about as much cheese as my nose could handle. The Madame on the other hand, would have happily spent all our Euros on bunches of peonies, despite not having anywhere to put them but in the back seat of our hire car…
It was also on the corner of this market square where I discovered a little coffee shop that made a mean short black but also sold coffee beans, which they ground fresh to order, from around the world, including Australia! The Madame’s latté left her wanting as it looked more like a ‘froth-a-cino’ on steroids but neither of us could fault the quality of the shot.
I noticed a huge Italian influence (or is that tourist influence, not sure which?!) food-wise with every second restaurant seemingly a pizzeria. We found a great one though, simply called “Le Pizza”, where the ingredients were super fresh, top quality and well priced.
The culinary specialty of Provence is the Callison, a small almond biscuit that is made in many flavours, but always almond shaped. They aren’t cheap, but they are delicious and there are two famous stores to buy them at. Le Calisson du roi René and patisserie Béchard.
Next stop is Montpellier by way of Marseille. If you have any must visit places, I’d love you to share them with me!
My Aix-en-Provence Picks:
- Café Le Grillon – 49 Cours Mirabeau 13100 Aix-en-Provence, France
- Le Brûlerie – 1 Place Richelme 13100 Aix-en-Provence, France
- La Pizza – 3 rue Aude 13100 Aix-en-Provence, France
- Farmers & Flowers Markets – Place de l’Hotel de Ville 13100 Aix-en-Provence, France
- Callisons de Roy René – 13 rue Gaston de Saporta 13100 Aix-en-Provence
- Pâtisserie Béchard 12 Cours Mirabeau 13100 Aix-en-provence