istresThis doesn’t take place until June but, if you are into this kind of event, it might be worth putting on the calendar now. Continue Reading »

Here’s a recommendation for lunch which will take you right off the beaten track and far away from tourist groups.

Don’t read on if you are looking for fine dining and sophistication.  Chez-le-Garde won’t offer you that. But for me, it was a truly Provencal experience: we were surrounded by French families, welcomed by friendly staff and a warm fire plus there was a superb view of the Sainte-Victoire.  A winning combination. Continue Reading »

Provence is not just a holiday destination any more – it’s increasingly a popular choice for weddings with couples travelling from USA, Australia, South America and the UK to tie the knot. 

Credit Hannah Duffy Photography

Credit Hannah Duffy Photography

But making the dream come true needs organisation in spades and this is where local wedding planner Lucy Till steps in.  She will make sure that everything is done lucy_tillon time and to budget, to make sure that the day goes perfectly.

It’s a business that Lucy launched when she moved to live near Aix, from Uzes, for family reasons.  Somehow life’s twists and turns, especially for women, can be a catalyst to creativity and enterprise – and this is certainly a case in point.

She is now organising 15-20 weddings here each year and is recruiting (details below).

Incoming couples are given a questionnaire which teases out details of guest numbers, transport needed, locations favoured, and then ideas about themes and style.  People will often have a venue in mind, but if not she will suggest a choice of about 8, ranging from chateaux to hotels to private homes to beaches. She also has worked hard to establish a wide network of contacts to supply hairdressers, make-up artists, florists and caterers, plus musicians and entertainers.

Phew.  Weddings are complicated events these days and far too important for mistakes.  Fortunately and essentially, Lucy is very calm. Having been involved with two, both les filles Aixcentric, I take my fascinator off to her.  However carefully one plans, things can go wrong at the last moment and this is really where a wedding planner gets tested.  Think air-traffic control strikes!

Credit Picture Perfect Photography

Credit Picture Perfect Photography

But Lucy loves her work.  The winning formula locally, she says, is a classic Provencal theme with a simple, beautiful location, oodles of lavender and magnums of rosé.  The trend is towards less formal affairs, much less structured than they used to be.  In fact she is just organising one on the beach at St Trop.

Because the business has grown, Lucy is currently looking for freelance assistants.  They must be French/English bilingual, experienced in events management, and free to work at weekends.  I think, in addition, they must have a very large helping of CALM!

Contact Lucy through: http://www.lucytillfrenchweddings.com/wedding-planner-services/

wedding car

The traditional cafes in the cours Mirabeau rarely serve patisseries with their morning drinks… and I never have the nerve to produce one out of a bag, which is what you can do in so many French villages.  So I am often on the lookout for somewhere to get coffee and cake.

IMG_0252It’s getting easier (see posts on Mana Espresso and Columbus Café)…and this week I tried out Maison Cangina which is at right angles at the top of the cours where rue Marechal Joffre starts.

But was the fooding exciting? Continue Reading »

‘L’art d’apprendre le francais’ and ‘l’art de vivre en Provence’ are combined for those signing up for courses with Destination Francais.

It’s an Aix-based company started by two French teachers, tired of the classroom-based teaching methods they’d been tied to in the traditional system.  They felt that learners need to engage with everyday life – and have the opportunity to learn about Provence while doing so.



Learners are encouraged to chat with stall-holders as they are introduced to different products

Beginners are often met at the Office du Tourisme where they start with a map of Aix.  As they familiarise themselves with the layout of centre-ville, they are learning new words and expressions.  The teacher, either Fabienne or Chantal, will then add in info from leaflets and the bus timetables before helping the person approach the counter to get some information.  Then it’s off to the market or the shops to learn about local products and how to order them.

These ‘Cours en Context’ help beginners deal with everyday life in Provence.  Subsequent sessions take place in cafés around town – Le Jardin d’Amalula and Book In Bar are favourites for their relaxed ambiance – and here the teacher again bases the learning on discussions.  More experienced French-speakers can be taken to exhibitions or the Cite du Livre for richer discussions – or to the Mairie to look at the mechanics of French life, if that’s what they need.

Note-taking isn’t necessary – Chantal or Fabienne note new words and email them after the session.

Of course sometimes more traditional teaching is needed to practise grammar but again, Destination Francais use authentic documents from Aix to base the learning.

The duo set up their company in 2008. Clients come from local businesses, or are individuals who want to learn from scratch or improve their level of French.  One particular travel agency in Chicago send alumni for walking tours of Aix, in French.

It’s a very personalised way of learning; having new vocabulary and expressions given in context makes it click into place because the visual signposts stay longer in the memory.

I had an hour’s chat with Chantal in order to write this post.  It was all done in French…and boy did she take me in hand!  And yes, I got my typed notes by email afterwards….

Details of timetables and prices: http://www.destinationfrancais.com/


Street Art in Aix

Aix centre-ville has been pretty much graffiti-free since Madame le Maire waged war on the taggers, paying a company to remove them within 48 hours. And she was surely right to do so as much of it was just a mess.

But increasingly, resourceful shop-owners are decorating their store-fronts by using their roll-down shutters to great effect.  So during the day, the streets are their usual tasteful Provencal selves, but by night, there are some fun publicity panels to liven up the scene:

A very clear marketing message here...rue Thiers

A very clear marketing message here…rue Thiers

Fun message on a shoe shop in rue Cordeliers...in English too!

Fun message on a shoe shop in rue Cordeliers…in English too!

Oh dear, these ducks don't realise what is being sold in this shop just off Place Richelme

Hmm, these ducks don’t realise what is being sold in this shop just off Place Richelme


Opposite Stade de Carcassonne – colourful display to catch the eye of the post-sports crowd

These security shutters are otherwise drab and grey – it’s good to see this personalisation and colour in the streets of Aix!  What do you think?



Every expat who reads a French newspaper or listens to the radio asks herself how France is really governed.  Who has the power and the access to resources to get things done?  And who can I find to ask these questions? 

Find out more about Metropoles at talk next week in Aix

Find out more about Metropoles at talk next week in Aix

Aix-resident Karen Wildau recently met Philip Breeden, a senior American diplomat with over 30 years of experience in communication, cultural and educational affairs in Europe, Africa and the Middle East.  He has received many honors for his work as the Consul General in Marseille and Minister-Counsellor at the U.S. Embassy in Paris.

She writes: “Phil has generously agreed to speak to us about what he calls the “Millefeuille” of the French state.  Not the pastry, but the many-layered system of French government.  As expatriates in France, we’ve all had our encounters – good and bad – with city hall, the prefecture, and the gendarmerie.  Based on his long experience in France, Philip will walk us through the mysteries of French departments, regions, municipalities and new creatures such as the grand metropole, and explain how everything leads back to Paris.”
Date: the lecture will take place on February 4 at 18:30 P.M.
Venue:  IAU College, Centre d’Etudes Francaises, 2bis rue du Bon Pasteur near the Cathedral in Aix.
RSVP: Please let me know if you plan to come, kwildau@gmail.com