A Weekend With Friends in Aix

Trip Start May 19, 2007
Trip End Sep 02, 2007

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Monday, June 11, 2007

Being that the one thing we were disappointed to miss on our world trip was to catch up with our friends in France, to have this opportunity was too good to pass, and high on our to do list was to visit our good friends Olivier and Nathalie.

We drove to Olivier & Nathalie's place in Aix En Provence on Friday night, about a 2 hour drive. Upon arrival we met their 18 month old daughter Noeme (pronounced "No-em-ie") and she was so cute! For dinner we had a crepe party, but watched with amazement when Noeme had her dinner and followed it with a big chunk of Roquefort Blue Cheese for dessert! Our eyes nearly popped out of our heads! She is an amazing little girl with a beautiful personality. And Olivier and Nathalie spoilt us, even giving up their room for us while they slept on the sofa bed in the lounge!

The following day we walked into Aix to see the Saturday market. It was interesting, seeing all the local produce, flower markers and weird fish. After lunch with Olivier & Nathalie, we took a drive up to Miramas-Le-Vieux. This was a charming old town, and a particular favourite for Olivier of Nathalie, not just because of the beautiful views but also the amazing ice cream (anyone noticing a theme here?). The town was open to cars for residents only, so we parked at the bottom and walked up assuring ourselves that we were getting the exercise we needed to reward ourselves with an ice cream at the top.

Upon reaching the top, the town was beautiful. After admiring the view, we soon found the ice cream place and it too was beautiful with a lovely view of the countryside and nearby lake. We were brought a menu and it was about 10 pages of different ice cream combinations! We were a bit confused by it all but we finally made our decision. As other peoples orders were served we couldn't believe our eyes, they were serving massive amounts of ice cream in glasses the size of flower vases - we were wondering if we would get the same. Well, our ice cream arrived and it was pretty damn sensational. We all agreed that dinner probably wouldn't be necessary that night. Noeme wasn't really fussed about all of these adults getting excited about ice cream, she was more interested in playing with the rocks on the ground (we would find out later that this little girl loves rocks!).

The scenic drive back to Aix seemed the way to go and we went via a beautiful little town called Ventabren. We had a quick look around however we couldn't stop for too long as we had to get back to Aix to freshen up as we were heading into Marseille that night for dinner, where we would also drop Noeme off at Olivier's mothers house.

We all jumped in the same car, and we both took the opportunity to hang out with Noeme in the back seat, trying to amuse her in English. Olivier started the car and out pumped the BB King. After the ACDC earlier in the day Glenn had to proclaim to all present that Olivier had great taste in music (Nathalie and Christie weren't so sure). However Noeme was on the boys side and started dancing away in her car seat smiling and clapping in her car seat (daddy's girl for sure). Towards the end of the journey the rest of us were doing the same!

We arrived at Oliviers mothers house in Marseille and met Oliviers family. It was kisses all round and it wasn't long before Olivier's mum was insisting that we sit down and was bringing out the drinks. Such a lovely family. The four of us jumped in the car and went into Marseille, towards the port. Unfortunately parking was difficult that night and by the time we finally found a park it was 10pm. We had a bit of trouble deciding on a restaurant and ended up going for the most popular one being that it was so late at night. Unfortunately the wine was warm, the waiter was on another planet and the food wasn't sensational - but we didn't care, we had great company and a great day and nothing could really spoil it for us.

The following day we all decided to head to Moustiers Ste-Marie. On the way we stopped at a town called Valensole, popular for the surrounding lavender fields, but really just a small local village. We had told Olivier and Nathalie that we were hoping to see some lavender in France this time as it was winter last time we were in France, and they graciously sought it out for us. We parked the cars and walked into the town. At the entry to the car park a lady was trying to park her car and a truck was blocking the way. A bit of an argument insued and Olivier and Nathalie turned around and then looked at each other smiling as if to say "did they really say that?" (Olivier then translates for us) The lady wound down the window of her clunky old Mercedes and yelled out for the truck to "move his arse" and two old (and possibly slightly tipsy) old local blokes who were walking past retort "hey lady, it's a beautiful day, the sun is shining, everyone is happy. What's wrong with you? Didn't you make love last night?!" (Not sure if this is exactly what was said, we are sure Olivier translated it politely for us). But he explained that we are now in the country, where the locals are more laid back and enjoy the little things in life. We like it!

As we arrived close to lunch time, most places were closed in town, including the tourist office, so we couldn't find out any information about the surrounding lavender fields. Nathalie did her best to ask the locals for some advice and it wasn't long before we were back into the cars heading out of the village into the surrounding farm land to search for the lavender. We did find a few patches of purple but it wasn't in full flower yet, so we vowed to return another day and so continued on to Moustiers.

Lonely Planet describes Moustiers: "Strung between two limestone cliffs towering either side of the little village of Moustiers Ste-Marie), a 227m long gold chain bearing a gold star was suspended, so legend claims, by the Knight of Blacas, grateful to have returned safely from the Crusades... Beneath the star, clinging to a cliff edge is the 14th-century Chapelle Notre Dame de Beauvoir, built on the site of an AD 470 temple. A trail climbs up to the chapel and its waterfall...".

After a lovely lunch in the village, we decided to walk the trail to the chapel, something that Olivier & Nathalie had not done on their previous visits to the town. It turned out that we walked the "back way" up a rocky trail rather than the intended route. People were passing us in hiking boots and Christie was a little concerned about the fact that she was wearing thongs (flip-flops for you non-Australians), but she managed fine and it was nice to do the walk in that direction as we actually walked down towards the chapel and the view was stunning. We were the only ones up there when we arrived and we all noticed the peacefulness and stillness of the place, particularly in the chapel itself. Noeme was completely oblivious to all of this - there were rocks to play with!

After we walked back down the correct path and relaxed with a drink, it was time to say goodbye to our friends - they would head back to Aix from here and we would go on to Juan Les Pins. We were all very exhausted from the weekend and we are sure that Olivier and Nathalie were happy to have some peace and quiet to relax after we left! They are amazing friends, so giving and thoughtful - we only hope that we can return the favour when they visit Australia one day (and yes, you will visit Australia guys!).
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