After about 36 hours in hectic Marseille, the group was ready to check out the more quaint side of southern France. The next portion of the itinerary called for a breakfast in Marseille, followed by a drive up to Aix en Provence.
- Visit a winery in Provence
- Aux Petits Oignons
Day 4: Marseille/Aix en Provence
Day 4 started with another early morning run down La Canabiere to the port area, followed by checking out of the hotel and heading to Coogee for some breakfast and coffee. This was low-key one of the best meals we had on the whole trip. Nothing out of the ordinary, just very good coffee, muffins, and a fresh avocado toast with delightful smoked salmon, in a very interesting but peaceful space.
Next, before leaving Marseille for good, we wanted to get one more great panoramic view, and we had heard that there was a great one up at Notre Dame de la Garde. We heard right.
With our Instgrams all set to blow up with those sweet vistas, it was time to hit the road north to Aix en Provence.
We arrived around 12:30 at Le Pigonnet, about 5 minutes outside of downtown Aix. In the planning phase, we had made the conscious decision for the hotel in Aix to be our “splurge” hotel, since we were only staying there for one night. As we did our research we found that Le Pigonnet had a nice suite called “The Garden Apartment” available for $340. From what we could tell, it had two bedrooms, two nice bathrooms, and a big common area for the four of us to hang out in.
That was a heck of an undersell; this place was unbelievable. After checking in, we were escorted through the gorgeous grounds, back toward the pool, and through an iron gate with a “PRIVATE” sign. Through the gate was a private garden with a picnic table and lawn chairs, with a stone path leading up to a door. We stepped inside, expecting to be led down a hall to our suite, but instead, our escort simply said, “Bienvenue, enjoy your stay!”
We were in shock. The Garden Apartment consisted of a magnificent foyer, two large bedrooms each with an accompanying newly renovated luxury bathroom, a massive stocked kitchen and dining room, and a huge great room. It so exceeded our expectations that we spent probably about an hour just marveling at the place, and wondering how we got it for only $340. On our way out the front lobby we noticed a rate sign on the wall which confirmed that we had somehow landed this room at over a 50% discount. An off-season steal!
After exploring the grounds a bit, we were off to Chateau la Dorgonne, a winery about 35 minutes outside Aix, between the towns of La Tour d’Aigues and Mirabeau. Visitors to the winery are given a map of the vineyards, and have the option of taking the short route (45 minutes) or the long route (about 90 minutes) self-guided walk around the property.
Upon our return to the small shop, there was a tasting set up for us, mostly consisting of their reds and Provençal rosés. The wines were very good, and the tasting was free! We bought a few bottles, and grabbed some house olive oil, with the intention of picking up a fresh, warm baguette on the ride back that we could dip in some olive oil in our *private* garden! We did just that (buy one get one free baguettes!), and enjoyed the fruits of our travels. It was a blast!
Dinner, however, presented a bit of a challenge. We wanted to check out Aux Petits Oignons, a raved-about cheap eats spot in Centre Ville, but upon further review it was closed on Tuesday evenings. Bummer! But not to worry – we had backups. Or so we thought…we made a last-minute reservation online at a place that Google Maps said was open, but when our Uber dropped us off, it was closed. WTF!? The place took the online reservation when it was closed? Poor design. I didn’t even take down the name of the place, I was so flustered.
Anyway, at least we were still feelin’ good from all that wine earlier, so our spirits were still up. We wandered around Centre Ville to see what looked good, and ended up popping into an Italian restaurant called Le Four Sous le Platane. It was a solid meal, and the first place where I tried the Provençal favorite, pastis: an anise-flavored apertif.
After dinner, we walked around Centre Ville a bit more in the dark, and we were pleasantly surprised to see that there was actually quite a bit of life in this small town on a Tuesday night. It seemed like there were a lot of students hanging out at various bars around the area. That said, we couldn’t agree on where to go next. What we could agree on was that we were already sad that we’d have to leave Le Pigonnet in the morning. So, we decided to close out the night with the delightful bartenders at the hotel bar, where we learned the phonetic difference between “beaucoup” and “beau cul.” Definitely look into that if your a first time visitor to a French-speaking country…
Day 5: Aix en Provence (morning)
We woke up the next morning planning to check out of the hotel and head back to Centre Ville to walk around in the daylight and grab some breakfast, before hitting the road back to Spain.
We explored for a while before stopping at Cafe Weibel for breakfast and pastries, which was amazing – exactly what you would imagine breakfast at a French pastry shop to be.
After breakfast, we perused the small market that was right outside Weibel, and picked up some aromatic Marseille soaps for Christmas stocking stuffers.
And with that, we were on our way back to Barcelona, with a stop to see some sights in Girona along the way. Or so we thought…stay tuned…
- Le Pigonnet
- Chateau la Dorgonne
- Baguettes and olive oil
- Centre Ville – on a Tuesday!
- Go at a time of year when the lavender fields are in bloom
- Aux Petits Oignons
- More wineries
- The Scat Club
- Cafe Culturel Citoyen
I hope to return to Provence very soon. What else should be on the list for next time? Leave a comment!