Monday, January 18, 2010

Aix rules

If ever there was a perfect way to banish the January blues, Aix en Provence is the way to do it. They call it Petit Paris and it's easy to see why - amazing, stylish one-off shops and boutiques, beautiful wide open boulevards and restaurants and bars galore. Down here, service can be a bit lacking and often the food is average rather than special, unless you head somewhere you know well.

In Aix, you can go to the simplest bistro or the swankiest restaurant and the service and quality of food is superb. Many restaurants have resident DJs at the weekend and the music is chilled out Ibiza sounds rather than hideous French pop.

Best bits:

Hotel Cezanne - right in the heart of the old town, a stones throw from the Cours Mirabeau, it's the only boutique hotel in town and gets it right with service, ambience and creature comforts. You can mix your own drinks in the lobby and take them to the room...need I say more?

La Rotonde - possibly the coolest restaurant in town, fab menu, they seem to know if you are French or English before you even walk through the door (possibly not a good thing,) great music and lively even in the middle of January.

Yoji - the waitresses dress as dolls, the sushi and sashimi are to die for but they have barbecues on the table to cook your raw fish on, fondue style, which is weird in a Japanese restaurant.

Belle Epoque - laidback lunch and dinner place with velvet chairs, much-needed full blast patio heaters and completely fab OTT chandeliers. Great salads, amazing cod and sublime house wine, in fact the Aix wines deserve a mention all of their own.

Estello - next to La Rotonde, cosy, intimate and friendly, serving a fab risotto de St Jacques on a bed of good I had it twice!

Atelier Paul Cezanne - Will have to do this next time as opening times are limited in winter but it's a great excuse to go back soon.

Much as I love my kids, it was so lovely to wander around, walk for miles, explore all the backstreets, stop when we were hungry, watch the world go by over coffee and eat really late without being moaned at/begged to go to Claire's Accessories.

Iain's birthday on Thursday, only fly in the ointment is that Nick is still in Haiti and doesn't look like he will be back in time to fly out here with Clare, Mark and Paula on Thursday, which is completely gutting. There is no communication from there, no mobile phone signals or texts even getting through so it is a dire situation (will try and keep a rein on my horribly black sense of humour here.)