Aix is a beautiful city at any time of the year, but in spring it takes on a particularly vibrant atmosphere. Already full to the brim with locals, and the first spattering of tourists, spring is a great time to visit before the real summer rush begins.
And this was exactly how we found the city last weekend… bustling with early-spring activity and full of life. Admittedly, I had to sidestep more than a few busy customers at the Place Richelme market, and stalls were no less crowded at the stunning flower market, but it was all part of the general “buzz” that accompanies a Saturday-morning shopping expedition in Aix.
After more than a dozen pit-stops to marvel at the colors of the season – radishes, leeks, vibrant purple artichokes, and the first few baskets of strawberries from Carpentras, we began to think of lunch.
Now Aix is not a city that I particularly like “planning” for. Apart from just showing up, wandering the streets, and dipping in & out of cafés, the main appeal of the town is its relaxed and very “southern” atmosphere. But finding a good restaurant in Aix is an altogether different proposition. The amount and range of eateries in town is daunting and quite difficult to navigate. We’ve had excellent to “passable” to downright mauvais (bad) meals on various visits. Now we always try to seek out recommendations before we hit le road.
And last weekend we had the added treat of being accompanied by fellow blogger and friend, Kathy Ayer of Food Lover’s Odyssey. If you have followed this blog in the past, Kathy has become my “go-to” foodie mentor and we’ve been lucky enough to be spoiled by her (very) exceptional cooking. Très très bon…
So, with trusted food guide in hand, we headed for lunch at Il Était Une Fois. It’s a rather a small restaurant, which is also largely part of its charm. We settled into a cozy table for three and decided to go in for three different “menus” – entrée, main, & dessert (which are available on the restaurant’s website).
Between the delicately stuffed squid, roasted lamb, and flaky cod with pesto-purée, we definitely got it right on this trip. Kathy made the wise dessert choice of a millefeuille with maple syrup cream (ever-so-light) which we all had a chance to dig our forks into. And really, where that millefeuille is concerned, there was no “too much of a good thing” … I could have eaten that pastry cream for days – bravo chef.
*If you want to get in on some of the French-food magic, check out the Provence Pastry-Making Vacation Kathy will be hosting in September 2013.