Monday, April 14, 2014

Aigues-Mortes:  Market Day and Lunch with Friends

On Sunday, we drove down to Aigues-Mortes a second time (see preceding blog post).  Today was warm and sunny (like almost every day here), so we enjoyed strolling through the extensive outdoor market and picking up a few things for our meals, including luscious local strawberries.

We spent the afternoon with David Zarka and his family, enjoying a long, slow, leisurely, and absolutely delicious lunch. Here is the course by course menu:  1. An aperitif of cold pastis, the favorite summer drink in Provence, with appetizers, 2. delicious local oysters on the half shell, 3. a salad with homemade anchovy dressing and topped with baked mussels covered with melted cheese, 4. a cold salad-like main dish of potatoes and octopus, 5. a cheese tray with three different varieties to try, 6. a "fougasse," a special flat cake made with orange blossoms, 7. coffee.  Oh, and bread and wine throughout the meal.  We had to leave a little early to catch a concert back in Nimes -- after only 4 1/2 hours at the table.  The conversation in fractured French was lively and too much fun.  Thanks David and Patrice and Family!


Aigues-Mortes:  The Fortified City of St. Louis

The town of Aigues-Mortes ("Dead Water") lies in a swampy plain on the coast of the Mediterranean. The town was founded in 1240 by Louis IX (aka, St Louis), who wanted a French seaport from which to launch the 7th crusade (1248) and 8th crusade (1270). The pious king died of dysentery in North Africa in 1270.

Because it was a planned community, the streets of Aigues-Mortes are laid out in a rectilinear grid, which is very unusual for towns of this period. The city is still guarded by the massive Constance Tower (the walls are 6 meters thick) and a four-sided city wall with multiple gates and guard towers.

For a small picture album, click here.

Tarascon and Beaucaire:  April 12

Tarascon (pop. 11,000) and Beaucaire (pop. 13,000) are twin cities connected by a bridge across the Rhone River.  Tarascon is renowned as the home of King Rene's magnificent castle (completed in 1449) and the Tarasque river monster, tamed by St Martha.  Beaucaire also has a ruined castle and a colorful canal full of pleasure boats.

Here are a few pictures.