Cruise tours in Provence with Provence native Véronique Flayol. She shares tales of Aix-en-Provence, King René, and the birth of the Calisson. How about a wheelchair accessible cruise tour with wine tasting and gastronomy on the side? But of course! She’s passionate and versatile, and she’ll even teach you some Provençal dialect on the way! You can contact Véronique through her website.
Below are the Show Notes, if you’d rather listen to the show, rather than read this much simplified version of our conversation, subscribe to the show above.
Véronique’s main activity: cruise passengers who arrive Marseille or Toulon, can go to Villefranche as well.
Véronique specializes in accessible cruise tours and tours for disabled people. She has a special van for wheelchairs.
Aix-en-Provence and Cassis
She can pick you up on the dock and one of the most popular tours she gives takes people from the cruise ship to Aix-en-Provence and the village of Cassis.
Aix was founded by the Romans in 132 BCE, it’s an old place, but not as old as Marseille which was founded by the Greeks around 600 BCE and is the oldest city in France.
Véronique designs tours especially for disabled people. Aix is not very difficult for a wheelchair because most of the old city is pedestrian streets.
Aix has an open-air market every Tue, Thu, and Saturday. This market is always a hit with visitors because it’s so lively and interesting.
Aix-enProvence and King René
Another favorite place in Aix-en-Provence is Cezanne’s favorite brasserie on the Cours Mirabeau Les Deux Garçons
King René was the last King of Provence. Provence didn’t get included into France until the middle of the XVth century and was ruled by a King until then. King René was a great patron of the arts and he was also called the wine-maker King because he was very interested in wine. The kings of Provence were also the Kings of Naples and Sicily and as such he introduced a type of grapes to Provence: muscat.
There is a story about King René the famous local treat from Aix-en-Provence called Calissons d’Aix. King René’s second wife, Jeanne never smiled and was always sad. The King asked his cook to create something sweet especially for their wedding. The cook created a new type of candy made with ground almonds, candied melon and sugar. When the cook presented his new creation to the Queen she smiled and said “Di calin soun” which means “it’s like having a snuggle”. The name Calisson supposedly comes from that utterance.
One of the best places to get Calisson d’Aix in Aix-en-Provence is at the bakery called Béchard and you will find it at 12, Cours Mirabeau in Aix. Calissons are a Christmas treat for locals, but they are sold all year round.
Thirteen Desserts of Provence: a Christmas Tradition
The 13 desserts of Provence are a symbol of Jesus and the Twelve Apostles. Calissons are always one of the thirteen desserts at Christmas. Recipe for Calissons d’Aix: they are made of 3 ingredients only in equal parts: crushed almonds, candied melon and sugar. Calissons make for a great souvenir to take back from your vacation because it’s a small box, not perishable, not breakable, and a genuine specialty of Provence and Aix in particular.
Included in the thirteen desserts are any dried fruit and nuts (symbol of the various orders of priest, Benedictine, Dominicans), winter melon, apples, grapes, also la pompe à l’huile made with Olive Oil. You can find Annie’s recipe for Pompe à huile adapted for the North-American chef on our Facebook page and Twitter feed @ParisPodcast.
Véronique speaks Provençal, lets us hear her speak this beautiful language, and she can give entire tours in Provençal.
Cours Mirabeau in Aix-en-Provence
Cours Mirabeau: this is where the ramparts of the city used to be. But when the city needed to expand and tore down the ramparts, they put this beautiful boulevard where the ramparts used to be in the 1600s. It is the Champs Elysées of Provence. For the first 100 years it was restricted to nobility and wealthy people, but now it’s open to everyone. The Cours Mirabeau is on the south side of the area called Quartier Mazarin.
In Provence children do not learn Provençal in school usually, but they can learn it in associations that teach the language and also traditional instruments, such as drums and fifre and dance.
Cassis in Provence
The fisherman village of Cassis. Véronique likes to end her tour in Cassis. It became famous in the early 1800s when famous people came to visit and discovered it. Only wealthy people live there by now. They have a very good local white wine. It is called vin blanc de Cassis. This wine received it’s AOC in 1936, it was one of the first ones in France, as early as Bordeaux wines. Véronique speaks a little bit in French and shows off her marvelous Provençal accent (30mn without introduction).
Véronique can take her customers (including disabled customers) to do wine tasting in Cassis for white or Bandol for red. She’s also selected restaurants with proper facilities for disabled visitors. She can also take people to Nice, Cannes, Monte-Carlo on request. She will suggest a custom tour meet your particular interests and needs.
To hire Véronique, you can go to her website or email her. Her site is provence-transport.fr and her email is firstname.lastname@example.org