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Gardens, Music and Art

One of the things I love most about traveling in Europe is coming upon art, music or cultural festivals quite par hasard (by chance). From small, home-grown occasions to grand events, festivals are typically a short-term celebration of something or someone special to the local culture.

A few weeks ago while in Aix-en-Provence, I found out about the second annual "Flâneries d'Art." or "Art Stroll" in Aixois gardens.* For two days, several magnificent 18th century gardens and cloisters in the heart of Aix were opened to the public to showcase the works of 28 sculptors, painters, jewelers and other artists. En plus (To top it off), several musicians from the Aix Conservatory played for the visitors in each garden. I had the good fortune-and time-to visit several of these enchanting settings and mingle with the locals.

 At the Cloître des Oblats located at the top of le Cours Mirabeau, the grand boulevard in Aix reputed to the one of the most beautiful main streets in all of Europe, I wandered through the courtyard amongst giant, brightly-colored flowers and pop-art paintings. Inside the cloister's stone halls, beautiful jewelry and photographs of Aix in earlier times were on view. But I was most drawn to the perfect symmetry and deep jewel tones of small, ceramic bowls on display in one corner of the garden. I strolled over to look more closely and struck up a conversation with one of the artists. She mentioned that more works were available at their atelier (studio) a few blocks away so nous y avons fixé un rendez-vous (we made an appointment to meet there) the following day.

 I made my way to the Atelier Buffile late the next morning and was welcomed by the same artist who turned out to be Monique Buffile, a second generation ceramiste.* The studio was founded in 1945, and today several Buffile family members participate in the operation. Madame Buffile was charming as she showed me around the studio where stacks of the colorful small bowls I had admired the day before glowed in the large windowsill. Cups, saucers, plates, salad bowls and more whimsical designs lined the shelves of the working studio.

 After some indecision on my part, caused no doubt by the tempting creations and also by the fact that available space in my suitcase was dwindling, I chose five perfect small bowls in yellow, red, orange, aqua and violet. As she wrapped up my treasures, Madame Buffile and I discovered we had a mutual friend in Aix. They had known each other for years. We also talked about the beauty of Aix and the surrounding countryside. "I walk out every day and am truly amazed how wonderful it is here," she said. Having spent quite a bit of time in Aix myself, I had to agree.

Later that week, I spied ceramics from the Atelier Buffile in a chic shop in St. Rémy, about an hour or so by car from Aix-en-Provence. I smiled as I perused the display. I had already acquired my own collection of Buffile masterpieces-they were a souvenir of a memorable festival and a visit with the artist. And they had come straight from the source.

* The "Flâneries d'Art" festival in Aix-en-Provence took place June 14 and 15, 2008. Entry to the gardens, art shows and concerts was free to the public. www.aix-en-oeuvres.com
* The Atelier Buffile is located in the heart of Aix-en-Provence at 2 bis traverse de l'aigle d'or. www.buffile-ceramiste.com

July 30, 2008

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