Welcome to The Aix-Files

Thanks for checking out The Aix-Files, my

blog postings inspired by my time in and around

Aix-en-Provence and the Vaucluse. The spot includes travel tips,

discoveries of local food and wine, recipes,

cultural events, interviews and historical

tidbits about Southern France. Enjoy!

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Driving and Parking in Aix

Now that we are back in Aix, but this time on the outskirts of town, we have a new challenge: actually driving IN Aix. While it’s only a 25 minute walk to the centre of town, it is not that fun to hike back home with a basket (panier) full to the brim with market produce, and especially up that last steep hill. Or arriving at someone’s house for dinner sweating buckets. So we are forced to drive in town more often than we ever did before. Which then leads to major issues of dealing with traffic, especially around the ring road (periferique). And parking. We are now behaving more like locals (riverains), actually driving ON the Cours Mirabeau, instead of just dodging traffic as pedestrians; double parking on a narrow road and leaving the blinkers on while running into a shop for one little thing; parking with two wheels on the curb.

Being Winnipeggers, we are also constantly looking for free parking, which is almost non-existent in Aix. However, we have learned that:  parking on the street is free from noon to 2 pm (after all, traffic cops need to take lunch, too); street parking is free on a Sunday, which means there is never an available spot; if you pull into a big indoor parking lot and then finish your business within 30 minutes (not likely, but we always hope), it’s free.
This blog posting features photos of driving and parking in Aix (and elsewhere in Provence).

Parking on the Cours Mirabeau

A tight squeeze

Normally a pedestrian street . . ..

His trunk up front was full of wine when he parked here in Marseille

Troglomobile parked in front of the troglodite dwellings

A unique place to park your butt

Boats parked in the harbour in Cassis

The port of Marseille

Gravlax has nothing to do with parking or driving, but I wanted to include it in the blog as it’s one of my signature dishes, perfect as an hors d’oeuvre for a small dinner party or the main event at a big cocktail party.

Gravlax is very popular in France around Christmas and New Year’s, when people pull out all the stops, but I like to make it in mid-summer when huge bunches of fresh dill and vividly-coloured wild salmon are readily available. While you can make gravlax using just one fillet, I prefer using two whole sides. It takes just as long to make a large amount and when it’s ready, I like to chop it into pieces and freeze it. Also it is easier to slice when it is still a bit icy. Bear in mind you will need two to three days from start to finish.

Start with two large sides of salmon, filleted but with skin on. Line a large rimmed baking sheet generously with sheets of plastic wrap. Lay the salmon on top, skin side down. In a bowl, mix 1/3 cup of salt (I like kosher salt or fine sea salt) with ¼ cup of sugar. Sprinkle the mixture evenly over the salmon flesh, pressing so it adheres. Lay two very large handfuls of dill (big branches removed) on top of both fillets. Drizzle two tablespoons of vodka or brandy on top. Lay one fillet on top of the other, skin side out. Wrap the salmon tightly in the plastic. Lay another baking sheet on top and weight it down with something heavy (I like to use two or three bricks wrapped in tin foil).

Place the tray in the fridge for 24 – 36 hours, turning the salmon once a day. When it is ready, the salmon will have given off a lot of liquid and the flesh will be firm to the touch. At this point it is ready to serve, or you can cut it into smaller portions and freeze it for down the road.
To serve, scrape off the dill and carefully wipe off the salt and sugar. Slice it very thinly on the diagonal with a very sharp knife. This is easer to do when the fish is still a bit icy. Lay the slices decoratively on a serving platter and garnish with tiny dill sprigs.

I like to serve the gravlax with cocktail rye or crackers and honey mustard sauce to drizzle on top. To make the sauce, just mix some liquid honey into Dijon mustard until it’s to your liking. Enjoy!

A la prochaine,

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