Friday, 11 September 2009
Place Richelme is in the centre of Aix. It's not a big square; on the city map it is only a crossroads, but it is easily the most memorable of the city's squares. The daily market under the massive plane trees, is said to be one of the best in Provence, a land of great daily markets. Then at midday what's left of a huge array of farm-fresh fruit and veg, and other high-quality food, is packed away, the smooth marble flagstones are hosed down, and the cafes spread out their chairs and tables under canopies for the rest of the day. By evening it has the atmosphere of a southern European city: in the cafes and on seats spilling out onto the square people sit and watch football, yelling at the goals, pizza delivery boys roar by, kids wander around licking ice creams, drinks are served to people chatting at tables under the trees, under the stars. You sit out in a tee-shirt and shorts until late: it's warm and it feels good.
But that's not the end of the story. Every Sunday night from early July onwards, between 9.30 and 1am, there's a milonga on the smooth marble flagstones. Because the surroundings interrupt constantly until late in the evening, it doesn't have the concentration of a London or Paris milonga, and there's a certain contrast between the dance in one corner of the square and the relaxed party evening elsewhere. About fifteen couples take to the 'floor', which slopes upwards nearly a metre at one corner, but there's plenty of room for everyone. The dance is about the same mix as London, some salon, some nuevo, a lot in between; some smooth and skilful, some... I didn't find the music that good: for instance, it's odd to hear Biaggi in the third or fourth tanda of an evening, because it isn't easy music to dance to. It's a social and drinking evening with dance too, although they're obviously serious about their dance. At the Paris milonga I went to there were more women than men but here numbers were about equal, and everyone was obviously on good terms, so I didn't try very hard to get a dance. Anyway, it would have been hard to convince anyone I was serious, in worn blue canvas sneakers.
But the good news is that it's there. Take a pair of half-decent shoes, introduce yourself to the organisers beforehand and pay them the recommended €2, sit at the tables where the dancers sit, order a drink and join in. A friendly, open event. I found some photos from a year or two ago here.
According to blogger this is my 201st post. Here's to the next 200!