There are a lot of reasons to stay in Aix-en-Provence. Its music festival, the Camargue region around it rich of natural beauties and of course, the opportunity to simply relax and chill by the pool (even with some weird animals!). But it you are in Aix-en-Provence, there is one thing you can not miss. Tasting the calissons.
A long, sweet history
If you are not familiar with the calissons, there is a very rough history of it here in English and a very detailed one here in French. It is often (but not always) hard to pinpoint exactly the date by which a food delicacy has been invented as it’s often a tradition that has evolved over the years. But it would seem the calissons have enjoyed in Aix-en-Provence since the the 15th century, possibly from something invented by the Venitians as early as in the 1270s. It was eaten by the Roi René, the king that used to rein over Aix-en-Provence and beyond. There are a few possible origin for its name. A cute origin is that during the second mariage of le Roi René (aka René d’Anjou) to Jeanne de Laval, the chief baker of the king served some calissons to Jeanne. This brough a smile to the queen and bringing one of the people of the king to say “Di calin soun” which in French stand for “Ce sont des calins” or in English “These are cuddles”. I think the other most likely origin, in line with the first written trace of calissons in Venice, is that it comes from the Italian word “calycion”, i.e. small, sweet slipper.
Where to buy them.
There is no shortage of place to buy Calissons. But one place is now eponimous to awesome calissons. Chez Bechart, is suitably located on the cours Mirabeau, the heart of Aix-en-Provence. There is a wide selection of them. I am a traditionalist so like my calisson “plain”, ie with the sugar crust as it. But there are various options now, including some with chocolate on top. There is also a wide range of packaging, from the small to the very large amount, it all depends on how much of a sweet tooth you have 🙂 . Last but not least, if you were to carry on your trip after your stay in the guest house, and were to drive north, do let me know as you might be able to do a small detour by where Bechard actually manufacture all his calissons and nougat. You can indulge at a slightly smaller price!