Thursday, June 10, 2010


As I have written previously, one of our favorite towns is Aix-en-Provence. This capitol of Provence in the middle ages is located about one hour and 15 minutes from our home in Sablet.

Aix-en-Provence is famous for the outdoor markets, shopping and beautiful people, and as the home of Paul Cézanne (1839-1906) who lived and did most of his work here. Unusual for Provence, there are no ancient historical sights to see.

Aix-en-Provence has long been a university town: Louis II of Anjou granted a royal charter for a university way back in 1409. The 40,000 students studying at the many teaching and research institutions today give the town a youthful energy.

Cours Mirabeau is a beautiful avenue, shaded by double rows of plane trees, which provide protection against the hot Provençal sun. Built in the 17th century on the site of the medieval ramparts, the life of the town revolves around this area.

Lined along the avenue on the north side of the street are book shops and cafés, of which the brasserie Les Deux Garçons is most famous. Dating from 1790, it was once an important meeting place for artists and writers. I ate lunch at Les Deux Garçons which I will write about in a future post.

On the other side of the street are offices and banks housed in aristocratic facades of old hotels with their beautiful doorways and wrought iron balconies supported by caryatids, sculpted female figures.

Aix-en-Provence is often referred to as the city of a thousand fountains (a slight exaggeration). Among the most well known are the two fountains at the ends of Cours Mirabeau: At the top, a 19th century fountain depicts the "good king" René holding the Muscat grapes that he introduced to Provence in the 15th century.

At the bottom at la Rotonde, the hub of modern Aix-en-Provence, stands a monumental fountain from 1860 beneath three giant statues representing art, justice and agriculture.

Another notable fountain is located at Place d'Albertas. This square was opened in 1745 and the fountain was added in 1912. It has beautiful mansions around it and concerts are held here during the summer.

The Cathédrale St-Sauveur (Holy Savior Cathedral) has an eclectic mixture of styles from the 5th century to the 17th century.

The Palais Archiepiscopal (Arhbishop's Palace) in Place Martyrs de la Résistance, is now a museum.

There seem to be interesting old or pretty buildings where ever you look.

North of Cours Mirabeau lies old Aix-en-Provence. The many pedestrian streets criss-crossing this area make it perfect for a walking tour.

This is the place for shopping.

The northwest corner of the Place de l'Hotel de Ville is overlooked by the 16th century clock tower. This is the site for morning flower markets on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. Café tables replace the market stalls each afternoon.

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