It’s surprising to me that when people come to Provence their tours are often so short. Traveling from the Côte d’ Azur to Marseilles, to Aix-en-Provence, to Montpelier, to St. Rémy, to the Luberon, to Avignon, and all the quaint villages in between is a pretty tall order.
One destination that seems to be on everyone’s travel list is Aix-en-Provence. Simply known as “Aix,” the city has a bit of everything that makes Provence special: history, art, amazing architecture and charming Provençal markets.
Aix in One Day: The Market
Market days in Aix-en-Provence are Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday.
Our Memories Tour visited Aix on a Saturday. The market, as expected, was packed. Fortunately, the wide avenue that cuts through Aix, Le Cours Mirabeau, easily accommodates large crowds of tourists, vendors and traffic. It’s seen more than its share since the seventeenth century road was built where the medieval ramparts once lay.
Food markets, flower stalls and vendors with traditional and new Provençal merchandise filled popular downtown streets and plazas.
The day we visited, the area was more congested than usual due to road construction. Torn up streets are not uncommon in cities with a growing population like Aix. Whenever roads are ripped up for repair or expansion, often ancient ruins are unearthed. All construction work stops until special teams of archeologists come in to access the findings. After all, a Roman city once stood and prospered here two thousand years ago.
Aix in One Day: Cézanne
A “must” for a one day visit to Aix-en-Provence is a stroll through town along the footsteps of Cézanne. Square metal medallions literally mark the way.
A two-hour tour along the marked path with our brilliant guide Jennifer gave us an overview of the life of Paul Cézanne: the places he frequented around town: his father’s millinery store, his favorite cafe; and the neighborhood where he lived.
Cézanne’s work spanned more than forty years, from roughly 1860 to 1906. He produced more than 900 paintings and 400 watercolors, some which were never finished.
Picasso said of Cézanne, “he’s the father of us all.“
Interestingly, there are only a few of Cézanne’s art works in Aix. Or anywhere else in France for that matter. Cézanne was rejected personally and artistically by the art communities in Paris and in Aix. Towards the end of his life he was “discovered” by the Germans and Americans. Most of his work can be found in the great museums and galleries in those countries.
Cézanne is said to have inspired cubism.
Two hours is hardly enough to explore all the life of Cézanne in Aix, but it was a start. Another day, another reason to visit …
Aix in One Day: Tourist Train
As the Barefoot Blogger suggests for first-time visits to a city, a hop-on-hop-off bus or tour train is a great way to get an overview.
It’s an especially good idea in Aix where landmarks can be obscure and far away from each other.
During our one day visit to Aix, Memories Tour co-leader Patricia Sands and I carved out time to do what we love most: shop, eat and drink! I must come back, indeed.