It would be a great omission not to visit Aix during your sojourn in Provence, for it’s the hometown of Cézanne, the artist who embodied so much of the Provençal spirit. Much of his work were inspired by his experience growing up in Aix and indeed he spent the final years of his life here.
Aix isn’t far from bustling Marseille, the second largest city in France. Yet it manages to retain a small-town feel. Its location at the threshold of Provence’s rugged interior means that it’s an excellent base for exploring Provence’s renowned beauty.
Numerous fountains adorn the streets and squares in Aix’s old quarters. Like many places in Europe, it’s an excellent place to explore on foot. Perhaps one should expect no less, since Aix’s most well-known attraction, the Cours Mirabeau, is a pedestrian boulevard.
Cézanne’s workshop where the artist lived and worked during the last years of his life.
Cézanne’s place of residence and workshop is in a quiet, somewhat isolated neighborhood not far from the old quarters. It’s a rather unassuming 2-story house surrounded by a luxuriant garden that seems to have been left to grow untended. The workshop on the 2nd floor is basically a large room devoid of furnishings. Displayed here are many of Cézanne’s still-life models, paintings, tools, and personal artifacts.
This mausoleum on Avenue Pasteur is a rare exampple of French architecture in the revolutionary period. Larger-than-life statues celebrate a revolutionary hero.
The tourist magnet in Aix is the Cours Mirabeau, a rather short (440m) stretch of boulevard hemmed in by two rows of stately and very tall plane trees. At intervals it’s broken up with large, natural-looking fountains gushing with water. its sides are lined with elegant 17th- and 18tth-century mansions. Despite its popularity with tourists, the Cours Mirabeau emanates a relaxing and refreshing feel.
Statue of Le Roi (King) Réné at the Cours Mirabeau
The fountain at La Place d’Albertas
The Café les Deux Garçons, frequented by Cézanne
Place Charles de Gaulle
Street scene in the Vieille Ville
Last visit: May 2004 Pros: Some historical connections, trace the footsteps of Cézanne, vibrant small-town Cons: No major attractions In a nutshell: One of many principal rest stops in Provence