We visited Aix-en-Provence and saw a knife fight. That wasn’t the only thing we saw.
After leaving the restaurant at dusk, we strolled the streets. Some towns roll up the sidewalks after dark; Aix does not. It is practically mandatory to walk the streets in the evening and have a drink on cafe terraces. Yep. Streetwalking is mandatory. It’s especially nice because the old town (vielle ville) is car free, easy to navigate and a manageable size.
Boulevard Mirabeau (Cours Mirabeau), is a grand avenue built on the site of the former ramparts in the 17th century. Our favorite trees in Geneva, the plane tree, line and shade the stately boulevard. The overhanging trees provide much-needed shade on hot summer days. Moss covered fountains are in the center of the avenue with stately old town houses behind the wide sidewalks.
We strolled it that evening, but went back the next morning to have coffee (and a croissant) in the legendary café, Les Deux Garcons. Dating from 1792, many famous people have dined here including: Picasso, Churchill, Edith Piaf, André Malraux, Jean-Paul Sartre, Raimu, Alain Delon, Jean-Paul Belmondo, Jean Cocteau, Sophie Marceau, Jean Reno, Hugh Grant and George Clooney. It was a regular haunt of Paul Cezanne and Emile Zola. I can see why. The cappuccino was tasty and the croissant was wonderfully light. It was a treat to sit and watch the world pass.
Being American, we like a fast pace and giant to do lists. It is impossible to live like that in Aix. It is a place to stop, enjoy the view and make the mundane wonderful.
Aix is known for its many and varied markets. They have normal markets, local producers markets, flower markets, antiques markets and old book markets. We visited the morning market at Place Richelme (there are also markets at Place de Verdun, Place de l’Hôtel de Ville and Place des Prêcheurs). We picked up some fresh fruit and perused the many artisanal varieties of cheese, meats and breads.
Aix-en-Provence is a university town (University of Provence Aix-Marseille) and filled with academics and students. It also gets its fair share of aristocrats, people who are wealthy enough not to have to work and professionals. It has a reputation for being a bit elitist. If you are interested in Aix, it was immortalized by Peter Maille’s book “One Year in Provence.”
Like many other towns in the south of France (Arles, Orange, Vence), Aix was inhabited by the Romans. They built thermal baths at Aix, Aquae Sextiae, around 2000 years ago. Today you can visit the newer (18th-century hot-water baths) and modern spa built atop the old baths (you can see them from the lobby).
- A Knife Fight In Aix (schwingeninswitzerland.wordpress.com)