If you ever grow tired of the dreary Paris clouds and rain, a short three hour train ride to the South of France will have you basking in the Mediterranean sun in no time. Aix en Provence is known for its beautiful fountains, sunny weather, laid-back college atmosphere and sweet little almond melon and honey confectioneries called Calissons, but that’s not all. Here, the best of Aix:
- Where to stay Located just northwest and within walking distance of the historic city center, Hotel du Globe is a charming, comfortable independent hotel with friendly service and affordable prices. Breakfast is served daily, so why not take your coffee and croissant up to their surprise rooftop deck overlooking the city?
- Le Cours Mirabeau A stately boulevard lined with leafy trees and dotted with several of the cities many fountains, including a mossy one that gets its water from Begniers hot springs. In this relaxed yet sophisticated atmosphere, you’ll want to linger over drinks at the old fashioned café Les Deux Garcons which Cézanne and Zola occasionally frequented, or trendy La Belle Epoque where you can sit and watch the people of Aix stride by all afternoon. On Sundays, try on stylish hats, taste local honey or buy lavender sachets at the outdoor market here.
- Atelier Cézanne Just north of the city center, Paul Cézanne’s studio and gardens are open to the public. Visitors can step inside Cézanne’s world and view his easels, paints and still life subjects. It seems as if the artist has just stepped out for a bit: everything in the studio looks as if someone has just been using it. Stroll the grounds full of wildlife and have a seat in one of the old chairs outside. It’s easy to see where Cézanne drew his inspiration in such a beautiful place. Additionally, the Granet museum and the Jas de Bouffan estate will be of interest to Cézanne fans.
- Where to eat The historic city center is full of picturesque places full of tables, chairs and people hidden down tiny medieval streets. Cafés in the hotel de ville square are great for appetizers and aperitifs, while Place des Prêcheurs gets more upscale with La Mado restaurant. You can literally find a local gem around any corner. For outstanding Moroccan cuisine, make a reservation at Le Riad. Service is impeccable, the pastillas and the tajines are out of this world tasty. For dessert, try the assortment of Moroccan pastries with fresh mint tea poured at your table: divine.
- Day trip Longing to swim in the Mediterranean Sea? A bus from the gare routière (central bus station) in Aix will take you to the train station in Marseille in about twenty minutes. From there, catch a bus to the Pointe Rouge beach. Just south of some of the more rocky main beaches, the sand here is soft and the water is a bright turquoise color. Being a mostly local beach, you may not hear any other Anglophones as you lounge on your towel and watch the wind surfers glide by. Dine on seafood salad or moules frites washed down with a bottle of local rosé at one of the many cafés with seating right on the sand. I don’t know about you, but this is my definition of heaven.
For more information, visit the Aix tourism office website:
© 2012 Pasa’s Paris