Aix en Provence, or just Aix as the locals say, is the original capital of Provence. The town dates back to Roman times when natural water sources were used for healthy baths. Today the town is a mini-Paris in which the mainstreet Cours Mirabeau with boutiques and sidewalk cafes, reminiscent the world famous boulevards of the metropolis. The international student community and life in the old town also recalls the atmosphere of the Latin Quarter – on a smaller scale.
Cathédrale Saint – Sauveur d’ Aix
In the old town is the Cathedral Saint – Sauveur. The cathedral is built over several periods from around year 500 to around 1800. Most of what you see today is from about year 1200 and onwards. One can clearly see the different architectural styles (Roman, Gothic and Neo-Gothic ) represented in the church.
The monastery and the Baptistery is outside as usual for the area. At times there may be quite a number of tourists in the cathedral. Some tour groups have this church on their program in Provence. But if you visit it a bit early in the morning or outside the tourist season, it is generally peaceful and calm here .
A short distance southeast of the center lies a building which you have not seen anything like before. Foundation Varsarely is a large museum building from the Hungarian artist Victor Vasarely. Vasarely used abstract art and optical illusions op -art). Several of his works, and works of other similar artists, can be seen in the Foundation Vasarely. The museum is well worth a visit and can be enjoyed even by children.
The city’s famous son Cézanne was born in Aix en Provence in 1839 and lived much of his life here. In 1906 he got pneumonia after working outside during a storm, and later died of the consequences. The studio where he worked the last years of his life is now converted into a museum. It is located just north of the center of Aix. (http://www.atelier-cezanne.com/anglais/)
The house that the Cézanne family owned, is located a short distance west of the city and is called Bastide du Jas de Bouffan. Here Paul painted many of his most famous works. The property is privately owned, but it is possible to visit it. Ask at the tourist office in advance, you have to book a tour to enter. Bastide du Jas de Bouffan is located at Route de Galice, just before it crosses the A51 motorway. Above you can see a painting of Jas de Bouffon of Paul Cézanne.
At an old quarry some distance east of Aix, Cézanne for a period rented a cottage. It’s called Carrières the Bibémus in French. Here he painted several paintings of the quarry’s structures and the views of the Montagne Sainte – Victoire. Check with the tourist office before visiting the quarry, sometimes it is closed due to maintenance.
Mountain Mont Sainte – Victoire is repeated in several of Cézannes paintings. The mountain is located 6-7 miles east of Aix en Provence. The highest point is just above 1000 meters. Running the D10 east from Aix, you will get nice views of the Sainte – Victoire and there are some small villages along the way where you can stop for a meal.
Place des Cardeurs is a large open space with lots of good cafes and restaurants, but you will easily find good restaurants elsewhere in town as well.
How do we get to Aix
The shuttlebuss is less than 1 hour from Marseille Airport – Marignane . The distance from Nice airport is about 1.5 hours. With speed TGV train there is about a 3 hour journey from Paris.