SIt’surprisingly, 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 everything that makes Provence unique: history, art, fantastic architecture, and charming Provençal markets.
What if you had only one day in Aix-en-Provence? Our challenge was planning this year’s South of France Memories Tour.
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 broad 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 famous downtown streets and plazas.
The day we visited, the area was more congested than usual due to road construction. Torn-up streets are familiar in cities like Aix, which has a growing population. Often, ancient ruins are unearthed whenever roads are ripped up for repair or expansion. 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 over forty years, from roughly 1860 to 1906. He produced over 900 paintings and 400 watercolors, some of which were never finished.
Picasso said of Cézanne, “he’s the father of us all.“
Interestingly, only a few of Cézanne’s artworks are in Aix. Or anywhere else in France, for that matter. Cézanne was rejected personally and artistically by the Paris and Aix art communities. Towards the end of his life, he was “discovered” by the Germans and Americans. Most of his work can be found in those countries’ great museums and galleries.
Cézanne is said to have inspired cubism.
Two hours is hardly enough to explore 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, a hop-on-hop-off bus or tour train is a great way to get an overview of first-time visits to a city.
It’s an excellent 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 decided to do what we love most: shop, eat, and drink! I must come back, indeed.