Historic capital of Provence, Aix-en-Provence has kept all its splendour and shines in many ways for its heritage or its famous calissons in particular. Not to be missed!
A little history..
City of water and city of art from the Aquae Sextiae of the Roman period to the Ais en Prouvencou of the good King René in the Middle Ages. In an era often described as obscurantist, the Count of Provence held a refined and literate court here. The city became a cultural and university centre around 1409. An influence that will never be denied throughout the ages. After the attachment of Provence to France in 1486, the Parliament of Provence will take its quarters there at the expense of Marseille, the populous and commercial city. The French Revolution will be the final point of the political influence of Aix-en-Provence. The "sleeping beauty" will gradually emerge from her sleep to regain her full aura. Paul Cézanne, the city's child, would meet Émile Zola there at the Bourbon College. The genius and fame of the painter will reinforce the image of the city of art. Today Aix-en-Provence is a city where the gentle way of life is beyond compare, it attracts tourists in all seasons. An envied university town (Literature, Law, Economics, Political Science, Arts and Crafts, Fine Arts...), young people flock throughout the year in the pedestrian streets and on the Cours Mirabeau where the terraces of bars, cafés and restaurants are as many invitations to the dolce vita of Provence.
Between mansions and charming fountains
Aix is home to more than 150 residences built between the 16th century and the mid-18th century. They tell the history of Aix, its evolution, its great families, its architects, its influences... A remarkable heritage and you only have to look up to enjoy it! Starting from the top of the Cours Mirabeau, you first discover the Hôtel du Poët of 1730, with its facade decorated with mascarons. At number 38, the Maurel de Pontevès hotel, with the atlantes that support the balcony, specific to Aix Baroque art. At number 19, the hotel Arbaud-Jouques and at number 20, the hotel de Forbin (1656). You can't miss the Hôtel de Caumont at 3, rue Joseph-Cabassol, formerly a music and dance conservatory, now an art centre. Bought in 2015 by the Culturespaces foundation (Jacquemart-André museum, Château des Baux-de-Provence, the Lumières quarries...), it has been transformed into a sumptuous setting for prestigious exhibitions. The Hôtel de Marignane at 12, rue Mazarine is not to be missed either. Rue Espariat: at number 10 is the magnificent Hôtel d'Albertas, whose renovation is nearing completion, and at number 6 is the Hôtel Boyer d'Eguilles, which housed the Museum from 1953 until its move to the Parc Saint-Mitre in 2014. Rue Gaston-de-Saporta, at number 17, the Hôtel d'Estienne de Saint-Jean houses the Musée du Vieil Aix and collections based on the traditions of Aix and its region, including the Corpus Christi Games (18th century screen). Continuing on, we discover the Archbishop's Palace (17th century), Place des Martyrs-de-la-Résistance, where the lyric art festival is held in the summer. At number 23, opposite the Saint-Sauveur cathedral, the Maynier d'Oppède hotel hosts lyric art concerts and literary events. A living heritage!
In a region where water is a precious resource, because it is rare, Aix has been able to count on its many springs. Utilities to begin with, simple basin, well and trough, the fountains finally got their letter of nobility from the seventeenth century. A true ornament of the urban landscape, more than forty public fountains mark out a city still marked by water. Among the most beautiful, the Fountain of the Four Dolphins, classified as a historical monument in 1905. Its four dolphins water the cardinal points of the small square shaded by beautiful chestnut trees. The beautiful hotel of Boisgelin faces it with elegance. The Trois-Ormeaux fountain, on the shaded square of the same name, was built in 1632 on the site of an old well.
You should also take a look at the fountain of the Hôtel-de-Ville, with its Roman column, and at the Fontêtes fountain, built in 1858 at the bottom of the Place des Cardeurs.
Finally, the Rotonde fountain, erected in 1860, is undeniably the symbol of the city. This monumental fountain, 32 metres in diameter and 12 metres high, marks the entrance to the Cours Mirabeau. The basin is decorated with twelve bronze lions, naiads, swans and dolphins mounted by angels. The whole is overhung by a cast iron basin, crowned with three statues, three graces sculpted by Ramus, Ferrat and Chabaud
The city of Cézanne
A city of art, Aix-en-Provence is inseparable from Cézanne. The shadow of the local child hangs over each of the streets and alleys of the old city. It must be said that the genius painter remained faithful to his native city all his life. From rue de l'Opéra (where he was born) to rue Boulegon (where he died in 1906), discover the places that marked his life. The Mignet high school, the scene of his encounter with a certain... Emile Zola. But also the Lauves workshop, this small house with its bare furniture where Paul Cézanne used to lock himself up when time forced him to move away from the slopes of the Sainte-Victoire. During the last five years of his life, the painter painted many of his major works there. The "Grandes Baigneuses" or the "Jardinier Vallier", for example, come out of here. Temporary exhibitions and cultural events are also held here.
You will also have to go to the Café des Deux Garçons or the Granet Museum, undoubtedly one of Aix's beautiful cultural jewels. Its permanent collections take you from the Primitives to the Renaissance, and up to the masterpieces of modern art of the exceptional Philippe Meyer donation, including works (paintings and sculptures) by Alberto Giacometti. In addition to the Jas de Bouffan Landscape belonging to the Meyer donation, the museum presents nine oil paintings that mark the career of Paul Cézanne, including the Portrait of Emile Zola
Finally, a short tour of Mount Sainte-Victoire in search of the Cézanne landscapes is a must. Situated to the east of the city, it peaks at 1,011 m and is also a paradise for hikers. But it is obviously the man who immortalized it who still speaks best of it: "Look at this Sainte-Victoire. What élan, what an imperious thirst for the sun and what melancholy, in the evening, when all that gravity falls back... These blocks were fire. There is still fire in them. »
When? You can visit Aix-en-Provence all year round, although the arrival of fine weather is obviously more pleasant
To get there. By plane (via Marseille), by train or by car, everything is possible.
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