Adventure in Aix en Provence
Home to Cézanne, Aix en Provence is a beautiful area, full of olive trees, windy alleys, and wonderful markets (and wine)!
Three hours south of Paris (by TGV), Aix en Provence, is a beautiful city that is full of amazing things to eat, drink, and explore. The inspiration to the great Paul Cézanne, Aix en Provence is also home of the stunning lavender fields, almond and olive trees and rosé wine.
WHEN TO GO:
I traveled to Aix en Provence for a weekend at the end of July, it was a bit hot, however I went during the rosé wine festival (Festival des Coteaux d'Aix-en-Provence), so it was the perfect time for me. If you are going at another time, just plug your dates into this events page and it will tell you what markets and things are going on.
January-May- Will be a bit colder, keep your eyes open for events, there will be no crowds at this time.
June-July- Lavender fields are blooming and the weather tends to get a bit hot. Crowds creep in due to the good weather and the huge music Festival from the end of June to the middle of July (Festival d'Aix-en-Provence).
The wine festival is the last Sunday of July and it was the best thing I've ever done so you need to go. ALSO bring someone to carry them or a little suitcase to carry the bottles because it will be the best rosé wine you have ever tasted and you will buy a LOT.
August-Many crowds in Aix en Provence and it tends to get very hot, also lavender is done blooming.
September-October-Nice crisp, fall weather, less crowds.
November-December- The city pulls out all the stops for Christmas with displays, markets, lights etc.
Attractions: The Cézanne sights, fresh markets, lavender fields, Festival d'Aix-en-Provence
Cuisine: Almonds, Olives, Rosé wine
Aix en Provence, France
GETTING THERE AND GETTING AROUND:
Getting to the city itself from the TGV station is far (30 minutes by bus). Here is a link of how to get from the TGV station to the city center. I took the shuttle bus and I found that was one of the most popular ways but you have to look at the time table.
I loved hiking around Aix en Provence (bring sneakers!). Many of the attractions can be a bit far (ie. half hour walk) so if you aren't up to that then I would suggest renting a bike or taking the local bus. I saw many busses around but I never took one (besides the shuttle to the city center) so I can't say how it is.
The city has plenty of things to explore and see over the weekend.
Check out the views:
Cathédrale Saint-Sauveur - Beautiful church that is a nice break from the heat and a place to admire the stained glass and architecture.
Pavillon Vendôme- An Aix residence typical of the 17th and 18 century this little moment in time. The interior is interesting but it is only 4 rooms so if you don't want to pay it is just as fine walking around the beautiful gardens and admiring it from the outside.
See it like Cézanne :
Terrain des Peintres (Painters Park) - An aboslutely beautiful park that is so hard to find from the top down (you have to go through this windy passage to find it). You will know when you found it by the circle of replicas of paintings done from that view. Its an amazing experience.
Atelier Cézanne- Cézanne's workshop, a tiny room upstairs where you see a ladder and his painting supplies and inspirations. You aren't allowed to take pictures but you can ask the lady (who is watching you like a hawk) questions. Actually here is a picture of the one room, there you saw it. Not really worth it, but the grounds are cute and a nice spot to stop on the way down from Painters Park.
Bastide du Jas de Bouffan- This mansion belonged to the painter and his family. It is on beautiful grounds and has a nice audio visual presentation/show. You can only get there while there is a tour, there is an English tour at 2 pm from April to October.
**It is important to note that you have to make reservations with the tourism office before you go, either by doing that in person at the office, or by clicking here and making it online.
Things I wish I did:
Lavender fields tour- The icon of Provence, I missed out on the stunning lavender fields, so I wish I managed to get a tour to take me to there and a vineyard.
Musee Granet One of Aix en Provence's museums, this was supposed to house some incredible paintings by (who else) Cézanne.
Vineyard tour/cooking class - Provence is known for its wines and although I got to experience it with the wine festival, I wish I had more time to go to a tour. This is a list of the many vineyards around the city. Additionally I would have liked to take a cooking class to immerse myself in the regions methods.
+More information can be found on these things on the tourism website, but be aware there are MANY types of tours so keep your eyes open for the ones with the best reviews.
ABOUT THE MUSEUMS:
Aix en Provence has many beautiful museums, most notably there is the Musée Granet which houses incredible pieces of art. Unfortunately on the way there, I got side tracked at the wine festival..... and never made it to the museum. But I wish I did see it, so it shall remain on my list of things to do.
TAKE A BITE OUT OF PROVENCE:
In a sense, Aix en Provence is a market town. They have incredible markets with fresh flowers, pottery, and fresh food. The best things I ate in Provence weren't at a restaurant, rather they were had from nibbles from food stalls and taking a picnic along for my hikes.
Things to Binge out on:
Aix en Provence is famous for the following foods:
Almonds & Calissons d’Aix- One of the candies/cookies you will see everywhere in Provence is Calissons d’Aix. These almond shaped sweets have icing on the top and are absolutely addictive. My favorite place to get them was at La Provence du Roy Rene. They have so many different flavours its so hard not to try them all.
Olives & Tapenades- There are olive trees all around the city so it should be no suprise that they have dozens of different kinds of olives at the markets. My favorite thing to do was go to the market and get a variety of different olives (and garlic) and eat them with fresh bread. Another thing to look for is Tapenade, it is a mashed dip of olives, oil and more (depending on the variety), it is absolutely delicious.
Also, they even bake the olives into the bread (look for fougasse), it was heaven.
Rosé wine- I was one of those people who thought that Rose wine was for undergrads, I thought (at the ripe old age of 25) rosé was too sweet for me. I, however, was SO wrong. After sampling all the beautiful rosé wines Aix en provence had to offer at the wine festival I promptly bought 8 bottles and struggled to carry them back ( I lost one soldier). I have never been so obsessed with rosé wines in my life and I proudly say that they are some of the best wines I have ever had. I can not stress this enough, you HAVE to try them. Whether it is at a vineyard, a stall, or by buying a few at the market and drinking them in a park or square (yay France open container laws).
Aix en provence is a wonderful inspiring city full of beautiful sights and long walks, in addition to bustling markets and events.
Complementing the many markets around the city, there were also decent sized retail stores around the streets (especially Old Town) where you could pick up some great cookwear, clothes, and bath and body goods.
Markets: Most market days are Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays.
Food market: Every Tues, Thurs & Sat @ Place des Prêcheurs & Place de la Madeleine; every day@ Place Richelme.
Flower market: Tues, Thurs, Sat @ Place de la Mairie; Mon, Wed, Fri, Sun @ Place des Prêcheurs
Antiques and Flea market: Tues, Thurs, Sat @Place de Verdun
Old and Second hand Bookstalls: Every 1st Sun of the month @City Hall Square
Provencal market with material and clothing: Tues, Thurs @ Cours Mirabeau; Sat @ Law Court
Things to buy:
Almond products: Calissons d'Aix- get a few boxes, Almond soaps, lotions, etc.
Pottery: check the market for hand painted pottery, they have all sorts of different things, and they aren't that heavy so you can easily bring a few small pieces home.
OVERALL, Aix en Provence is a beautiful city that is great to get lost in for a few days. Make sure to kick back and enjoy the local cuisine and the lifestyle, it really is one of a kind.