A lot of famous people summered here in Aix En Provence. Louis XIV came. Paul Cezanne was born and lived here. Zola and Hemingway came here, too. It was a very cultured and upper-class place to visit in the 19th Century.
We sailed into Marseille last night and toured Aix En Provence today. Our trip started in Italy and will end in France.
Driving into the city, we passed by Cezanne’s home but did not stop. There is a self-guided walking trail that follows his footsteps and helps you understand what influenced him to become what many say was “the father of modern painting.”. Overlooking Aix-en-Provence is the Montagne Saints-Victoire, a stone mountain which became a subject in many of his paintings. We can see it in the distance.
In the Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur region of southern France, Aix (pronounced X) was founded in 123 BC by the Romans. It is about 30 miles north of Marseille.
Before its zenith Aix changed hands many times. After the Romans came the Teutones, the Visigoths, the Franks, and the Lombards. The Saracens were next and during the Middle Ages, it was the capital of Provence.
Its zenith came after the 12th century, when, under the houses of Aragon and Anjou, it became a seat of art and learning. Today, it is a university city.
Aix was very powerful until the revolution. Afterwards, Marseille became more powerful. Today, Aix is still considered a seat of culture. It has a large student population who study the liberal arts while Marseilles studies science, medicine, and other doctrines.
By 1487 Aix became a part of France when King Rene of Anjou ceded his kingdom of Provence to the king of France.
We took a walk down the Cours Mirabeau, a wide thoroughfare with a double row of trees and a line of mansions on one side and cafes on the other.
There amongst the cafes is the famous brasserie Les Deux Garçons where Zola, Cézanne, and Hemingway hung out. It says that it has been in business since 1792.
The Couers Mirabeau was a thoroughfare of wealth on one side and the working class on the other. Today, the mansions which were more like palaces are banks and other businesses as the owners of the mansions eventually could not afford their upkeep.
This thoroughfare follows the line of the old city wall and divides the city into two parts. The old town runs to the southwest and this is where we walked next.
This is a very pedestrian friendly city. It is a city for walking with few cars in the old town section. Of course, with such narrow streets, it would be hard for traffic anyway.
We wandered through the older part of the city until we got to a lovely early 18th-century church on Rue Espariat called Eglise du Saint-Esprit which means Church of Saint-Esprit.
I want to say something, though, about our tour guide, and she wasn’t alone in this matter. Other tour guides made the same mistake. She was good, and she knew her material, except she made a serious error.
When we got off the bus which was a fairly long bus ride after breakfast, several of us said we needed a restroom. She didn’t accommodate because there were no public facilities nearby. This is something found all over France we’re told because of the economy. They closed a lot of their public restrooms. France still has not been able to pull itself out of the economic problems of the earlier recession.
Anyway, instead of letting us get a cup of coffee at one of the cafes so we could use the facilities there she trudged on. She lost several of us then. Chuck and I continued, along with most of the group.
From then on it was so bad for some that others dropped out, too. One man’s wife told me later that her husband wet his pants it got so bad. Finally, the remainder of us mutinied near the church and demanded she stop for a restroom.
We spent a good thirty minutes of the tour sitting in a little coffee shop chatting (which was actually nice) and waiting for their single restroom. Frankly, I heard very little of what she had to say between the Couers Mirabeau and the church. I had to go that bad.
We did the rest of the city on our own catching up on a little more shopping. Then we left for Cassis for lunch.
In the afternoon we got to Cassis, France, a fishing village east of Marseille which is known for its clay-colored architecture, rose’ wines, and not to be confused with creme de cassis which comes from elsewhere in France.
It sits around a boat basin with a cliff in the distance.
We stopped here for lunch as a group. Then we had some free time to ramble through the village.
A Wine Tasting
Later we bused out to the country and sampled some local rose’, which is not for sale outside of France, “yet”. They’re working on it.
We visited the Clos d’Albizzi Vineyard.
We also watched some men including the owner harvest olives. His daughter was our tour guide.