Like Avignon, Aix-en-Provence has two train stations. The TGV station (fast train) is located on the line between Avignon and Marseilles, but it is a $40 cab ride to Aix-en-Provence from that station. I routed us from Avignon to Marseille and then to Aix on the “local” train so that we’d arrive at the station in the city and be able to walk to our hotel from there.
When we arrived at the Avignon train station that morning, the displays were saying there were delays happening up and down the lines and our train was going to be delayed by an hour. We figured out that there were at least three trains heading toward Marseille that were delayed…but It didn’t help that all the information was presented in French! After an hour, the display next to the track said our train was arriving soon. When a train pulled in, we got on it. We spent about 10 minutes lugging our suitcases up and down aisles looking for the seats we’d been assigned and couldn’t find them…I suspect that the train we got on was actually the delayed train scheduled to depart earlier than ours that morning. It had all been quite confusing for sure.
We weren’t worried -we knew the train we were on would be stopping in Marseille. We weren’t on the train very long at all when it pulled into the Aix TGV station. In a spur of the moment thought, I asked Mike – “Do you want to just get off here and take the taxi ride?” He said yes, so we did. I think we made a good call on that.
Our hotel was just at one edge of the old part of town on a somewhat gritty looking street. We had a cozy room with an extremely strange double-door entry set up. From the hallway, we opened the exterior door only to have an interior door that needed to be opened to get into the room. The space between the two doors was very awkward to deal with. (In the picture below I’m looking at the exterior door from inside the room. The space between doors looks bigger than it really was.)
We settled in and wanted to find food. It was that time of day between 2:00 and 7:00 when most restaurants weren’t serving food. We got lucky and found a place open only a block or so away -but it didn’t have much of a menu to work with.
Our wandering started the next morning.
I’ve come across Aix-en-Provence a few times in fictional literature. It is usually romanticized as a quaint French village with well over 100 fountains sprinkled around the old city. Of course, when reading fiction we are free to imagine the place being described. I had quite a picture of Aix before we got there…but the reality was quite different.
This tower and wall were constructed in the 1300s. They form part of the enclosure for a modern day spa that is in the same location as the original spa built by the Romans as early as 15 B.C.
This is the Aix Cathedral (Cathédrale Saint-Sauveur), which dates back to the 1100s and was built on the site of Roman forum.
This is a bust of Nicolas-Claude Fabri de Peiresc, (1580-1637) who was a man of many talents and interests. He was, among other things, known for being an astronomer, a historian, an archeologist, a collector, and an amateur painter.
This is the back side of the bell tower, which is in a large plaza by the city hall.
This is the boar fountain in a small square. I’d imagined the fountains as being the center of attention in small squares across the old part of Aix-in-Provence, but many of them were in odd locations, often looked neglected, and not all of them were in working condition.
Shopkeepers were working to open their shops that morning. I thought this shop front was charming.
This is the “Fontane des Bagniers” built in 1685. The medallion featuring Paul Cézanne (designed by Renoir) was added later.
We had wandered along a lot of narrow streets in the old part of Aix before popping out on a very wide boulevard named the Cours Mirabeau. There was a market going on and so there were all sorts of booths selling mostly clothes.
La fontaine Villeverte which commemorates a time when this part of Aix was more rural was built in 1683. The urn on top was added in the 1800s. One side of the fountain was lower for cattle to use.
Our next plan was to find something for lunch before the restaurants closed down at 2:00 P.M., so we worked our way back to one of the squares we’d seen earlier that had several restaurants to choose from.
This is the Fontetes Fountain. Fontetes means “fountains” and it is called that because this area had many small springs that were combined into one fountain in the late 1600s. This is actually a replica because the original was damaged in the 1980s.
Oddly, I didn’t take a picture of the restaurant we ate at or the square it was in, but when we went inside a nearby building to pay the check, I thought the little bar inside was interesting.
After lunch, we decided to take a break at the hotel for awhile. The day before, I’d noticed a laundromat just a few blocks from the hotel. I decided to take advantage of being able to do some laundry that afternoon. We’d been washing out our clothes in hotel sinks along the way -but it was wonderful to get it all done in one go and not have things hanging all over the hotel room drying.
On our second day in Aix, we decided to go into the old part of the city again, but try to see the parts we missed the day before.
On the way, I got a nicer photo of the clock tower.
And the fountain in the plaza. (It was early enough that people weren’t standing in front of it yet!) The fountain is called The Town Hall Fountain. In the early 1700’s the plaza was redesigned and this fountain dates to that time.
This is the Église de la Madeleine. While there was a monastery on this site as far back as the 1200s, this version of the church was done around the beginning of the 1700s.
It is hard to tell from the picture, but they have put glass panels in the sidewalk nearby to show archeological digs below the sidewalk.
I thought the Passage Agard looked intriguing, but decided against checking it out because there was a beggar just inside the entrance that looked like he was being a bit aggressive.
We turned a corner at one point and found a very familiar-looking figure -with a French “couture” update for his outfit.
Bust of Emile Zola: Writer, journalist and playwright.
It was starting to look like rain, so we decided to visit the Musee Granet. It was located next to a small church, so we took a peek inside the church first.
This is a view of the side of the church from inside the museum.
The Granet Museum displays a variety of art from various artists. There is a room dedicated to Paul Cézanne (1839-1906) where they display several of his works. Cézanne was born and died in Aix-en-Provence. They have a trail that tourists can follow to walk the streets where he did and to see his studio, grave and other places he was known to frequent. We found several of the sidewalk medallions while in Aix-en-Provence, but weren’t able to find information on the actual trail.
This is his statue. located on the Cours Mirabeau near the tourism offices.
Below is the statue and fountain of Good King Rene, which was installed in 1823. There was a previous fountain at the spot that dated back to the 1600s.
This is Augustine’s fountain. The original was built in 1620, but rebuilt by the city in 1820.
Next is Fontaine Pascal. This was built in the 1700s, but the spring feeding it didn’t always have enough water for it, which caused problems during dry times. This one was quite close to our hotel.
Last, but not least, here are my favorite doors from Aix-en-Provence.
We enjoyed our time in Aix-en-Provence. There was a lot to see with the old buildings, fountains and shops.
Going back to the the “weight of history” theory, I felt like Aix was a bit bogged down by history. The city did a good job of highlighting its history, but the more modern additions to the city weren’t necessarily done with an artistic eye -if that makes sense.
Categories: France - Aix en Provence