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Aix en Provence France Aix en Provence

Aix en Provence France French Holidays

Aix en provence

No one single thing makes Aix en Provence a must see; it is the effect of the town as a whole that makes it so popular with residents, foreign students and tourists alike. The university of Aix Marseille was established in 1409 and now has a student population of around 35,000, with a large international body of students who often come here to learn French.

Map of Aix en Provence

Aix en Provence, or just Aix (pronounced 'ex') to those in the know, is 25km from Marseille and very different in history, atmosphere and outlook. Whilst Marseille is not particularly attractive, Aix is quite stunning with grandiose public squares, leafy boulevards and lots of 18th century majesty. Marseille buzzes with commercial and social life, whilst Aix complacently saunters about its business with a quiet self satisfaction that can come across as snobbishness to the visitor. The well heeled people of Aix are more like Parisians on vacation on the Cote d'Azur than the don't give a damn what you think Marseille dwellers. This attitude could stem from the time when Aix was capital of Provence and home to King René d'Anjou (1409 1480), beloved for his goodness and patron of the arts, speaker of several languages and scientist to boot. Like Aix, the guy had it all.

First stop on any tour of Aix is the cours Mirabeau where it is common practice to sip one's café in one of the cafés, watching people stroll past and enjoying the weather. Then head into Vieil Aix, north of the cours Mirabeau, and try to lose yourself in the maze of streets contained within the pentagonal ring of boulevards. On Saturdays there are markets everywhere, selling flowers, fish, clothes, fruit and veg, and other delights. Take in the Musée des Tapisseries (€2) in the Ancien Archeveché (old bishop's palace) next to the Cathédrale St Sauveur where you will find an excellent collection of textiles ancient and modern. Aix's most prominent son was Paul Cézanne (1839 1906) and his last studio has been opened to the public. See the tools of his art, but not his art, for €5.50 at the Atelier Cézanne, 9 avenue Paul Cézanne, on a hill 1.5km north of the city centre.

Although there is a good range of accommodation in Aix, hotel rooms grow scarce during the festival period of mid June to the end of July, so book well ahead if you want to stay here then.

Restaurants abound here, and you get the impression that place des Cardeurs was designed for the pursuit of food and drink with its many restaurants and cafés. Try L'Amphitryon, 2 4 rue Paul Doumer (04 42 26 54 10) for its excellent menus from €18, the prestigious Le Clos de la Violette, 10 avenue de la Violette (04 42 23 30 71) for an upmarket €107 menu, or Camus' old favourite Les Deux Garcons, 53 cours Mirabeau for brasserie food. Official tourist site for Aix en Provence (see the top right for the english translation).