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Aix-en-Provence

Visit Aix-en-Provence

Introduction

Aix could not be prettier. Perhaps the most attractive town in all of Provence to look at, every turn around every corner leads to a feast for the eyes. Wide boulevards lined with plane trees, sun-dappled public squares with fountains - in fact there are mossy fountains everywhere, Aix is famous for them - streetside cafés and elegant old mansions all add to the laid back ambiance.

Stone lions mark Cours Mirabeau, the main thoroughfare and a thoroughly grand one, and the address for the famous Les Deux Garçons, dating back to 1792. This is the café that Edith Piaf, Pablo Picasso, Jean Cocteau and Jean-Paul Sartre all frequented, and it's still a draw for out-of-towners happy to carry on the tradition of a little intellectual debate over a coffee or glass of rosé.

For such a quiet place Aix-en-Provence is not short on debate and vigour, because this is a university town as well as a popular Provençal holiday destination. Aix has always been culturally rich and both Zola and Cézanne were born here. Picasso, who was fascinated by Cézanne, bought a château nearby, now the Musée Granet, which features Rubens, Rembrandt, Mondrian, Alberto Giacometti and Cézanne of course.

By way of contrast there are the galleries of the Fondation Vasarely, filled with geometric art that all but defies imagination. There are numerous other pleasures to indulge in here, from the celebrated spas - the Romans used the same thermal springs that flow today - to superb shopping for Provençal specials in charming emporiums. And that's without the pleasure of the numerous restaurants and the morning market at Place Richelme, filling the square with the scents and visual delights of Provençal produce from sun-dried tomatoes and glistening olives and octopus tentacles and bottles filled with dark and fruity olive oil.

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