Que Faire a Aix-en-Provence? / What to do in Aix-en-Provence?
Tuesday, January 26, 2010
"Empty Niche Syndrome." Photo taken in Caromb.
What To Do in Aix-En-Provence?
I received the following letter from a reader and hope you can help by submitting tips on what to do and see in Aix!
If you have a moment, please... I am thinking about planning a trip to France in late August of this year and would really like to visit Aix-en-Provence as part of that trip, perhaps even stay there as my 'home base' while in France. I'm hoping to stay for 8-10 days, and would like to visit Paris for a day and see some of the countryside.
I think it would be fun to stay in Aix as it will be fun to see some of the things you've spoken about before and have a better mental picture when reading your thrice-weekly column...
I'm sure you probably get this question a lot, but is there any way you can give me some helpful tips on visiting Aix-en-Provence?
Thanks so much!
Que Faire à Aix-en-Provence? / What to do in Aix-en-Provence?
Friends, please share your Aix-en-Provence tip and suggestions here. Tell us which restaurants, bistros, and cafés to visit. What about B&B's or hotels? Is there a room to rent in the area? What about activities and must-sees? What are some neighboring villages that are worth a visit? Share your tips and ideas here!
What to do in the Loire Valley? Que Faire dans la Vallée de la Loire?
What to do in Paris? Que Faire à Paris?
Where to Rent a car in France? Readers share their best finds.
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Someone recently asked me what to do in Paris and my answer is the same for this question. Buy a guidebook to read on the plane for a little background and for things that appeal to you--not what others may recommend. Go out every morning and explore, go where the day takes you. We found our favorite restaurant in Paris walking from our rented apartment to Notre Dame. In three visits, I haven't met a village in Provence I didn't love for one reason or another.
Posted by: Adrienne Kinkaid | Tuesday, January 26, 2010 at 01:22 PM
When I was in Aix I went to Cezanne's studio, which I recommend . And I was talked into climbing Mount Sainte Victoire, which is a bit much.
I remember the birds at night.
Posted by: loretta feeney | Tuesday, January 26, 2010 at 01:23 PM
I will be following this thread..WE are planning to go also~Empty Niche:)
Posted by: Monique | Tuesday, January 26, 2010 at 01:26 PM
Adrienne's comment is a wonderful one. If you want a website: TripAdvisor.com is pretty good. Remember, not everyone likes hotels, food and places the same way as you. So take the advice with a grain of "sel".
I found Aix to be very busy with cars, hard to find parking. It is a university town.
Once you get there, the restaurantuers may be helpful with local ideas of "que faire".
Posted by: Loretta | Tuesday, January 26, 2010 at 01:31 PM
Only been to Aix for one day and was happy to visit Cezanne's well-preserved house. A lively town with lots of students (in August: tourists!).
Kristin: If you can go to Caromb, I think you should go to 'our hometown' in Vaucluse, Malaucène, one day as well. I'd love to see your photos from there.
Take the beautiful road from Beaumes-de-Venise to Malaucène via Suzette and enjoy the scenery.
Posted by: Jens | Tuesday, January 26, 2010 at 01:33 PM
Three wonderful places to stay - Le Pigonnet, Villa Gallici and 28 a Aix. Restaurants: Bistro Latin and Le Passage; Les Deux Garcons for people watching and cafe; Le Grillon for good salads and lunch. Wonderful apartment for rent located in a quiet spot on the Cours Mirabeau is owned by Valerie Sutter, look up under beautiful rentals in France or by her name. Aix is a wonderful walking/shopping town, terrific produce/market and flea town, Musee Granet, the fountains (in particular Les Quatre Dauphins), different neighborhoods (arrondissements), Cezanne's town! It is a very easy town to stay in and plan to visit St. Remy, Les Baux, Marseille, etc. - all close. Go there, stay there, it's truly wonderful!
Posted by: Susan | Tuesday, January 26, 2010 at 01:37 PM
I just returned from a short stay in Aix last week (my young family is moving there from Toronto this July). We stayed at the Hotel Cezanne which is a short walk to the centre-ville and a stones throw from the train station. It was a LOVELY little hotel that I'd highly recommend. We stayed in a Jr Suite which had plenty of room (for European standards) and was very clean and quiet. A king bed to boot! Staff was very helpful and they had THE BEST croissants I had during my stay (beware -- they do charge for breakfast, as most places do). I booked on Expedia.com at a good price.
We took the train to Cassis on the coast for one day (from Aix to Marseille to Cassis). It was a great day trip even mid-January when the temp was only 8 degrees celcius. We had the biggest bowls of moules & frites you've ever seen at a seaside cafe.
For a casual meal in Aix, Chez Jo has the BEST pizza and fresh salade vert I've ever had (I know...pizza? but it was, we went twice in 5 days!!!). The Sat a.m. market in the centre-ville was magical. Market? Mid-winter? Zut alors!!!
Have a lovely trip.
Oh, one last note. I had more than one problem using my credit cards while there but had GREAT success using my Canadian bank debit card. Go figure.
Posted by: Jennifer Warrillow, Toronto, Canada | Tuesday, January 26, 2010 at 01:47 PM
Nothing to add about Aix because I haven't gotten there yet, but one comment about credit cards. Last summer my husband and I had a lot of trouble with cards at restaurants where they swipe them on those hand-held contraptions. After returning home I found that the problem may lie in the new technology Europeans are using (as always, America is behind on technology). The card worked at most stores and at ATMs, but many smaller places - non.
Posted by: Julie | Tuesday, January 26, 2010 at 02:30 PM
I would recommend a visit to Baux en Provence nearby & St Remy de Provence on market day!
Posted by: Christine Prost | Tuesday, January 26, 2010 at 02:38 PM
My advise would certainly be to visit Kristin and Jean-Marc at there wonderful vineyard! My 82 year old mother and my sisters visited there last Sept. during harvest. They were very busy, but so gracious and showed us there wonderful organic operation that was very interesting and awesome. Aix is a wonderful town. We visited there as well. Go onto Fodors.com . You will find a host of info and join the forum. The folks there are knowledgeable and willing to share tons of info. Good luck. I'm jealous.....have a great time!!
Posted by: Cathy Toner | Tuesday, January 26, 2010 at 02:51 PM
And check out La Cure Gourmande. In Aix, near the market square... There is also one in Les Baux de Provence (which is also really worth visiting!). It is the prettiest candy store ever. I really like Aix, although I have only been there a few times.
Posted by: Ashley | Tuesday, January 26, 2010 at 02:51 PM
Of course you must go to the Atelier Paul Cezanne. Also Mont Ste Victoire which Cezanne so often painted. Actually there are footprints on the streets to take you on the Cezanne walk. Also a lovely restaurant where he dined, Les Deux something or other, can't remember but they'll tell you! It is the most enchanting place.
quite delightful. And if you're fit climb Mte Victoire. And what about the cafe where Cezanne and his friends used to eat and drink
Posted by: june shenton turner | Tuesday, January 26, 2010 at 02:56 PM
Provence & Beyond is a very helpful website when it comes to planning a trip to Provence.
Les Deux Garcons -- an historical cafe worth a visit
A photo of Les Deux Garcons on Flickr
Have a great trip!
Posted by: Sandy | Tuesday, January 26, 2010 at 03:02 PM
If you like cool vintage finds, definitely go to the Marché. This is all in one area of town, only happening from about 900-1300 I think monday through saturday.
They also have a lot of clothes, boots, and everything else you can think of. But the vintage section includes records, jewelry, old french magazines & maps, china, knick knacks for your house, etc. You must go!
I'm living in Marseille at the moment and frequently go to Aix to hang out in their cute little English bookstore, Book in Bar. But that's for us Anglophones over here who need a little bit of home. You probably would rather do the all french thing. But if you need a break, head over there! Its really close to the movie theatre that plays foreign films.
Posted by: Leah | Tuesday, January 26, 2010 at 03:11 PM
We were only in Aix for a Sunday morning to walk the streets and get a feel for the city. It's a pretty city but as Loretta said it's busy with cars and hard to find a parking place (thus the reason we visited on a Sunday morning - few cars, lots of parking). Because we always rent a car when we are in France we avoid the larger cities and their parking problems. We stayed in l'Isle-sur-la-Sorgue which is further North and made it very easy to get almost anywhere in Provence.
Posted by: Bill in St. Paul | Tuesday, January 26, 2010 at 03:17 PM
Yes, Kristi, do continue with the pics of the four legged kids....Smokey is turning into a fine looking young "man"....they do grow up so fast!
Posted by: Sandy Maberly | Tuesday, January 26, 2010 at 03:20 PM
A destination in Aix for us is certainly the Fouque santons on the East side of town. Watch them create the most beautiful delicate Christmas figurines. And a best thing about Aix, the parking is atrocious except plenty of it on the outskirts (which is good for us bipeds)
Posted by: csibon | Tuesday, January 26, 2010 at 03:31 PM
There are several workshops that make santons and most are happy to welcome visitors into their ateliers. Santons Fouque is well-known but there are several others. As for the surroundings, consider buying a driving guide (Cook's has a good one) for the area--these guides link up several areas of interest, in manageable pieces, in a drive order that minimizes backtracking.
Posted by: Marshall | Tuesday, January 26, 2010 at 03:37 PM
Isle Sur la Sorgue was one of my favorite towns-the little "venice" of France. Also Roussillon was beautiful.
Posted by: Sarah | Tuesday, January 26, 2010 at 03:45 PM
In Aix be sure to visit the Hotel de Ville with its 14th century clock tower. Inside are a collection of paintings which tell the story of Aix. Les Deux Garcons is good. You can sit there under the plane trees of the Cours Mirabeau and imagine Cezanne and Zola sitting there. The Cathedral Saint-Sauveur is beautiful. I too recommend Saint-Remy and Les Baux. On the road to Les Baux leaving Saint-Remy you'll pass a Roman triumphal arch and a cenotaph dedicated to the grandsons of Augustus Caesar. I would also recommend a trip into the Luberon to the villages of Roussillon, Gordes, Bonnieux, and Lourmarin. These are some of the most beautiful villages in France.
Posted by: Wendell Murray | Tuesday, January 26, 2010 at 03:55 PM
I'd definitely include a day trip to Arles. There aren't any Van Goghs there, but just walking the streets is beautiful. And there's a very interesting museum on the traditional life of Arles. At St. Remy, you can visit the tiny room Van Gogh occupied and painted from. And shopping for brocantes (junk and antiques) is definitely recommended in Isle sur la Sorgue.
Posted by: Sheila Campbell | Tuesday, January 26, 2010 at 03:58 PM
We've spent the last two Januarys in Aix, renting an apartment. Love the one we're in this year - Sur le Toits du Vieil Aix www.duplaixenprovence.com . If you don't mind climbing 68 steps, it's perfect! Well worth it when you get up high with views of the cathedral and town hall bell towers, sunsets and sunrises, the town, and countryside beyond.
When we're there for our Music and Markets in Provence tour http://www.musicetc.us/Provencefirstpage.html in the summer, our guests stay at the Hotel des Augustins, and we highly recommend it: http://www.hotel-augustins.com/
We love Aix so much that we're planning to buy an apartment there!
Our favorite restaurant is Le Formal, on rue Espariat. Their 25 euro three course lunches, served with a glass of wine, are the best deal in town. The cuisine, service, and ambience are unbelievable for the price.
If you'd like more ideas of things to do, you can look at our blog from last January
- we found new delights every day!
I'm sure you'll love Aix - enjoy!
Posted by: Anne | Tuesday, January 26, 2010 at 04:03 PM
Oooo, great suggestions! I would add that a side trip to Le Pont du Gard and the arena in Arles are well worth the trips for 2 of the most amazing Roman ruins anywhere in the world! Visit Joel Durand's chocolatier in St Remy en Provence for an out of this world experience. One of the best meals I have ever had was in the tiny village of Fontevieille at La Planete. And if you only have a day or two in Paris, email me for my "Paris by Day" guide (I used to take students every summer so I feel like it's my home away from home - email is [email protected]) Oooo - I'm so ready to go back. And if you go to Cassis (which I also recommend) be sure you take a boat out in the bay to see the "calenques".
Posted by: Candy in SW KS | Tuesday, January 26, 2010 at 04:05 PM
Oh! Et Merci a Kristin pour la photo de Smokey et Braise :)
Posted by: Candy in SW KS | Tuesday, January 26, 2010 at 04:06 PM
Thank you so much for all the wonderful comments! I didn't realize that Aix is a college town. I would rather stay in a quieter place and visit Aix, then, it sounds. I will take all teh advice I can get on my trip, as I've never been before... Please keep the wonderful advice coming! I am printing it all and I will surely use it in my planning! My main objective is to see Provence - I just chose Aix as a home base, but am not married to that idea - any ideas on what might be better?
Thanks to you all - you are really great people! I appreciate your help so much!
Posted by: LA | Tuesday, January 26, 2010 at 04:07 PM
Totally unrelated to Aix...I am in love with that pup, Smokey! He has the most adorable face...thanks for keeping us updated about him. And Braise is lovely, too...of course!
Posted by: Erin | Tuesday, January 26, 2010 at 04:31 PM
Aix is a wonderful town where I lived for an academic year (1963-64) and have visited several times since. Do you have to travel in August? Off season is by far more enjoyable with fewer tourists and more comfortable weather.
Posted by: Theresa | Tuesday, January 26, 2010 at 04:35 PM
Thank you, Erin. Smokey is blushing! And Braise has that same bored look (but beneath it, she is just tickled to receive the compliment and appreciates it profusely--as Goldens are known to appreciate things...)
And merci beaucoup for all of this excellent tips! I love the Book and Bar bookstore, too. And the sole meunier at Deux Garcons!
Also, I loved all the "papeterie shops"--for pens, notebooks, agendas.... There is a big one on the Cours Mirabeau, beside (or not far from Deux Garcons)....
Posted by: Kristin | Tuesday, January 26, 2010 at 04:52 PM
Aix is a food town. Three great markets and every third or maybe every other shop seems to sell food or candy (Callisons d'Aix) or something to cook with. At lunchtime students pour out of the many universities and eat lunch everywhere, one favorite place being the steps of the law courts. The Cours Mirabeau with its plane trees and restaurant terraces cascading towards the avenue make it one of the grand avenues in all the world. Sit at the Deux Garcons or similar with an aperitif and enjoy life going by on the avenue. Rather than the common guidebook, I enjoyed M.F.K. Fisher's little book "Map of Another Town" now usually available (e.g., at Amazon) with another book as "Two Towns in Provence." Fisher was a foodie and has a wonderful eye. Below is excerpt from a reader review posted at Amazon:
Fisher lived in Aix for a time and her writing concerns everyday events -- the view from the apartment, the habits of the landlady, shopping, food preparation, eating meals cooked by others, school days for the girls. What makes the book extraordinary is Fisher's descriptive writing about the exotic setting composed of beautiful architecture, gardens, fountains, passageways and gates and excentric people. I prefer Fisher's writing to that of more recently relocated authors who have moved to Provence and record their struggles to overcome their surroundings. Fisher moved to Provence and accepted it.
my one caution about Aix is the traffic. I once thought i might spend the rest of my life driving around the ring road because I couldn't figure out how to get off. I would stay somewhere in the Luberon (of Peter Mayle fame) to the north and then visit Aix now and then.
Posted by: gary | Tuesday, January 26, 2010 at 04:54 PM
Where exactly do you live in France? I thought it was in the south until I saw all that snow! I spent two years in Fos sur Mer and we never had snow!!
Posted by: Jean Lillibridge | Tuesday, January 26, 2010 at 04:55 PM
Sit on he market square outside the Hotel de Ville on a Saturday afternoon and watch the queue of couples, in fantastic dresses, going to resigister their marriages.
Visit the Luberon - Bonnieux is a beautiful village, and there is very often a young woman on the market square, singing exactly like Edith Piaff.
Visit the Lavender Museum at Castel.
Visit the Maison des Abeilles(House of Bees) at Riez.
Drive along the Gorge du Verdon and see the vultures flying wild.
Visit Gordes en Provence but don't go to the restaurant on the main street. Find one in a side street with a terrace shaded with vines and linger over a carafe of wine and an ommelette.
Visit Mousitière St. Marie and buy some pottery.
Visit the Roman aquaduct - over 2,000 years old, near Avignon.
Enjoy every minute, and every beautiful view, of being in Provence.
Posted by: Judy | Tuesday, January 26, 2010 at 04:59 PM
Karen and I have stayed outside of Aix in Cabries, a tiny town a few kilometers south. We stayed at La Recompado, a small, beautiful and affordable small house on a lovely, gated estate with pool.
I would go to to market there which is out on the boulevard, but in the town square in front of the court house, it is all Brocante...some where between antiques and good old junque. Got a great painting there for 30 Euros and a visitor next to me bought the frame for 10!
There is a great little restaurant for lunch at the corner of the square with outdoor protected seating. Good wine and food...and prices. It is kitty-corner across from the courthouse.
Skip...little smokey is not so petit any more!
Posted by: Skip Anderson | Tuesday, January 26, 2010 at 05:02 PM
We spent a day in Aix several years ago. I couldn't wait to visit Cezanne's studio. It was a very hot day, and we walked up and down the street where he lived at least 5 times trying to find the studio. (I think all the streets in Aix went uphill that day!) We FINALLY found the studio only to discover that it is closed on Tuesdays. Plan your visit accordingly :)
I really enjoyed seeing the letter "X" in the walls of the city.
Saint Remy is a wonderful town. Don't just drive through. park the car and walk inside the city walls. Great shops!
In the village of Paradou, there is a restaurant, Bistro La Petite France (http://www.lapetitefrance.info/company_philosophy.php), owned by a dear friend of mine, Jean Baptiste Gérard. It is really worth the visit, and please tell him that Katie and Natalie sent you.
Les Baux is beautiful, but avoid the cliff edge on windy days. You could lose a small child.
The Camargue is magical with the black bulls, white horses and pink flamingos. We always spend Christmas Day there.
I love Gordes, Goult, Menerbes and Roussillon. Aigues-Mortes is also worth a visit. The Cistercian Abbey in Senanque is also well worth a visit. We enjoy going to Vespers.
I envy you your trip!
Posted by: Katie | Tuesday, January 26, 2010 at 05:02 PM
My first visit to France in 2004 I used Aix as a base, except for non-existent parking near the centreville it was great. Walking on the Cours Mirabeau is awesome, turn left and go into the old part of town. The restaurants near Deux Garcons are nice for people watching. Nearby villages, Saignon, Menerbe, LaCoste, etc. also a bit further on is L'Isle sur la Sorgue and Fountaine de Vaucluse which I love...Petrarche and Laura's spot although a bit touristy, hike up to the river's source at the base of the mount. Lots of places to eat and shop there, the shops on the river are neat, especially the old paper mill that is water powered. I also loved the "Geant" market in Aix, they have everything and it's a neat glimpse into 20th century bigger town French culture. Don't forget the rotisserie chickens from the small markets and mobile vendors! They are divine!Mmmmmm, making myself hungry! Have a great time!
Posted by: Jacqui McCargar | Tuesday, January 26, 2010 at 05:04 PM
I have to agree that unless you are wanting to spend your time in a very lively, busy town, staying somewhere else might be recommended over Aix. I visited Aix for my 30th birthday in 2004 and LOVED it. We met so many other young people, ate great food, drank A LOT of rose, and used Aix as our home base to see Provence.
(Note about Paris. It's a long day's drive. Perhaps consider flying to Paris, stay 1-2 nights, and then fly/take 3-hr train to Marseille and rent a car for the rest of your trip?)
Sandy's suggestion to research the website Provence & Beyond is excellent! I would recommend you look at the various towns on it's website and find one that "fits" you, and then use google maps to see how far away various other towns are. A few towns I think are a must see include Cassis (I would even recommend you stay one night here--take the boat to the Calanques. It'll be nice and hot in August and you can swim in the ocean and rent a lounger with umbrella on the beach!). Obviously, visit Aix -- just wander around the old town, eat, visit the museums, etc that others have recommended here. And of course, hit all the Provence hilltop towns.
As for lodging, the first place I always check is www.vrbo.com (Vacation Rental by Owner). I have had very good success for rentals in NY, Chicago, France, Barcelona, and Rome! Also, I personally prefer the feel of a studio/apartment rather than a hotel for long stays. You then have a small kitchen/fridge, and feels more like you are visiting a friend's home. Also, it tends to be less expensive, so if you decide to stay one night in another town, it isn't cost-prohibitive that you are technically paying for two places (ie, apartment rentals are usually by the week).
You will absolutely love it. The people of Provence are warm, interesting, and no, they do not speak much English! ... or they choose not to. But you will get by. :) The land is dusty, hilly, and covered by rocky areas and olive groves, and plane trees line the roads. The cicadas will call out your name and then you'll understand why people love this land. Bonnes Vacances!
Posted by: Catherine V | Tuesday, January 26, 2010 at 06:01 PM
Hello Kristin, I'm pretty sure you dont remember me. I emailed you while I was living in France. I lived in Aix-en-Provence for a whole year. I LOVE it there. I want to move back so badly!!! Maybe some day... Anyway... Great places to go... On Sunday's they have an open air market in front of Palais du Justice in Place du Verdon... There's amazing freshly baked goods and a guy sells paella (which i know... is a spanish dish, but its amazing) Take the food you buy and take a little walk to Promenade de la Torse, its outside the city limits but worth the walk! If you dont want to walk that far, Parc Jourdan is an alternative! Check out Les Deux Garcons, its a really good restaurant on Cours Mirabeau. Check out Pavillon de Vendome. It's beautiful. Once a week, I'd go to Pâtisserie Weibel (2 Rue Chabrier, Aix en Provence)and have tea. It's really good and on the corner of one of the squares I like to visit. Don't use the toilet there unless you are good at standing and doing your business... Hôtel Le Pigonnet is a really nice hotel, again, its on the outskirts of Aix but close to a highway (not so close that you hear the traffic though). I hope this helps!!! Have a cup of tea for me!!! Email me if you have questions!
Posted by: Christina | Tuesday, January 26, 2010 at 06:06 PM
Don't be too discouraged by the fact that it is a busy college city -- the students are tres well behaved. It also ensures there are lots of people out and about, day and night, which made us feel quite safe. Our hotel, Hotel Cezanne, was one of the quietest I've ever stayed in. AND if you choose to forego a rental car for a few days, you are so very close to the train system which is quite extensive. (The city's bus system is also very good.) BUT yes, it is quite a large city -- not a tiny french village for sure.
Posted by: Jennifer Warrillow, Toronto, Canada | Tuesday, January 26, 2010 at 06:14 PM
aix has a most exquisite restaurant, heliade, on the square. best lobster bisque i ever had!
Posted by: Katy George | Tuesday, January 26, 2010 at 06:18 PM
Lenora: If you will have a car then I would definitely recommend staying in a village near Aix. Lourmarin is perfect (check out www.rentourhomeinprovence.com for a great apartment two steps from three cafes), but also Bonnieux or as far away as Isle-sur-la-Sorgue, or many others. If you won't have a car then Isle-sur-la-Sorgue is a great town close to Avignon, not far from Aix but on an active train line.
Posted by: Michael Armstrong | Tuesday, January 26, 2010 at 06:51 PM
I spent three absolutely wonderful weeks in Aix-en-Provence in Fall 2008, renting an apartment in the family home of Monique Faillard, a local artist. She has several apartments available, perfectly situated mere steps from the entrance to the old city at Cathedrale St. Saveur. I enjoyed art classes in her courtyard and we also went to the Cezanne site to paint Mount Sainte-Victoire (which I had a view of from my tiny kitchen window--sigh...)
Here is a link to my Shutterfly website which is a bit of a hodge-podge and could use some cleaning up, but it will show you some of what I saw and did. The markets are sumptuous, there is one every day at on of the Places de... at Richelme there is even one on Sundays, which is where I went every day for cafe creme and croissants.
There's a fun little restaurant called Le Patio I enjoyed. Didier and Sophie have created a funky -- wait til you see the outdoor dining room!--little place. But there are so many good restaurants, cafes.
Several times I braved the snooty waiters of Deux Garcons for some afternoon aperitifs and people watching, the pefect place for that. Check out the pics.
Happy traveling, I am green w/envy, and hoping for another visit to that beautiful city! Bon chance!
Posted by: Pat Cargill | Tuesday, January 26, 2010 at 07:18 PM
I love Aix en Provence, but a few days is enough and using it as a base is a great idea as you can travel to Nice, Monaco, Cannes and so many other little towns around Aix. There are many small museums there and you can take the little train around town. The small towns surrounding Aix are truly marvelous.
Posted by: Nicole Marcus | Tuesday, January 26, 2010 at 07:27 PM
If you like busy and noisy, stay in Aix, but if you prefer a bit of quiet, I would suggest staying outside the city. Parking is difficult, so beware. However, if you will not have a car, Aix is a good central point for exploring by bus and train. I was enchanted by Aix 10 years ago when I first visited, but when I returned last year I was a bit disallusioned. It is a much busier town nowadays.
Posted by: K Manzanares | Tuesday, January 26, 2010 at 09:10 PM
Take a bus to Cassis for the day. You won't regret it!
I also climbed Mt. St. Victoire and it was beautiful. Took wonderful pictures and I've fogotten my sore legs!
There are a few wonderful art museums and churches to visit, special bread sandwiches to eat, cafes to enjoy while watching the fountains.
I would visit the Cezanne museum. Aix is also the home to Count Mirabeau.
It's also been 10 years since I visited but Aix is a college town and has an American University extension, so there are a lot of college kids and a few American chain restaurants too. You have to try to get away from English speakers in Aix.
The oldest part of the city, San Salvatore, stands on the ruins of the imperial city founded by the Romans.
It was founded by the Romans in 122 BC, and has a Cathedral of Saint Sauveur from the 5th century in the St.Sauveur quarter.
I would see it all!! Bon Chance!
Posted by: Montimarie Horton | Tuesday, January 26, 2010 at 10:01 PM
Thursday is a great market day in Aix. Be sure to get back into the spice and fresh food area.
Go to the Cathedrale d'Images which is close
to Les Baux. See this website: www.cathedrale-images.com The cathedral is inside a
bauxite cave. The images are projected to the walls, floor, ceiling. Incredible!
Posted by: Betsy Ritzel | Tuesday, January 26, 2010 at 10:09 PM
Check out the fountains by night--there is a mystical, moss covered boulder-fountain on the main drag that is lit quite nicely at night. Take a photo safari of all of the fountains, used-to-be churches, and Marian statues around the town, once crawling with clergy. Visit Cézanne's studio, but be careful, it's closed on Sunday. Try not to arrive at the TGV station, it's way too far from town and your taxi bill will be out the roof. Also, don't have a cheeky attitude with the cab drivers that may or may not be playing hackey sack outside of the station--your sarcasm will affect your tab. Watch a movie that features Aix before you go, Le Hussard sur le Toit is a great option and features Juliette Binoche in yet another woman-advanced-for-her-époque classic, along with a handsome enough co-star. Practice your French with a nun. Explore the collegey bars at night, even if you aren't in college they're a lot of fun. Sorry Kristen--even though you fell in love at Le Mistral, I have to say I went there this summer (I was there on a weekend trip during my college study abroad tour of France) and the interior experience is definitely not worth the high-priced cover--15 Euro or something absurd like that. For good food in Aix but also in France in general, avoid any and ALL restaurants with menus that are translated, menus that have laminated photo illustrations, or multilingual and seemingly friendly promoters standing next to said menus trying to entice you to come inside. While their charming words might flatter you into eating there, the lackluster food and empty calories will probably spoil your experience. One last favorite thing to do in Aix is try to spot every shop name with an Aix pun in it. My favorite was a little boutique called L'Orient Aixpress. See if you can't find it, or even make some Aix puns of your own. Those from Provence do enjoy chatting with someone who has a sense of humor.
Good choice in general choosing a trip to Provence as your home base. Paris is honestly overrated in my opinion, but don't tell anyone I said that.
If you do make it to the Riviera, you MUST eat at "Les Relais de Semailles" in Cannes. I stretched my student budget to dine there one fabulous night and I can honestly promise it will be the best meal of your life.
Posted by: Rebecca Quinn | Tuesday, January 26, 2010 at 10:53 PM
The Thursday market in the old part of Aix is amazing!
Posted by: Brian Aspinall | Tuesday, January 26, 2010 at 11:00 PM
We visit Provence every year, for 2010 we plan TWO trips! Lucky Us!! Here is some food for thoughts from a "vet".
Aix is a beautiful university town with an active night lfe (lots of students) and has a nice "feel" about it. Plenty of restrauants and hotels. The Saturday Market is excellent, one of the best in Provence, more hand made jewerlt, etc. Parking is tough and expensive in the best of times!
Do you have to go in August? It will be HOT and all the French will be on vacation so the town will be full of french tourists and many shops may be closed as the locals went somewhere else! If you can delay until September that would be better and you could help Kristin and Jean-Marc with the harvest, if you don't help with the harvest you will have scant chance of seeing anyone as they are BUSY!!! We try to arrive at the end of harvest but you just never know when it will take place, part of the majic of winemaking.
While Aix, is nice there are many better places to make your home base. For our money the BEST BY FAR is Avignon. It is much more centrally located so day trips are easy to many more towns,Kristin is 45 minutes NE, the TGV gives you great access to Paris or where ever, Lots to see and do, more and better restaurants, etc.
As for Paris, the best city in the world. Just being there is wonderful but the museums are our favorites. Take an empty credit card or a big sack of euros! We have refined our visits each year and now we hit a couple of favorite places on the way into/out of Provence but spend the bulk of our time in a rented gite 5 minutes from Kristin and just relax, visit a different market every morning, have lunch, check out that area, taste a little wine, and return to our "home" for an aperatif with friends, enjoy a lite supper together, plan the next day and start all over! Simple!
Posted by: Lee | Tuesday, January 26, 2010 at 11:30 PM
Where to stay: Hotel Pigonnet or rent an apartment on Cours Mirabeau
Things to See and Do: open air market at Place Richelme, shopping (esp. Librarie de Viel Aix), St. Magdalen's Church, the cathedral, the cloister.
Places to Eat: Chez Maxime, Le Brocherie, Amphitryon, Hotel Pigonnet
Besides the usual must-see places, try Vauvenargue, La Coste, Menerbes (remember Peter Mayles?), Lurmarin, Apt, Uzes, Saignon, Seguret, Bonnieux, St. Remy de Provence (don't miss Le Petit Duc for scrumptious cookies), St. Maximin La Sainte Baume, Tholonet and Senanque (Cistercian abbeys), Cassis and the calanques, Route des Crete, Fountaine de Vaucluse.
In Aix, walk up and down Cours Mirabeau and check out the stores. There's a store where you can get souvenirs, stationery, cards. Near it is a gelato shop. On rue d'Italie you will find boulangeries, an epiceries, and other mom and pop stores. Not far is a laundromat.
Caveat: If you eat at the Cafe des Deux Garcons, don't take pictures. It's a favorite hangout of the Corsican Mafia. This I was told by someone who knows Cours Mirabeau.
If you'd like information on the apartment I mentioned, please e-mail me.
I almost forgot, you should consider renting a car. Rent before you leave for France. Try Europe By Car. If you watch the travel channel, you may have heard Samantha Brown recommend this company, which she uses. Do not confuse it with EuropeCar, which we used the last time we were in Provence. We didn't get the kind of car we reserved, and the guy tried to fob off a stick shift for the same price as an automatic. It was only after my husband asked if the car was an automatic that the guy sheepishly said it was a standard.
Posted by: R. B. Roll | Wednesday, January 27, 2010 at 01:22 AM
I am back..I thought the post would be about Aix..I just wanted to suggest places we visited and loved in 2008..
Gordes..Magnifique! We stayed at la Ferme De La Huppe.. it had a different owner then..but my gosh it was lovely..
We went to many markets..we planned accordingly..The market at Ile ~Sur~ La Sorgue was terrific.. we loved Bonnieux..Apt..Ménèrbes..Lacoste..Vaucluse..Cassis....We also went towards les Alpes Maritimes.. and visited many places there..
It was a "Bon ..bon Voyage" and I have fallen in love with the area~
Posted by: Monique | Wednesday, January 27, 2010 at 01:40 AM
If you decide to go as far as Nice I can give you a lot of information...I have spent considerable time there and love it. Side trips from there are great...like a ferry to Ile St. Marguerite from Cannes, the perfume studio in Grasse, Eze, St. Paul de Vence....oh use Nice as your home base!
Posted by: Louise Burkhartsmeier | Wednesday, January 27, 2010 at 03:25 AM
I was in Aix for 6 weeks one summer (Law School in France!)and loved the area. Its been 20 years since I was there though so can't really recommend any places of business. I recall gorgeous fountains all around town and eating lots of ice cream! I do recommend side trips to Arles (for the Van Gogh spin) and Nimes for the Roman ruins!
Posted by: Suzy | Wednesday, January 27, 2010 at 04:59 AM
Aix is SO fun, especially on a Saturday morning when the FULL market - food, home goods, antiques, etc. - is going on in the old part of the city. My friends and I traveled there on our way to Bordeaux (from Italy, after a semester-long study abroad program in Cortona) and it was a lovely stop. The old town was my favorite and really the only part we saw. We enjoyed walking the Cours Mirabeau and the cafes are great to pop into for a nighttime drink. The food market has great food – we particularly liked the roast chicken and vegetables stand. There’s a good chocolate shop on Rue Rifle-Rafle called Puyricard nearby (they have a couple shops in Paris too). We stayed at Hotel Artea, which was very nice with big fluffy beds and very close to the huge round-about on Cours Mirabeau. Enjoy your stay!
Posted by: rebecca | Wednesday, January 27, 2010 at 06:28 AM
My mother (85), my sister, and I visited Provence for the first time September 2009. For 10 years, we have have always rented an apartment or a house for our annual vacation. We only stay in hotels (if necessary) for the day we arrive and/or depart. Of course, each group is different but we find this to be the only way to go. We love to cook so we can go to the markets and buy local goods for dinner. Markets are wonderful, colorful places good for shopping, people watching, and photography.
Based on my preferences, this is my recommendation. You must have a car in Provence. I think you said you will be there in August so expect crowds. My preference would be to stay in a small village. I would make day trips to the cities then return home to the quiet of the village to a place that by day two you will refer to as "home." It is a great way to relax after a long day out. Be prepared for the hunt for a parking place on market days unless you arrive very early. I spent one hour finding a spot in St. Remy and that was in the semi-off season.
Don't try to do too much or you will miss it all. Our pattern is to make a list of places that we like based on pictures and write ups in travel guides and web sites. Book a place NOW and get what you want. We stay in Sablet (near Kristin). We rented Maison Pelerins and loved it. (http://www.sablethome.com/).
Back to list making. You will quickly learn you cannot do everything on your list especially if you find something interesting on your journey and take a diversion. That is ok. We have learned to just move it to the "next time" list.
Here is the beauty of the "next time" strategy. Our list quickly filled up so I just booked a house near Vaison la Romaine for our trip in September 2010! We can't wait to return and make new discoveries. AND, we will start a new list.
Posted by: Margaret | Wednesday, January 27, 2010 at 01:22 PM
I agree with the person who suggested staying in Avignon. It is much easier to get to many places of interest. Yes, it is
big but when you stay within the walls in the old town where most hotels are located,
there is a special feeling. The transportation links from Avignon are impressive. there are 2 train stations...a regular one with a train to L'Isle sur Sorgue and the TGV station..only 2 1/2 hrs. to Paris! There is a bus station as well...all of these are outside the walls.
AVOID August at all costs......tourists everywhere including the French who all go south pour les vacances. Also it can be very hot. September is better. We drove to the top of Mt. Ventoux which was a highlight but only go on a clear day.VIsit Arles with all its Van Gogh connections and the Roman ruins. Nearby is Les Baux and St-Remy (more Van Gogh and Roman ruins!) The market in St-Remy on Wednesday is great. We also went to the markets in Carpentras and L'Isle-sur-Sorgue. I could go on forever. I think Aix is too far out of the tourist loop, although a lovely city. By the way, there is a lovely company called UNTOURS who have a package of an apt. and a car for a very reasonable price. Most apts.are near
L'Isle-sur-Sorgue. Highly reommended.
Posted by: Mary-Anne in cold NJ | Wednesday, January 27, 2010 at 01:51 PM
In addition to all the wonderful places people have suggested, I would recommend the Vasarely Museum. It's not as "loved" as some of the others, but his infulence on the art world is fascinating. Also, there are a lot of experimental exhibits, videos, etc., that are excellent!
It's also Marcel Pagnol country, so there's that aspect as well.
I was staying in Marseille and also enjoyed trips to Nice, Paris, Cassis, Montpelier, Arcachon, St. Maxim, and Perpignan while I was traveling. It's hard to go wrong in France!
Posted by: Mindy Garza | Wednesday, January 27, 2010 at 02:14 PM
Cezanne's studio is a must-see.
You will love Aix, and it might be better to just discover it and not plan too much. Sit in a cafe, visit the market.
Posted by: G.M. Malliet | Wednesday, January 27, 2010 at 07:05 PM
Just scrolled through the comments and didn't notice anything about Paris.....I wouldn't recommend a day trip to Paris from Aix, as most of it would be spent in transit. Please keep those Aix tips coming - especially for places to stay in villages or small towns. We're hoping to visit the area in May.
In case anyone is looking farther north in Provence, I definitely recommend the Hotel Les Pins in Bedoin. The town is touristy in summer, but mostly Dutch rather than Americans. Mary
Posted by: Mary Rack | Thursday, January 28, 2010 at 04:39 AM
In 2005 I visited Aix in April to see my niece, who was studying at University there for the Spring semester. Fortunately, le mistral was over. One of the things that greatly impressed me was the Carousel at the top of the Cours Mirabeau. It is enchantingly different from our “merry-go-rounds”. The city’s library is on a back street, not far from the University, and it, too, is enchantingly different!
I am a flower gardener. I realize that Flower Markets are a dime a dozen, all over France, but they are woefully rare here in the US – and never with such a profusion of ranunculi, mimosas, and anemones! Again, enchantment!
As a daytrip, I would highly recommend Bandol – the drive down from Aix, partly on la corniche, was fun, but probably not for the fainthearted. I simply imagined myself as Grace Kelly, with the top down. We stopped for a mid-morning break at a boutique hotel across from the harbor. My American niece from Barrington, IL had become quite the jeune fille!
Posted by: Ayn | Thursday, February 18, 2010 at 11:18 AM
I think everyone about covered the essentials to do over 10 days in the area. I read several times that there is no parking in Aix, which is incorrect. There is plenty of parking underground all convenient when visiting the city. Also, there is a fresh food market every day of the week in the center of Aix and the vintage market happens Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays. The market closes down by 1 pm. I'm a guide and live just outside of Aix. If I can help - feel free to email me.
Posted by: Frenchee le Trip | Wednesday, March 03, 2010 at 07:39 PM
We have spent two Septembers in a home exchange with a family outside of Gordes, and have visited and enjoyed practically all the places recommended by the other posts. However, I can not imagine why Aubagne has not been mentioned. It is the heart and center of Santon makers. There is a wonderful museum there and many ateliers of the most famous makers. For Santons it surpasses, Marsailles, Avignon, Aix, etc. I recommend it highly in addition to all the other wonderful sites in the Luberon and Province.
Viva la France!!
Posted by: Bob | Wednesday, March 03, 2010 at 10:01 PM
I love Aix of course but just wanted to tell you about the Moulin de Saint-Martin, a little chambres d'hôte in Crécy-la-Chapelle where we have been spending five days while attending the Maison&Objets Salon in Paris. It's on a small island, beautifully restored and furnished. Corot had a house nearby and started a painting tradition in the area, attacting everyone from van Gogh to the Fauvists. The village is a gem and the old wash houses still line the canals. 75 euros for two, including breakfast. Dinner also available on request but a little pricey at 28 euros, not including wine and aperitifs. You can Google it for photos and more informtion.
Posted by: Catherine | Tuesday, March 16, 2010 at 12:21 PM
We spent 3 great weeks in Provence in June 2007.Weather was perfect,hot but bearable and tourists not overwhelming.We rented a lovely holiday home about 10 mins by car or taxi from the centre of Aix,from vrbo.com.It came with its own pool and jacuzzi so we could cool down anytime!The village was Bouc Bel Air,a lovely place in itself to visit. I would recommend,Cassis,the Camargue,Arles,Avignon.We rented a car and complete with Sat.Nav. found our way to the hilltop villages of Bonnieux and Menerbes! Provence is magical,May for the poppy flowers in bloom and July for the lavender fields!
Posted by: Kathleen | Thursday, April 01, 2010 at 11:08 PM
Ahhhhh...memories. I spent 5 weeks there in the summer ,studying and then a final week in Paris. I've seen a lot of good suggestions. Our school planned some great side trips. Some of my favorites were; Pont du Gaurd (very good Roman aquaduct) where we walked across the top and had a picnic at the base, Senaque was great, we went to a working monastery that grew fields of lavender,and also to Vence where we visited a chapel desined by Matisse (the school may have made speacial arrangements with the nuns for us to visit so you might check on that but it was beautiful).
Posted by: Carrie | Sunday, April 18, 2010 at 02:58 AM
Go to vrbo.com book a hilltop cottage( a misnomer if ever I heard one) under Aix en Provence but staying in Bouc bel Air a few minutes drive outside Aix and you will have a stupendous holiday! Cassis,Avignon,Arles,Beaux de Provence,Bonnieux,Lacoste,Menerbes all within easy reach, but your time spent in the actual village of Beaux will be your lasting memory!A private pool, jacuzzi and fab holiday home, whats not to like????
Posted by: Kathleen | Sunday, May 30, 2010 at 12:04 AM
France is by far one of the best places on earth to have vacation with. The scenic spots and all the great food. The people are also friendly and romantic. There are a lot of things that we can enjoy in France. Hoping your visit was a lot of fun. More power.
Posted by: curtis johnson realty | Monday, January 31, 2011 at 07:01 AM
Lots of suggestions for places to eat, drink, stay, visit and even get a massage in Aix and other parts of the region in www.provencefoodandwine.com
Posted by: bob mcmullan | Thursday, March 03, 2011 at 11:32 AM
We adored Aix and have visited several times over the last few years. Last year we stayed with friends in nearby Cabries and spent a morning working the market in Aix. There is a GREAT pizza place off Cours Mirabeau, I think--just 'take out' but delish, called Capri Pizza. It's really a just a little store front. We sat on the curb to eat our pizza, but it was Wonderful! From there we took the train to Marseilles which was a very short hop and a wonderful place to visit...esp. if you are a fan of Marcel Pagnol books or films!(or a fan of CVheif Grape, who I understand is also Marseillese(-:
Posted by: Nancy L. | Thursday, March 03, 2011 at 03:20 PM
If I remember right Aix has the Roman mud spa. My body was backed in mud, steamed, massaged, etc. It was great. I would have liked to have had the mud facial too! Enjoy the spa!
Posted by: gail bingenheimer | Tuesday, September 06, 2011 at 04:51 PM
Ok fine Girls that was nice but what if you are not eighty five and looking for oil for the squeaky zimmer frame. how about fun things to do with kids?
Posted by: peter | Sunday, October 09, 2011 at 02:55 PM
I'm glad someone mentioned the Vasarely Museum. I really loved the geometry and color of his art. Here' s the link: http://www.fondationvasarely.fr/informations.php
Posted by: Jane Lindner | Thursday, December 15, 2011 at 08:06 PM
Just spent 2 months there and it is the most wonderful place. Check out the local food markets that are held each day and stock up on some delicious goodies. Attend a church service (even if you aren't super religious or non-french speaking), the music is delightful and the choir sounds just beautiful. I suggest St Jean de Malte in Rue Cardinale. Check out the Conservatorium of Music in the Mazarin area as they often have wonderful and reasonably priced concerts/recitals. Take a walking tour of the town (in french or english) which can be organised through the office of tourism. Take a stroll down Cours Mirabeau and soak up the atmosphere in one of the many wonderful cafes. Not far out of town you will find vineyards, hiking spots and it's only a half hour drive to the Mediterranean sea. Such a fabulous town with great vibe, class and style.
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Re the automatic transmission v. standard: Virtually all rental cars in France are standard transmission. I rented a car from Avis before I left the US. Picked it up in Marseille where I got no hassles, no attempts to upgrade. It was a very pleasant experience. The price was extremely reasonable as well. Neither I nor anyone in my family works for Avis :)
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