- The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new lands but seeing with new eyes. Marcel Proust
Visit Aix-en-Provence, France
Aix-en-Provence is the city of art, and a city of light and activity. Aix is also a home of art schools and several universities, including some American, attracting a youthful population that sparks the atmosphere.
For pronunciation, you pronounce the "x", so Aix sounds like ex, as in "X marks the spot". On road signs, the name is shortened into Aix-en-Pce.
The center of Aix is the old town (vieille ville), ringed by a circle of boulevards and squares. It's a small-enough area to explore by foot, but there's way too much to see in one or two days. The medieval Aix was protected by a wall with 39 towers. Today only the 14th century "Tourreluquo" tower remains, at the northwest corner of the town.
Cours Mirabeau is the center of the center, and the heart of Aix. The Cours Mirabeau is a beautiful tree-lined avenue, with one side lined with wonderful terrace cafés and bookshops. If you sit at only one French sidewalk café outside of Paris, it should be here, where the air is warm, the light sublime and the sidewalk alive. Large plane trees overhang the length of the avenue, giving day-long shade on hot summer days. Some of the more famous cafés are: Le Grillon, Les Deux Garçons, La Belle Epoque and Le Café du Cours.
For breakfast in Aix, we buy spinach quiches and mushroom quiches at a shop low on the Cours Mirabeau, across from the cafés, and have them with our "grandes crèmes" at Les Deux Garcons.
City of Fountains
Aix-en-Provence is full of fountains. Everywhere, throughout the town, fountains big and small bubble and spray and splash.
The Cours Mirabeau has some of the finest: The great fountain (1860) at La Rotonde, in the Place Général de Gaulle at the bottom end of the "cours", spraying up into the sunlight. The Fountain of 9 Cannons (1691), half way up, bubbles away in the shade. Another block up the "cours" is the moss-covered hot-water fountain dating back to 1734, although the 35°C (93°F) spring has been enjoyed for its healing properties for 2000 years. King René's Fountain, at the top of the "cours" was built in the 19th century; the statue is of Roi René holding a bunch of Muscat grapes, which the good king introduced into Provence.
The lovely Fontaine des Quatre Dauphins at the Place des Quatre Dauphins, in the Mazarin district, was built in 1667 by Jean-Claude Rambot.