Market day in Aix-en-Provence

Provence is well known for its vineyards and fantastic wine, especially Rosé, but there’s more to discover, like the “ancienne ville” of Aix-en-Provence, which is about an hour from Cotignac and just above Marseilles. Aix, as it is more popularly known as, is the ‘capital’ of Provence and over two millenia old.

The Montagne St. Victoire forms a dramatic backdrop for exploring the city and surrounding area. It is well known that the mountain inspired Cezanne during what is known as his ‘constructive period’. You can ‘follow in his footsteps’ literally and figuratively through his home town and visit his atelier as well.

Aix-en-Provence is also referred as the city of a thousand fountains. Take a stroll down the Cours Mirabeau (beautiful name); one of the liveliest places in town. Aix has been described as one of the most beautiful cities in France and is steeped in history. Many festivals take place every year and the market on a Saturday is one of the best we’ve been told. Time to find out for ourselves.

The busy tourist season has come to an end so there is little traffic on the main roads and as we enter Aix finding a parking garage is relatively easy. As we head out on foot we come to the realisation that we have no idea where the market is! Heading for the old city makes the most sense so we find ourselves on the Cours Mirabeau (a familiar name?) before we even realise it. It is quite wide with a road down the middle and plenty of cafés down one side of the road. A quick coffee easily became an hour of people-watching. This really is more of a city than a town, but it has a nice relaxed vibe, reminding us of parts of Amsterdam. Instead of canals there are fountains everywhere…

The old city has some cobbled roads and a lot of shops. Each alley has a myriad of eateries, take aways, pubs and cosy restaurants. But our mission is the market and we can’t afford to get sidetracked. Oh, okay then, maybe a visit to the ‘santon’ exhibition where our friends from Holland manage to procure a particularly elaborate water trough in miniature. What I also notice are the many trees throughout the town. And large tree-lined squares play host to fish, vegetable and clothing stalls. Bright and vibrant flowers and fruit colours appeal to the eye, but we’re really too late for the fish. You need to be here bright and early.

It is a nice and sunny day and everyone seems to be in a good mood. There is lively banter from the stallholders and if you need to sit down for a bit then have a drink at one of the many bars along the square and sidestreets. Overshadowing everything are the old buildings which are worth a visit themselves. It is still quite busy though and you can spot the tourists from a mile off (as the saying goes). Not that we were any different though. The mood is relaxed so you are automatically not in a hurry anyway. Sadly we didn’t have enough time to explore the city further (you might need a week) but we are returning soon anyway for a visit to discover more about Cezanne. Now you know – if you’re here on a saturday then head for the market in Aix. Definitely worth a visit…

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