Aix-en-Provence

About Auxerre, France

Aix-en-Provence is a university city in the Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur region of southern France. It was the birthplace of Post-Impressionist painter Paul Cézanne, and a walking trail links sites including his childhood home, Jas de Bouffan, and his former studio, Atelier Cézanne. The white limestone Sainte-Victoire mountain overlooking the city and the surrounding countryside were frequent subjects of his works.

Aix-en-Provence, or also know as just Aix, is a small classically Provencal town. The number of vacationers from the north has dramatically increased since the addition of the TGV high-speed train station. Aix has turned into a shopping town with high variety and representation considering its small size. There are also three universities and several French-language schools for international students.
Aix has always been a rich city. It is a quiet, clean and comfortable city. The city center is mostly pedestrian and, though it is quite small, offers long hours of nice walks. As in all Provencal towns, the city center consists of narrows streets, lined with interesting buildings from 17th century hotels to paved plazas. Aix is famous for being once the home to Cezanne.

Beaches
The nearest place with accessible beaches is the town of Cassis. Since they are the only ones around they do tend to get very busy in the summer months.

Climate Aix's position in the south of France gives it a warm climate. It has an average January temperature of 5° C and a July average of 22° C. It has an average of 300 days of sunshine. While it is partially protected from the Mistral, Aix does occasionally suffer the cold gusty conditions it brings.

Geography
Aix-en-Provence is a city in southern France, some 30 km north of Marseille. It is located in the Provence region, in the Bouches-du-Rhône département, of which it is a sous-préfecture. The population of Aix is approximately 140,200 and its inhabitants are called Aixois.

Aix-en-Provence is situated in a plain overlooking the Arc, about a mile from the right bank of the river. The city slopes gently from north to south and the Montagne Sainte-Victoire can easily be seen to the east.

History Aix-en-Provence was founded in 123 BC by the Roman consul Sextius Calvinus. In 102 BC its neighbourhood was the scene of the Battle of Aquae Sextiae when Romans under Gaius Marius defeated the Cimbri and Teutones, with mass suicides among the captured women, which passed into Roman legends of Germanic heroism.

In the 4th century AD it became the metropolis of Narbonensis Secunda. It was occupied by the Visigoths in 477. In the succeeding century, the town was repeatedly plundered by the Franks and Lombards, and was occupied by the Saracens in 731 and by Charles Martel in 737. Aix, which during the Middle Ages was the capital of the county of Provence, did not reach its zenith until after the 12th century, when, under the houses of Aragon and Anjou, it became an artistic centre and seat of learning.

Aix passed to the crown of France with the rest of Provence in 1487, and in 1501 Louis XII established there the parliament of Provence, which existed until 1789. In the 17th and 18th centuries, the town was the seat of the Intendance of Provence.

Nature To the east of Aix rises Mont Sainte-Victoire. It is accessible from the centre of Aix by road or on foot, taking the wooded footpath of Escrachou Pevou to the plateau of Bibemus. Mont Sainte-Victoire has a complex network of paths, leading to the Croix de Provence at the summit, to the large man-made reservoir of Bimont and to the roman viaduct above le Tholonet.

The Calanques are wonderful fjords in the south of Marseille near Cassis. The steep lime stone cliffs are amazing. The walk along the coast from Cassis to Marseille is spectacular, it can be done in one day at a fast pace.

Unique to Here Today’s Pétanque is a popular sport played in towns and villages all over Provence. The origins of the game are said to be ancient, going back to the Egyptians, ancient Greeks, and Ancient Romans. The sport was very popular during the Middle Ages. The modern version of the game was created in 1907 by Jules Hugues. He devised a new set of rules where the players did remained inside a small circle with their feet together. This gave the game its name, les ped tanco, meaning in the Provencal dialect ‘feet together'.

The object is to throw a steel ball as close as possible to a smaller ball, called the cochonette, or to knock away a ball of the opponent that is close to the cochonette. The point belongs to the ball the closest to the cochonette. The points are counted when all of the balls have been tossed by both teams.

Airport :
Marseille Provence Airport Airport Tax : none Distance from Airport : 30 km Tourist Office : 2 pl. du Général-de-Gaulle, B.P. 160, Cedex 1, 13605. Tel. 04-42-16-11-61 Tourist Season : June through September Festivals & Events Aix holds two significant musical events each year. These are:

June - Musique dans la Rue June/July - Festival d'Aix-en-Provence

Transportation The best way to arrive here is by flying into Marseille or Nice. Marseille is nearer but budget airlines prefer Nice. There is a shuttle bus between the airport and the bus station near the center of town.

Aix-en-Provence has both a TGV (high speed train) and a regular station. It is well connected both to the Paris - Marseille line and to the Genoa - Nice - Barcelona line.

The best way to travel in the area is by train, by bus, or by renting a car. Avoiding toll roads can be slow but is very scenic. Parking in Aix can be quite difficult.

Aix is a fairly small city and can be easily navigated by foot. The bus system is also very efficient and has numerous stops within the city and the train station.

Activities & Sports
Aix is a very quiet town sports wise but if you really want to get a sweat going there are options. A favorite is renting a bike and ride around Aix. This is a very good way to see the town that is outside the center.

There are also 2 golf courses here: Aix Golf and Golf Club Aix Marseille. One can find tennis clubs, swimming pools, horseback riding, hiking trails or rock climbing for a nominal fee.

Archaeology On the Place de l'Hôtel de Ville is the former Halle de Grains, in English Corn Exchange (1759-1761). This ornately decorated 18th century building was designed by the Vallon brothers. Nearby are the remarkable thermal springs, containing lime and carbonic acid, that first drew the Romans to Aix and gave it the name Aquae Sextiae. A spa was built in 1705 near the remains of the ancient Roman baths of Sextius.

Attractions & Sights Aix is often referred to as the city of a thousand fountains: Fontaine des Quatre Dauphins in the Quartier Mazarin, three of the fountains down the central Cours Mirabeau, the fountains of the Place d'Albertas and the Place des Trois-Ormeaux are among the most noteworthy.

Aix is known for its architecture. The varied and often intricate doors are a key feature, as well as the bell towers. The bell towers throughout Aix en Provence are made of rough iron. The Cours Mirabeau, the main avenue through town, follows the line of the old city wall and divides the town into two sections. The new town extends to the south and west; the old town, with its wide but irregular streets and its old mansions dating from the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries, lies to the north. The famous Deux Garçons brasserie was built in 1792 and was frequented by Cézanne, Zola and Hemingway, to name a few.

South of the Cours Mirabeau is the Quartier Mazarin. This residential district was constructed for the gentry of Aix by the brother of Cardinal Mazarin in the last half of the 17th century and contains several notable hôtels particuliers. The 13th century church of Saint-Jean-de-Malte contains valuable pictures and a recently restored organ.

The Cathédrale Saint-Sauveur was built on the site of a former Roman forum and an adjacent Basilica. It contains a mixture of all styles from the 5th to the 17th century, including a Gothic portal, 16th century tapestries, a 15th century triptych, and a Merovingian baptistery. The Palais de l'Archevêché and a Romanesque cloister adjoin the cathedral. Other notable public institutions are the Palais de Justice and the Hôtel de Ville with its fine woodwork and large library.

Aix has several museums and galleries: Le Musée du Vieil Aix is devoted to the history and provencal heritage of Aix; Le Musée d’Histoire Naturelle; Le Musée de Tapisseries; Le Musée Paul Arbaud with its faïence and pottery; Le Musée Granet, a museum devoted to painting, sculpture and the archeology of Aix; Le Pavillon de Vendôme, a 17th century mansion housing permanent and touring art exhibitions; L'atelier Cézanne, a museum on the northern outskirts of Aix, constructed around the studio of the Paul Cézanne; and Jas de Bouffan, the house and grounds of Cézanne's father.

Nightlife There are plenty of bars, pubs, night-clubs, etc in Aix. A nice and relatively cheap place to have a drink is the Bar de La Mairie on Place de la Mairie.

Nearby Marseille’s Vieux-Port has cafes and bars with great views of the harbour.

Shows, plays and concerts are hosted by the Grand Théâtre de Provence and the Pavillon Noir, a centre for dance performance, with a resident modern dance company, Ballet Preljocaj.

Side Trips There are so many beautiful nearby towns and villages to see, here is a highlight:

Arles is absolutely steeped in Provençal culture. Les Arènes d'Arles (Roman amphitheatre) was built in the 1st or 2nd century B.C. Today it houses Corridas at Easter. Throughout the summer there are various Camargue bullfights.

Avignon is famous as the city to which the Popes fled when leaving the corruption of Rome in the 14th century. Le Palais des Papes is the world's largest Gothic edifice. The well-known song Sur Le Pont D'Avignon originates from the famous medieval bridge found here of the same name.

Nîmes may have been one of the richest and finest Roman cities of Gaul. Several important remains of the Roman Empire can still be seen in and around Nîmes: the elliptical Roman amphitheatre, the small Roman temple called Maison Carrée, the Pont du Gard with its well-preserved aqueduct. Nîmes is also well known for its famous denim fabric who originated from the town.

Finally there is Marseille, the departement’s capital. Now Marseille would be best described as gritty and real. So if you enjoy colourful people, vivacious markets that will make you feel like you are in Africa, and modern cities, visit here for sure. The city boasts many museums and galleries. There are many ancient buildings and churches of historical interest as well. Don’t miss the nearby Calanques, a natural area of big fjord-like cliffs falling into the sea.

Accommodations
Aix-en-Provence offers visitors an array of accommodations, from hotels, residential hotels, country guest houses, bed & breakfast, campsites, self-catering cottages, to youth hostels.

Eating Out Aix has an incredible number of restaurants considering its small size. The majority of them are located in the old city, between Place des Cardeurs and the Rotonde. Restaurants and bars on the Cours Mirabeau tend to be more expensive though.

Chez Charlotte, on rue des Bernardines, is a very good restaurant frequented by the locals. It proposes simple and reasonably cheap French food in a friendly atmosphere.

Shopping Aix has many major fashion boutiques, as well as small clothing stores, perfumeries, and touristy souvenir shops. Carrefour Les Milles is a large shopping center in Aix. The city markets are open several days a week, but the largest and most colourful is the Saturday market which includes a flower market at the Place de l'Hotel de Ville and the main food market is at Place Richelme.

Pastis is the traditional liqueur of Provence, flavoured with anise. When absinthe was banned in France in 1915, the major absinthe producers (then Pernod Fils and Ricard) reformulated their drink without the banned wormwood and with more aniseed flavour. It is usually drunk diluted with water, which it turns a cloudy color.

Calissons, traditionally associated with the town of Aix en Provence, are a traditional candy consisting of a smooth, pale yellow, paste of candied melons or oranges and ground almonds topped with a thin layer of white icing.

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