France has many beautiful cities. One of the finest, that we will be showing you in this episode is Aix-en-Provence, a town with that special ambience of the outdoor restaurants, the cafes, the pedestrian lanes, the little fountains, the historic buildings, street markets, and all kinds of wonderful sights to explore. We will be taking you there on a daytrip showing you how many wonderful things you can see in only six hours. Of course, if you have more time, this would be a delightful place to spend a couple of nights, or maybe a couple of weeks.
Colorful street markets are one of the fine attractions here, and they happen every day. But the main markets are on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. We will be showing you a lot, later in the program.
And we will spend a lot of time walking through those pedestrian lanes, looking at the little plazas, the historic sites like City Hall, fountains surrounded by café tables, and much more.
Aix is famous for its fountains, with several big ones along this main street of the Cours Mirabeau, and the sidewalk restaurants. It’s one of the most glorious boulevards in the country.
During our visit the main market square was under renovation, and so everything had moved to this main boulevard of the Cours Mirabeau, which was wonderful. It became a pedestrian promenade with all of the stalls set up and all the sidewalk restaurants along it. Most famously, Les Deux Garcons.
We’ll come back to this main street of Cours Mirabeau later in the program, but for now it’s time to dive into the pedestrian zone – show you quickly on the map an outline of where we’re going, straight up through the main square of City Hall to the Cathedral, then back around and down in a big loop circuit that brings us along some of the main pedestrian lanes, then back to Cours Mirabeau and see more of that fascinating street market.
Turning away from the sidewalk cafes of the Cours for now, we take a stroll into the old town along Rue Clemenceau, a typical street, mostly for pedestrians and lined with shops.
And there’s another market one more block further on Rue Vauvenargues called Place Richelme. It’s a beautiful little plaza with trees and sunshine streaming in. The natural lighting is filtered by the leaves to give it a golden glow, and another lovely mix of items for sale.
Then you will soon arrive at the prettiest of all squares in town, the Place de l’Hôtel de Ville, the City Hall Square.
The clock tower was built in 1510 and became the symbol of local power in the city, towering over the City Hall.
The main pedestrian lane continues north, changing names now to Rue Gaston de Saporta Rue and leads to Aix’s main church, the Cathedral of St-Sauveur.
The transit system here has these minibuses, a very efficient way to get around. They can carry seven people, and they have a low floor that makes it easy to get in and out. You just buy your ticket from the bus driver.
Rue Espariat is one of the main streets of the old town, with many more attractive side lanes along the way.
At this point we have just about come full circle in our little walk around the old town of Aix.
Place d’Albertas is named after one of the city’s leading 18th-century families in 1724 Henri d’Albertas built his private mansion on the Parisian model of royal palaces. The fountain in the center was created in 1862.
Around the corner is yet another charming spot the Place St. Honore, the usual outdoor café tables with elegant shops around it and some old streets leading off from it.
People love these outdoor clothing markets because you have a tremendous variety of goods for sale, and the prices are generally lower than you’ll ever find in a store.
These same vendors usually come back each week catering to mostly local clientele, so they’ve got to keep the quality fairly decent and the prices very good.
In the other section of the market are the wonderful foods of Provence. You’ve got a big variety of fresh foods here – your vegetables, most of them grown in the south of France. If it’s out of season, wintertime if it’s they would be brought in from perhaps the Middle East, or Israel, from Africa, or Italy, but the south of France has got a wonderful climate for growing agricultural products all year round. And one of the specialties is the olive. There must be hundreds of kinds of olives that are produced in France.
As a visitor you’re probably not doing any cooking, so you don’t need to purchase vegetables, but you might just get some fresh fruits, or some snacks for the road. And there’s always some kind of selection of prepared foods that are ready-to-eat, whether it’s a simple sandwich, or an elaborate paella. And just to enjoy the people watching here in the scenery the colors the smells the sounds the beautiful buildings all around, it makes for an adventure just in itself.