Today, my family and I rented a car in Cannes and drove a few hours to Aix-en-Provence. My sister had studied abroad here and other members of my family who have visited said it’s incredible, so when we were planning our family trip back in spring, we knew we had to add it to the list of destinations, among Nice, Santa Margherita, and Florence.
The drive from Cannes to Aix was incredible. We wove through tall mountains which were dotted with the classic pastel villas and old homes native to the Mediterranean. Our car was packed to the brim with five people and nine pieces of luggage but was somehow just comfortable enough.
When we arrived in Aix, I was shocked to see how small, yet charming, it was. So far, our trip has been retracing Bella’s old steps and eating at her recommended restaurants, and they ain’t half bad. So, as a way to present what Aix has to offer, I’ve drawn up a little list of reasons why you should go to Aix-en-Provence on your next trip to France. Let’s get it started.
1. It’s Cézanne’s hometown
Art lovers like me will love Aix for this very reason. Famous French post-impressionist artist, Paul Cézanne, was born here, and many of his art remains in the city to this day. Visit Musée Granet, Hôtel Caumont, and Cézanne’s old workshop to view some of his most famous works of art. It also goes to say that the countryside of Aix is what inspired many of his paintings.
2. It’s the city of 1000 fountains
Aix has the nickname, “The City of 1000 Fountains.” I feel like that’s pretty self-explanatory: there’s a lot of fountains. However, France being France, these fountains are stunning and beautiful and might make you cry because they are so incredible. From major squares to tiny back alleys or streets, you can always find a fountain to admire.
3. The daily market in Place Richelme
Yes, France is a foodie paradise. But above all, Aix is the paradise of paradise. Head to the daily market in Place Richelme for fresh produce, cheeses, and bread, as well as macarons, chocolates, and olive oil. The chefs of Aix treat food like an art. So, olive oil is not just olive oil and the chocolate is not just chocolate, but so much more. It’s something to be cherished and valued, and that shows in the way they prepare it. Another great market is on Rue d’Italie (be sure to get the roast chicken.)
I am an abnormality in my family in the sense that I don’t care for the designer stuff. However, my sisters and brother could not want it more. Because of that, Aix is the perfect place for them. Instead of boasting the typical Gucci or Dior, Aix leans more towards independent designer boutiques, which attracts fashion lovers even more. Who doesn’t love saying “Oh, this old thing? I got it in France and you will never be able to buy one,” when someone asks where you bought your shirt. That’s the best feeling in the world.
5. The Lavender Fields are a short trip away
Tomorrow, I’m heading over to the lavender fields, where I plan on jumping in and out of them like a dog and smelling them a lot because it just seems like the sort of thing you have to do there. It’s one of those places you’ve seen on the internet for years and wonders how a place so perfect can even exist. It just so happens that the lavender is in full bloom at this very moment and is only an hour away from our Airbnb in downtown Aix. Hallelujah!
6. The Calissons
Calissons were custom made in the mid-15th century for Queen Jeanne to make her feel less crappy about marrying some king twice her age. You can tell they’re good because they actually cheered her up. Calissons are made of candied fruit and almonds, topped with the classic royal icing. They are elegance at it’s finest.
7. The sound of music
Home to one of the best conservatories in the world, Conservatoire Darius Milhaud, Aix can guarantee that you will hear music on the street throughout the entire day. Whether it be students practicing their performance skills or earning some extra cash, or an adorable old grandma just wanting to play the violin, musical performances are never hard to find.
Like Santa Margherita, Aix-en-Provence was never on my list of places I wanted to go, but one that I ended up really enjoying once I ended up there. For those who plan on only going to bigger cities in France like Paris, Lyon, or Nice, I encourage you to try smaller cities like Marseille (our next stop) and Aix-en-Provence, to get a better feel of what life in France is really like.