Aix-en-Provence is a beautiful city-commune in the South of France – and my new hometown. Here are some tips for Tripping in Aix.
What to do:
Atelier Cézanne – Cézanne used to work here!
Atelier Cézanne is a museum in the workshop of the famous impressionist artist Paul Cézanne. It’s located a mile or so north of the city center of Aix (a beautiful walk- there are also buses). I suggest spending some time exploring the little forest trails that surround the house. The main attraction is on the second floor, where the workshop is preserved (more or less) in its original state. You can see the artist’s books, household items and art supplies. There is also a huge window with a view of the surrounding area. This alone is definitely worth an afternoon hike.
Les Cinémas d’Aix
For a town the size of Rochester, NY, Aix has a fantastic repertoire cinema scene!
-The Institut de l’image shows classic films from around the world and regularly has guest lecturers from the film department of the Université de Provence during the school year (can’t wait!).
-The Renoir and the Mazarin show contemporary French and international films subtitled in French as well as some old classics (mostly on the artsy side— less commercial trash). All films are presented in their original language with French subtitles (any film geek will tell you that dubs are no good). Tickets are reasonable, especially if you purchase the membership card accepted at all the local cinemas.
All of these are classy, old-fashioned cinemas.
This is one of the oldest churches in Aix-en-Provence. Believed to be built on the ruins of a roman temple (part of which are exposed in one section!) from the 1st century, the cathedral has visibly been a place of worship for a very long time. There are elements of Romanesque, Gothic, and neo-Gothic architecture ranging from the 12th to 19th century, which makes any visit a panorama of art history. Particularly interesting is the cloister contained in a small interior courtyard, featuring an arcade of sculpted columns, each one different from the others (see photo). I’ve done the guided tour twice already and will certainly be back!
What to eat (and drink):
The market in Place Richelme is open every morning until 1 pm. The various stands offer fruits and vegetables from the Aix region, fish, sauçisson, local olive oils, truffles, herbes de Provence, fresh and dried lavender, and countless prepared local delicacies. I strongly suggest the anchoiade (or anchovy paste) used as a dip for fresh vegetables, great for picnics!
On the way back from your museum visit stop off at the Cave d’Aix. This is a sort of wholesaler of local wine producers’ products. Côte-de-Provence or Côteaux d’Aix rosé are this region’s specialties and probably the best thing to drink on a sweltering hot afternoon. The quality ranges from decent to excellent and the prices are the lowest I’ve seen.
There’s nothing French about pizza, but I’ll admit that Pizza Capri is one of the best I’ve had. The wood-fire oven-baked crust is just the right thickness, crispy but soft on the inside. The ingredients are fresh and original: in France emmenthal is the main pizza cheese, spanish chorizo is used in the place of pepperoni, and if you ask for a mozzarella slice, fresh italian buffala mozzarella is used. All are great choices!
Bars in Aix (and in France generally) are prohibitively expensive, so if you don’t feel like shelling out 8 euros for a gin tonic, head to the Bar des PTT in the Place Richelme. It’s what they call a PMU or tabac, a sort of neighborhood tavern where locals go to buy cigarettes, watch soccer matches and drink copious amounts of Pastis.