The approach to the town never fails to stir. As you descend into the gentle valley in which this ancient regional capital lies, you sense that something special awaits, the sentinel presence of Mont St Victoire, which looms up over one edge of the town, providing a clue.
I have lived in Aix-en-Provence for a year; a dream come true for my family and I. It hasn’t disappointed! I’m passionate about France but Provence is where I always want to stay longer and Aix encapsulates so much that I crave for from the region in one truly magical town. Complete with a rich history and culture, Aix nestles in the heart of Provence surrounded by rolling, vine-clad countryside. With the Luberon to the north and the calanques of Marseille to the south, you are spoilt for choice. Close to the town, the famous A8 takes you in a whisker to St-Tropez, Nice and beyond. Every journey out of Aix is a destination trip to something enchanting.
Back in the atmospheric town, narrow winding streets surprise at every turn with galleries, boutiques and cafes occupying the ground floors of ancient buildings once home to wealthy merchants. There is a rich cultural life here and the history of the region is fascinating. Despite it’s popularity – hundreds of thousands of tourists visit each year – it’s a surprisingly relaxing town, where fountains tinkle in little squares and tourists meander down traffic-free streets.
Café society reigns all year round. A terrace from April to November and a cosy covered corner in winter months. This is an art that the French have elegantly perfected! Café Grillon or Deux Garcons on the main boulevard of the Cours Mirabeau are a treat. My favourite, the little Brûlerie on the Place Richelme square next to the food market, is another authentic experience not to be missed.
Markets are an essential part of life here in Aix. I never tire of the daily intoxicating smells of the food market in the Place Richelme and the heady perfumes of the flower market at the place de l’hotel de ville. Oh what a dreamy place it is!
Aix-en-Provence shines all year long and its mercurial charm never fails to entice you back again. Summer festivals, Xmas markets, outdoor concerts and expositions… a long, varied agenda.
A trip here is easy. Seven hours by TGV from London and close to Marseille airport by plane. It’s a place that works all year round whether it is to focus on gourmet, cultural, pampering or exercise activities… or simply to blend into the beauty of this town. Sit down and breathe it all in! I promise you; it won’t disappoint.
By Jill Cowdry
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