Aix en Provence
LANDSCAPE: Aix-en-Provence is one of our favourite small cities. It is famous for its beauty, and its cultural and historical heritage, which are evident in the spectacular Rotunda fountain at the heart of the city. The three statues of the fountain represent justice, agriculture and fine arts. Aix is filled with beautiful fountains, elegant architecture, winding streets, and lively markets. The central boulevard: le Cours Mirabeau is lined with cafés, and shaded by an arch of ancient plane trees. The impressive Mont Sainte Victoire dominates the landscape of Aix, and is surrounded by charming villages and beautiful countryside.
PRIME ATTRACTIONS: Visit the Cathedral de Saint Saveur and the cloisters. Do not miss the intricately carved Cathedral doors. The 16th century clock tower houses an astronomic clock containing four wooden statues. Look for the Trompe l'oeil ceiling in the Hotel de Chateaurenard. Gaze up at the crown of the ancient corn exchange building from the Place de Richelme and admire its two symbols of fruitfulness in the region: the Rhône and Durance rivers, and the rich motifs associated with the regional produce: fruits, cereals and olives. Stroll along the café lined Cours Mirabeau, and pause for a drink to enjoy the scene. Wander through the maze of little streets in the old town, and linger in the outdoor restaurants in the shady squares. Enjoy the daily outdoor markets, which offer a colourful variety of local produce, flowers, foods, handicrafts, and antiques. Visit the tapestry museum. the Pavillon de Vendôme. Admire the architecture, many fountains and monuments. Discover Cézanne's studio and scenery and climb Mt. Ste. Victoire.
Aix is ideally situated at the heart of Provence in the Bouches du Rhône department, and makes a perfect base from which to explore all of Provence. Day trip excursions from Aix may include: the hilltop villages and markets of the Luberon and Vaucluse; the Popes palace in Avignon, the roman ruins in Arles and Glanum; the medieval citadel of Les Baux de Provence; the fishing village of Cassis, the stunning Calanques; the canyons of the Gorges du Verdon, and the legendary cities and beaches of the Riviera. All the highlights of Provence can be visited on a day trip from Aix en Provence.
FOOD & WINE: Local produce are the feature ingredients of the cuisine in this region. Sample the delectable Aix specialty "calissons"- sweet delicacies made from honey and melon marzipan. Discover the split olives and famous olive oil from Les Baux. Soupe au pistou is made from local basil and the garlicky mayonnaise 'aioli' is dolloped on soups, fish and vegetables. Try the flavourful sea salt from the Camargue. Sample the melons and strawberries from Cavaillon. In Marseille, savour the famous bouillabaise and garlicky Mediterranean fish soup.
Provencal rosé prevails in regional wine production and is a perfect accompaniment to the cuisine and climate of the region. In addition, there are some high quality reds and good fruity whites. The Bouches du Rhône offers 4 AOC: Côtes de Provence, Côteaux d'Aix, Palette, and Cassis.
HISTORY; Originally a Celto-Ligurian settlement at Entremont, the present site was renamed 'Aquae Sextaie' by the Romans who were attracted to the site for the hot water springs. Having developed into an important Roman colony, the town became a stepping stone between Italy and Spain, and grew into an urban centre and spa. Aix became the capital of Provence in 1486. Today Aix continues to develop and preserve its culture, heritage and university with enthusiasm.
LOCAL EVENTS: June-July. Aix en Provence International festival of lyrical arts and musical.
CLIMATE: Although the climate can be variable, generally the summers are hot, the winters are sunny and the mid-seasons are mild. The winters are colder away from the coast.
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