Day 1 was a long day……we boarded the plane at around 7pm and arrived at our first destination (Charles de Gaulle Airport) at 8am Paris time. We caught our next flight at 11am and arrived in Marseille around an hour later. There we were met by our guide Nathalie who helped educate us about the Provence region while we travelled to Aix-en-Provence.
Aix, which is pronounced like an “X” is a beautiful town and traditionally it was the meeting place of the roads from Marseilles and Paris. The Romans originally founded the town and named it Themus Sextius after the hot springs they discovered. There aren’t any Roman ruins, but the city is full of Medieval, 16th and 17th century statues and architecture. There are over 3o fountains in the city, and the most famous is La Rontonde (pictured right).
After checking into the hotel we met another guide named Caroline, who took us on a tour of the city. Caroline’s expertise was art history and she was a great guide because she was very passionate – A great story teller. She took us to the main church in the city which was gorgeous (see below). There was a wedding happening in the church at the same time we were sightseeing, and I think a lot of people found the wedding more interesting than the church itself.
Caroline also talked about how Paul Cezanne has been adopted by the town, but mostly because of the tourism benefits. Cezanne was born in Aix and loved the city, but Aix was much too conservative, and didn’t appreciate him. Even to this day, there are only six of his paintings in Aix on display, and those are on loan from private owners. On some streets where Cezanne would have spent a lot of time, they have little “C” symbols which are supposed to symbolize “the footsteps of Cezanne”. It was neat to see the little “C” under your feet every so often, expecially around the Law school that he attended or his favourite bar of his (which is now owned by the French mob).
After a lovely group dinner (I had goat cheese with puff pastry, roasted lamb chank, and home made creme brulee) we returned to the hotel for some much needed shut eye. The next was a free day in the city. I spent most of my time at the local markets.
I LOVE local markets, so do not be surprised if you hear me mention markets again while on this tour. This market had fresh fruits, veggies, honey, bread, lavender, herbs de provence, olives and more. We explored the town some more and in the afternoon, everyone gathered for a pre diner happy hour. The hotel allowed us to gather in a garden on their property and we enjoyed wine and snacks which everyone had bought at the market.
The weather—which remained between 20C and 25C—was perfect for garden party, and was a great opportunity for everyone to bond. Afterwards, we split up into two or three groups for dinner. I knew it was going to be very difficult to leave such a charming town, and it was. Stay tuned for my next blog from Cassis (unless you get jealous easily). Bye for now!