Posted: 2009-07-29

Juli’s Aix-en-Provence

Aix-en-Provence was the capital of Provence in southern France from the 12th century until the Revolution in 1789.  It is an elegant and sophisticated city, referred to by some as the “Paris of the South.” 

The old town center, called “Vieil Aix,” is mix of narrow streets, small plazas, fountains, shops, restaurants, cafés, churches, and apartments and houses.  The old town is roughly the shape of a circle with a wide boulevard that rings around the outside.  The rest of Aix, including new contemporary developments, spread beyond this ring road.  The ring road follows the path of the old city walls, much of which has been destroyed over time.


There are a couple of places where you can still see the old wall from the 14th century


Here’s a typical street in the old town

I spent my junior year of college studying in Aix-en-Provence.  This summer is my first visit back to this town since I left in 1992.  It’s been fun to here again exploring the town with Chad. 

I went to school at the Institute for American Universities (IAU).  I studied French literature and translation, art history, French and Mediterranean history, and European political science.  All of my professors were French, and all of my classes were taught in French.  In addition, I lived with a French family each semester.  I was able to get a true French experience despite the fact that my fellow students were American.  Here’s a photo of the main IAU school building:

This building used to be a church, but it now houses classrooms, a library and administrative offices.  The main lecture hall used to be the main worship hall of the church, and you can still see the religious frescos painted on the ceiling.  I took a wine-tasting class in that room!  I also had a class in this building:

The Cours Mirabeau is the main drag in the old town.  It is a wide avenue with shops, restaurants and office buildings.  Large plane trees line the street and provide shade on a hot summer day.  This is a great street for strolling or just passing the afternoon in a café. 


A view of the Cours


The Cours Mirabeau is anchored at one end by the huge fountain at La Rotonde


There are other fountains along the length of the Cours.  This is my favorite, The Hot Water Fountain, fed by a hot spring, mossy and green

The Place de la Mairie is a plaza in front of city hall.  It is usually filled with café tables, but a few mornings a week there is a flower market here. 


You can see the city hall building to the left of the clocktower


A view of the plaza - note the large fountain on the right


The fountain has four faces spitting water into the pool below

My favorite plaza in the old town is La Place d’Albertas.  This plaza is more like a courtyard, with beautiful buildings on 3 sides and an ornate fountain in the middle.

Many buildings have been built with a warm yellow stone.  This stone is relatively soft, so you can see some nice carvings on the building façades.  Here’s one of my favorites:


Oy, this balcony is heavy!

Finally, one of my all-time favorite things about Aix - The Divine Calisson.  The calisson is a French candy that comes from Aix.  Candied fruit and powdered almonds are made into a paste that is then topped with white icing.  Heavenly.


Here’s an extreme close-up of a calisson - they are typically about 2 inches long

-Julia Abbott

Comment

Bob
2009-08-03

Filling up my drinking jug from water spitting from some guy's mouth tube - I don't know!

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