While I’m looking forward to spending a full month in the French Alps in a few weeks, I’m reminiscing about my ski trips last year. Whereas I’m staying on the Northern edge of the Alps this year, in 2023 I approached the Alps from the South. In the mountains I met a couple from Aix-en-Provence, the city of Cezanne, which led to a spontaneous visit to this colorful city.
Aix-en-Provence is only about half an hour from Marseille by train, so also perfect for a day trip from the city. As the train left St. Charles station, I left behind the hustle and bustle of the city and enjoyed the views changing more and more. From the train station in Aix-en-Provence I just started walking. Unfortunately it was Monday and the vast majority of shops was closed, so I had to just wander around, getting lost in the streets. Museums were closed too, so I had no particular plan. I just wanted to enjoy the early spring weather: over 20 degrees!
So first I walked past the university and into the Parc Jourdan. It was pleasant, with people lounging on the lawns or just walking around. After looping through I entered the city center near the Quatre Dauphins, the fountain with four dolphins. I took a lot of tiny streets before I entered the core of the center. I found many interesting places and walked from square to square, admiring the architecture.
Eventually I made it to Cours Mirabeau, the big, fancy boulevard with cafes and terraces. At this time of the year the trees were not so impressive, but I can imagine them blooming later in the year, adding to the atmosphere. According to my new friends, Aix was a pretty posh city, for people who have a lot of money. They share the city with the many students, which brings an interesting vibe.
I just strolled through the streets, back and forth, taking different side streets. A lot of the center was car-free, so it was pleasant to walk around and take in all the pastel-colored houses. I was glad I came because this place was peaceful and the sun and bright colors put me in the mood for summer. There were little details in the houses, like a quaint clock or beautiful writing that I totally associate with France.
Of course I also had to try some of the delicious snacks in Aix. I went to a bakery and took a pastry. I bought a few of the famous Calissons, little sweets made mainly with almond and some fruit, covered in a little layer of sugar. And I ate crêpe at what seemed to be a very popular hole in the wall place in some sad looking tunnel. It was close to the big roundabout with the fountain and I used the tunnel to cross the street. But my eyes caught this queue of people waiting for their crêpes. So naturally I had to try it and although there was a bit of a wait, it was a delicious treat.
While I was waiting for my friends to finish up work and arrive in Aix, I sat on a bench near la Fontaine de la Rotonde. I just sat and watched the world go by. This activity is highly underrated and I definitely don’t do this enough. In front of me people sat by the fountain as the sun set and the street lights started to transform the city. Cars were driving past. City cleaners let their little trucks out of the pedestrian ways. Behind me people were sipping on drinks at the outdoor terrace.
When my friends arrived we opted to do the same and found a nice square to enjoy the evening. We had dinner at their favorite Asian restaurant and enjoyed a last stroll before heading back to Marseille. I was going to take the train, but because time had passed rather quickly, they found it safer to drive me back. I had only met them a week earlier, but it’s these kind of connections that make traveling so great.