I have finally found a worthy competitor to my old European mid-sized city favourite Palma de Mallorca: Aix en Provence, Southern France.
Thanks to all universities and language schools in combination with the richest cultural heritage of France, second to Paris, Aix is a young and vibrant city. La vieille ville (old, central part of the town) contains only pedestrian, winding medieval streets and – of course – the number one of the Aix musts:
1. Cours Mirabeau, the famous avenue starting from one of the most beautiful of the hundreds of water fountains that adorns Aix:
2. Fontaine de la Rotonde; majestic and beautiful but maybe not as different/unique as it’s fountain colleagues ‘the mossy fountains’ on Cours Mirabeau and all the other fountains that refresh passers-by in each tiny square and street corner of Aix en Provence.
3. On Cours Mirabeau, skip Café Les 2 Garcons, worn out and somewhat untidy, and go to neighbouring Le Grillon, where ‘le tout Aix’ enjoys a pastis, coffee or a glass of champagne. Oh no, when I think about it, please do go for a glass of rosé wine. We are, after all, in the very pink heart of France: here you find the best rosé wines in the world
4. Les coteaux d’Aix are the local wines, producers and castles, where the rosés are often considered as the best choice. Go wine tasting just outside the city, at excellent Chateau Crémade, only some kilometers from the areas best restaurant * Guide Michelin Le Saint Estève, or combine wine tasting with art at more touristic Chateau La Coste.
5. In central Aix, BiBo ViNo serves and sells really good bio and ecological wines from the region in cararacteristic lavendel coloured boxes. But don’t limit yourself to buying wines to bring home; there are so many other gastronomic musts to be found from the region.
6. Aix en Provence is in general an excellent shopping town with anything from antique and food markets to numerous fashion brands for clothes, don’t miss Berenice and Souleiado, as well as local suppliers of everything from jams to the famous Aix small Calisson cookies and virgin olive oil. Hediard, La Chambre a Confitures and Gourmanises Aixquises all have a good assortment of local gastro specialities.
7. Hungry for lunch? Have a bite at A Casa, charming but in total lack of service, or at neat Le petit Bistrot Aix. Or at Le Grillon to watch people – or if in wintertime, since there is no outside terrace, try Le Formal Les Caves Henri IV close by. Hotel le Pigonnet is situated some ten minutes walk away but has a good kitchen and lovely parklike garden where lunch is served.
8.And finally: art! Musée Granet exposes everything from local hero Cézanne to Giacometti and Picasso, Léger, Mondrian, Klee…and right now Camoin. Add several other art galleries and L’atelier de Cézanne and your cultural appetite will be saturated in Aix as well. #lesaintesteve #lottiesworld #visitfrance #franceFR