Aix-en-Provence
Walk along the Cours Mirabeau
Tour through historic Aix
Visit to Cezanne's House and Studio
Drive to see Montagne Sainte Victoire


All pictures expand when clicked on.

Peggi and I left Wellsboro with Craig and April around 12:30 for the drive to Dulles Airport.  We arrived as planned for our 9:30 flight to Paris, then our 11:00 flight to Marseilles. We were met at the airport by Kate our guide and driven to the Hotel Artea in Aix-en-Provence.

I didn't particularly care for this hotel.  Our room was small and hot and being on the main street, noisy.  The breakfast room was undersized for the size of our group and other hotel guests.  I'll confess I didn't sleep well so this might have influenced my opinion.  I think others in the group found the hotel satisfactory.

 I lifted this photo of the room from the hotel web site.  I thought I took a picture but couldn't find it.

The next morning we met our local guide Laurence for a walking tour of Aix-en-Provence.

Laurence was a very good guide, very charming with a wry sense of humor which I enjoyed.

 We walk for quite awhile up the Cours Mirabeau.

The Cours Mirabeau is one of the most popular and lively places in the town. It is lined with many cafés, one of the most famous being Les Deux Garçons and during its history frequented by famous French cultural figures such as Paul Cézanne, Émile Zola and Albert Camus.

The street has wide sidewalks planted with double rows of plane-trees. The Cours Mirabeau is decorated by fountains, the most notable of which is La Rotonde, a large fountain that makes up a roundabout at one end of the street.

We cut through a small alleyway from the Cours Mirabeau to emerge in the Old Town.  One of the first places you see is the place d'Albertas.

The Albertas came to Aix in the 18th century to take possession of the private mansion which they had inherited.  In the 18th century, they quickly became one of Aix’s most influential families.

In 1724, Henri d’Albertas commissioned architect Laurent Vallon for the reconstruction of the façade of his private mansion. Then he bought the opposite block of houses with the intention of demolishing them.  In 1742, Henri’s son Jean-Baptiste d’Albertas asked Laurent’s son Georges Vallon to build a square in his honour, of semi-colossal proportions and echoing the fashion of royal squares that were built at the same time in Paris.

 

Next we wandered through a series of streets and squares, each square a market selling clothes, food, flowers, etc. To the right is a picture of the flower market.

 A bit of strolling brought us to the The Cathédrale St-Sauveur.

The Cathédrale St-Sauveur (Holy Savior Cathedral) in Aix-en-Provence was built in fits and starts from the 5th century to the 15th century. It is known for its interesting combination of architectural styles and its art masterpiece by Nicolas Fromen, the Burning Bush Triptych.

The site on which the Cathedrale St-Sauveur was built has been considered sacred for thousands of years. It first hosted a pre-Roman pagan temple, then a Roman temple, and finally the Christian church that stands today.

The Cathédrale St-Sauveur has a double nave, one Gothic and one Romanesque. A 16th-century Gothic portal features elaborately carved doors.

 

The historical highlight of the interior is a 4th- or 5th-century Merovingian baptistry, with an octagonal basin (eight being the symbolic number of regeneration) surrounded by a circle of marble columns.

The columns are thought to be from the Roman Temple that stood on the site prior to the Christan age.

Some stone on one wall has been removed to reveal a fine Romanesque fresco. 

By now it was time for lunch which was arranged for us by Kate at a local place off one of the squares.

Craig and April enjoy the ambiance as they wait for something to eat.

After lunch we met the bus and drove to Cezanne's House and Studio.

In November 1901 the artist, then 61, bought a plot of land at Les Lauves, an area of open countryside in the hills north of Aix. A simple two-storey house was built, and on 1 September 1902 Cézanne started working there.

The studio is on the first floor. Living accommodation had been created on the ground floor, but Cézanne ended up using this mainly to store his canvasses - up to 2,000 of them - and continued to reside in an apartment in the city, at 23 rue Boulegon.

Each morning he would rise very early and walk the 1.2km / 0.7 miles up the hill to the studio. He'd work there from about 6 am to 10.30 am, return to Aix for lunch, then go back to paint until 5.30 pm, either in the studio or further up the hill at a vantage point offering superlative views of the Mont Sainte Victoire.

At first I was disappointed in this picture of me and Peggi exiting the house.  Then I realized that picture actually looks somewhat impressionistic and apropos to the location.

Back on the bus we drove out of town to a location where we could get a nice view of Mont Sainte-Victoire featured in more than 60 of  Cezanne's paintings.
After a bit of rest in to the hotel we went to a local restaurant for dinner.

The next morning we met the bus for a drive to Cassis which is a town situated on the Mediterranean coast.  Cassis is a beautiful small harbor town, the kind you see in the movies.

 

The main activity for the Road Scholar group was a boat ride to the calanques. 

Our group is loading the Notos II for a trip to the calanques.

 

I had not heard this term calanques before but they could be described as similar to fiords. 

The current verion of the Mediterranean Sea has only existed for 5.3 million years or so.  Before that the land between Africa and Europe was dry.  Calanques are canyons that streams flowing from the French Alps cut into the soft limestone.  When the Mediterreanean Sea was formed the calanques were flooded.

The current thinking is that the Mediterranean Sea was formed in a catastrophic flood when the land connecting Gibralter and Morocco collaped.  Click here for more on this.

 

The calanques are beautiful.  I would like to have spent more time on along this coast.

This beach looked incredibly inviting.  I really wanted to jump off the boat and swim to shore but that probably would have caused a problem.

Back in Cassis we had some time to walk around the town or go to the beach which Peggi and I did so we could at least put our feet in the Mediterranean Sea.

Lunch was at a lovely open air restaurant off the beach called Le Grand Large. 

The translation of the name as big big immediately jumps out at you but is interpreted to mean the open seas.

 

After lunch we boarded the bus for a ride along the Crest Road which follows along the ridgeline of the Massif des Calanques.

The view from the massif was stunning to say the least.

The Massif des Calanques is a wild and rugged terrain stretching from Marseille to the east towards Cassis, spanning 20 km in length and 4 km in width along the coast. Its highest peak is Mont Puget at 565m.

The intrepid Road Scholar group climbing all over the rocks to get the best view and picture possible.
I took this picture looking away from the coast to give you an idea of what the overall landscape looked like.  It is a wild and rugged place.

Peggi and me on the rocks overlooking the Med and the town of Cassis. 

As you can see it was a beautiful day.

On the way back to the hotel some of the group was dropped off at the Musée Granet which was only one of two stops in Europe of this traveling collection of Cezanne paintings.

I'll confess to not really appreciating this type of art which I see as a step backward from the great art produced in the 16th and 17th centuries rather than an advancement forward in artistic presentation.  But, I always like to see things that are considered of world significance.

Among the highlights of the exhibition are Paul Cézanne’s Mont Sainte-Victoire (ca. 1904-6), Vincent van Gogh’s Tarascon Stagecoach (1888), and Amedeo Modigliani’s portrait of Jean Cocteau (1916), as well as a suite of sixteen watercolors by Cézanne. Other artists represented in the exhibition are Gustave Courbet, Honoré Daumier, Edgar Degas, Paul Gauguin, Oskar Kokoschka, Wilhelm Lembruck, Jacques Lipchitz, Édouard Manet, Camille Pissarro, Alfred Sisley, Chaïm Soutine, and Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec.

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