Updated: May 17
If there is the right city to meet there with a friend by a beautiful fountain, or as the French say, prendre un rendez -vous,( fix an appointment), is Aix en Provence.
It can be friendly, romantic, or business. Thinking over my visit to Aix en Provence, this city is idyllic to meet someone, by one of its many fountains for any reason you might think of.
Mid-April and Aix en Provence had its Passover classical festival- A few days of celebrating classical music with its best musicians worldwide.
Springtime is always a perfect excuse to travel to the south of France. The weather starts to get warmer and more welcoming, and the flowers bloom. But to combine it with refined classical concerts is like having a glass of fizzy champagne in a celebration.
"I am looking for the Hotel Caumont- a restored art center,"I asked a local who happily explained to me the way.
I passed a remarkable fountain of the 4 Dauphins in the old square Mazarin, located in the heart of the Mazarin Quarter. The hotel Caumont is a few minutes walk from there.
click inside the picture for the website
What an incredible landing in Aix en Provence to start my day there. The restaurant and tea rooms of Hotel Caumont look royal and festive, and the place is embodied in old rose and cream shades, producing a noble yet hearty atmosphere.
I had a lovely fresh salad in the restaurant and felt relaxed as I gazed from the open door at the beautiful nurtured garden outside.
The hotel particulier, has upstairs two restored furnished rooms that belonged to the aristocratic family- Caumont.
(In the second picture- The bedroom of the young Pauline de Caumont). The Hotel Caumont also hosts from time-to-time temporary exhibitions. You would be able to visit now an exhibition by Max Ernst. From 4 Mai till October 8.
I had a delicious strawberry cake at the French garden.
"le Jardin a la Française"
Later I watched a short film of half an hour on the painter Cezanne who was born and lived in Aix en Provence.
Over my weekend I learned that the prominent impressionist painter's spirit hovers over the city. You can feel the painter's presence, at different spots of the city.
At the entrance of Cours Mirabeau= the long central paved pedestrian street, his sculpture stands near the fountain of Rotonde.
At night I was at the first concert in the festival of classical music, in the grand theatre. It was a pleasure to watch and listen to the two great musicians: The iconic Argentine pianist Martha Argerich and Lahav Shani the Israeli pianist and conductor. They played pieces from Poliakov, Rachmaninov, and Ravel and gave a wonderful concert.
Le cours Mirabeau and the Market on Saturday morning.
Strolling on Saturday morning at the Cours Mirabeau was pure fun. It was sunny, and the market was open. Whenever I am in the south of France, I like to go to the markets, it is the evident thing to do, there is a lot of choices, of whatever you feel like, and it is full of life.
In Cours Mirabeau you will find a variety of restaurants and cafes, these long streets are the heart of Aix en Provence.
A few markets spread throughout the city, and you can find tasty fruits and vegetables, flowers, soaps de Marseille, and nice clothes.
I had to drink a well-roasted coffee, and I found it in a charming square in a coffee house that roasts its own coffee- La Brûlerie,
The square's name is Place Richeleme: It was great to sit there, with a very good coffee and soak this lovely vibe.
Le Pavillon Vendome
it was considered to be outside the city center when it was first built but as the city expanded, now it is a walking distance from the center. I had a very mellow walk to it.
It belonged to the Duc de Vendome, an ancient governor of the Provence. He was nominated a cardinal, and he couldn't marry. It was built in the 17th century to be a hidden place for him and his lovers.
From the moment I stepped into the lavishing garden, I was charmed. Inside the building, it serves more for contemporary art, and the contrast between the old and new was astonishing and well-made.
There are other must-see museums and exhibitions.
I loved the Tapisserie Museum (museum of carpets), where Don Quichotte's story was told in huge rugs. While I was visiting the museum, there was a rehearsal of a choral, they were due to perform later. The museum is located in another beautiful quarter of Aix, you could visit the grandiose church nearby. This is simply a gorgeous flowery tree that caught up my eye on my way to the museum.
The famous fine art Museum of Aix en Provence is the Museum Granet, right in the heart of the city. There is currently a large exhibition of David Hockney's drawings, and it brings out the bold and exposed universe of the British painter. There is also a permanent exhibition of Cezanne.
"He was a troublemaker, not an easygoing person to hang around with," I heard the guide explaining to some visitors in the gallery. She was referring to Paul Cezanne
Learning about Cezanne in his city of birth, Aix en Provence, gave another dimension to his drawings. Suddenly I saw the darkness in them, not just the romantic, pastoral vision. His obsession with the Mountain Saint Victoire, how he painted the portrait of his wife and even the card players received another meaning.
Paul Cezanne whose father was a banker was determined to become a painter, but in spite of his huge talent and conviction, in his lifetime he didn't receive the recognition that he deserved.
Each painting of Cezanne was stunning to watch, I was particularly drawn to his drawing -a portrait of the notorious writer Emil Zola who was his close friend. He also lived some periods of his life in Aix en Provence.
You can see other great artworks of Giacometti, Picasso, and more in the gallery. There is another part of the museum in a fascinating building close by, with many other paintings.
The painting above by Martin Drölling captured my heart.
On Saturday night I enjoyed a spectacular concert in the Grand Theatre. The young conductor Klaus Mackela and the pianist
Yuja Wang, the pianist gave an explosive performance – Concerto of Jean Sibelius and a Symphonie of Tchaikovsky, with Paris Orchestra.
Yuja Wang had an electrifying presence of a rock star and to the applause of the enthusiastic public she played a music piece from Carmen
On Sunday, I was happily wandering in the alleys that are decorated so Provencal,
I was heading to Villa Gallici, a luxurious hotel of five stars. It is much more than a hotel- rather a fascinating palace where you meet all the refined tastes blended harmoniously.
From each angle, you will stare at meticulous rooms so lavishly furnished. I nearly forgot it is a hotel and believed I was found in an 18th-century bewitched Italian villa.
From the terrace above, I could have a broad panorama of the sumptuous garden and the sculptures below. The fantastic landscape with the sunny sky made me feel super relaxed.
Click inside the image for the website
I had a coffee in the garden listening to the sound of the water pouring from the beautiful fountain decorated with flowers.
The sunlight seemed to play gracefully on the garden, blending the colours into a joyful scenery,
I could have stayed there forever. It is a unique place that wonderfully captures all the qualities of Aix en Provence.
On the one hand, it is intimate and secretive, and on the other, fiery and dazzling.
I loved this combination, and I advise you to go to Villa Gallici for lunch, afternoon coffee, or a glass of wine.
I would like to live this experience again, being in an elegant, stylish castle in Florence in the heart of French Provence.
When I strolled in the lovely, intimate lanes in the center at the sunset,The whole city was celebrating the spring lightness of being. I felt almost as if each fountain I met on my way, greeted me warmly as an old precious friend.
Text and images- Niva Josef
The hotel Escaletto (where I stayed)
click inside for the hotel website
This hotel is rated 3 stars but it deserves 4. The room was an absolute comfort and also very pretty with a Provincial style of design. I appreciated as well the fragrances in the room and bathroom as the high-quality breakfast. It is very close to the city center and the staff was very friendly and helpful.
Click inside the picture for fromagerie du passage- the website
I had a lovely dinner on the top roof of the restaurant" La fromagerie du passage"
It is located in an atypical passage, a few minutes walk from Cours Mirabeau
A great cheese plate to start with a glass of red wine, fresh salad, and tasty Salomon tartar.
They have also a yummy hamburger and other choices. It is such a good restaurant to start your evening. The portions are generous and the owner of the restaurant is friendly and courteous, I was there on Saturday night, before the concert, and I had a lovely time there.
For another coffee, you can check Book in Bar. It is nearly in front of Hotel Caumont.
The place has a peaceful atmosphere to read a book and have a cup of coffee. Their cakes looked also good, It is quite popular among foreigners, as they have a large selection of books in many languages, and while I set there, people from all over the world were coming and going, yet it stayed calm and cozy.
click inside the picture for the tourism office website