24 Hours In: Aix-En-Provence
Sunday 15 January 2006
1 Pretty as a picture
8.00: Wake up, deep breath of herb-scented air, enjoy a view like a Cézanne canvas. There are some fine hotels in Aix, but I prefer to stay at Relais Sainte-Victoire, Beaurecueil (00 33 4 42 66 94 98; relais-ste-victoire.com). The view of Mont Sainte-Victoire is magnificent. Doubles start at €100 (£71), without breakfast.
2 To market
10.30: Into Aix - negotiating one of the infernal "parkings". The city has gorgeous food markets, which take place on Tuesdays and Thursdays in the Place Richelme and in the Place des Prêcheurs on Saturdays. Local produce includes Cavaillon melons, oil, olives, chèvre, tilleul (dried linden), socca (fried chickpea paste), fougasse (local bread) and purple banana shallots.
3 Café culture
12.00: Essential to grasping the feel of the city is to spend as long as possible in Aux Deux Garçons (00 33 42 26 00 51), 53 Cours Mirabeau. A fine café in the grand tradition, it has been a centre of Aixois life since the 18th century.
4 Plat du jour
14.00: By now you will have had enough coffee and can start on lunch. You can eat oursins (sea urchins) with an omelette fines herbes, drink a cold beer and think revolutionary thoughts. On the way back to the car, enjoy the Cours Mirabeau and the rambling old quartiers behind it.
5 Art for Aix's sake
16.00: Cézanne's old home and studio is the Jas de Bouffan (5). Nearby is the Fondation Vasarely (00 33 44 22 00 1 09), Avenue Marçel Pagnol. This homage to the founder of Op Art was built in 1976 in a modernist style redolent of autoroute architecture. The batty poetaster-clairvoyant Michel de Nostradamus was born at St Rémy in 1503, but lived at Salon-de-Provence for his last 19 years. For a lighter touch, at Fontvieille, 13990 Bouche-du-Rhone is the windmill that inspired Alphonse Daudet's Lettres de mon Moulin.
6 Marseille mission
19:00: Head into Marseille for a cocktail. This great city is not (wholly) the metropolitan crack den of repute; its Vieux-Port is completely charming.
7 A rosé for my rose
20.00: The choice for dinner is clear: Miramar (00 33 4 91 91 10 40) at 12 Quai Port is regarded by the French as the reference point for bouillabaisse. Or head back to Beaurecueil for some Coteaux d'Aix rosé, marbré de canard, and to watch Cézanne's mountain sink into the dark.
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