An afternoon in Aix-en-Provence

After a week of exploring Provence’s prettiest villages, we decided to finish up with a trip to one of its big cities. It was a toss-up between Avignon and Aix-en-Provence; Aix won thanks to its handy location, just half an hour’s drive from the airport.

Although we’d gotten used to driving on the wrong other side on Provence’s quiet country lanes, we weren’t quite ready to tackle big-city traffic and complicated one-way systems, so we opted to use one of the park and rides. It was pretty painless – the bus was waiting when we got there and left as soon as we boarded, taking about 15 minutes to reach the Place de la Rotonde.

We picked up a few leaflets and maps from the tourist office and decided to follow a route highlighting the city’s best fountains and squares (a strange combo, but who doesn’t love a good fountain?). We started off on the Cours Mirabeau, a wide, tree-lined avenue and Aix’s most famous street. Fountains are dotted all the way up the road, acting as fancy mini-roundabouts. The first one to tick off our list was the huge Fontaine de la Rotonde, which sat at the start of the Cours Mirabeau in the centre of Place de la Rotonde. It’s topped by three statues representing law, agriculture and art; law faces Aix’s city centre, agriculture faces Marseille and art faces Avignon.

Aix-en-Provence-Cours-Mirabeau-fountain

Next up was the 17th-century Fontaine des 9 Canons, followed by the Fontaine d’Eau Chaude (supplied by hot spring water, hence the name) and the Fontaine du Roi Rene, built in 1819.

Cours-Mirabeau-hot-water-fountain-Aix-en-Provence

At the top of the road, we ducked into the Mazarin quarter, my favourite part of the city. Once we got off the busy Rue d’Italie, we left the crowds behind and were able to amble along the peaceful lanes lined with grand, shuttered townhouses.

Aix-en-Provence-Mazarin-quarter Aix-en-Provence-Mazarin-quarter Aix-en-Provence-Mazarin-quarter Aix-en-Provence-Mazarin-quarter

At the heart of the Mazarin quarter was the Place des 4 Dauphins, a lovely square with a 17th-century fountain in the middle and a border of beautiful mansions.

Fontaine-des-4-Dauphins-Aix-en-Provence Place-des-4-Dauphins-Aix-en-Provence

After a little sit down on the edge of the fountain, we crossed back over the Cours Mirabeau and headed into Aix’s old town. Filled with dozens of shops, cafes and restaurants, this was definitely the busiest part of town. Our first stop was the Place d’Albertas, surrounded on three sides by gorgeous Baroque and Rococo buildings and crowned with a fountain from 1912.

Place-d'Albertas-Aix-en-Provence

Slightly bigger was the Place de la Marie, watched over by the town hall, corn exchange and clock tower. The fountain in the middle is topped with statues of gargoyles, which spout water from the Pinchinats spring.

Place-de-la-Marie-Aix-en-Provence

We finished our mini-tour of Aix on a high, at the Place des 3 Ormeaux. Home to a fountain of the same name, it was one of the prettiest squares we saw – and I loved this display of wine-cooling genius from a local cafe…

Fontaine-des-3-Ormeaux-Aix-en-Provence

Why can’t all rosés be fountain-chilled?!

22 Comments

  • Reply Shikha (whywasteannualleave) January 1, 2017 at 10:25 pm

    OH. SO. PRETTY Laura!!!! I think I have a tendency to neglect France as a destination when I’m concocting travel plans but looking at this, I am missing a trick!!

    • Laura
      Reply Laura January 2, 2017 at 3:55 pm

      I know – for years I kind of dismissed it for being ‘too close’ (ie not exotic enough!), but after visiting Provence I have vowed to explore more of it! Now, where to go this year…?!

  • Reply Ben and Jess January 16, 2017 at 2:30 am

    Looks lovely! I always wonder why I don’t travel Europe more considering most of it is under 4 hour flights from England!

    • Laura
      Reply Laura January 20, 2017 at 8:34 pm

      I was exactly the same for years! I didn’t think places like France and Spain were ‘exotic’ enough – but now I’m definitely rediscovering their charms!

  • Reply Angela January 16, 2017 at 2:56 am

    Oh how I cannot wait to get back to France. My husband and I got engaged there so it’s always a romantic destination in my head. This area looks lovely!

    • Laura
      Reply Laura January 20, 2017 at 8:35 pm

      Ah, how lovely that you were engaged there! Definitely fond memories for you :-). I would certainly recommend Provence if you’re looking for romance, it’s a beautiful area.

  • Reply Nilabh Ranjan January 16, 2017 at 3:11 am

    France as a country has many things to offer, recently one of my friends went there and had a great time! Hoping, some day I li also visit the great country. Thanks for sharing the article

    • Laura
      Reply Laura January 20, 2017 at 8:35 pm

      Thanks Nilabh!

  • Reply Lara Dunning January 16, 2017 at 5:25 am

    I haven’t been to France yet. With every new post I read about it, it gets closer to the top. Love all the fountain photos and the chilled Rose! Did you get to enjoy a glass?

    • Laura
      Reply Laura January 20, 2017 at 8:36 pm

      Mais oui! Couldn’t leave without trying some, it would’ve been rude not to 😉

  • Reply Gokul Raj January 16, 2017 at 6:06 am

    Loved the architecture of the place. Looks so classic and quaint. Nice pics you got there.

    • Laura
      Reply Laura January 20, 2017 at 8:36 pm

      Thanks!

  • Reply Punita Malhotra January 16, 2017 at 7:58 am

    Avignon has a very similar feel, the streets and the architecture are so like Aix. With one additional overpowering element…the Papal Palace. Love Provence.

    • Laura
      Reply Laura January 20, 2017 at 8:37 pm

      Yes, I’d definitely like to visit Avignon if I go back to that area. Arles also sounded lovely, and Nimes. In fact there are so many lovely places around there that I didn’t see, I’m going to have to go back!

  • Reply Harvey (H-Bomb's Worldwide Karaoke) January 16, 2017 at 1:47 pm

    The town looks so picturesque. And I like the diverse appearances of the many fountains.

    • Laura
      Reply Laura January 20, 2017 at 8:37 pm

      The fountains were beautiful, and all so different!

  • Reply amanda January 16, 2017 at 4:00 pm

    some lovely shots- what beautiful streets and buildings! And I am with you – every fountain should have a rose cooler!

    • Laura
      Reply Laura January 20, 2017 at 8:38 pm

      It’s definitely a photogenic city! I know, right – it’s a genius idea!

  • Reply Justine January 16, 2017 at 6:26 pm

    France is just such a beautiful country! Although I haven’t been anywhere else aside from France. Do you find there is a difference between Paris and the French countryside? Do you have a preference?

    • Laura
      Reply Laura January 20, 2017 at 8:40 pm

      I have always had a soft spot for Paris, but I did kinda fall in love with Provence. I think in the summertime the countryside definitely wins, but in the spring and autumn I’d go for Paris (and in the winter, the mountains!).

  • Reply Amy January 16, 2017 at 8:49 pm

    Places like this just make me sigh and swoon, they are so romantic and dreamy. I love the combo of fountains and squares, I think it’s perfect!!

    • Laura
      Reply Laura January 20, 2017 at 8:40 pm

      Yep, so dreamy! I thought the fountains and squares combo was a bit odd initially, but actually it was a great ‘theme’ for our day!

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