aix-en-provence, france

Aix-en-Provence...town of a thousand fountains, many of which sit in pretty squares, are tucked in lush gardens, form traffic roundabouts, and along pedestrianized streets...this is truly France at its finest.  Shady streets, an unusual green and gold organ in the town's cathedral, hip restaurants and shops making their home in the first floor of ancient, tall, shuttered buildings (shuttered, as in, having shutters, not being shut down) all combine to make up a town that's good for walking and just enjoying.  

We were nearing the end of our French road trip at this point, and we'd seen no shortage of charming and beautiful places, but honestly, Aix-en-Provence is something special.  There's not a lot of tourist sights in Aix (at least not that really called out to us), but that was fine by us as we'd been getting our fill in other places - the fountains, squares, and homemade bread were enough for us. 

Our first stop as we walked around town was the Pavillon de Vendôme, a 17th-century home (now an exhibition space) surrounded by formal gardens, which we admired from the outside only before we got on our way.   

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After that, we went to the Cathedrale Saint-Sauveur, which was a highlight because it was free (definitely not always the case with European cathedrals, especially not in Spain), and the organ was really unique and eye-catching (green and gold, as mentioned earlier).

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Next, we visited the Place Forum des Cardeurs, the Place de la Mairie (the town hall and surrounding square, pictured below), and the Place d'Albertas (a square dating from 1741, second picture below).  All had fountains (with moss!) and plenty of other people out enjoying their beauty as well.   

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Just before closing time we stopped in at Le Farinoman Fou, a place I found while researching the best bakeries in Aix-en-Provence.  I came across this article, which convinced me to give it a try...unfortunately Danny hadn't read it before we stopped by and bought our bread, so he thought we were getting pastries since we were going to a bakery (none to be found here) so he wasn't feeling the hype, but I knew we were getting good stuff and didn't care what we had just bought.  It was quality, well-made bread!

D - It's a really interesting and well written article, though if I hadn't read it, I might never have known that what I ate was some of the best made bread in the world.  I guess that perhaps I need to refine my bread palatte.  

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In our walking, we came upon a cool looking restaurant selling pad Thai and after a week of hit and miss meals, this one was so good!  We got to eat outside on a pleasant April evening on a French street, eating vegan pad Thai...we really couldn't have asked for more. :)  Give Fresh Box a shot if you're looking for quick Asian food while in Aix sometime!

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D - If there's one architectural embellishment I'm a real sucker for it's person shaped columns!

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After over a week in France, Danny finally got his long-await Nutella crepe!  

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A while ago I saw a picture on the internet of a library with massive, larger-than-life books outside of its entrance and I was really intrigued.  I love visiting new libraries, but rarely actually do so.  Well, years later when preparing for this trip, a blog that I was going through of things to do in Aix-en-Provence mentioned stopping by the public library because - you know where this is going! - it has huge books outside and is really cool to see.  I added it to our itinerary as an "if we have the time" sort of thing, and in the evening on our way back to our Airbnb, we were able to stop by so I could take some pictures outside (it was closed, so we couldn't go in, but I think the outside is really the main draw anyways).  A fun way to wrap up a great afternoon in one of my favorite cities we've visited in France so far! 

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See more from our road trip around southern France: our day in Toulouse here, and all of our stops on our first day: Cahors, Saint-Cirq-Lapopie, Bouzies, Rocamadour, Padirac CaveLoubressac, and Figeac.  We began our second day in Marcillac-Vallon and Belcastel, made a stop at the Viaduc de Millau before heading into the Gorges du Tarn, and finally checked out the lovely Sainte-Enimie.  That night, we stayed in Le-Pont-de-Montvert.  

We started our third day in Labeaume before driving through the Gorges de l'Ardeche and stopping afterwards in Aiguèze and then spending some time checking out Roman remains in Orange and staying the night in Vaison-la-Romaine.  The next morning we explored Vaison-la-Romaine, drove on to Sisteron and Moustiers-Sainte-Marie and through the Gorges du Verdon and stayed the night in Castellane.

The morning of the fifth day of our road trip, we drove to Grasse, onto Saint-Paul-de-Vence, and then to Antibes and finally onto Nice for the night.  On our first morning in Nice we took the train to Monaco and then started explored Nice in the afternoon.  

We started our second day in Nice by taking the train along the coast and visiting different towns, the first being Villefrance-sur-Mer, traveling onto Menton, and then to Ventimiglia and finally Èze.  After our third night in Nice we packed up and drove to Cannes and then to Aix-en-Provence.