A few months ago, my friend Lauren wrote an “I heart my city” post about a city we both love – Washington, D.C. She encouraged me to write one for Aix, which I quickly began. But no sooner had I begun than I realized that while I loved my city, I didn’t really know it well enough yet. It was love at first sight, though certainly not an infatuation.
Now that I have considered myself an Aixoise for a few months now – and have been lucky enough to have friends take me all over the place – I think I am better prepared to answer the questions, prepared by National Geographic with some prompts edited by C’est Christine and then by me. Behold:
Aix-en-Provence is My City
When someone comes to visit me, the first place I take them is Place de la Mairie, where there is bound to be a market happening – either flowers or books or fresh produce.
Spring is the best time to visit my city because the weather is the best in France – and no one is shy about saying so.
Locals know to skip Cours Mirabeau and check out smaller (cheaper!) stores in centre ville.
My city’s best museum is Musée Granet – filled with Italian artists, Cezanne and other French artists, and special exhibitions.
In the past, notable people like Paul Cézanne, Émile Zola, and Bradley Cooper have called my city home.
If there’s one thing you should know about getting around my city, it’s that you can walk almost anywhere, but catching a bus at the Gare Routiere can take you all over – even to Spain! For tourists who want to stay local, take the tourist trolley through centre ville up to Cezanne’s atelier.
For complete quiet, I can hide away in le jardin du Pavillon Vendome with a tarte tropizienne.
When I crave a fresh pastry I always go to Weibel Patissierie in centre ville.
You can’t leave my city without buying fresh goat cheese at the market or at the fromagerie, then pairing it with fresh, local honey.
To escape the crowds and noise, take a walk around the city early in the morning, while the pain au chocolat is fresh and the markets are still setting up.
If I want to belt into a karaoke mic, I go to the Woohoo on a Friday night.
If you come to my city, get your picture taken in front of one of the “thousand fountains” in Aix.
If you have to order one thing off the menu from any restaurant in the city, it has to be a local rosé.
The market at Place Richelme is my one-stop shop for local produce and specialties, including lavender sachets, fresh herbes de Provence, saucissons, and honey!
When I’m feeling cash-strapped I go for a picnic in Parc Jourdan.
For a huge splurge I head to Thermes Sextius for a spa day (this has never happened, but I regularly lust after the idea).
Photo ops in my city include the Rotonde and the best vantage point is from Paul Cezanne’s artist atelier.
If my city were a celebrity it’d be Katharine Hepburn – strong-willed and surprising at times, but classic at heart.
The most random thing about my city is that (evidently) it beat out Pigalle for the “sex toy capital” of France.
My city has the most entertaining men — known to sing through shops and make loud conversation at the markets.
My city has the most put-together women — never found without lipstick and a scarf.
My favorite jogging/walking route is around the peripherique of centre ville through Parc de la Torse…certainly more ideal than slippery cobblestone!
A restaurant at Place des Cardeurs is my favorite place to grab lunch and Rue de la Verrie is the best spot for late-night eats – kebabs, sandwiches, and pizza all on one corner!
You can tell a lot about my city from the store vendors – most are kind and willing to help correct sometimes off-French (which they are used to because of the nearby university).
You can tell if someone is from my city if they sell their goods at the market – a native Aixois(e) is rare! Listen out for the typical Southern French accent, filled with -angs at the end of words like pain, vin, demain, fin, etc.
In the spring you should sneak just outside the city to the la Route des Vins – several wineries on one stretch of highway.
In the summer you should soujourn to one of the many lavender fields that surround the city right before it is cut.
In the fall you should profitez du soleil at one of the many cafés in the city – my favorite (and most frequented) is L’unic.
In the winter you should get some vin chaud at the Marché de Noel that lines Cours Mirabeau, then walk around the city to see all the lights.
A hidden gem in my city is Crêpes à Gogo – it is literally hidden underground (and usually has a long line)!
Don’t miss the calissons at Leonard Parli near the train station – as recommended by a local as the best in the city.
Just outside my city, you can visit the calanques on the Mediterranean coast in Marseille and Cassis – only 30 minutes to an hour and a half by bus.
If my city were a pet it would be a poodle. Lovable and adorable with a dash of bourgeoise.
If I didn’t live in a city, I’d live in a villa in the country, with a lavender field for a backyard.
The best book about my city can be found in Book in Bar – while there are many libraries on Cours Mirabeau and in the city, Book in Bar is the perfect mix of café and bookstore, even if it is mostly English books.
My favorite place to listen to music in my city is on the street, from the city’s resident accordion player.
If you have kids, you won’t want to miss heading down to Marseille for a day to look at all the boats in the Vieux Port.
Four bottles of local, delicious rosé for only seven euros could only happen in my city.
My city should be featured on your cover or website because it’s small, but it sure packs a lot of charm.
Fellow Aixois(es) – what did I miss? ♦
EDIT: An hour after I posted this, I got an email from my friend Corinne – a true Aixoise who I trust with every recommendation. She gave the following tips:
- Natives know to only drink rosé in the summer (and are not heathens like me who drink it from a box year round!). Côtes de Provence (Chateau Simone, Chateau du Seuil and Chateau Lacoste are some of the more expensive versions.
- In the fall, you must hike around the vineyards as the leaves change.
- In winter, don’t forget to indulge in the thirteen desserts (like I did this year!) and remember to buy a souvenir santon – the traditional figures for the creche, even for non-Christians.
- If you voyage to Marseille, head up to La Bonne Mere – Notre Dame de la Garde – for a panoramic view of the city.
- Go to the Pavillon de la Danse if you love watching dance performances.
- For a wide variety of landscapes near Aix, go to Carmargue, where there are wild flamingoes, cows, and horses, or head to Carry le Rouet for a path along the tops of cliffs with an incredible view of Marseille.