Monday 19 October 2009

Aix Hints

Last night I decided, for no particular reason, that from now on, Monday would be the Official Day of Hints. So you can expect (until I get a better/different idea) that on Mondays you will find me offering suggestions, tips, clues, mentions, indications, warnings (and all the other synonyms Word has for ‘hint’).
Though it’s hard to imagine, just two weeks ago I was still in France. Oh, you remember: the obsession with the small boy, the problems with communication, the stalking of Picasso, the macaroon tastings. Anyway, before I write more about Cape Town, I wanted to post my list of Hints to Lady Travellers (or any travellers) going to Aix.
I really would recommend Aix-en-Provence for a visit. It is a perfect town for walking around – whether along the wide, gracious Cours Mirabeau and the streets of the Quartier Mazarin, or following the twisty-turny streets of the old town. When you’ve walked for a while then, depending on the time of day and your mood, there is always somewhere close for coffee, lunch, a drink or just a little yummy to fill the gap.
Here, in no particular order, are my Top Hints for Aix:
  1. The market at the Place des Precheurs is, we decided after careful consideration, the best. It has a little bit of everything plus the bric-a-brac/antiques market is just across the street. Can’t think exactly why you might want it, but there is also an excellent butcher’s, the Boucherie du Palais. Watch out for the artichoke-dip dealers. The dip is amazing but they’ll give you a little sample just to get you hooked … and a small tub costs about €10. Drugs would be cheaper.
  2. Wander along Rue Espariat for good (window) shopping including my favourite underwear shop of all time, Princesse Tam Tam. Have lunch at Pizza Chez Jo in the Place des Augustins.
  3. While you’re eating your pizza, admire the fountain in the middle of the Place des Augustins – one of the prettiest of the many in Aix. My other favourite was the Quatre Dauphins.
  4. Have an aperitif in the Place Richelme and listen to the yells of the fans watching Olympic Marseille on the TVs outside the bars.
  5. Buy an armful of flowers at the Place de l’Hotel de Ville and some postcards in Chat Reveur.
  6. Take the bus or car out to Le Tholonet – less than 10km outside Aix. Park at the foot of Mont Ste Victoire and take a walk in Cezanne’s footsteps. Have lunch or dinner at the Relais de Cezanne which is where, under a different name, the man himself used to eat. I think I ate the best tapenade of my life there – in fact it was so good that when I ran out of bread, I ate the rest with a spoon. I recommend the onglet de boeuf with garlic and onions and the tarte Nicoise.
  7. Back in town, admire the 17th century buildings in the Quartier Mazarine and stick your head into the Musee Granet to look at their Cezannes. If you’re feeling in need of some English-language reading, there is a sweet bookshop called Book in Bar that also does good coffee. Buy a stripy top in Agnes B, just around the corner.
  8. For people-watching, park yourself at the Deux Garcons on the Cours Mirabeau. Sure, it’s a bit touristy, but €6 will get you a good glass of Rose and some olives and you can sit for as long as you like.

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