Travels on the Run: Aix-en-Provence

29 Jan

A bountiful marketplace in Aix-en-Provence.  (Photograph by Ivan Herman, Flickr)

From the foot of Cours Mirabeau — some call it France’s most beautiful avenue — in Aix-en-Provence I make my way past history and beauty intertwined. Richly decorated, Italianate-style hôtels particuliers (private mansions) hark back to the sun-kissed city’s 17th-century golden age, these days filled with boutiques, cafés, and restaurants.

I note fabled Café Les Deux Garçons and, next door, the faded sign indicating the former location of Paul Cézanne’s father’s hat shop. (The Post-impressionst spent most of his life in Aix, though locals never really appreciated his talent.)

Take a stroll down the narrow streets, some dating back to Roman times. (Photograph by Ivan Herman, Flickr)

Beyond the split in the road, I veer left off the boulevard and, after awhile, end up in the pedestrians-only old town, where the weekly market is unfolding. I run past antique dealers and artists setting up their booths, and stands overflowing with flowers and honey and aromatic soap. I eye a stall billowing with gorgeous tablecloths and curtains made from les Indiennes de Provence—Provence’s famous, brightly printed fabrics. It’s probably a good thing I left my wallet behind.

I loop down through narrow lanes, some dating back to Roman times, admiring Cathédrale Saint Sauveur – home to Nicolas Froment’s Burning Bush triptych – and the city hall’s belfry and astronomical clock.

I feel as if I’ve entered the pages of Peter Mayle’s A Year in Provenceand slow my pace as I near the end, taking in every dazzling sight, sound, and scent.

Find beautiful paintings and gifts from local artists and antique dealers. (Photograph by Catalin Ungureanu, My Shot)

 

Run Stats

Mileage: 1.5-mile loop
Best time: Saturday morning market day
Start:  La Rotonde, at the base of Cours Mirabeau
End: Café Les Deux Garçons on Cours Mirabeau at Rue Fabrot 

Route 

– Starting at La Rotonde (one of four fountains that line the avenue), run up Cours Mirabeau
– Beyond the split in the boulevard, turn left on Rue Thiers (which becomes Rue de Montigny, then Rue Matheron, then Rue Pierre et Marie Curie)
– Turn left on Boulevard Aristide Briand
– Enter the pedestrian-only old town at Rue Gaston de Saporta
– Go through Place de l’Hôtel de Ville
– Make your way south on Gaston de Saporta (which becomes Rue Aude)
– Go right on Rue Espariat, then left on Rue Nazareth
– At Cours Mirabeau, turn left to end your run with coffee at Les Deux Garçons (53 Cours Mirabeau)

Travels on the Run: Aix-en-Provence ,

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