Check out the France homepage
It only takes about 15 minutes in Aix-en-Provence for 3 things to quickly become apparent:
-the curious lack of budget accommodation
-incredibly high end shopping ($400 scarf anyone?)
-a startling amount of ancient fountains
Put it all together and you have got one of Southern France’s most charming and well-to-do cities that i is conveniently sandwiched between the vineyards of the Rhone River Valley and the glitzy shores of the Riviera.
Within the town itself, the undoubted highlights are perusing the daily food markets in the old town (one of which has run without fail since the mid 1300s), and strolling the wide, leafy Cours Mirabeau boulevard that fronts the town’s trendy cafes and even trendier boutiques.
In performing either activity, it’s hard not to notice the plethora of ornate fountains that spring from seemingly every other roundabout and boulevard throughout the city.
Fed by natural springs that run beneath the city, Aix-en-Provence—or simply Aix as it is colloquially known—is known as the “city of a thousand fountains”, all of which have their own unique histories conveniently listed on aging bronze placards. You of course have to be able to read French in order to decipher the history of the fountains, but the soothing sound of water cascading upon water is a universal enough pleasure to be understood by all in attendance.
Aside from the fountains, the city’s most championed claim to fame has to do with its being the home of the 18th century painter Paul Cezanne, around whose life much of the city’s tours are centered.
While many of the town’s activities are Cezanne related, if for some reason you never quite caught the Cezanne bug or retracing the life of dead artists isn’t exactly your thing, other simple pleasures abound around Aix, such as meandering through food stalls in search of the perfect olive, or people-watching while hiding behind the brim of a miniature espresso.
While the city itself makes for an enjoyable enough destination, the true highlight of any visit to the region is exploring one of the myriad vineyards and wine regions that are scattered from Aix to the horizon. Located only an hour from the Southern Rhone Valley and the much-heralded Chateauneuf du Pape, Aix is likewise within striking range of the little-known Bandol region that is starting to make noise of its own within wine’s inner circles.
When it comes to the actual wine-tasting, however, unlike other global wine destinations such as Napa, New Zealand, or Mendoza, the French aren’t remarkably keen on the idea of amateurs parading about the vineyards—or conversing in anything other than French for that matter—all of which can make independent tastings as a tourist a difficult and frustrating affair.
Luckily for us English-speaking wine tourists, however, companies such as Wine in Provence have solved this problem for us by providing personalized, English speaking wine tours to some of the region’s most notable vineyards and tasting rooms. Exceptionally knowledgeable and eager to educate even the most amateur of winos, Wine in Provence takes the craft a step further and also offers professional food pairing nights where the young American duo actually help clients successfully navigate a menu by way of matching a certain dish with the proper wine. They’ll even go to the market with you and help you choose the best ingredients for your meal!
Highly recommended for anyone with an interest in wine and planning on spending some time in France’s ancient city of fountains.