Saturday, I took a day trip from Marseille (where I am currently staying) to Aix-En-Provence. It was just a short train ride away, but the differences between the two cities are dramatic. While I will be talking about Marseille in another blog post, the most evident difference, for me, is that Aix-en-Provence is cleaner, safer, prettier…It’s a pleasant place to be.
Even if it’s raining, which it was raining. All day Saturday. Non-stop.
Still, even in the rain, Aix-En-Provence has their famous fountains going. It was like a giant water park. There was a fountain in every circle, square and block.
I went to the tourism office and found a map. I then tried to find a museum or a dry place to get out of the terrible rain. That’s when I stumbled across the museum of natural history. I was pleasantly surprised to find that this museum was free for all. I walked inside, saw the exhibits, learned some new French vocabulary and was dry for a short period of time. It was a win-win situation.
I saw the markets of Aix-En-Provence, which must be pretty famous because they were marked on the tourist map. They were like many other street markets I’ve seen in France. Vendors trying to get you to buy their apples, which they swear are the best in the region, which is exactly what the farmer next to him says and the farmer next to him….
I looked at the tourist map and was slightly disappointed to see that the Cezanne’s workshop was out of the main city. It looked like it was too far to walk to. I planned on doing other stuff, but I walked by a sign pointing in the direction of Cezanne’s workshop and it a picture of a person walking. Huh. You can walk there?
Distance is hard to gauge on a tourist map. Sometimes, things look like they are close, but they are really far away or vice versa. I had a lot of time to spare before my train left, so I decided to try. To my surprise, it wasn’t very far away at all. It was definitely within walking distance.
I walked into Cezanne’s studio, which ended up just being one room. All of that…for one room. It seemed a little silly, but what can you expect? I got to see where the famous Cezanne painted…and I got to see some of the props (including skulls and glass bottles) that he used as reference when painting. Pictures weren’t allowed inside of the studio (probably because it is so small and if people took pictures of it, no one would want to come and the city would lose money), but I took plenty of pictures outside.
I then decided to walk to the overlook where Cezanne painted. I was warned by the woman working at the studio that it was a good twenty minute walk and, in this rain, I wouldn’t be able to see the famous mountain that was often the subject of Cezanne’s later work. I’m only here for one day, so I decided to go.
Unfortunately, twenty minutes for one person is not twenty minutes for Kellene. I kept walking and walking and walking. Why can’t I find it? I asked at the end of twenty minutes. Well, I walked right past it! It’s a stone staircase and I wasn’t expecting to find it so soon, so I kept walking.
I went up to the overlook and saw that there wasn’t too much to see, not on a day like today. But, still, Cezanne painted there.
There’s not a ton to do in Aix-En-Provence, although they are very obsessed with Cezanne. I guess when someone famous lived in your town, you have to exploit that somehow! I did enter a little art shop and found myself looking at paint brushes and canvases. I’m not an artist by any means, but I still felt inspired by the town to just paint. And then I realized that I’m not an artist so I gave up on that idea pretty quickly.
I still had time left before catching my train, so I went to the library to get out of the rain. The library wasn’t just a library though. It was a cultural center. I was surprised to find that they had several expositions and lots of information. I found a book and spent the rest of my time reading in a warm room.
Cold, wet, tired and content, I boarded my train to return to Marseille. Aix-En-Provence was certainly something to experience.