Summering in the south of France is one of the highlights of my year. It isn’t long after New Year’s Day I begin fantasizing about my escape from dreary England – lounging poolside, propped up on a chaise under the canopy of a parasol, its canvas tips flapping in the Provençal breeze. I am finally here! After a few days though, I was keen for a day trip. So we rented a little Fiat with no air-conditioning, cranked down all the windows, and sputtered into nearby Aix-En-Provence.
Aix is well-known for its fountains, scattered around the old town; it’s also home to modern painter Paul Cézanne. It was a foregone conclusion that my first stop would be his studio. Atelier Cézanne is nestled amongst the trees on Lauves hill overlooking Mount Sainte-Victoire, where Cézanne practiced from 1902 – 1906. The upstairs room is still cluttered with furniture, ceramics and other items which long ago posed for his still life masterpieces.
The image above is a poor quality stock photo from the museum website. It was an immense disappointment to find that the Aix Tourist Office forbids photography inside the studio – such a shame for me, but also for researchers and art enthusiasts – especially after the United States was so generous to raise the funds to buy the property in 1954 and donate it to the University of Aix-Marseille. I was told that permission to take photos can be requested in advance by e-mailing the Adjoint of the Office de Tourism (Michel Fraisset: firstname.lastname@example.org)
Back in town we settled in for lunch on the terrace of Les Deux Garçons, a lively brasserie on the humming Cours Mirabeau. The food was basic and the service was terribly French (slow) – but which could almost be forgiven as standards have understandably slipped a bit since opening day in 1792!
After polishing off my gelato and larking around the shops for a bit, we toured the Cloisters of Saint-Sauveur Cathedral, and spied the Burning Bush Triptych by Nicolas Froment.
Dinner was at Le Formal – inside the former wine cellars of Henry IV. The chef there is obsessed with truffles; they were in nearly every dish of our seven-course “Emotions” tasting menu. Maybe the emotions were about how much he loves cooking with truffles.
A throughly indulgent supper in a modest historical setting – made for an effortless end to a lovely day in Aix.