A Saturday in Aix-en-Provence

Greetings from Aix-en-Provence, city of fountains and birthplace of Paul Cézanne and Emile Zola. Aix is just a twenty-minute drive from our house, but no matter how often you go there, it is the kind of city that never ceases to charm, making even residents fall head-over-heels day after day.

We had lunch at a little restaurant along the Cours Mirabeau, the main road through the city that is flanked by plane trees and broad sidewalks, perfect for people-watching.

The backdrop consists of gorgeous stone mansions from the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries that have since been converted into chic shops and restaurants with extremely posh apartments above.

The weather was warm and sunny, and the sights even more enchanting than usual. I always love seeing the city’s Christmas tree in front of the statue of King René, who is holding a bunch of Muscat grapes, which he is said to have introduced to the area in the 15th century.

Even the street artists do things with a little extra class here. Forget a grubby guy strumming away in front of an open guitar case, which is what you get near any ‘L’ stop in Chicago. On Saturday an ambitious young man went to all the trouble to haul a piano out onto the sidewalk and put on a concert right there in front of the Belle Epoque café and Monoprix. I hope whatever he made that day was worth his while, because I would love to see that again. And you can’t help but love the little girl in the pink beret with her dad holding a bouquet of mimosa, they’re just so French, n’est ce pas?

A bit further down the street we saw this artist (right), with his enormous canvas rolled out right there on the sidewalk. The piece appeared to be a combination of architecture and dessert, a painting of an ornate bridge whose spires turn into ice cream cones. I couldn’t figure out what it was that I liked so much about this picture at first, then it came to me: his palette. Not the colors, necessarily, but the fact that it is old and wooden and, well, just classic. It looks like the type of palette you can picture Cézanne himself using, and it just makes the whole scene, in my opinion.

All and all, it was a postcard-picture-perfect day. Wish you were here!

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