10 PICTURE ALBUM
Friday, October 10
Paula: Today we enjoyed exploring the town of Aix-en-Provence.
This town is strikingly different from the other towns we have visited here
so far. The roads are wide and lined with trees, the restaurants and shops
are very upscale and there is much more diversity of people. Gone was that
medieval feel and the strong Roman influence - instead we saw more baroque
architecture and beautiful fountains in every square-it all felt a bit more
like Paris. In fact, Aix' prosperity in the 17th and 18th centuries led to
its transformation when Roman ramparts were torn down and mansions were built
on the Cours Mirabeau (Aix' main boulevard). We enjoyed roaming from fountain
to fountain looking into the shops, cafes and bakeries. We even decided to
try roasted buckeyes being sold on the streets. We didn't care for the taste
of them but David and Katie have enjoyed collecting the nuts over the past
week as they are just now bursting from their prickly pods.
After wandering through the town and enjoying seeing the sights on this beautiful
afternoon, we walked up the hill to the last home of Paul Cezanne. His small
studio/home and garden are just 10 minutes from the center of town, and this
is where he spent the last 5 years of his life until 1906. After having visited
the homes of Renoir and Matisse with little company, we were surprised to
find this small site filled with tourists (mostly Japanese). We thought we
had just arrived at the wrong moment but an outgoing and friendly guide at
the museum told us that this is actually the most visited site in the entire
Rhone region of Provence! Despite this, we absolutely loved seeing his studio.
Many of the articles he used in his still-life paintings are here, and we
to see copies of the paintings that had these items in them. It was fun to
look at the prints and find the actual vase, statue, skull or other object
that Cezanne used for the painting. We also learned that he painted his famous
"The Large Bathers" paintings in this studio and saw the area where
he actually had to cut a large hole in the wall of the studio to get the paintings
out when they were done. Cezanne loved to paint in Provence because of the
quality and quantity of sunlight (an average of 300 sunny days each year are
sunny) and well as the brilliant colors in its landscape. We have seen many
of Cezanne's great works in museums during our trip and it was wonderful to
see his studio and learn more about his life.
After walking back into town and thoroughly enjoying banana-chocolate tarts
in a cute bakery, we decided to spend the late afternoon hours reading and
drawing in the Park Jourdan. The park had a busy playground of young French
children as well as a mixture of seniors and students talking on the benches
and in the grass. We find that we often need time like this to simply relax
in the cities and towns that we visit.
On the way back home, we stopped in Arles for a traditional Provencal meal
at Le Pistou, a restaurant that had been highly recommended to us. Le Pistou
is a friendly, small restaurant located across from the Roman Amphitheater
in Arles, and we had a great meal with fresh Perche (oceah perch), lamb, and
a stew made with bull meat from the Camargue.
Tomorrow the good weather is supposed to continue, and we plan to spend the
day exploring the small towns and villages of the Luberon Valley.
Distance Walked: 4.19 miles