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 were able 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













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