When we last came to Aix-en-Provence many years ago one of us was sick and so, after a quick dinner of pizza by the fountain in town, we headed straight back to our hotel out of town up the hill and sat, with tea, on our balcony overlooking and overhearing diners below on the terrace of the hotel restaurant. While it was serene and a good place to recuperate, we didn’t see much of Aix on that trip.
This time, we spent a couple of cloudy March days tracing the “Cezanne Trail” using the map obtained at the tourist office, wandering around the plazas of Aix and through its outdoor markets.
For true Cezanne-o-philes the map will take you through the streets of Aix by his high school, various homes in which he and family members lived, his place of birth and of death. For me, I really enjoy a map and a scavenger hunt so it was right up my alley (I’m not sure ma femme was as thrilled). For us, the highlight of the walking tour was the visit to his studio, l’atelier de Cezanne, up the hill overlooking the city center and the park from which he painted his many canvasses of Montagne Sainte-Victoire nearby. Maybe it was due to COVID times, or maybe this is normal, but the studio requires an advance ticket purchase which can be done here. Once we arrived, we purchased the additional guided tour of the studio for €3 each which was well worth it. It added color to observing the objects contained within like Cezanne walked out the door just last week.
The park, Terrain des Peintures, an additional 15 minutes or so up the hill is a quiet, beautiful spot with placards of his paintings and views of the aforementioned Montagne.
We visited the Musee Granet and the affiliated annex to it a few blocks away which contains the personal collection of Jean Planque which includes an impressive collection of his friend Pablo Picasso’s work (including one with a personal note to Jean Planque). I think I liked both equally and the cost of admission covers both.
Despite the city’s affiliation with Cezanne, you will find more of his paintings in the USA and elsewhere, though the Granet museum proper has a Cezanne room with several of his paintings. The main museum has many works of Granet, a few Picassos, rooms of 18th century portraits, paintings of mythology and Christian art. It also contains some Egyptian and other early age objects and artifacts. Fun fact: The reason for the dearth of Cezanne work in the Granet is, in part, because the proprietor of the museum during Cezanne’s life had vowed to not display his work.
Most every day brings a market to Aix but Saturday is the highlight. We were training out of town on Saturday but took a few minutes to wander around before we departed.
Aix is worth the visit for a couple of days, especially for art lovers, (lots of museums and great galleries) and all the better when no-one has strep throat!