Monday, February 22, 2016


Executive summary by Darmansjah

Aix-en-Provence (Aquae Sextiae) ; Provençal Occitan: Ais de Provença in classical norm, or Ais de Prouvènço in Mistralian norm,  or simply Aix is a city-commune in south of France, about 30 km (19 mi) north of Marseille. It is in the region of Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur, in the département of Bouches-du-Rhône, of which it is a subprefecture. The population of Aix numbers approximately 143,000. Its inhabitants are called Aixois or, less commonly, Aquisextains.


Les Deux Garçons

The Cours Mirabeau is a wide thoroughfare, planted with double rows of plane-trees, bordered by fine houses and decorated by fountains. It follows the line of the old city wall and divides the town into two sections. The new town extends to the south and west; the old town, with its narrow, irregular streets and its old mansions dating from the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries, lies to the north. Along this avenue, which is lined on one side with banks and on the other with cafés, is the Deux Garçons, the most famous brasserie in Aix. Built in 1792, it has been frequented by the likes of Paul Cézanne, Émile Zola and Ernest Hemingway.

Place de l'Hotel de Ville

The Cathedral of the Holy Saviour (Aix Cathedral) is situated to the north in the medieval part of Aix. Built on the site of a former Roman forum and an adjacent basilica, it contains a mixture of all styles from the 5th to the 17th century, including a richly decorated portal in the Gothic style with doors elaborately carved in walnut. The interior contains 16th-century tapestries, a 15th-century triptych, depicting King René and his wife on the side panels, as well as a Merovingian baptistery, its Renaissance dome supported by original Roman columns. The archbishop's palace (Palais de l'Archêveché) and a Romanesque cloister adjoin the cathedral on its south side. The Archbishopric of Aix is now shared with Arles.


The Cathedral Cloisters

Aix (Aquae Sextiae) was founded in 123 BC by the Roman consul Sextius Calvinus, who gave his name to its springs, following the destruction of the nearby Gallic oppidum at Entremont. In 102 BC its neighbourhood was the scene of the Battle of Aquae Sextiae when Romans under Gaius Marius defeated the Cimbri and Teutones, with mass suicides among the captured women, which passed into Roman legends of Germanic heroism.

La Rotonde

In the 4th century AD it became the metropolis of Narbonensis Secunda. It was occupied by the Visigoths in 477. In the succeeding century, the town was repeatedly plundered by the Franks and Lombards, and was occupied by the Saracens in 731 and by Charles Martel in 737. Aix, which during the Middle Ages was the capital of Provence, did not reach its zenith until after the 12th century, when, under the houses of Barcelona/Aragon and Anjou, it became an artistic centre and seat of learning.

Saint Jean de Malte

Aix passed to the crown of France with the rest of Provence in 1487, and in 1501 Louis XII established there the parliament of Provence, which existed until 1789. In the 17th and 18th centuries, the town was the seat of the Intendance of Provence.

Current archeological excavations in the Ville des Tours, a medieval suburb of Aix, have unearthed the remains of a roman amphitheatre.

Geography and Climate

Aix-en-Provence is situated in a plain overlooking the Arc, about a mile from the right bank of the river. The city slopes gently from north to south and the Montagne Sainte-Victoire can easily be seen to the east. Aix's position in the south of France gives it a warm climate. It has an average January temperature of 5 °C (41 °F) and a July average of 22 °C (72 °F). It has an average of 300 days of sunshine and only 91 days of rain. While it is partially protected from the Mistral, Aix does occasionally suffer from the cold gusty conditions it brings.

The Institute of Political Studies (right figure)

Unlike most of France which has an oceanic climate, Aix-en-Provence has a Mediterranean climate.

Among its other public institutions, Aix also has the second most important Appeal Court (Palais de Justice) outside of Paris, located near the site of the former Palace of the Counts (Palais des Comtes) of Provence.

The Hôtel de Ville, a building in the classical style of the middle of the 17th century, looks onto a picturesque square (place de l'Hôtel de Ville). It contains some fine woodwork and tapestries. At its side rises a handsome clock-tower erected in 1510. Also on the Place de l'Hôtel de Ville is the former Corn Exchange (1759–1761) (Halle de Grains). This ornately decorated 18th-century building was designed by the Vallon brothers. Nearby are the remarkable thermal springs, containing lime and carbonic acid, that first drew the Romans to Aix and gave it the name Aquae Sextiae. A spa was built in 1705 near the remains of the ancient Roman baths of Sextius.

South of the Cours Mirabeau is the Quartier Mazarin. This residential district was constructed for the gentry of Aix by Archbishop Michele Mazzarino brother of Cardinal Jules Mazarin in the last half of the 17th century and contains several notable hôtels particuliers. The 13th-century church of Saint-Jean-de-Malte contains valuable pictures and a recently restored organ. Next to it is the Musée Granet, devoted to European painting and sculpture.

Vendôme Pavilion

Aix is often referred to as the city of a thousand fountains. Among the most notable are the 17th-century Fontaine des Quatre Dauphins (Fountain of the Four Dolphins) in the Quartier Mazarin, designed by Jean-Claude Rambot, and three of the fountains down the central Cours Mirabeau: At the top, a 19th-century fountain depicts the "good king" René holding the Muscat grapes that he introduced to Provence in the 15th century; halfway down is a natural hot water fountain (34 °C), covered in moss, dating back to the Romans; and at the bottom at la Rotonde, the hub of modern Aix, stands a monumental fountain from 1860 beneath three giant statues representing art, justice and agriculture. In the older part of Aix, there are also fountains of note in the Place d'Albertas and the Place des Trois-Ormeaux.


A set of ancient roads radiate out from Aix to the surrounding countryside, the Pays d'Aix. There are also a large number of modern autoroutes connecting Aix to nearby towns. There are autoroutes northwards to Avignon and to the Luberon; southwards to Marseille; and eastwards to Aubagne and the Mediterranean coast of Provence; and to Nice and other towns on the French Riviera. Aix and Marseille are equidistant from the international airport of Marseille-Provence (MRS) at Marignane on the Etang de Berre. There is another airport at Les Milles, which is mostly used by general aviation. There is a frequent bus shuttle service from the main bus station in Aix which also serves the nearby TGV station at l'Arbois, in the middle of the countryside about 10 miles (16 km) from Aix.

TGV viaduct over the river Arc at Roquefavour

At Aix, the line from Paris branches to Marseille and Nice; it takes about 3 hours to get from Paris to Aix by TGV. Aix also has a railway station near the centre, Gare d'Aix-en-Provence, with connections to Marseille, Pertuis and Briançon in the French Alps. A frequent and rapid shuttle bus service for commuters operates between the bus station in Aix and Marseille. There are many other long distance and local buses from the bus station.

In the town itself, there is an inexpensive municipal bus service, including a dial-a-bus service ("proxibus"), a park-and-ride service and tiny electrified buses for those with mobility problems. Those are six seater vehicles that circulate at a speed of 10 mph (16.09 km/h). The central old town of Aix is for the most part pedestrianised. There are large underground and overground parking structures placed at regular intervals on the "boulevard exterieur", the predominantly one-way ring road that encircles the old town. Access to the old town is by a series of often narrow one-way streets that can be confusing to navigate for the uninitiated.

As in many other French cities, a short-term bicycle hire scheme nicknamed V'Hello, free for trips of less than half an hour, has recently been put in place by the town council: and has been popular with tourists. As well as overland routes, two "rivers" flow through Aix, the Arc and the Torse, but neither of which can remotely be described as navigable.

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