Aix-en-Provence – Provence-Alpes-Cote d’Azur, France

The Quintessential Provengal Experience

Take a promenade beneath the sun-filtering canopy of plane trees, past the gurgling rococo fountains and stately 17th- and 18th-century buildings, the weekly open-air markets, and the outdoor cafes, then ask yourself; is Aix-en-Provence’s Cours Mirabeau not the most beautiful street in Europe? You may have to say yes. Ever since medieval ramparts were torn down to make room for this lovely avenue, it has been the center stage of Aix-en-Provence. It is the perfect main street in the perfect Provengal town; both remain unspoiled, despite the city’s evolution and growth.

Trail off down le Cours in the footsteps of Paul Cezanne. This is the landscape, including Mont Ste. Victoire, that he loved to paint time and time again. Try to visit during the last two weeks in July, when the whole town is abuzz for the Aix-en-Provence Festival, also known as the International Festival of Lyrical Art and Music, and life whirls around the principal opera and many musical concerts.

Tickets for any of the per­formances held in the open-air 1,200-seat Theatre de l’Archeveche are understandably the first to go, but classical and chamber music concerts and recitals held all around the city are just as magical. The two-week Aix en Musique precedes the festival with mostly classical performances beginning in late June, and jazz picks up when the festival leaves off for the better part of August.

While in Aix, stay in a tranquil country setting only a minute’s walk from town. The bright and sunny 18th-century Hotel La Villa Gallic embodies the charm and spirit of Provence. Every room proclaims an unwavering attention to detail; fresh flowers everywhere; an unerring choice of color and pattern for all the swags, swathes, covers, and drapes; the perfectly planned gardens and ter­races.

The plane trees that shade the breakfast terrace make it an oasis in which the glamorous garden pool gleams like a mirage. To complete the dream, you needn’t go far for the perfect meal. Both the hotel’s simple Provencal menu and the more gastro­nomic dining found at the nearby Le Clos de la Violette are the work of chef Jean-Marc Banzo. Both spots offer some of the most enjoyable dining in the south of France.

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