This astonishing and beautiful mountain rises up outside the village of Tholonet when one goes towards the Côte d'Azur. Most famously it appears in the paintings of Cézanne. The mountain dominates the Aix countryside, a great limestone barrier that refracts the light of the setting sun and perfumes the air with the scents from its wild scrubland and whose way-marked footpaths attract walkers from all over the world who come to marvel at the views over the Rhône and the Esterel.
In the heart of the pedestrian center lies Place des Quatre Dauphins (Plaza of the Four Dolphins) and the fountain of the same name, erected in 1667 and designed by Rambot. Four dolphins, each looking around a mysteriously inscribed obelisk, leap above a small circular pond filled with clear water. The romantic setting reminds one of those old cloak and dagger films. A stroll in this square under the shade of the plane trees to the sound of fresh running water is very pleasant indeed, particularly on sultry summer days.
La Place de l'Hôtel de Ville is the center of beauty and history in Aix-en-Provence. It is flanked by the many architectural wonders that were built around the mid 1600s. It includes the La Tour de l'Horloge (Clock Tower) with its original structure built in 1510. The tower itself underwent many changes and additions and also served as a military outpost. It is fitted with both a bell and a modern astronomical clock and four imposing wooden figurines depicting each season. At the foot of the tower lies L’Hôtel de Ville (City Hall). This classic building overlooks the square and to date is the center of city's activities such as flower markets, parades, and feasts. Lastly, the square is adorned with the La Fontaine de l'Hôtel de Ville (Fountain of City Hall) sculpted by Jean Chastel Pancras that marks the exquisite beauty of the era. Altogether this town square continues to be the heart of the magic and a must-see in Aix-en-Provence.
The Cathédrale Saint-Sauveur embraces all architectural styles from the 5th to the 17th Century. It has been formally established that Christianity has existed in Aix-en-Provence since the 4th century. The main testimony to this is Saint-Mitre's white marble sarcophagus, which can be viewed in one of the three naves, erected in three different eras. The Roman nave, Provencal in style, dates from the 12th Century; the Gothic nave was built between 1285 and 1290 and shelters the famous triptych by Froment, and the "Buisson Ardent" ordered by King René, depicts Queen Jeanne. And lastly, the Baroque nave dating back to 1695 is an impressive display of architectural richness of sensibility.
Built in 1745, this square is identical to the Parisian squares of that era. There has been a fountain here since 1912, which gives it an air of Commedia Dell Arte. The atmosphere is unbelievable; it is easy to imagine a carriage emerging from the Rue Espariat or a lady of the Court appearing on the balcony of one of these splendid palaces. Each summer during the Festival of Lyric Arts, the brightness of the moon floods this crowded square filled with party-goers costumed in 17th-century attire.
The Granet Museum, in the heart of the historic Mazarin quarter of Aix-en-Provence, has an impressive permanent collection which includes Rembrandt, Cézanne, Ingres, Giacometti, Picasso, and Mondrian, along with changing special exhibitions. The museum offers guided tours with special consideration for those with disabilities. Special events include brunch in the garden, drawing sessions, and occasional evenings at the museum.
The military order of the Hospitaliers de St-Jean-de-Jérusalem (later of Malta), founded this command center in 1180. In 1272 and 1646 it underwent renovations and became a church. The stark façade's only openings are two rose windows. The arrow-shape of the bell-tower is in keeping with the architectural style of the Popes of Avignon. Inside, the central Gothic nave houses the tomb of the Counts of Provence. This splendid monument is to be found on the northern edge of the town between the Mazarin district and the Cours Mirabeau.
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This 493-seat theater was built in the space that once held the Royal tennis courts of Louis XIV, explaining its mysterious but descriptive name. The building has undergone several renovations since the beginning of its construction in 1756, when it was intended to uphold the most modern values as expressed in the work of Voltaire: it was to be a place where everyone in the audience could see and hear no matter their place. Today, it hosts a continuous line-up of theater in conjunction with the Théâtre du Gymnase in Marseille, under the management of the group ACTE. The Jeu de Paume shows the more political pieces of the two in their voluminous, intricately decorated space.
Situated in the Southern precinct of Aix-en-Provence, Quartier Mazarin was created by the brother of Cardinal Mazarin in the last half of the 17th Century. It features an impressive assortment of carefully planned private hotels built by members of parliament and other prominent pillars of bourgeois society. In addition to these epic estates, one can find numerous gardens through the quarter as well as the famous Fontaine des Quatre-Dauphins.