It had been seventeen years since I left Aix-en-Provence, this small town near Marseille where I first began University, 20 years ago. Ouch! That hurt. I can’t believe how time flew so fast, it seems that it was just yesterday that at the age of 17yo I started my adult life away from home. I still can remember very clearly the day I moved there, when my mom drove me from Nice and helped me setting everything up in my first very tiny apartment. The weird memory I have kept of this day is that my mom thought it was important that I’d bring from home a giant carpet that would help warming up my tiles floor – and make me think about my original home and relatives too. Back then, modern carpets were not yet the norm, old carpets were almost kind of passed like a precious family gift from one generation to the next, and so I found myself welcoming my first College friends the next weeks with an (expensive?) Persian rug, laying on the floor of my super small and really not outstanding one-room apartment. The building was nothing but nice, but it was my apartment, and I was proud to live in it.
That being said, a few weekends ago my husband and I invited ourselves to stay overnight at my cousin’s. Nathalie lives with her husband and son near Auriol in the department of Bouches-du-Rhône, in a very inspiring environment, in the middle of the Provence countryside. Their house is super pretty and is facing the local mountains and the garrigue, though it is less than a half hour drive from the first big town. We took the bus in Nice and decided to meet in Aix-en-Provence. Meeting in the city center by La Rotonde – the main square (picture above) – we wanted to shortly stroll around in town, have a drink, buy dessert for the upcoming dinner, then head to Auriol by car together.
Aix-en-Provence has changed a lot. The old town is pretty much the same as it used to be, except that perhaps cafés and restaurants are more actively promoting their fun atmosphere. On the other hand, a whole new area has emerged from the old district that used to surround the long-distance bus station. It is sort of an outdoor mall inside the city, called Les Allées Provençales. Beside the nice modern chain stores that we all know, there are some artisan shops too, and even a chic yet simple wine and cheese bar.
We walked in the old town and seeked for a place to drink a glass of cool white wine on the Place des Cardeurs, before hitting the road. On the Cours Mirabeau (picture above), we “visited” the Librairie Michel, a mega temple/store for everything stationery and arts & crafts. I love everything related to paper, pencils, stationery, notebooks, really, so this store simply looked like Paradise to me. We passed by the most famous café/brasserie in town, Les Deux Garçons, that has served coffee, cold drinks and flavored beers since 1792. I used to enjoy going there for a cherry flavored Creek beer when I was a student and had a few bucks to spend. Nice memories! Almost next door, we went to buy individual pastries for share in a great place owned by a one-star pastry chef. I forgot the name of the chef and I forgot to take pictures, which I’m all really sorry about. All in all, we had a fun and happy time in Aix-en-Provence, and for sure we will return pretty soon and maybe stay overnight in town to enjoy the restaurants and bars.
Created and Written by Sophie Rebibo-Halimi. © 2017 All Rights Reserved.