Aix en Provence Day Trips

Old Dec 29th, 2016, 05:40 PM
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Aix en Provence Day Trips

I will be in Aix en Provence for five days in April, beginning the Wednesday before Easter, leaving the day after Easter. I will be traveling with my two sisters and will be visiting my son, who will be spending the college semester in Aix. Not sure if we want to rent a car, but looking for suggestions for day trips from Aix. Also looking for suggestions for what to see and do in Aix. Thanks!
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Old Dec 29th, 2016, 06:39 PM
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1. There's a motorized pedi-cab that can take you on a tour of the city that lasts about 20 minutes, as I recall. Very reasonable cost, even for two cabs.

2. Have you searched the Office of Tourism for Aix yet? I would think you'd have done that already.

3. Boat ride from Cassis to view the 'calenques'
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Old Dec 29th, 2016, 08:23 PM
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Avignon.
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Old Dec 29th, 2016, 08:24 PM
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Orange. Spectacular roman theatre
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Old Dec 29th, 2016, 08:37 PM
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This may help to view public transport networks http://www.aixenprovencetourism.com/...port-networks/ though some of the useful links like LePilote are French-only. Candidly, a car is very useful for Provence, and worth reconsidering.
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Old Dec 29th, 2016, 08:42 PM
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The is from my 33 page Cote d'Azur & Provence itinerary. If you would like the entire itinerary, e-mail me at [email protected] & I'll attach a copy to the reply e-mail.

Aix-en-Provence option – add 1 night to this itinerary to visit Aix and the Valensole Plateau
Tour books describe Aix as the Frenchman’s favorite city after Paris. I’ve had some US travelers tell me they didn’t like Aix. This was usually after they spent time in the countryside & I suspect they were not ready for a “real city”.

Aix is our favorite city in Provence. It seems like there are more cafes & interesting shops per block here than in any other city we’ve visited (excluding Paris). We spent a day in Aix in ’10, but since our prior trip (about ’03), they have greatly improved the Cours Mirabeau. They’ve made the automobile portion of the street narrower and the pedestrian portion wider. Now when you stroll along the Cours “checking out” the scene, it is not shoulder-to-shoulder people any more because the sidewalk is about 1 ½ times wider.

There’s nothing quite like having lunch at the Deux Garcons on the Cours Mirabeau (reserve several hours ahead & get an outdoor table in the shade). There is a daily morning food market on the Place Richelme. On Tues, Thurs, & Sat AM there is a food market on the Place des Precheurs and an antique/crafts/bric-a-brac market on the Cours Mirabeau. Most stores will be closed Sunday & Monday morning. Some will open on Monday after lunch.

The best plan for visiting Aix is to get there early (9:00) on a market day (so you can find a place to park). Reserve for lunch at Deux Garcons, visit the markets on the Cours Maribeau, Pl de Precheurs (in front of the Church Ste Marie-Madeleine) & the Pl Richelme market. Then take the walking tour outlined in the green Michelin guide & visit the many cute shops (which have impacted my wallet significantly). At 12:30, have lunch at the Deux Garcons (reserve ahead – I’ve mentioned this 3 times, so I hope you get the point) and watch the scene on the Cours – it’s half the fun of lunching there. After lunch, leave Aix – I’ve always found it too crowded and too hot (in summer) in the afternoon.

As I stated in the Nice section, we dine out in France about 30-40 times each year and consider ourselves serious “foodies”. In ’10, we did an “overnight” visit to Aix from our gite near Vaison and dined at Pierre Reboul* – a Michelin 1 star restaurant, but only a 1 “knife & fork” (simple). Our dinner was one of the most memorable meals we’ve had in France. We ordered the “les Amateurs” menu (78E), and enjoyed 9 different courses that were all creative, unique, and each course usually consisted of 3 different “events”. My wife & I both agreed that this dinner was one of the “top 5” meals we’ve had in France in the last 10 years.
http://www.restaurant-pierre-reboul.com


Day trips from Aix-en-Provence
Valensole Plateau, Lavender & Poppy fields, Riez, & Moustiers allow a full day
This excursion can be a day trip from either Aix-en-Provence or from the Luberon. The highlights of a drive through the Valensole plateau are the lovely lavender and poppy fields. We drove this route one year on June 14 when both the lavender & poppies were in full bloom, and again on June 24 in '14 - but the poppies were gone. I would only recommend this trip if you are visiting during the lavender season (mid-June through July).

Leave Aix north on the A51 and get off at exit # 19 – just east of Forcalquier. If you are departing from the Luberon near Apt, go east along the D900 which becomes the D4100 as you travel into the Haute-Provence Dept. (it's the same physical road). Continue on the D4100 to Forcalquier. However, if you are doing this visit on a Monday - you will have great difficulty driving through Forcalquir - it's their market day and one of the largest in Provence. We actually visited Forcalquir on Monday for the market, and drove through it another day to get to the lavender fields.

Forcalquier* is a very interesting town to explore. My wife's very favorite home decorating store in Provence is here - called La Terraio. There are two locations - one on Rue Plauchud near the Fontaine Renaissance, and another smaller shop just around the corner on Rue Merciere. Even if you don't want/"need" to shop, this store with its maze of "rooms" is captivating. The perched village of Lurs* (just north of Forcalquier off the D12) is another very cute hilltop village worth exploring.

From the #19 exit off the A51, take the D4B through Oraison and then the D4, and then the D15 towards Valensole. About 1/3 of the way on the D15 to Valensole, there is a fantastic view - look for the view icon on your 334 map. Most of the D15 up to this point and a few Ks past the "view" consists of forest & not that scenic. About 3/4 of the way to Valensole on the D15 - be prepared. In '14 there was one of the most spectacular lavender field we've ever seen. There was a human traffic jam out here in the middle of nowhere - people taking pictures of the field and the cars parked every which-way. This field is best viewed in the morning. This field and for the next hour of driving, you are going to see the best lavender fields we saw in Provence in '14.

Continue on the D15 towards Valensole. Just before you get to Valensole, you'll encounter a right turn on the D15 - directing you to the town of Valensole. Don't turn right towards Valensole. Instead go straight - look for the small sign directing you to Digne. You'll immediately drive past another wonderful lavender field. This Valensole "bypass" is parallel to the D8 going northeast, and will shortly connect with the D8. Along the D8 heading northeast there are more & more & more & more spectacular lavender fields. Soon you'll hit the D953 and turn right/south towards Riez - and more lavender fields.

Stop & visit Riez*, which has a wonderful Saturday AM market. As I have stated before, it took me about 15 years to realize that it’s never smart to visit or even drive through a town on a Sunday, Monday, or during the lunch closing (12:30 to 3:00 or so), because the town will be all “shuttered-up” with those ugly aluminum shutters & the town will look like it’s preparing for an invasion. We drove through Riez on a Sunday in ’99 & the town had no appeal at all. When we were there in June ’03 on a Saturday, the market was going strong, people were having coffee at the cafés under the plane trees, and the shops with their attractive window displays were open – quite a contrast from our prior (’99) Sunday visit. Explore Riez – see the Green Guide for a map (if you’re visiting during the Sat market, you can park in the large lot along Ave Fr. Mistral, just before you cross the river). Walk east along Allee Gardio to Place de la Colonne (where the fountain is located), and then turn left (west) & try to find City Hall (Hotel de Ville) in a lovely courtyard – poke your nose inside the Hotel de Ville a bit. Continue west along the narrow R Basse, which has some outdoor restaurants. When you hit the Church, curve right & go east on Grand Rue – which parallels R Basse. There are a lot of medieval mansions than have been turned into residences along this street. In '03 there were a lot of renovations going on. When we returned in '14 - there were still lots of renovations - and the town didn't seem to have "progressed" much since our '03 visit. Aside from the commercial streets, things seemed a bit desolate.

Head east on the D952 to Moustiers** and get the cameras ready. In the afternoon sun, the view of Moustiers from the west is spectacular. Explore Moustiers – it’s not only a very cute village, but it’s one of the most famous faience (pottery) centers in France. My wife enjoyed the Musee de la Faience (I waited outside), and we also climbed up to the church. Wander around town & enjoy the shops, but beware of the lunch closings.

After Moustiers, retrace your route on the D952 to Riez, and then on to Greoux les Bains.

If you are returning to Aix, get on the A51 heading south. If you are returning to the Luberon, drive through Manosque (somewhat difficult navigating, and there is lots of very ugly commerce to drive past).

If you enjoy very unusual rock formations and have 30 minutes to spare, visit Rochers (rocks) des Mees*. Take the A51 to exit # 20 and get on the D4096 north towards Chateau Arnoux, where you will get on the N85 going southeast toward Digne. You should get some pretty good views of the rocks – they are quite interesting. Return by going back to Les Mees on the D4 (more views of the rocks) & pick up the A51 to Aix, or the D4096 to the D4100 for a return to the Luberon.


Cassis and the Massif de la Ste Baume and the Corniche des Cretes allow ½ day w/o a stop in Cassis. Add 1 night to this itinerary if you want to visit Cassis & some of the surrounding areas.
This can be done as an excursion from Aix-en-Provence, unless you want to spend a night in Cassis. You’ll drive along some mountain ridges with unusual rock formations & outcroppings, and then along beautiful cliffs above the coast with some impressive views. Do this on a clear day and early in the morning to get the best views of Cassis & the coastline.

Leave Aix east on the A8 and then take the A52 south to Aubagne. At Aubagne, look east to see the Massif you will be driving through later. Past Aubagne, take the A50 to la Ciotat. Get off the A50 at exit #9. Navigating through la Ciotat to get to the eastern start of the Corniche des Cretes is a little tricky & impossible to describe here. The Michelin Red guide has a useable map for finding the start (it’s not in the green guide). Look for the signs for the D141 to Cap Canaille or Cassis.

This will get you to the Corniche des Cretes** & Cap Canaille***. Follow this route west, making sure that you take the small side road to Semaphore du Bec de l’Aigle where you will get a good view of la Ciotat and also west along the coast. Stop at Cap Canaille. Along this route you will see a parking area along the road & probably some people walking up a hill to a higher view point. Walk up this bluff - the view is even better. Continue on the D141 until you hit the D559.

Go northeast on the D559 & get on the A50 back to Aubagne. Near Aubagne, try to take a route to Gemenous (sorry – don’t know the interchanges necessary to do this – I actually did this itinerary in the opposite sequence, starting at the Massif de la Ste Baume and then the corniche). Take the D2 west to drive along the Massif de la Ste Baume**. If it’s a Saturday or Sunday, you will likely encounter a lot of bicyclists along this route. Continue on the D2 until it hits the D80 & take the D80 east to Nans-les-Pins. Continue till the D80 ends at the N560 and take the N560 west toward Aubagne & through Auriol to the N96 intersection, where you will take the N96 north to get on the A52 and back to Aix.

Many people claim that Cassis is what St Tropez used to be like before St Tropez was “discovered”. We’ve spent more than 4 weeks in St Tropez (several trips) and 4 days (4 different trips) in Cassis – so that’s perhaps a clue to which one we prefer. St Tropez is much larger and has more stuff to do & see. There are also more things to see within a 40 min drive from of St Tropez. We also prefer the beaches outside of St Tropez at Pampelonne, over the beach in Cassis. Although the Cassis beach is right in town – it’s not nearly as “luxurious” (and decadent) as the beaches in St Tropez (remember – we’re not jet-setters). My wife “shopped” Cassis in about 30 mins, and it took us no more than 1 1/2 hrs before we were ready to leave during our first 3 day-trips there. However, in ’07 we decided to do an overnight trip to Cassis from our Gite near Mt Ventoux – and we enjoyed it much more this time. We stayed at the hotel Le Golf – which we later found out was a Rick Steves recommendation. We had a room with a fabulous view out over the port and of the cliffs behind Cassis. We had an enjoyable dinner at Nino. Most of the restaurants along the port are directly on the street – except for Nino. It’s about a half-story up from the street so you don’t get the gawkers walking by all the time & staring at you – but we got to see them – which is always an interesting scene. We also took a boat trip along the Calanques, which was quite scenic. Lesson – just like I advised in the St Tropez section of this itinerary – stay overnight in Cassis. Don’t visit it as a day-trip from somewhere else like we did the first 3 times. It’s much more pleasant in the evening or early morning when the day-trippers have gone. I still, however, would get bored with 3 nights in Cassis – but not bored with 3 nights in St Tropez & surrounds.

Ste Victoire
The Michelin guide describes a three star *** drive around Ste Victoire. We did not find this drive interesting.

Stu Dudley
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Old Dec 30th, 2016, 06:21 AM
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I think Stu sells Aix short--and also the drive around Ste Victoire.

First, Aix--yes, it's wonderful to spend time in a cafe on the Cours. But I also love the place de l'Hotel de Ville--in the morning there is a beautiful flower market, and then in the afternoon it's my favorite place for ice cream. Between the two places are narrow, winding streets that, yes, cater to tourists but also to "real" people, and the window shopping is wonderful. I dare you not to at least buy some Marseille soap!

Aix has two fine art museums--the Granet and the new Caumont Center. Even if you're not interested in the art, consider having lunch at the cafe in the Caumont--it's a lovely setting, with several interconnecting rooms in different decors. A couple of rooms are restored to their 18th-century glory, and they're well worth a peek. When we were there, the featured exhibit was on Turner, and we spent a wonderful afternoon there.

As for Ste Victore, it pays to turn off the main road. You can visit the Barrage de Bimont, a huge dam, which offers some lovely views. And we had lunch in a modest cafe in the village of Vauvenargues, where Picasso's chateau is being converted into a de luxe hotel. The drive along the south side of the Mont offers stunning views of the enormous rock across the vineyards.

Still, for me Aix is all about ambiance and architecture. When you walk around, don't forget to look up, over the shop windows, or you'll miss the best of it. And there are spectacular hotels particuliers along the rue Gaston de Saporta leading to the cathedral of Saint Sauveur and also in the 18th-century Mazarin quarter south of the Cours that are well worth looking at.

As for day trips, there are many. You can go to the Luberon villages or Cassis or lovely Sanary-sur-Mer and the tiny, touristy, but charming Le Castellet. Avignon and Arles are also quite doable.

Do be aware that there is major construction work under way in front of the Madeleine, in the pl. des Precheurs. The fruit market that is usually there has been relocated to the area around La Rotonde, the big fountain at the other end of the Cours. Up-to-date information on the construction and goings-on in Aix is available at the website Aixcentric.com (I have no conection to this website but find it very useful).
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Old Dec 30th, 2016, 06:43 AM
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>>I think Stu sells Aix short<<

Huh???

My statement:
>>Aix is our favorite city in Provence.<<

What should have I said??? "Aix is our favorite city - times 2?".

Stu Dudley
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Old Dec 30th, 2016, 07:31 AM
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Stu--Didn't mean to offend. Perhaps I was maladroit. It just seemed to me that you focused on the Cours and the shops and didn't really go into what has always been to me the glory of Aix--its architecture and atmosphere, the way it glows both in the sunlight and at night (too lyrical?).

We're going back for two weeks in June, and I can't wait.
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Old Dec 30th, 2016, 08:35 AM
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You can easily get to Marseille by train from Aix, takes about 20 minutes. IN fact, you can get to Arles in about 1:45 hrs, but you have to transfer in Marseille.

It takes over 2 hrs to get to Avignon by train and you have to transfer to do that also (in Marseille). YOu can get there in less than 2 hrs but with a lot of transfers. Orange is a bit far for a day trip, takes closer to 3 hrs each way.
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Old Dec 31st, 2016, 04:45 AM
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We stayed in Aix for 5 nights. We had a car, and took 3 side trips which were all wonderful -- Cassis, Remy St. Martin and Les Beaux and the Luberon (can't remember names of towns). We really enjoyed all 3 trips. The 4th day we spent exploring Aix and each evening had dinner in Aix. Lovely area, enjoy.
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Old Dec 31st, 2016, 05:16 AM
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We usually stop at Aix on the way to southern france. Kids do some shopping and we just wonder through the city. That city has a great atmosphere and is Always crowded with students or locals.

We then eat somewhere and go home.

I agree with French that Stu doesn't sell Aix very well but he seems enthusiastic !

That is a case of qui trop embrasse mal étreint.
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Old Dec 31st, 2016, 05:31 AM
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Museum of Civilizations from Europe and the Mediterranean in Marseilles. Check out the building itself!
Moroccan foods in Aix - superb Tajines.
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Old Dec 31st, 2016, 08:02 AM
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We were in Aix and the Provence area over Easter last year. Still planning to write a mini trip report.
In researching our trip for events going on I came across Festival de Paques. (Paques is French for Easter )
Festivalpaques.com
My husband and I enjoy going to classical music concerts at home, so why not in France?
I purchased tickets online for a piano concert for the first evening we were in Aix.
We enjoyed it so much we got tickets for an Orchestra the following night and a concert at a church the next night.
We recently received a thick brochure for the 2017 Festival de Paques. I wish we could go again!
Classical music may not be your cup of tea but in my opinion being in Aix at Easter time is a great time to be there. The only other thing I would add here is that I booked a hotel near the downtown area so we could walk to the piano concert. The hotel was indeed central, so much so that our window opened just above the Duex Garçons restaurant. The location was terribly noisy at night.
Don't miss the Saturday markets!
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Old Dec 31st, 2016, 08:18 AM
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Woin - your "sell" of Aix isn't very impressive either. As a matter of fact - I don't think the OP asked to be "sold" on Aix - he/she is already staying there.

Stu Dudley
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Old Apr 28th, 2017, 01:44 PM
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Going to Aix in June . . . this is great info!
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Old Apr 28th, 2017, 06:51 PM
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Indianapearl, Aix is lovely. You are in for a visual treat.
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Old Apr 30th, 2017, 02:02 PM
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Thank you for all the wonderful ideas on Aix we will be there in September. There is a fun mystery series that takes place in Aix en Provence by M L Longworth called the Verlaque and Bonnet Mysteries for anyone who likes to read about the area they are going to be visiting. There are probably 7 or 8 books.
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