Aix-en-Provence was Paul Cézanne‘s hometown and it celebrates his life and work in a number of places. The Town Hall (“mairie”) has created a trail with a map to guide you through them. Start at the statue of Cézanne at the main roundabout in town, La Rotonde, and follow the route to end at his studio. It’s a lovely walk around a beautiful town, taking in the Musée Granet where he painted (and where you can find a lot of his work), the huge cathedral and his school. The walk will take a comfortable couple of hours – half a day if you stop at each of the places en route.
This walk heads south out of Aix-en-Provence and ends with some swimming, either in the local pool (open July to September) or in the river. It’s an ideal summer route when you need to be near water to feel fresh and cool. Start on the Rue d’Italie, which is the specialist food shopping street. You can buy your cold meats, stuffed peppers, jams, baguettes, ripe cheese and a bottle of wine or fresh fruit juice for a delicious picnic at the end.
Follow the map down through the Cours Gambetta, Avenue Saint-Jerôme and Avenue des Infermeries. Follow the river past the Sports Complex (which is where you’ll find the outdoor swimming pool, where you can relax on the grass) or head to the wonderful park, which kids will love. Locals swim in the river. A great place to cool off on a summer’s day.
If you head north out of the town, you’ll reach the River Torse, which runs its way around the city from north to south. It’s a beautiful place to while away an hour or the whole day, particularly with sporty kids. After taking in the Cimetière Saint-Pierre where Cézanne is buried, cut across the Georges Carcassonne Stadium, where you can run around the track or practise your goal-scoring abilities in the public nets (football and basketball) or play tennis.
At the easterly side of the track, head down the ramp or the path to the field by the river and continue to follow it southwards. You can feed ducks, take time out in the only playground that has swings in Aix-en-Provence, or have a picnic. Follow the River Torse back round to the main road and either head up the Cours Gambetta back into town, or try out the pool at Piscine de l’ Oliveraie. It costs about €10 and has sun loungers and a small café that serves drinks (and food around lunchtime). A wonderful way to cool down after a summer’s day in the city park.
If you head out of Aix-en-Provence towards the small village of Le Tholonet, you can stop for something to eat at one of the lovely outdoor restaurants. After lunch, continue up the D17 (Route Cézanne) and park at the Maison de Sainte-Victoire (you can eat lunch here too). There are some donkeys and small animals here that kids will love, before you head down to the river to fly kites or play Pooh Sticks in the shallow water. Great for little kids.
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This is the big trail outside of Aix-en-Provence, where you can hike up to the cross on top of the Sainte-Victoire mountain. It’s beautiful countryside, where Cézanne used to paint. There are a number of trails you can take around the mountain (be warned, there are easy and difficult paths) starting in Le Tholonet or Saint-Antonin-sur-Bayon (for a shorter route). There are a few things to see on your route – the Saint-Victoire Priory and the Bimont Dam are spectacular. The order you see them obviously depends on which route you decide to take. Remember to take water and sun protection; it can be scorching in summer.