Aix-en-Provence – Country Roads of France
Aix-en-Provence is noted as a “City of Fountains” and three of the best are on Le Cours Mirabeau. This beautiful tree-lined street, built in 1649 for horse-drawn coaches, links the Mazarin quarter to the south with the old commercial town to the north. Elegant 17th and 18th century buildings with wrought iron balconies line the street, which was once where the city’s social life took place.
The best place to start an exploration of this town is probably to start at La Rotonda. On top of this monumental fountain are three statues representing Justice (facing Aix-en-Provence), Agriculture (facing Marseilles) and the Arts (facing Avignon). The three main fountains located in Cours Mirabeau are:
- La Fontaine des Neuf Canons – The Nine Canons Fountain built in 1691
- La Fontaine d’eau Chaude, a mossy looking fountain fed by hot water from the Bagniers spring
- La Fontaine du Roi Rene – this 19th century fountain includes the statue of Good King Rene, holding a bunch of grapes in his hand. King Rene is believed to have brought the famous Muscat grapes to Provence.
Towards the far end of cours Mirabeau, look out for Les Deux Garcons café, previously frequented by Cezanne ( Aix’s most famous son) and his friends, including Zola. Also look out for Le Passage Agard, through which you will find a Carmelite convent.
One disappointing aspect of this town is that Cours Mirabeau is also a busy vehicular thoroughfare. Vans and garbage trucks drive through this narrow street and it gets quite chaotic at crossroads. When you’re trying to get a shot of any of the fountains or appreciate its history, look out for the cars.