Beginning at the statue of the artist beside Fontaine de la Rotonde; arguably the grandest fountain in Aix, follow the “C” shaped medallions on the ground for a walking tour with a purpose.
The Paul Cézanne statue in Aix could be the centre point of this walking tour with its crafted detail and authoritative style, but counter intuitively the fountain is the starting point for what is an informative and encapsulating walk around the city.
The tour takes us almost across the whole city and everywhere along the way there are points of interest – not just those concerning Cézanne, but those involving the city of Aix en Provence as a whole. It is a great chance to mark down places of interest or restaurants and cafés to come back to during a stay in Aix.
The metallic “C” shaped studs on the ground guide us along back streets and along chemins that may have remained mysterious and untracked to casual tourists otherwise. The map for the tour contains accompanying information regarding each feature and facet of Cézanne’s life along the way, from the place of his birth, to the schools he attended and the place of his marriage.
Walking up through the narrow Rue Cardinale, towards the church of St. Jean-de-Malte with the sun glinting all around and the hanging flowers and traditional French street-lights alongside the decorative wrought-iron window guards of the houses, it seems to become clear and to qualify Cézanne’s quote that, “when you are born there [Aix-en-Provence], it’s hopeless, nothing else is good enough”.
The Granet Museum, one of the stops on the tour, is home to a small collection of his work, alongside other notable artists. It is said that a past curator of the museum swore that none of Cézanne’s work would ever be exhibited while he was there to oversee the museum. The museum also shows work by Picasso, Giacometti and has a section dedicated to the work of Granet himself.
The real beauty of the self-guided tour is that it can be as long or as short as you desire. If you want to stop for a drink or some lunch the decision lies only with you. There are a plethora of options for eating, drinking and for ice-creams all over the city and the meandering tour will take you past quite a few.
I stopped along the way at Les Deux Garçons restaurant on Cours Mirabeau to sample some of the food at the now famous hang-out of Cézanne and his friends. Ernest Hemingway is also said to have enjoyed this particular establishment - and it is not hard to see why it attracts this calibre of clientele as the interior is sophisticated and luxurious and there is a grand terrace at the front to enjoy the sunshine.
Some of the tour’s charm, besides walking along the beautiful streets and admiring the buildings, comes from navigating your way through Aix aided only by the map and the plaques on the ground. Kids especially will love the adventure of hunting for the next stop on the map.
The end of the tour brings you 1.5km out of the town to Atelier Cézanne which is well worth a visit in its own right. It is the studio where Cézanne worked until he died and the contents of which have been preserved as best as possible. It is a fantastic way to finish the walking tour and fans of the artist will come away with a higher understanding of the artist’s life.
The Footsteps of Cézanne walking tour could be also be transformed into a bicycle tour if you desire by hiring a bicycle from the many locations around Aix.
The walking tour is free – pick up the accompanying map from the Tourist Office and begin the tour by the Fontaine de la Rotonde.
- Hiking / Walking