Aix-en-Provence (pronounced ‘ex’) made for a pleasant afternoon’s ramble but didn’t really set my heart aflutter. Its known as the city of a thousand fountains which I didn’t realize until after I’d left or I might have made more of a study of them. The few I did note were pleasant. I guess I’m not much of a fountain girl. I did enjoy the warm golden colored sandstone which seems to be the town’s primary building material. Aix is a university town but the areas of campus I passed through on my walks had been cursed with major renovation endowments during the 60’s and 70’s and were bland bordering on ugly. I was not inspired to take any photos. Its also the home place of artist Paul Cezanne, see the statue. I enjoyed several of his paintings in the nice but small Musee Granet although it was slightly disturbing that of his collection they had a few charming landscapes, a number of compositions featuring voluptuous nudes … and a portrait of his wife. His wife was portrayed as stiff and slightly dour, with one pupil noticeable larger than the other and notably un-endowed. I wonder if it bothered her to be shown (to be?) so different from his obvious ideal of female beauty. I enjoyed the collection of Giacometti sculptures and paintings in the adjacent room much more!
The feature that struck me most about the buildings of Aix was that nearly every one humble or grand had operable wooden shutters on the windows. Ranging from the simple to the elaborate, they all seemed in good repair and in regular use – some open, some closed. I tried to figure out from context if they were meant to provide shade and air movement with open windows on hot summer days (but then surely the modern windows would just have screens) or if they were meant for protection from harsh winter storms. Does the Mediterranean have hurricanes? I think my question was answered today when the Mistral, or “strong, cold and usually dry regional wind in France, coming from the north or northwest, which accelerates when it passes through the valleys of the Rhone and the Durance Rivers to the coast of the Mediterranean around the Camargue region.” I encountered back in Marseille nearly knocked me off my feet several times during the morning.