Today is the first French port on our tour around the Mediterranean and Western Europe, having broken our string of four consecutive ports in Spain. We will return to this beautiful and welcoming country later in our travels. Our tour today will take us out of Marseille to the quaint and former capital of the Provence region, called Aix-en-Provence, a 45 minute drive into the French countryside.
Spring has found this area of France and the fields are green and the people are out and about on this sunny and 72 degree day. A carousel nearby will be much busier when we return to our drop-off spot some 3 hours later.
The welcoming fountain is a centerpiece of the wide avenues and sidewalks.
We find Aix to be pedestrian-friendly with wide avenues filled with residents, visitors and students. 40,00 of the town’s 135,000 inhabitants are students and spring break finds them out and about, especially along the tree-shaded Cours Mirabeau. A fountain in the center of the street dates to 1743, and produces water at a constant 73 degrees.
The Cours is lined on one side with shops and banks, while the other has multiple cafes inviting a quiet stop to take in the scenery. The young French girls prefer their skirts quite short, which adds quite a lot to the scenery.
The croissants with apricot marmalade were a delight, but we soon noticed a sweet shop across the street with the name “Bechard” over the entry. Rick Steves advises NEVER to pass Bechard’s without iinvestigating. The windows, both inside and out, were an unbelievable delight to behold.
The Easter chocolate display was especially inviting. How do the residents stay thin with this temptation on the main thoroughfare??
A few purchases later we waited for our transport and our return to the Rotterdam in Marseille.
The wind-blown look adds to the illusion of motion, despite being weighted down with bags of chocolate and almond paste calissons, lavender-scented soaps and packets of lavender scents.