On the other side of the Cours Mirabeau there are the stone paved narrow old streets of the Old Town with the mass of trendy designer boutiques, artistic ateliers and colourful local markets with Provencal sweets, lavender oil, Marseilles soap. And, of course, there are many cosy restaurants and cafes. One of them, «des Deux Garcons», is considered to be in a legendary place the quarter because Girardot, Cocteau, Emile Zola visited it at their time...
And if we talk about the history of the city, this ancient land remembers the capital of Celtic-Ligurian tribes, Entremont situated slightly north of modern Aix-en-Provence. These tribes lived here as early as the 4th century BC.
The Romans, led by consul Sextius defeated the Ligurians in 123 BC. (On the site of their settlement a colony for veteran legionaries Aquae Sextiae was built). The 4th century brought the city the status of the capital of the Roman province of Narbonensis Secunda. As a result, during “the nearest” 800 years this land has become a “tidbit” for the Saracens, Franks, Visigoths and Lombards ...
The prosperity of Aix-en-Provence came in the 12th century. Then the Counts of Provence ruling here (the houses of Anjou and Barcelona) have made it their residence. In their presence the lush court culture with constant holding various festivities and luxurious meals, concerts and carnivals came into vogue.
Thanks to the Duke of Anjou the titular King of Sicily, René, in the 15th century turned the city into an important cultural, university and trade centre (almond and nutmeg import). King is best remembered for organizing folk festivals and processions which lasted for several days and attracted the hundreds of musicians-troubadours from all neighbourhoods.
The glory to Aix-en-Provence was brought by the local native, the famous painter Paul Cézanne (1839-1906). In his student years in Bourbon college he met the future famous writer Emile Zola. After a period of «Paris» wandering and creative search, in 1870-1880, the painter returned to his native Aix-en-Provence having found here his best «model», the mountain Montagne Sainte-Victoire.
Aix-en-Provence became the capital of the region after the accession of Provence to France in 1486. The royal governor settled city and in 150,1 by the orders of Louis XII the Supreme Court institutions with a regional parliament also appeared. (The latter became so unpopular among the people that «called a proverb into being»: «Parliament, mistral and Durance river are 3 major disasters of Provence»).
However, at this time the mansions and residences in the style of the Italian Baroque with sculptural elements and compositions were built in the city.
The city is also «remembers» the signing of the peace agreement here with the Prince de Condé, the arrival of King Louis XIV and the activities of the native of Aix, Honoré de Mirabeau, the famous deputy of the «Third Estate».
Despite its long and turbulent history the city is now having the atmosphere full of life and youthful creative energy. This is mainly due to the well-known European Academy of Music, the local university and a variety of art festivals held here which «transform» the old Aix in the modern creative «laboratory».
The historical capital of Provence is also famous for its spa resort (it is located in the Arc River Valley, at an altitude of 175 m above sea level). Back in the times of the Romans the healing warm springs with hydrocarbonate calcium water were found here (their temperature averages around 36°C). Now they are used for baths and drinking cure of kidney disease, cardiovascular system, the musculoskeletal system.
Also collectors and antiques lovers come to Aix-en-Provence from all over the world. The city is considered the Provencal «antique» centre – you can find real treasures at the local flea markets and antique shops!