Visit the many fountains of Aix-en-Provence. Some say there are over a thousand fountains scattered throughout the city. I don’t know that for sure but can recommend five not to be missed:
Fountaine des Quatre Dauphins built in 1667.
Fountaine des Neuf-Canons built in 1691.
Fountaine de la Rotonde built in 1860
Fountaine Moussue built in 1666
Fountaine d’Eau Chaude built in 1667
Perch yourself in a chair, while in Aix-en-Provence on the Cours Mirabeau, for people and dog watching. For a café with history, head to Les Deux Garcons at the eastern end of the Cours. This famous café was a favorite stop for Cezanne. His Dad’s hat shop was next door at number 55.
Visit the famous Calanques National Park by boat (taken out of Cassis) or by foot. These natural steep-walled inlets formed millions of years ago are developed out of limestone and dolomite and are explored along the Mediterranean coast from Cassis to Marseille.
Make a short stop at Saint-Paul-de-Vence to see one of the oldest Medieval villages along the French Riviera. Art, in Saint Paul, has always been the dominant commercial activity here. While in town, don’t forget to visit the burial place of the Russian born painter, Marc Chagall in the local cemetery.
Take a private cooking class while in Provence to experience and understand the Mediterranean Cuisine with a French tradition. The idea cooking class would start out with a tour of a local market in search for the freshest of ingredients. You will then take those ingredients back to school where you will prepare a meal and afterwards sit down to enjoy the fruits of your labor.
For a tour off the beaten path, visit a privately owned goat farm. To really appreciate the famous Cheval French Cheeses one should see where and how it is made. There’s nothing like getting up close and meeting the sheep that provide the milk for the cheese you are taking home.
Visit the famous port city of Sanary-sur-Mer on Wednesdays. This commune in the Var department of Provence is famous for its Grand Marche (market) and was recently voted the number one market in Provence. Always, always arrive early, around eight o’clock for the best selections of fresh fruits and vegetables, cheeses, fish, poultry, tableware, clothing, leather goods, spices, jewelry and much more. Don’t forget to pick up foods for a quick lunch along the water. The sun is always shinning!
Before leaving for your trip to Provence, I suggest you take the time to read Peter Mayle’s book, “A Year in Provence.” This informative hilarious read gives you a true insight into what it really is like to live in Provence. You will experience Provence’s seasons, her food, her customs and of course her people. Who knows, you may even be able to track down some of the locations Mayle writes about in his book and experience them for yourself.
If you are looking for French antiques, you MUST visit L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue on a Sunday morning, year round. This village, near Avignon, is home to more than 300 outlets that sell antiques, glassware, china, linens, furniture, artwork and just about anything else you might be looking for. Prices range from a few Euros to thousands of Euros for the finer antiques. Oh, and did I mention the food market not to be missed? Arrive early. Parking can be difficult.
Last but not least, take the time to spend one early morning or late afternoon on a beach of the French Riviera. The beautiful sparkling sea and the rocky or sandy beaches with the pristine weather are not to be missed. I promise you won’t forget that sunrise or sunset and it will become your best souvenir.