mercredi 3 mai 2006

Aix-en-Provence is a somewhat famous town about 30 minutes northeast of Marseille. Alain and I have been to visit several times. The general feelings of the Marseillais towards Aix is that it is a snobby, stuck-up town, that is nice to visit sometimes, but you wouldn't want to live there. The general feelings of the Aixois towards Marseille is that is a dirty, noisy, big city. I guess both are correct.

From the guidebook- "Provence's former capital is an international student's town, with one of the region's most cosmopolitan streets of restaurants and bars, rue de la Verrerie. The University was founded by Louis II of Anjou in 1409 and flourished under his son, Good King René. Another wave of prosperity transformed the city in the 17th century, when ramparts, first raised by the Romans in their town of Aquae Sextiae, were pulled down, and the mansion-lined cours Mirabeau was built. Aix's renowned fountains were added in the 18th century. "

Sights to see in Aix-

the Old Town, with a 17th century City Hall, 16th century clock tower
Roman baths
18th Century spa complex
Cathédrale St-Sauveur (with a 4th century baptistry, 2nd century columns, etc)
Musée des Tapisseries
Musée du Vieil Aix
Muséum d'Histoire Naturelle
Paul Cezanne's Atelier (Is that Cezanne coming out of his atelier? ->)

From one of my favorite authors about life in Provence, Peter Mayle "A Year in Provence"

"The road leads into Aix at the end of the most handsome main street in France. The Cours Mirebeau is beautiful at any time of the year, but at its best between spring and autumn, when the plane trees form a pale green tunnel five hundred yards long. The diffused sunlight, the four fountains along the center of the Cours' length...

Over the years, a nice geographical distinction has eveolved between work and more frivolous activities. On the shade side of the street, appropirately, are the banks and insurance companies and property agents and lawyers. On the sunny side are the cafés.

I have liked almost every café that I have been to in France, even the ratty little ones in tiny villages where the flies are more plentiful than customers, but I have a soft spot for the sprawling cafés of the Cours Mirabeau, and the softest spot of all for the Deux Garçons...

Aix is a university town, and there is clearly something in the curriculum that attracts pretty students... They are taking a degree course in café deportment, with a syllabus divided into four parts.

One: The Arrival

One must always arrive as conspicuously as possible, preferably on the back of crimson Kawasaki 750 motorcycle driven by a young man in head-to-toe black leather and a three-day stubble..

Two: The Entrance

Sunglasses must be kept on until an acquaintance is identified at one of the tables, but one must not appear to be looking for company. Instead, the impression should be that one is heading into the café to make a phone call to one's titled Italian admirer, when - quelle surprise!- one sees a friend. The sunglasses can then be removed and the hair tossed while one is pursuaded to sit down.

Three: Ritual Kissing

Everyone at the table must be kissed at least twice, often three times, and in special cases four times. Those being kissed should remain seated, allowing the new arrival to bend and swoop around the table, tossing her hair, getting in the way of the waiters, and generally making her presence felt.

Four: Table Manners

Once seated, sunglasses should be put back on to permit the discreet study of one's own reflection in the café windows- not for reasons of narcissism, but to check important details of technique: the way one lights a cigarette, or sucks the straw in a Perrier menthe, or nibbles daintity on a sugar lump. If these are satisfactory, the glasses can be adjusted downward so that they rest charmingly on the end of the nose, and attention can be given to the other occupants of the table.

I imagine there must be the occasional break for academic work in between these hectic periods of social study, but I have never seen a textbook darken the café tables, nor heard any discussion of higher calculus or political science..."

1 commentaires:

Michael J. Farrand a dit…

You can read more about Marius and his fight with the Teutons at Aquae Sextiae in my poem "The Man Who Saved History".

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