‘Aix isn’t such a bad place to get lost in,’ I decided on more than one occasion this week when I found myself wandering the city’s winding pedestrian streets on what was supposed to be a direct route home from French class. On pavement marked with bronze stamps for the Route Cezanne, and past stucco buildings, fountains, statues, Romanesque facades and a couple Gothic cathedrals, past shops and a whiff of Lavender, past open air restaurants smelling of crepes and pizza, past the trinkets and fresh produce for sale in the city’s several market squares and across a few busy roads I found myself on a path one afternoon overlooking a lush neighborhood with a fantastic view of a Mount St. Victoire.

Despite the fact that I was, at this point, about a mile away from my home stay (oops!), Cezanne’s mountain became the highlight this unintentional tour of Aix-en-Provence. I’d seen its triangular stone faces in the artist’s paintings, framed by trees and buildings just as I saw it now in front of me. It was like seeing a celebrity pass on the street- only unlike Antonio Banderas I could look forward to getting to know it better at the Marchutz School, itself founded by Cezanne scholar and artist Leo Marchutz.

Realizing myself to be absolutely lost, I turned around and began to walk downhill toward the center of town to get my bearings. On the way I pass a few posters for the Atelier Cezanne and other museums, a few more maps of the Route Cezanne and a several art shops selling paintings of cityscapes and the mountain. As if I wasn’t excited already for a semester of painting, drawing and learning about art this would surely do it. I suspected these surprise explorations, which happened again several days in a row, were just the beginning of a semester of cultural and artistic novelties.

I passed modern art galleries and street painters, intricate Gothic cathedrals, Romanesque satuettes and shop fronts built who knows when in the past few decades. There is history of western art in the fabric of this city. Pretty cool, I thought, exhausted from walking in the hot Provencal sun and looking desperately for my street to turn on. I could use a little water, maybe a baguette. 

It was four days of circling this way through the western side until I discovered my rather direct route home cut though just a few blocks northeast of the Cours Mirabeau. Sure, I could have brought a map or maybe used a little more common sense. But had I not strayed from the sidewalk home I probably wouldn’t have realized how much in Aix there remains to be discovered, or even thought much about what I will.

Leave a Reply.