After a yummy dinner at Chops, we were up bright and early (some of us were less bright than others, but we were all at least up!) to meet our tour: Aix on Your Own. I booked this though Royal Caribbean. I NEVER book through the cruise ship as I can always find better tours on my own, but we had some Cruise Credit, and this was really just transportation up to Aix and back to the ship and it was only 4ish hours which I figured was a good amount of time for our first day.
So at 9:20 we all assembled in the theater and waited for our group to be called…which it was, finally. Another reason I usually don’t book tours through the ship is because I really don’t like being tied to someone else’s schedule…I’m not sure if you have noticed, but I am a bit of a type A person. But really, I was going to try and just go with the flow on this one…try.
The port at Marseille is a bit of an industrial area, which I knew and that was why I wanted to go up to Aix. I wanted to get a bit of that Provence feeling. Aix is certainly a good place to do that!
The wide cobblestone streets, fountains EVERYWHERE!!! In fact, we couldn’t turn a corner without another cute little square with a pretty fountain there…or a playground…or a merry-go-round!
We had a map, but as we’ve already covered, I’m not super good at those so once again we were wandering aimlessly from cute street to cute street; hardly a tragedy!
Of course the architecture is amazing every which way you turn. And as usually happens when I am “following the map” we stumbled into one of mom and my’s favorite things: The local Farmer’s Market!
The food is so fresh and the colors are so vibrant! It truly is a feast for the senses. Especially in Provence, with the scents of garlic and lavender in the air.
We continued wandering around and finally found what we were originally looking for…Place de l’Hôtel de Ville, the town square.
This is the site of the former Halle de Grain (corn exchange) and the center of the merchant trade in Aix. It is a mostly pedestrian square with cafès and shops lining three sides of the square and the impressive Hôtel de Ville taking up the fourth side.
Next to the Town Hall, is a clock, originally erected in 1510.
After admiring the square and checking out some of the cute shops, we headed towards the Cours Mirabeau. This is a wide tree lined street, now dotted with tchotchke shops and cafès, including the now famous Les Deux Garçons: watering hole for famed writers such as Paul Cézanne and Ernest Hemingway. This street is also the dividing line between the old town, where we had already been wandering, and the new town.
We decided it was time for lunch, and as it was nearing 100 degrees, it was certainly time for a cold beverage. We stopped at a restaurant that looked like it had immediate seating…and we quickly realized why…they were not very tourist friendly and even made some comments in French about our party. Since I speak the language fairly well and I certainly know my insults, we took the hint and left without ordering. I was probably crankier than the rest about it, but everything happens for a reason, and we then moved to La Piazza Papa. Yes, a pizza place. But the service was friendly and the food was good!
After eating and relaxing a bit, we decided to venture back out into the afternoon heat…well we made it as far as the first Gelato shop we saw!! I’m not kidding you, it was HOT!!
You can see the shop behind this big rock fountain thing…Giovanni Gelateria…and if you are ever in Aix you should find this place and order all of the gelato. The flavors were amazing and the girl behind the counter was so awesome!! Such a difference from our crabby first restaurant stop. Oh…if you see that big rock fountain, yeah. Well its covered in bees. Consider your self warned.
We wandered a bit in the new town, but for real it was hot so we decided to head to the statue/fountain that was our meeting place for the bus back. We were early for sure, but there was a cafè with cold beverages and free wifi so we sat there until it was time to board the bus back to the ship.
The bus ride back was uneventful, pretty much everyone was hot, tired and glad to be sitting. I had originally thought that since this tour was only a half day tour, we could visit the Old Port area if we had the time and inclination. Well, we certainly had the time but no one really had the inclination so we just boarded the air conditioned ship and chilled out until our dinner reservations at Giovanni’s table.
Our next four ports we had full day tours scheduled so this half day was a good break between our full days in Barcelona and what was to come…No more half days for us, but plenty of heat!
Next stop? Nice!