Since covering a maternity role at work I have been lucky enough to travel to the beautiful Aix-en-Provence (in the South of France) a number of times, as we have an office based there. On my last trip in the middle March I managed to swing it so my days in the office straddled a weekend so that Andrew could join me for a couple of nights. When you travel somewhere for work you often don’t get the chance to explore, especially in Aix as the office is based in an industrial estate about a 20 minute drive outside of the city.
Andrew arrived into Marseille at about lunchtime on the Saturday and I decided to meet him downtown to spend the day exploring this port city. Marseille is the oldest city in France and is most famous for its trade with the Mediterranean through its port. The old port is still the hub of this rugged city and has actually hindered its tourism development.
We wandered the north side of the port which was bustling with people. The sun was shining and we found a restaurant off the main drag to refuel. Further around the point we saw the Fort Saint Jean, a 17th century fortress which stands guard on the coastline. The Mucem – the Museum of European and Mediterranean Civilisations – is a very pretty building, surrounded by water on three sides and the exterior is covered with a skin of intricate concrete lace. We admired from the outside before finding ourselves at the steps of Cathedral La Major, another very beautiful and opulent building.
Walking up through the artsy street of Marseille’s Le Panier neighbourhood and back toward the bus station I told Andrew to expect much more from the quaint and more beautiful city of Aix, as I could tell he was feeling underwhelmed with Marseille, just as I was also. After a week of having dinner alone I was looking forward to showing Andrew some of the amazing restaurants has on offer. For our first night out we went to Vintrepide, a gourmet restaurant that prides itself on fresh and local produce from the heart of the Provencal region. Everything we had was delightful and I hope to return on another work trip!
The plan for Sunday was a bit undecided, I had a few recommendations from colleagues, one being hiking the famous Sainte Victoire mountain. But with recent running injuries Andrew was keen for a more relaxed day. So, after a delicious brunch at Mana Espresso we made our way out to the Chateau la Coste winery about a 20 minute drive outside of Aix. Here there is an Art and Architecture Walk through the wooded hilltops and valleys alongside the vine fields, showcasing around 30 pieces of contemporary art. The walk, at a leisurely pace, takes around 2 hours visiting, and sometimes interacting with, each piece along the trail. It was a really lovely way to spend the day and afterwards we sat outside in the terrace café and enjoyed a simple, but yummy, late lunch.
Back in Aix we spent the beautiful evening strolling the streets of Aix. There was an epic sunset. We ate duck. We relaxed in the hotel sauna and spa. It was the perfect end to a weekend escape.
Aix-en-Provence is a great place to spend a weekend away. The city itself is compact but has loads on offer, from restaurants and bars to museums, galleries and boutique shops. There’s also the opportunity to easily escape to the countryside to enjoy a bit of hiking or wine, whatever you fancy!