My semester in Aix-en-Provence, France was the most incredible semester of my life. From my home base in Aix, I was able to travel all across Europe and all over the gorgeous region of Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur in southeast France. Here are some cities that you shouldn’t miss!
Marseille is the second largest city in France (population wise) and has more museums, churches, and cultural activities than you can dream of! My must-sees in Marseille are the Vieux Port (Old Port), Notre Dame de la Guarde Cathedral (it’s a long hike up a huge hill, as seen in this picture, but the sweeping views of the city and the Mediterranean are worth it!), and Chateau d’If, the prison that held the fictional Count of Monte Cristo and several real prisoners (it’s only a short ferry ride off of the coast).
|Meghan in Marseille (left) and the ancient amphitheater in Arles (right)|
Home to Roman ruins and Van Gough, Arles is steeped in history! Have a café au lait at a Café Van Gough and be sure to visit the ancient amphitheater.
Home to Popes in the 14th century, Avignon is a blustery historical treat. The famous Pont d’Avignon (immortalized in the children’s song) is a huge draw, as is the Pope’s Palace. Be wary, though, geographically it’s in the direct path of Le Mistral, the strong wind that hits Provence.
Cassis is famous for its calanques, the white rock cliffs that line the shore. Its pebble beaches are gorgeous places for picnics and sunbathing while enjoying some delicious lavender ice cream, something that you have to try at least once before leaving Provence.
|Cassis (left), La Ciotat (right)|
5. La Ciotat
Palm trees line the sandy beaches of La Ciotat, another essential beach town. The Sunday market along the port is filled with herbs, cheeses, scarves, and desserts, all at ridiculously affordable prices.
6. Fontaine de Vaucluse
The breathtaking source of the Sorgue River, Fontaine de Vaucluse is the perfect picnic spot surrounded by nature, yet within walking distance of the town itself.
|Fontaine de Vaucluse (left), L'Isle-sur-la-Sorgue (right)|
Known as the “Venice of France” because of its canals, Ile-sur-la-Sorgue is a quintessentially Provençal market town. The market stretches across the entire town and includes produce areas, traditional Provençal goods, herbs, and a separate antique market.
Voted one of the most beautiful towns in France, Gordes sprawls down a hill overlooking the open countryside. Stop at Le Cercle Républicain café’s terrace for the best view of the Luberon valley.
|Gordes (left), Les Baux de Provence (right)|
9. Les Baux de Provence
A ruined medieval castle, Les Baux de Provence boasts a host of real siege engines and a stellar view of Provence from its highest towers, but walk cautiously—many of the stairs are gone or crumbling.
10. St Tropez
Yes, St. Tropez is where a lot of celebrities vacation, but its port and beaches are reasons for anyone to visit. Have a Tarte Tropezienne for dessert—a delectable cream filled local treat!
|St Tropez (left), Nice (right)|
Walk along the Promenade des Anglais after eating a Salade niçoise. Relax on the pebble beach and see the inspiration for the works of painters Marc Chagall, Henri Matisse, Niki de Saint Phalle and Arman.
I don’t have the words to describe how much I love Aix. Its twisting backstreets and famously grand main street the Cours Mirabeau are home to many different and unique shops selling anything you could imagine. People watching from Les Deux Garçons café, hiking the mountain Ste. Victoire, visiting Paul Cezanne’s studio, and eating Pizza Capri in Parc Jourdan are only a few of the things that I miss about this cozy little city. If you have the chance, you absolutely must see its charm for yourself!
Meghan Yusk is a CEA alumna (Aix-en-Provence Spring ’14). She is an Alumni Ambassador and senior at Carthage College.
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