Public Spaces in Aix-en-Provence and Avignon

Aix has a proper toursit office that sees millions of people passing through every year. They weren't sure about bike rentals though. It turns out they still had brochures of a bike rental place that had moved. when we checked it out and mentioned it to the owner, he answered that it is OK. They will eventually run out of the old brochures.

Karen and I choose to go on holidays in April, after November usually the crappiest month in Ottawa. The snow is gone, the land is brown, the rain is cold and the winds are nasty. Temperatures hover between -5 and +10 C or so. Many Canadians escape winter in February and fly to a resort in the Carribean, but we actually like the winter. But April, no thank you.

Aix has a proper toursit office that sees millions of people passing through every year. They weren't sure about bike rentals though. It turns out they still had brochures of a bike rental place that had moved. when we checked it out and mentioned it to the owner, he answered that it is OK. They will eventually run out of the old brochures.
Aix has a proper tourist office that sees millions of people passing through every year. They weren’t sure about bike rentals though. It turns out they still had brochures of a bike rental place that had moved. When we checked it out and mentioned it to the owner, he answered that it is OK:”They will eventually run out of the old brochures”.

Last year we were in New Orleans, but this year it was time to visit the family in Holland again. But Holland’s weather is iffy in April too so we opted for a rendez vous in Italy. But one doesn’t fly for a weekend to Italy, so we cobbled together a three week holiday with stays in Aix, Avignon, a small town near San Remo in Italy and a few days in Nice to top it off.

The trip was smooth: an Air France bus ride to Montreal, a Boeing to Paris, another flight to Marseille and after we picked up the luggage at the small airport, we hopped on the local bus that brought us in 20 minutes or so to Aix.

While many of you will admire the pics on your smart phone, the pictures are best watched on a bigger screen as some are panorama pictures. I won’t bother you with our 700 holiday pics though. Instead I share some blog posts with great pictures of public spaces. This week, Aix and Avignon.

Aix and Avignon are both old towns in the Provence, an area in the south of France.  You can read up on them on their respective Wikipedia pages. First a few pictures from public spaces in Aix-en-Provence.

Aix-en-Provence

One of the markets in the old town of Aix: Place de l'Hôtel de Ville (panorama picture)
One of the markets in the old town of Aix: Place de l’Hôtel de Ville (panorama picture) Click for larger image.
The light is great.
The light is great, and that was the reason why Vincent van Gogh moved from rainy Netherlands to the south of France. No more potatoes for dinner.
Cours Mirabeau was always a place where people met, but recently renovated with large pedestrian areas and little road traffic.
Cours Mirabeau was always a place where people met, but recently renovated with large pedestrian areas and little car traffic.
Place Francois Villon, next to the Tourist office in Aix. Panorama picture. Click on the image for a larger image.
Place Francois Villon, next to the Tourist office in Aix. Panorama picture. Click on the image for a larger picture.

The square above looks a wee empty, but we didn’t always take pictures at the most social part of the day, lunch or evening. Note the creative paving being used in many of the squares. The benches and even the design garbage cans.

Aix is a quite a maze, but I am pretty sure this is Rue Maréchal Foch.
Aix is a quite a maze, but I am pretty sure this is Rue Maréchal Foch.

If you walk into Aix, all your sense of direction is lost. There is absolutely no way to figure out where you are, and that is OK. Nothing beats getting lost and discover great little squares. Of course, that fantastic patisserie that you were sure going to go back, is impossible to find again no matter how systematic you retrace your steps. But fortunately, you’ll find an even better patisserie (with even higher prices).

Everything is broad in on a foldable bike and a trailer. Who needs a Ford 150?
Everything is brought in on a foldable bike and a trailer. Who needs a Ford 150?

Avignon

At some point in time in the 1400’s, the catholic church saw disagreements about a new pope. A number of cardinals supported another pope so now there were two popes. The ‘other’ pope set up shop in Avignon. Of course a pope doesn’t live in a semi-detached so a proper home had to be built.

Subsequent popes didn’t think it was big enough for their needs so the place kept expanding. Eventually they all agreed on one pope again and the place fell into disarray. Later in history it was used for French troops and finally someone recognised that Asian tourists might love to take selfies in front of it and so it was all restored again.

the square in front of the Palace of the Popes. It is huge. Early in the tourist season it was nice and quiet, but expect throngs of people in the high season.
The square in front of the Palace of the Popes. It is huge. Early in the tourist season it was nice and quiet, but expect throngs of people in the high season.
Here is a view from the top of the tower. Notice that the patios don't have fences and all seems to work fine anyway. And yes, they serve alcohol.
Here is a view from the top of the tower of the Papal palace. Notice that the patios don’t have fences and all seems to work fine anyway. And yes, they serve alcohol.
Place d'Horloge in Avigonon, just south of the Palais des Papes.
Place d’Horloge in Avignon, just south of the Palais des Papes. Car free, to attract more customers.
Just south of the Tourist office in Avigonon is the Place Agricol Perdiguier, a lovely urban park to linger and have home made lunches (or those desserts from the patisserie you weren't able to pass without buying millefeuille.
Just south of the tourist office in Avignon is the Place Agricol Perdiguier, a lovely urban park to linger and enjoy home made lunches (or those desserts from the patisserie you weren’t able to pass without buying millefeuille).
Ah voila, La France comme nous voulons nous souvenir: Place des Corps Saints.
Ah voila, La France comme nous voulons nous souvenir: Place des Corps Saints.

One of our favourite places in Avignon was Place Pie. While looking it up on Google Street View, I noticed the entire square has been redone. Streetview shows a bit of a mix of 2010 and 2014 and even 2008 images (Charles AM would love such a discovery). At some point there were two lanes running diagonally through the square, dividing it in half. It looks like the whole square was redone in a much smarter way.

Place Pie in 2010 There are two traffic lanes crossing the square (Google screen grab)
Place Pie in 2010: there are two traffic lanes crossing the square (Google screen grab).
Place Pie 2014: traffic, including buses are rerouted along the dark wall on the right. This is actually a green living wall, stuck to Les Halles.
Place Pie 2014: traffic, including buses, are rerouted along the dark wall on the right, freeing up the space for pedestrians. The darkish wall is actually a  living wall, stuck to Les Halles. (panorama pic, click on pic for bigger image)

How many cars did you see in those pictures? And how many people?

I have tons more pictures and over the next few weeks I will post many more. I hope it gives some food for thought for our North American cities to be more innovative, more creative with space and more forward looking. For now, we’ll keep counting Ottawa tail pipes here at many potential places for people.

All photos by Hans Moor, except the Google Screen Grab. I am happy when you use and share the images, but I ‘d appreciate you mention the source.

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