Day 36 – Aix en Provence

We had planned to have an easy day with two objectives: 1. Try and retrieve Matthew’s plasticine figures from the highway service centre where he had left them and 2. Check out Aix en Provence some 40 mins away. Due to road works we had trouble getting onto the highway. We eventually got onto it heading in the wrong direction and had to drive about 15kms before we could turn around. We found the service station in Rousset and Di enlisted a friendly English speaker to assist but there was no sign of the plasticine figures. We had some lunch and then headed off to Aix en Provence.

We arrived at Aix en Provence and tried to find a place to park near the city centre. After driving around for 10 mins we found a car parking station and parked. We then went for a walk in the alley ways of the Vieil Aix, which is the old city centre. We ambled up and down with no particular agenda taking in the various views. At one stage we found an old church, Aix Cathedral (Cath├ędrale Saint-Sauveur d’Aix). It is a Roman Catholic cathedral and the seat of the Archbishop of Aix. It is built on the site of the 1st century Roman forum of Aix. Built and re-built from the 12th until the 19th century, it includes Romanesque, Gothic and Neo-Gothic elements, as well as Roman columns and parts of the baptistery from a 6th century Christian church.

We wandered around until everyone was tired and then had some lunch at Quick and wandered back to the car. One of the challenges of driving around a strange city is finding how to get out of it. After a couple of attempts we found our way back on the highway and headed towards Saint Maximin. We had planned to eat at Saint Maximin and after parking found a pizza place that didn’t open until 7 pm. It was about 6:30 so we wandered around to kill time.

Di, Matthew and Sophie sat in the centre of town people watching while Chris explored the Basilica. It is now a listed monument, which was built on the site of an ancient Merovingian church, which formerly housed the relics of Saint Mary Madgalene. It was erected between the 13th and 16th centuries in 3 successive phases. The Basilica is remarkably furnished: its nave harbours the great organs (listed monuments) built in 1773 by brother Isnard of the Couvent de Tarascon monastery, while the chancel is adorned with a carved wood and gold leaf halo portraying the Rapture of Mary Magdalene, also a listed monument. The Saint-Maximin Basilica is Provence’s largest Gothic building, measuring 72.6 m in length and 32.7 m in width. The vaulted, cross-ribbed nave is 29.7 metres high.

Having visited the basilica Chris collected the others and headed towards the pizza restaurant.

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