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Walking in the Footsteps of Paul Cézanne in Aix

It’s 8:30 am and I’m walking west on the Cours Mirabeau toward the Fontaine de la Rotonde. The Cours is temporarily lined with wooden stalls for vendors working the holiday market — santoniers with their clay nativity figures, clothiers, toymakers, specialty food vendors, artists. The stalls are beginning to open, but the street is otherwise almost empty on this cold November morning.

I stop at the Café Le Grillon, one of the many that line the Cours. It’s warm and quiet inside. I head to the polished wooden bar and order an espresso. Next to me on the bar is a plate of buttered baguettes and a bowl of freshly baked croissants. Down the bar, well-dressed men drink coffee, read newspapers, share observations. A local group, it seems, engaged in a morning ritual.

The interior of the Grillon is intimate and handsome. Wooden tables and chairs, the polished wooden bar, dark green banquettes, black and white tiled floor, polished wood wainscoting, ochre plaster walls with mirrors, and an ornate gold crown moulding and border festooned with ceramic cicadas. One of the walls holds a large portrait of the linguist and poet, Fréderic Mistral. The wait staff wear black pants, white shirts, and white aprons. To the left and behind the bar, a narrow wooden stairway climbs steeply to the second floor where I find an even more ornate belle epoque dining room and the toilet.

Refuelled and relieved, I leave the Grillon and continue down the Cours to the Office de Tourisme. It’s open but still empty, save for the agents waiting patiently at their windows for the morning press of tourists seeking advice and tickets. A carefully curated museum-style exhibit features items salvaged from decades of infrastructure projects in the streets and public buildings of Aix.

Footsteps of Paul Cézanne Aix

I grab a copy of Sur Les Pas de Cezanne, the popular guide to the many sites in Aix associated with the life and work of Paul Cézanne.

Continue reading here for more about Paul Cézanne in the original blog post “The Ghost of Aix” by Bro Adams.

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William Adams

William Adams

William D. Adams served as the 10th Chair of the National Endowment of the Humanities from 2014-2017. Upon leaving NEH, Adams was named a Senior Fellow at the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation in New York, where he continued his national advocacy on behalf of the humanities. Prior to NEH, Adams served as President of Colby College from 2000-2014 and as President of Bucknell University from 1995-2000. He and his wife, Lauren Sterling, have a house in Puyloubier, France, where he is working on a book about the French phenomenologist Maurice Merleau-Ponty and the painter Paul Cézanne.

Follow William on his blog Bro Adams

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