Sunday, October 23, 2005

Aix-en-Provence

On Friday we loaded up two buses again and drove to Aix-en-Provence. Aix-en-Provence dates back to Roman times and is now most notable for being the nearly lifelong home (born and died there) of 19th century Impressionist painter Paul Cézanne (some would call him a post-impressionist, though.) Apparently there are (or were) thermal springs in the area, which made it very appealing to the Romans (they loved their baths,) but I didn't see any while I was there.

We had a "moment" when the road was under construction and we were forced to take a déviation (detour), encountering a tiny little one-lane bridge located right on a turn in the road, but our skillful bus driver saw the crack of daylight between the guardrail and the bus and squeezed through. Once we got there, we had a little bit of a different experience than the rest of the day trips in that there wasn't much of a set itinerary; we were supposed to go along with the professor from our classes (closest to our major, for those with multiple professors) and do those assignment(s). I soon realized that, as usual, I had quite different intentions than the rest of the animation students, and I had forgotten my lunch on my dorm bed anyway, so I made a preemptive ditch before they had a chance to ditch me when I wasn't looking and got a focaccia sandwich at an inexpensive, nearby pizza stand that seemed popular with the locals. After this, I stopped at the sidewalk café of an Irish pub and had a café and sketched people for a couple hours.

After this, I wandered around the town a little, stopping at a pharmacy to pick up some drugs for my developing cough. The most interesting part of my visit was the Saint-Sauveur Cathedral. This was perhaps the most eclectic church I've been to, the bulk being Gothic but containing elements from Roman times all the way to the twentieth century. The Cloister (the smallest in Provence) was perhaps the most interesting part; we were fortunate to be let in on a 10-minute tour around the space given by a nice young lady who, discovering nearly everyone spoke English, gave the tour in her somewhat limited English (she had to pause every couple sentences to ask one of the others, a bilingual British man, the English word of something in French.) From what I could understand (and limited research on the web), the space itself dates all the way back to the 1st c. AD and was part of a Roman house. Later on (5th c.?), Christians began using it as a church and built it into what it is today. The baptistery has Renaissance columns now but the octagonal base dates back to the 5th century. And to top it off, the Gothic nave was furnished with a bizarre modern 20th c. altar and chairs.

After meeting everyone back at 3:30, we headed over to see Cézanne's studio. This was perhaps the highlight of the day, having the chance to see not only where he painted most of his famous paintings but also many of the actual objects from his still-life paintings. It was very insightful to see how meticulous and deliberate he was in every aspect of his painting process, beginning with the location and design of his studio, such as northern windows for the best light, etc.

Lighting was miserable again, but hey, whatever...


Cours Mirabeau; Aix-en-Provence


Eglise St-Jean de Malte; Aix-en-Provence


Statue in front of the Palais du Justice; Aix-en-Provence


Window of some significant 18 c. historical building (Hotel d'Albertas, I think.) An elderly lady saw me taking a photo and tried telling me about it, but all I could gather from her with my limited French was the approximate date of construction. Aix-en-Provence


Fountain in front of the same building; Aix-en-Provence


Statue adorning a doorway (Hotel Boyer de Fonscolombe, perhaps?); Aix-en-Provence


Underwater stones of a fountain; Aix-en-Provence


Fountain; Aix-en-Provence


I found out later from Dr. Williams (who also took a photo of the same sign) that this sign was apparently part of a famous ad campaign in the early 20th c.


Saint-Sauveur Cathedral; Aix-en-Provence


Baptistery of Saint-Sauveur Cathedral; Aix-en-Provence


View toward main nave (gothic) of Saint-Sauveur Cathedral; Aix-en-Provence


Cloister of Saint-Sauveur Cathedral; Aix-en-Provence


Column detail of cloister of Saint-Sauveur Cathedral; Aix-en-Provence

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