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Aix en Provence: The Way to Cours Mirabeau

Negotiating our way out of Marseille is a breeze. Back en route on the toll-free A51, we are heading to Aix-en-Provence. Without air conditioning in the car, we are roasting in the hot provençal sun, particularly Mr G who got sunburnt during our afternoon on the beach in Nice.

The trip to Aix does not take very long as we are soon following signs indicating that we are almost at this major university town. Aix-en-Provence is home of the impressionist Paul Cezanne and the novelist Emile Zola, a significant town that attracts painters, musicians and intellectuals. Celebrated for its Musee Atelier de Paul Cezanne, the Cathedrale St-Sauveur, its lavender, soaps, herbs and spices as well as the calissons d’Aix, oval shaped gourmandises, and the santons, clay figures of Provencal people and Christmas figurines of various sizes, it is also home to the Cours Mirabeau, our prime destination.

Outside the Champs-Elysees, Cours Mirabeau is often referred to as France’s most prestigious main street. It runs for about 300 metres in length and is notably wide and lined up with intertwining trees and four fountains, including the 1691 Fontaine des Neuf Canons. Cafe culture has a life of its own with elegant people and students gather over a cafe or a Perrier.

We want to join them.

Approaching the centre of Aix, we try to locate a sign pointing to Cours Mirabeau. With one map of all of France with main roads and no detailed street map of Aix, our chances are not looking too good.

We drive into sens unique streets and dead ends. We loop around and backtrack trying to find the way to the main street. We get as far as the university and become well acquainted with the residential areas of Aix. But the Cours Mirabeau? No such luck.

We manage to get ourselves totally lost. Eventually, we stop at a service station and asked the attendant for directions and resume the drive. Sadly, all our efforts are in vain. Mr G, who must have circled the town for no less than forty minutes, was getting a little irritable.

“What did we come here to see and do anyway?” he asks me in a tone that can only mean he did not bother to read the elaborate, typed travel notes I spent numerous days compiling.

“We want to have a café or a pastis on the Cours Mirabeau.”

“You mean all this driving around in circles is just for a drink?” he chimes.

“And to watch the men play a game of boules.”

Realising how ridiculous the idea must have sounded to him, I tell him to forget about it but he decides to try once more. This time, I see a sign indicating the way to Cours Mirabeau but we have to go on foot. Stuck in a one way street without parking, the heat in the car is flaming tempers. We agree to give it a miss and continue along towards Avignon, our destination for the night.

Driving quietly along the A8 autoroute, we’re hot, tired and frustrated. The sun is blazing hot turning the car into an oven. I switch on the radio hoping that the French music will fill the thick air with some ambiance.

I am disappointed for being so close and yet not finding Cours Mirabeau. My thoughts turn to the scene from “European Vacation” where the Griswalds are stuck in the car and can’t get t to Big Ben.

I have one comforting thought. Next time. La prochaine fois.

… continues tomorrow

Le Tour de France Gourmantic’ series is the story of a young couple from Australia who took to the French roads on a whirlwind Tour of France back when the internet wasn’t at everyone’s fingertips, phones were still attached to sockets, GPS was an unfamiliar acronym, digital cameras were a pipe dream and the Euro hadn’t replaced French Francs. With just one fold-out map of France and boundless enthusiasm, they took their Renault 19 and went on a cultural and culinary discovery.



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About the author

Corinne Mossati

Corinne Mossati is the Founder/Editor of popular online magazine Gourmantic and Cocktails & Bars, a website dedicated to cocktail culture and the discerning drinker. She is named in Australian Bartender Magazine’s Top 100 Most Influential List since 2013, is a member of The Academy responsible for judging the World’s 50 Best Bars. She has also judged the inaugural Australasian Whisky Awards and various national cocktail competitions.


  • Arrrggggggh! Sounds so frustrating! I think it’s that sense of squandering precious “experience” time that really gets you. That little clock is ticking in the back of your mind, reminding you that before you know it you’ll be slumped in an airport lounge, waiting to board the first leg of a long flight home.

    Great story though… goes to show that even if things don’t go to plan, you still have a special memory of the time and place!

    • Martin, the biggest lesson from the trip was how much we underestimated everything! Remember, this was before the availability of the internet and techy gadgets, so a positive mindset and joie de vivre were crucial. One day, we’ll get there for that pastis and game of boules!

  • So you really didn’t make it? Awww…I love Aix. My girl friends and I rented bikes and travelled through lavender and sunflower fields to Mount Ventoux. Sounds so cliché, but we really *did* that and loved it. Loved it. We had to skip pastis, though! LOL!

    You must, you must go back! I ought to as well. 1996 was my last visit…a backpacking trip after University 🙂 Also pre-digital age…

    • Unfortunately, there was no time and Aix warrants a longer stay than just a stopover en route.
      Your bike riding through it sounds awesome! Nothing like experiencing the scenery at a slow pace.

  • What a pity you didn’t make it. I have wonderful memories of Aix, particularly of a long lunch on the very street you missed. It’s an incredible town, and one I happily got myself lost in several times. I suppose the level of tension is so much tighter however, when you didn’t intend to get lost!