When in Provence, do tour Aix-en-Provence. My top tip for visiting this elegant and historically rich city is to decide before you go how you want to see it. If you go without choosing your focus you may be disappointed. The city has a cosmopolitan flair and you tend to hear a lot of English from many tourists as well as international students. It’s one of Provence’s larger cities and you can get lost in the common city atmosphere and not see the hidden treasures.
The angles from which you can explore are numerous: the steps of Cezanne, Roman heritage, from fountain to fountain, remarkable door photography, gourmet tours, or perhaps just café sipping and people watching. To this list I’m going to add one more possible focus that you may not typically hear the tourist office talk about – a wellness day in Aix.
My “tour Aix-en-Provence” focus this last Monday was for my well-being. Every once in a while I like to take a day for me and fill it up with pleasures and treasures that help me refocus my energies. In a sense, it’s my opportunity to step back from my emotional world and see myself through an objective lens.
This particular well-being day started with Reiki – something I had never done before. My appointment was with Caroline Guyot who started her Aix based company called Energy En Provence last year. After many years in advertising with the New York Times in Paris she decided to make a drastic career change and commit herself to healing people through natural medicine. From reflexology to magnetic Reiki healing sessions and massage she divides her time between volunteering at the hospital with cancer patients, working with children and helping adults gain healthier lifestyles.
I left the 45-minute session feeling disconnected to my body. That might sound strange but it was a calming feeling that still feels apart of me three days later. The weight of my body and the awareness of my mind separated from each other. This session was a moment to reconnect with who I am outside of my physical body, vulnerabilities and monotonous activities. I left feeling “connected” through a human exchange of natural energies.
So what do you do when you feel relaxed, energized and in sync with yourself? For one, you walk around open to the world. My tunnel vision had disappeared and my desire to really see the people and details around me became empowering. I saw life moving and going on in front of me and it brought a smile to my face. Even the beggar smiled in a way that told me to take more time to make eye contact with strangers.
Next part to a wellness day in Aix is to treat yourself to a splendid bistro lunch. I went to Bistrot des Philosophes at La Place des Cardeurs which is just behind the city hall. Whether you choose the outdoor or indoor seating, the atmosphere is warm and esthetically pleasing. The bistro service is simple yet the food is nicely presented and portions are not lacking.
After a glass of wine, just cooked tuna with Jerusalem artichoke purée, homemade iced-cream based Calisson and a very French espresso shot I was on my feat again (a little slower than before) to roam the ancient streets and capture detail. I stopped at my favorite fountain with the goal of seeing it in as many angles as possible – my analogy to bring more focus to a “wellness” day.
I stopped a few times to photograph streets, light and shadows. I find photography also helps me step back from myself to better see the world around me. Curiously, when I was editing my pictures I saw something I hadn’t seen when I took the picture. I was aiming at the beautiful building in the distance all lit up by the sunshine and trying to contrast it with the darkness from the buildings blocking the sun close to me. Little did I know that I also captured a sign that says, “Institut de Sourire” (The Institute of Smiles).