On a stormy autumn day in October, friend John and I visited Aix-en-Provence and nearby village Vauvenargues, by a rented voiturette. The two places are not more than about 35 kilometres from Marseille. Not taking the highway kept us closer to the attractive landscape of Provence. Aix is known for its most famous citizen, the post-impressionist painter Paul Cezanne who was captivated by the colorful mountainous landscape around him. Today, Aix en Provence has become a popular university centre for international students, bringing youth from all over the world to this historic place.
Before proceeding to Vauvenargues, we had a coffee at well-known Les Deux Garçons, a café and restaurant that dates back to 1660, but the name refers to the two waiters who bought it in 1840. The place has been frequented by famous individuals like singer Edith Piaf, writer Jean Cocteau, statesman Winston Churchill, Cezanne, Picasso, and others. Spanish painter Pablo Picasso spent most of his life in France, from 1904 onward, first in Paris and later in the south, he bought the Château Vauvenargues in 1958. Paul Cezanne was an inspiration to him, and living here triggered a most creative and productive period.
Today, Château Vauvenargues is known as Picasso’s castle. It is situated in the foothills of Mont Sainte Victoire, the mountain that inspired Cezanne so deeply. Picasso’s body has been buried here as well, and the castle, now owned by one of his daughters, attracts regular visitors to the petit and picturesque village of Vauvenargues.