Archive for the ‘Patrimoine’ Category

Perhaps you have noticed that the bust of politician Victor Leydet is back on its plinth at the Place Jeanne d’Arc, next to the Rotonde?  It was put back there on 18th December, 110 years to the day from its inauguration.

So who was Victor Leydet and what is the story of this statue?

Born in Aix in 1845, he went to school at what is now the college Mignet before finding work as a shop assistant in town.  He was soon running a local business dealing in almonds, oils and drinks, and married Louise Lucie Ely, sister of well-known Aix photographer Henri Ely – their premises are still in the Passage Agard.  He became involved in politics becoming adjoint au maire d’Aix, conseiller général, député and sénateur in Paris.

Back in 1879, Leydet bought 40 rue Villeverte, now named rue Victor Leydet, where his descedants still live.

When he died in Paris in 1908, sculptor Auguste Carli was commissioned to create a monument to him in his home town. Unfortunately this was requisitioned in 1942 by the Vichy regime under orders from the Nazis who were seizing metals for use in armaments.  It was replaced in 1951 by a marble bust from the Leydet tomb at the cimetière Saint-Pierre.  After decades in place, this bust was moved in 2012 when the area around the Rotonde was renovated.

A new version in bronze has been created and that’s what we can see today.  There was no ceremony – that will have to wait until it’s safe to celebrate the statue and the life of Victor Leydet.  Thanks to Dympna for sending details and photos to Aixcentric.


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With so many things closed right now, maybe seizing the opportunity of a sunny January day to wrap up and have a walk round some purely Provencal sites might be just the ticket to lift the spirits; and if you’re not in Provence right now, this may be useful for when you are!

Seven Self-Guided Walks

  1. Aix: In the Footsteps of Cezanne. If you are new to Aix, this is a good guide to the locations where the painter was born, lived, died, cafes he frequented and so on.  You have to look for the little markers in the pavement (photo).  The tourist office have a downloadable guide: https://www.aixenprovencetourism.com/en/destination/hiking-and-themed-tours/in-the-steps-of-cezanne/ 


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Photo from La Provence

Buildings in rue Granet in Aix’s centre ville were evacuated on Monday evening when ‘travaux’ on a ground-floor apartment led to the vaulting in the cave below giving way.  Residents in flats above were told to leave immediately followed by all from numbers 21-25.  No-one was hurt and of the 63 people affected, 32 went to 5 hotels with the rest moved to temporary accommodation at Les Milles. (more…)

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Aix – Camels Cancelled

The annual Epiphany celebration which normally takes place in centre-ville early January has been cancelled: the organisers felt that there was no way of socially-distancing the procession of kings, shepherds, Provencal dancers and children – or indeed the numbers of people who line the streets to see them go by.

They hope this popular event will be back in 2022.

At least the Aixois can still tuck into the traditional galettes des rois on sale at all the bakeries early New YearYou can choose between the version with candied fruit (the jewels on the crown) or the traditional Provencal galette which has a sweet almond filling.

Remember to watch out for the little figurine or feve inside!

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In true cinematic style, Cannes is decorating itself with light, colour and sparkle to illuminate the last days of 2020 and send out a message which is ‘joyeux et positif’. Luminographe Gaspare di Caro has been invited in to bathe public buildings with light – here’s a taste:

Notre Dame de Bon Voyage

The ancient tower and chapel above the old quartier

Malmaison, the delightful gallery on the Croisette

And there’s even a competition for the locals to get in on the fun by decorating their balconies and having celebrations in their neighbourhoods. A very joyful and positive end to 2020.  Chapeau Cannes!


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At last – and it’s official: (more…)

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Two Cycle Races for 2021

The itinerary for the 2021 Tour de France has been published and happily there will be a chance to watch it in person in Provence.


The key date for us is Wednesday 7th July when the intrepid cyclists will face a double ascent of the iconic Mont Ventoux, on the same day. The gruelling climb will feature twice on Stage 11, with riders starting on the easiest of the three sides at Sault – 26km at an average gradient of 4.6 per cent – then tackling its hardest side from Bedoin – 21km at 7.5 per cent.

Going to watch the Tour de France is, in my book, an unforgettable experience.  Sure there’s lots of waiting around as you have to bag your spot early but the atmosphere, the colourful ‘caravan’ procession, and finally the cyclists whizzing past make it worthwhile.  The good thing about these long climbs is that there are lots of vantage points and the riders are slowed down by the gradient.

In the meantime, there’s the Tour de la Provence which takes place 11-14th February 2021.  Not much detail online yet – will post when it’s available.




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The BBC have just screened a documentary on the fire at Notre Dame which had me on the edge of the sofa.

When the raging fire started in the 14th century cathedral on 15 April 2019, there were fears that the priceless structure would be burned to the ground. The pompiers arrived fast and viewers shared their efforts to prevent catastrophic damage to the building’s interior. This documentary analyses how the fire began, featuring footage from film-makers the Naudet brothers and testimony from the firefighters themselves.

The head of the Paris Fire brigade was shown making literally life-or-death decisions; we saw a young pompier only just qualified, on her first call-out climbing the tight spiral staircase in intense heat with 30kg of equipment on her back; the arrival of a shell-shocked President Macron was filmed; and we witnessed the complex saving of relics which included Christ’s crown of thorns.

The pompers wielding high-pressure hoses eventually saved the church from complete destruction and the spontaneous applause of the crowds as they drove back to base was so moving.

‘Storyville: the Night Notre Dame Burned’ is 90 minutes of excellent documentary-making.  Available on BBC i-Player for the next year.  English subtitles for all French interviews.

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Carrieres de Lumieres, the former quarry now centre for immersive art displays, has announced its theme for 2021, and it’s one that should prove popular with the Aixois… (more…)

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Repeat post for new followers

The bells at the cathedral in Aix rang out at 3pm, 11 November 1918, after 1561 days of silence, to mark the end of the fighting.  And by 6pm, the crowds were at the Rotonde to celebrate.

Of the 3000 men mobilised from Aix, 720 were dead, 190 disappeared and 500 left disabled. The story didn’t even end here for those left in the north of France. Despite having been away for four long years, the local regiment was involved in occupation and didn’t arrive back in town until 2nd September 1919.  What a homecoming that must have been.

But when I was writing my book (Aix-en-Provence: The Inside Story) and researching the chapter on the effect of World War 1 on Aix, itIMG_7013 seemed that there was some sort of controversy surrounding the troops from Provence but I couldn’t find details.

Then came ‘La Faute au Midi’, a new book and exhibition, which told it all and it was truly an appalling story.

Here is my post from 2014:


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