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History of Aix-en-Provence, a stroll through time  
Aix, like the region of Provence itself, is a mosaic of its past, shaped, colored, and pasted together by time. Its vestiges stand, self-contained and visible among a bustling present; each day the children of the école Grassi pass by fragments of a Roman villa, and the children of the école Campra throng through mediaeval ramparts whose origins are only partially discernible among the bars, video stores, sex shop, and apartments that have stormed their battlements. The generous springs which supply Aix‘s fountains and thermal waters still chant their brief moments in the sun, as they splash their way toward the valley, reminding us as they go that they gave "Aix" its first name : Aquae Sextiae Salluviorum, the Sextian waters of a Celto-Ligurian tribe that once dominated the region from its oppidum less than a mile to the north.
So it goes, and so it has gone for centuries. Names, myth, legend, and reality jumbled amiably for the visitors to recompose their own picture of a city whose origins, by one of history‘s many backfires, gave birth to a thriving city, a Roman colony, now known for its university, its courts of law, its elegant town houses, its spa, its international music festival, and for the intimate beauty that haunts its narrow streets and squares.
In a time warp that we call the present, somewhere between the dinosoaurs that roamed the escarpments of the Mont Sainte Victoire and our twenty first century with its swish and rumble highways, its hi-tech industry, its high rise apartments and its hypermarkets, a soul hovers in the lives and art of its inhabitants. Their houses, sculpture, poetry, history, their churches, convents, and monuments survive pell mell, some to perpetuate their original calling, many to suffer “conversion” into hotels, conference centers, dry cleaners, cafés, and banks.
A crossroads since time immemorial for travellers heading north from Marseille toward the Alps or up the Rhône valley, and east-west "commuting" between Italy and Spain, Aix, blest by its plentiful water, has always been a site endowed by nature for "staging". Until 1960 shepherds drove their flocks through its narrow streets on their way to Alpine pasture in the spring, returning in the fall before the snows arrived. Today the "transhumance" lumbers by on trucks and the sheep, like their human contemporaries, submit to a mass transport system less picturesque, less dignified.


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