Tag Archive: Architecture

A visit of the newly renovated and refurbished 18th century Hôtel de Caumont by Cecile CARREGA & Veronique FLAYOL

Last Thursday 7th of May one beautiful evening party was hosted in the outstanding building and gardens of the Hôtel de Caumont, new Art Centre in the historic town of Aix-en-Provence. We were invited to admire the result of an impressive and long renovation work to transform the former Music & Dance National Conservatory into the closest reproduction of what the mansion looked like at the time of its original glory.

Cécile & Véronique at Caumont Art Centre

Cécile & Véronique at Caumont Art Centre

Located in the Mazarin neighbourhood, the southern and aristocratic part of Aix-en-Provence, demonstrating Parisian influences, four elements characterize this kind of style: the gate, the courtyard, the main building and the garden, moving hierarchically from public to private space.

The outside of the Hôtel de Caumont as well as the main façade demonstrates a certain level of simplicity, combining the vertical and horizontal lines of the classical French style. The interior is far more decorated and demonstrates a mix of the Regency and Louis 15th styles.

Terrasse du café - Centre d'Art Caumont

Terrasse du café – Centre d’Art Caumont

Hôtel de Caumont - interiors

Hôtel de Caumont – interiors

For example the entrance hall has two atlantes, masculine sculptures located at the entrance to a building to indicate the importance of the owner. The hall also has mythological plaster work, and typically Provençal ornaments sculpted onto plaster.

The construction of the mansion was completed in three large stages between 1715 and 1748. This gradual construction over three decades was marked by the death of three successive owners: François Rolland de Réauville, his son Joseph-François de Tertulle and his grandson Jean-Baptiste de Tertulle. His mother supervised the completion of the final fittings and interior decoration by local artists.

Pauline de Bruny, wife of the Marquis de Caumont, inherited this grand mansion. It was said of the Marquis that he “took from Provence its most beautiful daughter, its finest château, its finest mansion, its largest fortune”. The final private owner of the splendid building was General Isembart who, after some renovations, resold it in 1964 to the city of Aix-en-Provence, ensuring it would be preserved. The Hôtel de Caumont opens today a new page in its history, that of a venue dedicated to art, artists, music, but this time being open to everyone.

In order to restore the Hôtel de Caumont’s beauty and atmosphere, in the purest spirit of the Age of Enlightenment, and to reinstate the original interior layout as conceived by the architect Robert de Cotte, the major works of restoration have been carried out in compliance with the rules governing the conservation of historic monuments and under the supervision of the Regional Department of Cultural Affairs.

the artist renovator

the artist renovator

The expert Didier Benderli was designated in charge of interior decoration and the result of his work is truly breathtaking!

Plans for the gardens of the Hôtel de Caumont are in the classic style of the period: immaculate geometric lines, pursuit of symmetry, open perspective, water parks… all hallmarks of “jardin à la française”.

To celebrate this new cultural site in Aix, the admirable exhibition “Canaletto, Rome – London – Venice: the Triumph of Light” is running up to the 13th September 2015. Do not miss this event and come to Aix-en-Provence, it is a pure delight!



French Tour Designers and Guides-Interpreters, Cecile & Veronique have created private and exclusive excursions in the Bouches-du-Rhone & Var areas for Guests to experience an authentic Provence, take part in workshops or genuine meetings with the local community and independent producers. Presenting the hidden gems discovered off the beaten tracks during their own traveling, they always look for authenticity and excellence and share with passion the best of what the South of France has to offer.

At only a few kilometers from Marseille, an impressive wild landscapes spread between the Mediterranean Sea and the “Etang de Berre”, the largest mixed soft & sea water lake in France: it is called the “Côte Bleue” or Blue Coast.

The "Bird Mirror"

The “Bird Mirror”

Nearby seats the town of Martigues, at the mouth of a long channel, the Chenal de Caronte, connecting the lake with the sea. Thanks to luminous open views across the water and great expanses of lakeside frontage, Martigues likes to call itself the “Venice of Provence”.

The best way to visit the city is simply to stroll along the banks of the canals and through the pretty cobbled streets and squares.

First settled by Gallo-Romans in the fifth century BC, Martigues took shape in the Middle Ages.

Three fortified villages, Ferrières in the north, L’Isle in the middle and Jonquières in the south, had sprung up in this important strategic location, which controlled access to L’Etang de Berre from the Mediterranean.
In order to dissolve the rivalry between these villages and to preserve the strength of the place against the Spanish, King Henri III ordered their unification by a treaty signed on 21 April 1581. bateaux - fleurs

L’ILE (the central island) is the district of the greatest interest. Once inhabited by merchants and members of the wealthy bourgeoisie, it was, and remains, the most prosperous of the villages: you can find some of their beautiful old houses and a grand 17th century fountain on the place Mirabeau.
Former fishermen pastel houses (the owners used paint left over after painting their boats) and colorful wooden fishing boats line the Miroir aux Oiseaux (the Bird Mirror). This place has long inspired artists such as Eugène Delacroix, Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot, Raoul Dufy and Félix Ziem who spent part of his life in Martigues. (visit the Museum dedicated to the painter – admission free).
A short walk from there is the Eglise de Sainte Madeleine (1670), with its richly carved baroque facade and luxuriantly decorated interior.

Front of the Madeleine Church

Front of St Madeleine Church

Interior St Madeleine Church

Interior St Madeleine Church 











Nearby on the place Maritima, a Gallo-Roman house dating back to the fifth century BC has been rebuilt on its original foundations.

JONQUIERES is the best district for shops and also has a large clothes and food produce market every Thursday and Sunday morning

FERRIERES is the modern part of the city, a ten minute walk from l’Ile. You can visit there the Galerie de l’Histoire de Martigues, a large display of photographs, sketches and other material explaining the town’s history.

Don’t miss, overlooking the city, the 17th century chapel of Notre-Dame des Marins, offering superb panoramic views of the town, the Chenal de Caronte, the Mediterranean and l’Etang de Berre.

To finish on a gourmet note: The speciality of Martigues is poutargue, also called caviar martégal (Martigues caviar). It’s dried and salted mullet roe, which is presented in the form of a sausage coated in wax to preserve it and can be eaten either thinly sliced or grated on pasta.


The whole place is worth to visit. Don’t forget your camera!

Poutargue, delicacy made in Martigues

Poutargue, delicacy made in Martigues