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The Fontaine de la Rotonde, built in 1860
The Fontaine de la Rotonde, built in 1860
Flag of Aix-en-Provence

Coat of arms of Aix-en-Provence

Coat of arms
Location of Aix-en-Provence
Aix-en-Provence is located in France
Aix-en-Provence is located in Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur
Coordinates: 43°31′35″N 5°26′44″E / 43.526304°N 5.445429°E / 43.526304; 5.445429
RegionProvence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur
Canton2 cantons
 • Mayor (2014–2020) Maryse Joissains-Masini
186.08 km2 (71.85 sq mi)
 • Density760/km2 (2,000/sq mi)
Time zoneUTC+01:00 (CET)
 • Summer (DST)UTC+02:00 (CEST)
INSEE/Postal code
13001 /13100, 13090
1 French Land Register data, which excludes lakes, ponds, glaciers > 1 km2 (0.386 sq mi or 247 acres) and river estuaries. 2 Population without double counting: residents of multiple communes (e.g., students and military personnel) only counted once.

Aix-en-Provence (French pronunciation: ​[ɛksɑ̃pʁɔvɑ̃s]; Provençal Occitan: Ais de Provença in classical norm, or Ais de Prouvènço in Mistralian norm,[a] pronounced [ˈajz de pʀuˈvɛnsɔ]; Latin: Aquae Sextiae), or simply Aix (pronounced [ɛks]; medieval Occitan Aics), is a city-commune in the south of France, about 30 km (19 mi) north of Marseille. A former capital of Provence, it is in the region of Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur, in the department of Bouches-du-Rhône, of which it is a subprefecture. The population of Aix numbers approximately 143,000. Its inhabitants are called Aixois or, less commonly, Aquisextains.

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  • ✪ Aix en Provence France
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  • ✪ Aix en Provence walking tour
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You're going to find that the city of Aix-en-Provence in the south of France is one of the most delightful places you could ever visit as you’re about to discover out in this detailed movie. The loveliest attraction of Aix is the large pedestrian zone with its charming historic buildings, many shops, cafés, restaurants and the very famous outdoor markets selling fresh produce, clothing, antiques and all kinds of stuff with lots of local characters to observe and interact with. This small city is the perfect size, big enough to keep you busy for several days and yet not too large that you're going to feel lost or frustrated that you can't see everything. Aix is located in the heart of Provence, a region that has so many wonderful destinations from Avignon to Nice. And you will see that AIX is one place that you must not miss. You could easily spend a few days here and travel out to visit other nearby destinations, or if you only have one day, it is certainly possible to see most of AIX as we’re going to show you in the movie. We're standing in the heart of Aix-en-Provence, a beautiful French city. It's been called the most desirable city in France to live in. And it's because of the ambience of the place. It has a remarkable history that goes back to the 15th, 16th centuries when it was a very fashionable place to live, right up through the 17th and 18th centuries. The pedestrian zone is quite extensive, lined with shops and cafés and little places where you can get a takeout sandwich, or there are high-quality restaurants. The traffic is pretty moderate here. The population is only about 150,000 in the whole city. There are a lot of young people here. They say nearly 1/3 of the population is students. There is a large university. The city is roughly divided into an Old Town and a newer town. It's the Old Town that has the greatest charm. And the main boulevard is lined with elegant cafes, a good place to sit to while away some time. Behind me is the Fountain of the Dolphins. We're in the Place Dauphin, and it is one of the 200 fountains in the city of Aix. That fountain is in the Mazarin section of town but in this movie we’re going to focus attention on the main boulevard and the pedestrian zone just to the north in which we will walk with the camera, showing you all of the most interesting pedestrian lanes and the large outdoor markets and will go inside the great cathedral. You’ll most likely begin your explorations of Aix on the main street, which is also the first street you’ll come to probably, it’s the Cours Mirabeau, a broad street that was established back in 1651. Simply called the Cours, it is sometimes considered the most attractive boulevard in all of France: lined with shops, outdoor cafés and restaurants in all price ranges along a wide sidewalk with magnificent plane trees towering overhead. Cours Mirabeau, is a wide boulevard that does allow some cars but even here, most of the roadway consists of wide sidewalks for people, with only two central lanes for a small amount of motor traffic, primarily for small public buses and service vehicles, and a few private cars. If you're here on a Tuesday or Thursday you're going to see the fabric market with those typical Provençal pastel colors in the bolts of cotton and some clothing and shoes. The markets are usually busy from 7 AM right through about noon or 1 o'clock and you can always try some bargaining if you're going to make a big purchase. Even if you're not buying or don't care about fabrics, you’ll enjoy the sights and sounds. Its most chic café is Les Deux Garçons, at number 53. The Cours makes a good place to sit at a café or on a bench, a great spot for people-watching, whether it’s sunny or cloudy, or warm or cold, any season, it doesn’t matter, it’s always a busy place. Creating a pleasant environment on this street is more important than moving traffic as you can see from three fountains in the middle of the road. The three beautiful fountains along the Cours are called, first of all the "fountain of the nine canons", and then the so-called "mossy fountain" from which flows a warm thermal water that generates a thick foam that covers the fountain with the green moss. And at the top of the boulevard there's the fountain of King René designed in 1819, and it adorns a work of the artist David Angers. At the other end of the Cours is the largest fountain in the city, La Rotonde, set in the middle of a hectic traffic circle with cars swirling all around. Three statues adorn the fountain representing justice, agriculture and fine arts. While you're down at this end of town you should stop into the Tourist Information Office, and here you can get an excellent free map of the city, and various other brochures. The workers here speak English and they're quite nice and friendly and they can answer your questions, provide sightseeing tips, find accommodations, and generally point you in the right direction. Here you can also get information about hotels, restaurants and shopping areas and maybe find out if there's any special entertainment happening tonight or sometime during your visit. Then, where are the main cafes, the big square? On the main street, Cours Mirabeau. Aha. How would you describe the city? It's beautiful (laugh). Beautiful, with old streets. The South of France, South of France, Italian, Italian, aha. Mediterranean. Yeah. With the little streets. Little streets pedestrian streets. And there are pedestrian streets? For only pedestrians? The streets are pedestrian style, not for cars. Aha, in the Old Town. With those good suggestions we' re heading out to find those little streets of the old town. As you'll see on the map lanes with the green stripes are particularly nice for walking on. We’ll narrow it down to the very best for you by following the blue line. That's just in the morning and then after lunch we will show you a lot more. The sequence of visuals coming up does follow that route, but this is just a suggestion. If you're walking around here, you can easily find your own way. From the Cours Mirabeau, we are going to take a turn and plunge into the old town, passing yet another sidewalk café, walking along Rue de la Masse. It's one of the first lanes that you'll come to. Passing the intriguing looking Hotel des Augustins, we stepped into the lobby to find it's a very old building that started out as a 12th-century convent. The rooms, however, are all modernized and quite comfortable. It's one of the very few quality hotels located in the old town. Rather than trying to name and describe each and every street, I'll identify them with a graphic and talk in general about the neighborhood. The historic pedestrian center is the Old Town, the Le Vieile Ville. About half-mile square, it is easy to cover in a few hours but offers enough variety and texture that you might be tempted to spend the entire day exploring, or maybe a couple of days. Many of the lanes in the Old Town of Aix are exclusively for pedestrians. But, most of these narrow streets allow some cars to go down the middle and yet it's all very friendly, very casual. The cars go very slowly. And most often you'll find that people are just walking in the middle of those streets anyway, so it's a wonderful kind of a mixed use. Of course the buildings are human scale as well, no higher than five stories throughout the Old Town. There are no skyscrapers, no high-rises in old Aix. And the buildings are arranged together in a medium-density that creates an urban vitality, with shops and cafes lined up next to each other along most of the lanes. Next you’ll arrive at Place Albertas, one of the half-dozen small squares you are about to discover. Nearby is Place Saint-Honore a typical small plaza with a fountain in the middle and five streets. It was the French back in the 19th century who perfected the art of walking for sheer pleasure. They called it the flaneur, the aimless wander where you're just walking along, alert to your surroundings, observing things, interesting, even unimportant details, not so much worried about your destination, but enjoying the journey. This art of walking, or the flaneur, was very well described by a 19th century French writer named Victor Fournel, who asks us: "have you ever reflected on everything contained in the term flaneur, this most enchanting word which is revered by the poets? Go on infinite investigations through the streets and promenades, drift along with your nose in the wind with both hands in your pocket, with an umbrella under your arm, and an open-minded spirit. Walk along with serendipity without pondering where, and without hurrying. Stop in front of stores to regard their images, at street corners to read their signs, by the book stands to touch and smell. Give yourself over captivated and enraptured with all your senses and all your mind to the spectacle." The 19th century Parisians elevated walking to a fine art. Aix has one of France’s best collections of narrow lanes for that pleasant stroll, something like a miniature, old-fashioned Paris without the noise, crowds or congestion. This lovely neighborhood is a curving grid of more than 30 streets that are all entertaining to walk along. This is French living and urban planning at its best, with fountains, benches, trees, cafes all around. Walking these narrow lanes will be delightful no matter where you go, especially when you come across a little intersection with a fountain, such as Place des Tanneurs, the kind of little surprise that you'll find around many corners. This pedestrian zone is an idyllic urban landscape of pretty, low-rise buildings three and four centuries old, criss-crossed by a maze of tranquil pedestrian lanes lined with shops and cafes. This automobile-free zone is only about one half-mile across, so you can see most of it in one day, but it feels larger because the lanes are narrow and winding in a pleasant tangle. Then you will soon arrive at the prettiest of all squares in town, the Place de l’Hôtel de Ville, the City Hall Square. Drop anchor for a while at the terrace café to absorb the grand sights all around: the baroque city hall’s columns and triangular pediment define the square, punctuated by the tall clock tower and a Roman column in the center, sheltered under a generous sprinkle of trees and livened by a constant parade of people passing through this central crossroad. The neoclassical grain market, now a post office, completes the scene with a matching pediment of sculpted, allegorical figures. The statues represent two major rivers, the Rhône and Durant, symbolizing the fertility of the region, appropriately, because growing wheat was the most important part of the economy back 250 years ago when this building was the office of tax collector on grain and the market took place right in front in the main square. The clock tower was built in 1510 and became the symbol of local power in the city, towering over the City Hall. The arch at the base of the tower is a remnant of the earlier wall that once surrounded the town. There's also a flower market here every day, and is especially big on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday, market days in Aix. On the other side of the square you'll find some small shops with souvenirs, with chocolates, and even a pharmacy for the locals. And there's another market one more blocks further on Rue Vauvenargues, called Place Richelme. It's a beautiful little plaza with trees and sunshine streaming in. The natural lighting is filtered by the leaves to give it a golden glow and another lovely mix of items for sale. The markets of Aix add one more element to this enchanting town in Provence. This market has rather special hours, because unlike most markets in Provence, Place Richelme is open every morning except Sunday from 7 AM until about 1 PM. The vendors are the real producers who grow, or bake, or create whatever it is they're selling. The attractive square is the Place des Cardeurs, a couple of blocks over behind the City Hall. It's a little bit tucked away, you might miss it because the entrance is fairly narrow but it opens up as a large courtyard filled with outdoor restaurants, surrounded by pastel-colored buildings with a Provençal atmosphere , somewhat similar to the ambience of Italy. After all we're in the South of France, and there is a definite Mediterranean twist that is a little different than French towns in the middle of the country or further north. This is a great place to eat. It's often frequented by the university students and the local yuppie crowd out for lunch, so it's a prime spot to sit down and have a meal. It's located on the side of the former Jewish quarter from the Middle Ages with a later mixed population, and became congested with old housing that was cleared out in the 1960s to create this vast open plaza. Some of its side streets are tempting to explore. It gets pretty lively at lunch but the busiest time is in the evening from seven till nine PM when it's packed with young locals out for dinner and a drink. Visitors always benefit eating in local neighborhoods because the restaurants here have to offer good quality and service at a reasonable price to keep the regulars coming back. There are several more restaurants along the upper side of the Place where it narrows approaching City Hall Square. Just a block away around the corner you'll find another lively street, rue des Cordellieres and it is a wonderfully local kind of experience mostly for pedestrians with a few cars coming through and packed with shops and cafés and all kinds of nice attractions. With not so many tourists around, you'll experience a more authentic sense of place. It's easy to miss, but it does connect right into City Hall Square. Next we're walking a few blocks north to the Cathedral along what may be the city's most interesting pedestrian lane, understandably, since it connects the two most important spots in town, City Hall and Cathedral. The main pedestrian lane continues north, changing names now to Rue Gaston de Saporta, and leads to Aix’s main church, the Cathédrale Saint-Sauveur. Rue Gaston de Saporta is a complete street. It's the perfect pedestrian lane with little shops offering postcards and souvenirs, ice cream, sandwiches. It's just a few blocks long at this point and it connects up the City Hall Square with the Cathedral Square. This is really the heart and soul of the center of town. And for those who enjoy shopping these blocks could be the highlight of your visit to Aix. And along the street you've got an interesting mix of restaurants, there's some shops, there's a few offices and then upstairs you've got apartments. Throughout this whole central historic district you got this kind of mixed-use. It's very much a living neighborhood. People upstairs in their apartments, they been there for generations. And this is what gives it that vital mix, so there's always people around, there is a neighborhood market, there is the coffee shop on the corner, perhaps you are even working in the neighborhood or going to school here. So this is what keeps the central part of the city alive. This gift shop had a wide variety of items visible from the street so we had to go inside and found those Provençal fabrics with those characteristic tones of green, orange and yellow. They've got some small original oil paintings in somewhat of an impressionistic style, reminding one a little bit of the greatest local artist, Paul Cézanne. The painter grew up in Aix and lived here for most of his life with his artist studio now open to the public, preserved just as he left it in 1906 at the end of his long, productive life. It does not have any paintings by the artist but his brushes, furniture, desk, hat and wine bottle are still there. The studio is located about 800 meters north of the Cathedral. The Cathedral of St-Sauveur is a church of very early origin, displaying a wide range of styles from Romanesque to Gothic, and Baroque. It is believed some parts go back to late the Roman 5th century period, such as the columns of the octagonal Baptistery that’s said to occupy the site of a temple of Apollo. The Baptistery contains eight antique columns, six of them in green marble and two in granite, with the capitals delicately carved in white marble. We were able to speak with a friendly church volunteer who told us about it. “St-Sauveur, the name of the church. You have a Roman bath, and in the middle, Gothic, and afterwards, Baroque, 17th century.” (Laughter) Thank you so much. It has a magnificent multi-pipe organ, and we were fortunate that somebody was practicing. (Organ music) The main part dates in its present form from the 11th century; the choir is from 1285 and one aisle was added in the 14th century, making this an architectural patchwork built over a 500 year time period which has now survived nearly 1000 years. The doors of the Gothic portal have really statues representing the prophets send symbols and niches adorned with garlands and flowers. The tower of the Cathedral is 210 feet high, built between the years 1323 on 1425, with the lantern added on top in 1577. Out in front of the Cathedral you have got a picturesque sidewalk café, a great spot to sit and take a break, have a drink, enjoy the scenery. The pedestrian lane passes right through it. And then just in front is the University, which was founded in 1409 and ranks high among French colleges. In front of the University there is a statue of Nicolas-Claude Fabri de Peiresc who was a scholar and astronomer who lived nearly 500 years ago in Aix. The Archbishop's Palace is located right next to the Cathedral. It was built between 1650 and 1730, and was the residence of the Archbishop for many years. Now it's the Museum of Tapestries and decorative arts. There's a beautiful Regency-style door leading into the front courtyard, located on the Plaza of Martyrs of the Resistance. And naturally you have another pleasant outdoor terrace café. The Museum of Old Aix is in a magnificent townhouse mansion right on the main pedestrian lane, and it contains furniture, little figurines, costumes, paintings, earthenware and a collection of wooden puppets. The museum is located along Rue Gaston de Saporta, which is where were going to be resuming our walk. Our route takes us south towards Place de l’Hôtel de Ville, and then continue strolling through other narrow pedestrian lanes on the east side of the town, ending up at the main outdoor market in the large square in front of the Justice Palace. You might sometimes find yourself going in circles getting a little bit lost but that's part of the charm of exploring anyplace for the first time. Don't be dismayed if you’re walking along a lane and you seem to recognize some of the shops or the building fronts. Maybe it's the second or third time you've gone down there in different directions but you'll always notice new things to see. It's a scientific fact that we can only absorb or notice a small fraction, maybe 5% of the sites and stimuli that are always surrounding us. Even when strolling along slowly, there is a vast information stream going by. It's hard to catch it all. One reason is physiological, we have a narrow field of focus with our eyesight, and another is psychological, because we are really only looking for things that we’re interested in. Shoppers will see a lot of things to buy, history buffs will notice the architecture, when hungry the focus is on food, some people look at fashions, others look at faces, drinkers might be scanning for a wine bar. You just can't take everything in at once so a second and third visit down the same attractive lane can really be quite entertaining. Little plazas with fountains and benches often accent the intersections of these various paths. This is French living and urban planning at its best. Here we have a very typical street in the heart of town, Rue Boulegon, and it’s just one block long and yet quite fascinating in its own right. There's a slight curve to it. It's got protected sidewalk areas for pedestrians and yet there's a lane down the middle, so there's some vehicle access, but you really don't see cars going through here. It is restricted historic area. This kind of vital mixture generates an ambience that modern city planners are striving to re-create and yet here it just sort of happened naturally, it has grown up over the centuries. People built cities from the ground up. You’ve got shops on the ground floor and people live upstairs. And today in our old and decaying downtowns in the modern Western world, in America for example, we're now trying to rediscover this very humanistic way of living. You get just outside the pedestrian zone and even here, it's very quiet. Some cars are allowed, but they need special permits, they can't park in the area so it retains that ambience. Place des Trois Ormeaux is an especially beautiful little square with this wonderful fountain. It's clean, it’s functioning, and there's interesting buildings all around it. As usual we’ve been providing rather practical tips and specific routes and outlines on maps to help you navigate your way around the city, and yet while it's good to develop a plan for your visit and locate the various attractions and pedestrian lanes on a map to make sure you find the right neighborhoods, you also want to leave time for that aimless wander. Follow your nose and stroll about casually, turning here or there depending on which way looks good at the moment. Have a peek around the corner. If it looks boring then just keep going. You can make up your mind as you're walking. The Old Town is small enough that you will not get lost for very long. This mystery of discovery after all is a big part of the travel adventure. That said there is certainly a role for some advance planning before you take the trip and it's a fun way of looking forward to your upcoming journey. It's always helpful to do some research, especially if you're only in town for one day as we are in this movie, with limited time that you don't want to squander by getting lost or going the wrong way. One of your great pleasures in the visit will be the open markets. There's some kind of market every day in Aix but it's especially notable on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday when there is a very large farmers market and antique market, fabrics and flowers. It's one of the most famous markets of Provence. The main market takes place in front of the Palais de Justice on Place de Verdun and Place des Prêcheurs, then continues on the streets behind at Riffle Raffle where you'll find all sorts of clothing, some of it new, inexpensive, and some of it secondhand. More of that coming up in a few minutes. And part of the market is sort of a flea market, an antique market. They've got a whole variety of furniture, there's the usual, the bric-a-brac, clothing, jewelry, the old books, knives, various sculptures and paintings and other kinds of arts. You've got some antique electrical items, you’ve got old cameras. One person's junk is somebody else's treasure. It's a way to recycle old goods and give them a new life at a bargain price. Or maybe just look at it as a living museum. And then in the other section of the market is the wonderful foods of Provence. You've got a big variety of fresh foods here, your vegetables, most of them grown in the South of France. If it's out of season, if its wintertime, they would be brought in from perhaps the Middle East, from Israel, from Africa, from Italy, but the South of France has got a wonderful climate for growing agricultural products all year round. And one of the specialties is the olive. There must be hundreds of kinds of olives that are grown in France. You can get it ground up as the tapenade, ground-up olives. That's a wonderful and delicious way to consume this healthy food. They've taken the pits out for you and done all the work. How about the incredible variety of mushrooms so important to French cuisine, such as chanterelle. All sorts of greenery, there's lychee, there’s oranges, apples, every kind of fruit imaginable. And yes, the French have cheese, cheese galore. Variety of cheeses, some of it is not even pasteurized so you get that real fresh, zingy flavor. Cheese is an item easy to purchase and makes a good snack while you're out walking, or accompany it with those olives and a loaf of fresh bread and a bottle of wine and you've got a meal. You probably are not cooking food on your vacation and you just wandered into the market to have a look and take a few pictures maybe and you will be tempted to purchase some of the fruits, there's nuts, there's other kinds of snack foods and there's cafes around the market stalls as well. So it just makes the perfect spot to wander take in the aromas, talk to some locals and get some good food. It's really a delight to see the French in their comfortable market, in their glory really, this is the authentic kind of experience that you are never going to get if you're sitting on a tour bus, or are just paying a quick visit to a place and taking a few photos, and then moving along. People-watching is always part of the game here, and you'll certainly run into some French characters. It helps to know the market schedule for each of the towns that you’ll be visiting, and this is easily available. Aix is unusual in having three large markets every week. Most towns have one main market a week and then couple of half days, perhaps, if you're lucky. The savvy traveler plans their Provence schedule around these market days. While the main market activities are taking place in the broad open plaza, there are also many shops around the plaza that are open for business at the same time, and they usually get quite busy on market day, so they're fun to pop into as well, and you might even find some covered alleyways leading off to explore. Just behind the Palace of Justice, there is another little market square. To find this other clothing market just walk around the corner and the side of the courthouse and go to the back of it, and there you'll find another intersection of streets filled with market stalls. And here you're going to find clothing, piles and piles and piles of clothing, and local people out looking for a bargain. Now the prices on this kind of a sidewalk market are probably about half or 1/3 of what you're going to find in the stores, and the quality is probably just as good. You know, too often we are in a bit of a rush when we’re traveling or in our daily life, and you walk by some sidewalk musicians and you might not even stop. But it's worth a moment to listen to such a fine sound. Let's listen to the street musicians for a moment as we enjoy the sights of the quaint streets and the sidewalk market. (Music). People living in this sort of historically dense urban neighborhood often have a very high standard of living, with everything you need in easy walking distance. This is a much different lifestyle than American suburbia, where you might be living an hours drive to the drugstore, you have to drive to a marketplace, there is nothing in walking distance of where you live, but in the European towns, you have much more sociable and convivial atmosphere. The Passage Agard was founded in 1846. This passage is the most direct and most popular connection between the Cour Mirabeau and the Place du Palais de Justice. So you really have the best of all worlds. It's an urban place, and yet it's a small city, so you've got all the amenities, of the walking distance, you've got a shop on the corner you got the café around the bend, there's a bar, there are restaurants, there’s the outdoor plazas, there’s fountains, beautiful boulevards, wonderful colors in the buildings, tree-lined streets. What more could you possibly ask for? There's a mix here in population of University kids, there's older folks, there's working people, there's some immigrant vitality. You've got train stations that will take you to some nearby places that are wonderful, such as Arles and Marseilles. You've got the entire Côte d'Azur just an hour or two away and you're in Provence, this is the good life. As we returned to Cours Mirabeau, the main street, we notice the transit system here has these minibuses, a very efficient way to get around. And they also have a fleet of micro-buses. They can carry 7 people, and they have a low floor that makes it easy to get in and out. You just buy your ticket from the bus driver. It's very inexpensive to ride, it is about €50 cents per ride and they have an extensive network with these little tiny buses that run throughout the old town with those narrow lanes. They can manage to find their way through. They operate all day from 8:30 in the morning till 7:30 at night, and there's no bus stops, you just flag them down as they go by and board the vehicle. There's also a tourist train that will take you through the center. That completes our in-depth visit to Aix. Now we’re going to show you how to get out of town, if you're not spending the night. Perhaps you're staying nearby in Avignon or Arles or even Marseilles and it's very easy to get around, as we'll show you right here. You walk along the Cours Mirabeau, passing through a lovely modern shopping mall with some apartments upstairs. If you're heading to Marseilles, the easiest way to get there is walk to the local train station. It just takes about 10 minutes along Avenue Victor Hugo and it's a short 30-minute train ride that will bring you down to Marseilles with the regular train. Or if you're coming to Aix from Marseilles, this is the station you want to arrive at and it's a short walk to town. However, if you're going up to Avignon, as we are, you take the local bus to the TGV station because you want the high-speed train to bring you up to Avignon, that's only a 20 minute train ride. There's the big picture on the map showing the locations. But now let's turn it around. For example, give you some tips on how to get from Avignon down to Aix by train. In this case we’re taking the city bus over to the Avignon TGV station, that's the high-speed train. You do pay separately for the bus ride which is short and scenic and it soon brings you to the very modern TGV station. And that way we can enjoy a very fast and comfortable train ride through this very pretty scenery, heading on down from Avignon down to Aix-en-Provence for the day, and you see these TGV trains are spectacular. Arriving at the TGV station of Aix and then there is a convenient shuttle bus that'll take you right into town. To find the bus, you go up one level from the train tracks to the main station, then down one level to the bus. We started out the program with the claim that the French consider Aix to be the most desirable city in which to live. French public opinion surveys have shown that if they could retire anywhere in France they would choose Aix and in today's program you have seen why that makes a very good choice. You are probably not retiring there, but you would certainly enjoy the visit. This is one of many programs that we have about the South of France covering Carcassonne, Arles, Avignon, Marseilles, Nice, Cannes, Antibes, Sant-Paul-de-Vence, and on to Monaco. Look for them all in our collection.



Rue Espariat in Aix-en-Provence.
Rue Espariat in Aix-en-Provence.
Terrasse in Aix.
Terrasse in Aix.

Aix (Aquae Sextiae) was founded in 123 BC by the Roman consul Sextius Calvinus, who gave his name to its springs, following the destruction of the nearby Gallic oppidum at Entremont.[1][2] In 102 BC its vicinity was the scene of the Battle of Aquae Sextiae, where the Romans under Gaius Marius defeated the Cimbri and Teutones,[1] with mass suicides among the captured women, which passed into Roman legends of Germanic heroism.[3]

In the 4th century AD it became the metropolis of Narbonensis Secunda. It was occupied by the Visigoths in 477. In the succeeding century, the town was repeatedly plundered by the Franks and Lombards, and was occupied by the Saracens in 731 and by Charles Martel in 737. Aix, which during the Middle Ages was the capital of Provence, did not reach its zenith until after the 12th century, when, under the houses of Barcelona/Aragon and Anjou, it became an artistic centre and seat of learning.[1]

Aix passed to the crown of France with the rest of Provence in 1487, and in 1501 Louis XII established there the parliament of Provence, which existed until 1789. In the 17th and 18th centuries, the town was the seat of the Intendance of Provence.[1]

Current archeological excavations in the Ville des Tours, a medieval suburb of Aix, have unearthed the remains of a Roman amphitheatre.[4] A deposit of fossil bones from the Upper Continental Miocene gave rise to a Christian dragon legend.[5]

Geography and climate

Aix-en-Provence is situated in the south of France, in a plain overlooking the Arc, about a mile from the right bank of the river. The city slopes gently from north to south and the Montagne Sainte-Victoire can easily be seen to the east. Aix's position in the south of France gives it a warm climate, though more extreme than Marseille due to the inland location. It has an average January temperature of 5 °C (41 °F) and a July average of 23 °C (73 °F). It has an average of 300 days of sunshine and only 91 days of rain.[6] While it is partially protected from the Mistral, Aix still occasionally experiences the cooler and gusty conditions it brings.

Unlike most of France which has an oceanic climate, Aix-en-Provence has a Mediterranean climate.

Climate data for Aix-en-Provence (1981–2010, extremes 1955–present)
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °C (°F) 20.9
Average high °C (°F) 11.4
Daily mean °C (°F) 6.2
Average low °C (°F) 0.9
Record low °C (°F) −16.6
Average precipitation mm (inches) 51.7
Average precipitation days (≥ 1.0 mm) 5.7 4.6 4.3 6.6 5.4 3.6 1.9 3.1 4.9 6.5 6.7 5.9 59.3
Mean monthly sunshine hours 150.7 178.7 238.8 242.0 289.4 327.3 370.2 328.6 256.2 185.1 154.1 140.1 2,861
Source: Météo France[7]


Les Deux Garçons.
Les Deux Garçons.
Place de l'Hotel de Ville.
Place de l'Hotel de Ville.
The Cathedral Cloisters.
The Cathedral Cloisters.
Town Hall.
Town Hall.

The Cours Mirabeau is a wide thoroughfare, planted with double rows of plane trees, bordered by fine houses and decorated by fountains. It follows the line of the old city wall, and divides the town into two sections. The new town extends to the south and west; the old town, with its narrow, irregular streets and its old mansions dating from the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries, lies to the north. Situated on this avenue, which is lined on one side with banks and on the other with cafés, is the Deux Garçons, the most famous brasserie in Aix. Built in 1792, it was frequented by the likes of Paul Cézanne, Émile Zola and Ernest Hemingway.[8]

The Cathedral of the Holy Saviour (Aix Cathedral) is situated to the north in the medieval part of Aix. Built on the site of a former Roman forum and an adjacent basilica, it contains a mixture of all styles from the 5th to the 17th century, including a richly decorated portal in the Gothic style with doors elaborately carved in walnut. The interior contains 16th-century tapestries, a 15th-century triptych, depicting King René and his wife on the side panels, as well as a Merovingian baptistery, its Renaissance dome supported by original Roman columns. The archbishop's palace (Palais de l'Archêveché) and a Romanesque cloister adjoin the cathedral on its south side.[9] The Archbishopric of Aix is now shared with Arles.

Among its other public institutions, Aix also has the second most important Appeal Court (Palais de Justice) outside of Paris, located near the site of the former Palace of the Counts (Palais des Comtes) of Provence.

The Hôtel de Ville, a building in the classical style of the middle of the 17th century, looks onto a picturesque square (place de l'Hôtel de Ville). It contains some fine woodwork and tapestries. At its side rises a handsome clock-tower erected in 1510.[10] Also on the Place de l'Hôtel de Ville is the former Corn Exchange (1759–1761) (Halle de Grains). This ornately decorated 18th-century building was designed by the Vallon brothers. Nearby are the remarkable thermal springs, containing lime and carbonic acid, that first drew the Romans to Aix and gave it the name Aquae Sextiae. A spa was built in 1705 near the remains of the ancient Roman baths of Sextius.[11]

South of the Cours Mirabeau is the Quartier Mazarin. This residential district was constructed for the gentry of Aix by Archbishop Michele Mazzarino brother of Cardinal Jules Mazarin in the last half of the 17th century and contains several notable hôtels particuliers. The 13th-century church of Saint-Jean-de-Malte contains valuable pictures and a recently restored organ. Next to it is the Musée Granet, devoted to European painting and sculpture.

Aix is often referred to as the city of a thousand fountains.[12] Among the most notable are the 17th-century Fontaine des Quatre Dauphins (Fountain of the Four Dolphins) in the Quartier Mazarin, designed by Jean-Claude Rambot,[13] and three of the fountains down the central Cours Mirabeau: At the top, a 19th-century fountain depicts the "good king" René holding the Muscat grapes that he introduced to Provence in the 15th century; halfway down is a natural hot water fountain (34 °C), covered in moss, dating back to the Romans; and at the bottom at la Rotonde, the hub of modern Aix, stands a monumental fountain from 1860 beneath three giant statues representing art, justice and agriculture. In the older part of Aix, there are also fountains of note in the Place d'Albertas and the Place des Trois-Ormeaux.


The Institute of Political Studies.
The Institute of Political Studies.

Aix has long been a university town: Louis II of Anjou granted a royal charter for a university in 1409. Today Aix remains an important educational centre, with many teaching and research institutes:

Aix also has several training collèges, lycées, and a college of art and design. It has also become a centre for many international study programmes. Several lycées offer CPGE.


Sir Simon Rattle conducting Das Rheingold in 2006.
Sir Simon Rattle conducting Das Rheingold in 2006.


Aix holds two significant musical events each year. These are:

Festival d'Aix-en-Provence

An important opera festival, the Festival international d'Art Lyrique, founded in 1948, now ranks with those in Bayreuth, Salzburg and Glyndebourne. The current director is Bernard Foccroulle, director of la Monnaie in Brussels. The festival takes place in late June and July each year. The main venues in Aix itself are the outdoor Théâtre de l'Archévêché in the former garden of the archbishop's palace, the recently restored 18th-century Théâtre du Jeu de Paume, and the newly built Grand Théâtre de Provence; operas are also staged in the outdoor Théâtre du Grand Saint-Jean outside Aix. Linked to the festival is the Académie européenne de musique, a summer school for young musicians with master classes by celebrated artists. Over the four-year period from 2006 until 2009, Sir Simon Rattle's version of Wagner's Ring Cycle with the Berlin Philharmonic was performed at the Aix festival.

Musique dans la Rue

This takes place each year in June to coincide with the national 'Fête de la Musique.' There is a week of classical, jazz and popular concerts held in different street venues and courtyards in the city. Some of these events are held in the Conservatoire Darius Milhaud, named in honour of the French composer, a native of Aix.


The dance company Ballet Preljocaj of the French dancer and choreographer Angelin Preljocaj has been located in Aix since 1996. In 2007 it took up residence in the Pavillon Noir, a centre for dance performance, designed in 1999 by the architect Rudy Ricciotti. The centre is one of nineteen of its kind in France, designated Centre chorégraphique national.

European Capital of Culture

Aix-en-Provence was part of Marseille-Provence 2013, the year-long cultural festival when the region served as the European Capital of Culture. Aix hosted several major cultural events including one half of the Grand Atelier du Midi gala exhibition and an episode of the Révélations pyrotechnical performance. The city also unveiled major new cultural infrastructure to coincide with Marseille-Provence 2013, including the Darius Milhaud Conservatory designed by Kengo Kuma.

Museums and Libraries

Granet's "Pumpkin Harvest" at the Musée Granet.
Granet's "Pumpkin Harvest" at the Musée Granet.

Aix has several museums and galleries:

  • Le Musée du Vieil Aix (Museum of Old Aix), housed in two period "hôtels particuliers" and devoted to the history and provencal heritage of Aix.
  • Le Muséum d’Histoire Naturelle (Natural History Museum).
  • Le Musée de Tapisseries (Tapestry Museum), housed in the Archbishop's Palace and with a collection of tapestries and furniture from the 17th and 18th centuries.
  • Le Musée Paul Arbaud (Faïence/Pottery).
  • Le Musée Granet, a museum devoted to painting, sculpture and the archeology of Aix.[14] It recently underwent significant restoration and reorganization, prior to the international exhibition in 2006 marking the centenary of Cézanne's death.[15] Due to lack of space, the large archeological collection, including many recent discoveries, will be displayed in a new museum, still in the planning stages. The museum contains major paintings by Jean-Dominique Ingres (among which the monumental "Jupiter and Thetis"), an authentic self-portrait by Rembrandt and works by Anthony van Dyck, Paul Cézanne, Alberto Giacometti and Nicolas de Staël. In June 2011, the first part of the collection of the Fondation Jean et Suzanne Planque opened at the Musée Granet, containing over 180 artworks. This legacy of the Swiss painter, dealer and art collector Jean Planque, a personal friend of Pablo Picasso, has been donated to the city for an initial period of 15 years. The collection contains over 300 works of art, including paintings and drawings by Degas, Renoir. Gauguin, Monet, Cézanne, Van Gogh, Picasso, Pierre Bonnard, Paul Klee, Fernand Léger, Giacometti and Dubuffet. The full collection will be housed in a specially constructed annex in the Chapelle des Pénitents Blancs, situated nearby: the expected opening is in 2013.
The Vendôme Pavilion in Aix-en-Provence.
The Vendôme Pavilion in Aix-en-Provence.
  • Le Pavillon de Vendôme, a 17th-century mansion housing permanent and touring art exhibitions.
  • The Fondation Vasarely, a gallery dedicated to the works of the Hungarian-born French abstract painter Victor Vasarely.
  • Le Camp des Milles
  • L'atelier Cézanne, the former studio of Paul Cézanne, now a museum, located in the northern outskirts of Aix. It has been preserved as it was at the time of the painter's death and contains many of his personal items and props used in his paintings.
  • Jas de Bouffan, the house and grounds of Cézanne's father, now partially open to the public.

Prior to 1989 Aix had several libraries, for example in the Parc Jourdan and the Town Hall. In 1989, many of these were moved to the Méjanes, an old match factory.

In 1993, the "Cité du Livre" was opened around the library. This has media spaces for dance, cinema and music, and a training facility for librarians. Adjacent to the Cité du Livre are the Grand Théâtre de Provence and the Pavillon Noir (see above).

Montagne Sainte-Victoire

Mont Sainte-Victoire, Paul Cézanne 1904-1906.
Mont Sainte-Victoire, Paul Cézanne 1904-1906.

To the east of Aix rises the Montagne Sainte-Victoire (1011 m), one of the landmarks of the Pays d'Aix. It is accessible from the centre of Aix by road or on foot, taking the wooded footpath of Escrachou Pevou to the plateau of Bibemus.[16] It dramatically overshadows the small dam built by Émile Zola's father and was a favourite subject and haunt of Paul Cézanne throughout his lifetime. In the village of le Tholonet on the precipitous southern side of Mont Sainte-Victoire, there is a windmill that he used and beyond that a mountain hut, the refuge Cézanne, where he liked to paint.

To the north, the mountain slopes gently down through woodland to the village of Vauvenargues. The Château of Vauvenargues overlooking the village was formerly occupied by the Counts of Provence (including René of Anjou) and the Archbishops of Aix before it became the family home of the marquis de Vauvenargues.[17] It was acquired by the Spanish artist Pablo Picasso in 1958, who was resident there from 1959 until 1962, when he moved to Mougins. He and his wife Jacqueline are buried in its grounds,[18] [19][20] which are not usually open to the public. From 2009 onwards, the château, which now belongs to Jacqueline's daughter Catherine Hutin, has been open to the public from June to September.[21]

Mont Sainte-Victoire has a complex network of paths, leading to the priory and Croix de Provence at the summit, to the large man-made reservoir of Bimont and to the Roman viaduct above le Tholonet.


Las Argonautes - American Football Team


Calissons, a specialty of Aix.
Calissons, a specialty of Aix.

Industries formerly included flour-milling, the manufacture of confectionery, iron-ware, hats, matches and the extraction of olive oil.[23]

Current economic activities include:

The airline Twin Jet has its head office in Aix-en-Provence.[29]


A set of ancient roads radiate out from Aix to the surrounding countryside, the Pays d'Aix. There are also a large number of modern autoroutes connecting Aix to nearby towns. There are autoroutes northwards to Avignon and to the Luberon; southwards to Marseille; and eastwards to Aubagne and the Mediterranean coast of Provence; and to Nice and other towns on the French Riviera. Aix and Marseille are equidistant from the Marseille Provence Airport (MRS) at Marignane on the Etang de Berre which features domestic and international scheduled passenger service. There is another airport at Les Milles, which is mostly used by general aviation. There is a frequent bus shuttle service from the main bus station in Aix which also serves the nearby TGV station at l'Arbois, in the middle of the countryside about 10 miles (16 km) from Aix.

At Aix, the line from Paris branches to Marseille and Nice; it takes about 3 hours to get from Paris to Aix by TGV. Aix also has a railway station near the centre, Gare d'Aix-en-Provence, with connections to Marseille, Pertuis and Briançon in the French Alps. A frequent and rapid shuttle bus service for commuters operates between the bus station in Aix and Marseille. There are many other long distance and local buses from the bus station. The city also offers a "city pass" available in 24, 48, and 72 hour packages for visiting tourists.[30] The "pass tourisitque" is offered at the Aix-en-Provence Tourist Office, the Atelier de Cézanne, and the official Aix tourism website.[30]

In the town itself, there is an inexpensive municipal bus service, including a dial-a-bus service ("proxibus"), a park-and-ride service and tiny electrified buses for those with mobility problems. Those are six seater vehicles that circulate at a speed of 10 mph (16.09 km/h).[31] The central old town of Aix is for the most part pedestrianised. There are large underground and overground parking structures placed at regular intervals on the "boulevard exterieur", the predominantly one-way ring road that encircles the old town. Access to the old town is by a series of often narrow one-way streets that can be confusing to navigate for the uninitiated.[32][33]

As in many other French cities, a short-term bicycle hire scheme nicknamed V'Hello, free for trips of less than half an hour, has recently been put in place by the town council: and has been popular with tourists.[34] As well as overland routes, two "rivers" flow through Aix, the Arc and the Torse, but neither of which can remotely be described as navigable.


The local Aix dialect, rarely used and spoken by a rapidly decreasing number of people, is part of the provencal dialect of the Occitan language. The provencal for "Aix-en-Provence" is "Ais de Prouvènço" [ˈaj de pʀuˈvɛ̃sɔ]. Most of the older streets in Aix have names in both Provençal and French.

Aix hosted the ninth International Congress of Modern Architecture in 1953.

Aix is the home town of the rugby union team Provence Rugby. It played host to the All Blacks during the early stages of the 2007 Rugby World Cup.[35][36]

Ysabel, the tenth novel of the best-selling Canadian author Guy Gavriel Kay, was set and written in Aix.

Italian electroacoustic artist Giuseppe Ielasi's album Aix[37] was produced in Aix-en-Provence, hence the title.

This is also the site of an alleged sighting and landing of a UFO in 1981 that is taken seriously by GEIPAN, the department within the French Space Agency responsible for investigating aerospace phenomena.[38]

International relations

Twin towns - Sister cities

Aix-en-Provence is officially twinned[39][40] with the following seven cities (in alphabetical order):


In addition, Aix has international cooperations, partnerships and exchanges with the following cities from all over the world:[39]

People from Aix


François Marius Granet.
François Marius Granet.
Paul Cézanne.
Paul Cézanne.
Hélène Grimaud.
Hélène Grimaud.

Aix-en-Provence was the birthplace of:

Famous residents


See also


  1. ^ a b c d Chisholm 1911, p. 447.
  2. ^ « Histoire d'Aix » Archived 4 November 2013 at the Wayback Machine, site de l'office du tourisme d'Aix-en-Provence.
  3. ^ cf Jerome, letter cxxiii, To Ageruchia, 8, 409 A.D.
  4. ^ Théâtre antique d’Aquae Sextiae (in French)
  5. ^ [1]
  6. ^ "Tourist office; the climate of Aix". Retrieved 15 April 2010.
  7. ^ "Aix en Provence (13)" (PDF). Fiche Climatologique: Statistiques 1981–2010 et records (in French). Meteo France. Archived from the original (PDF) on 30 March 2018. Retrieved 29 March 2018.
  8. ^ Sarre, Claude-Alain (2007). "Les Deux Garçons. Quatre Siècles d'Histoire au Coeur d'Aix-en-Provence". Université Aix. ISBN 2-903449-92-9.
  9. ^ Michelin Guide to Provence, ISBN 2-06-137503-0, pages 67–68.
  10. ^ "Tourist office: Old Aix". Archived from the original on 17 February 2010. Retrieved 15 April 2010.
  11. ^ Encyclopædia Britannica, 1911.
  12. ^ Laurence Labrouche, "Ariane Mnouchkine: un parcours théâtral: le terrassier, l'enfant et le voyageur", L'Harmattan (1999), ISBN 2-7384-8022-5, page 66, "la ville aux mille fontaines"
  13. ^ "Provence". Michelin Green Guide. Michelin. 1999. ISBN 0-320-03732-0., page 69. The fountain was built in 1667.
  14. ^ "Website of the Musée Granet". Archived from the original on 23 April 2010. Retrieved 15 April 2010.
  15. ^ "Reopening of the Musée Granet in Aix-en-Provence – The Art Tribune". The Art Tribune. 20 August 2007. Retrieved 22 May 2009.
  16. ^ "Montagne Ste-Victoire, Aix-en-Provence, Gardanne, Trets". La Carte de Randonnée, 1;25,000. 3244 ET. Institut Géographique National.
  17. ^ Mairie of Vauvenargues, History and heritage (in French)
  18. ^ O'Brian, Patrick (1976). "Picasso: Pablo Ruiz Picasso : a Biography". Putnam. ISBN 88-304-0863-8.
  19. ^ Monday, 23 Apr. 1973 (23 April 1973). "Pablo Picasso's Last Days and Final Journey – TIME". TIME. Retrieved 22 May 2009.
  20. ^ Bruno Ely (2009). "Château de Vauvenargues". ImageArt. ISBN 978-2-9534525-0-1.
  21. ^ Château of Vauvenargues, official web site
  22. ^ Ribeiro, Benjamin. "Euro 2016: Aix, camp de base de l'Ukraine", (in French). Retrieved on 18 March 2016.
  23. ^ "Histoire d'Aix-en-Provence". Edisud. 1977. ISBN 2-85744-237-8.
  24. ^ Parker, Robert (1996). "The Wine Buyer's Guide". Dorling Kindersley: 488. ISBN 0-7513-0342-9.
  25. ^ "Official website for Château Simone". Archived from the original on 10 April 2010. Retrieved 15 April 2010.
  26. ^ "Guide des Vins – Château Crémade" (in French). Retrieved 15 April 2010.
  27. ^ Aix en Provence Office de Tourisme
  28. ^ "The Chocolaterie of Puyricard". Archived from the original on 21 April 2010. Retrieved 15 April 2010.
  29. ^ "The company: Company information." Twin Jet. Retrieved on 8 July 2010. "Address : TWIN JET 1070 rue du lieutenant Parayre BP 30370 13799 AIX EN PROVENCE CEDEX 3 "
  30. ^ a b "Aix-en-Provence City Pass | Aix en Provence │ Office de Tourisme". Aix-en-Provence Tourist Office. Retrieved 2017-12-18.
  31. ^ "Internet Archive Wayback Machine" (PDF). 27 February 2008. Archived from the original (PDF) on 20 March 2009. Retrieved 15 September 2011.
  32. ^ Aix-en-Provence, Plan Guide Blay-Foldex.
  33. ^ "Map of central Aix". Retrieved 15 April 2010.
  34. ^ Ville d'Aix-en-Provence: V'Hello...Bougez dans Aix en toute liberté ! Archived 13 January 2009 at the Wayback Machine
  35. ^ "Just Sport – New Zealand's Sports Network – What's Up : RWC 2007 Commentators Blog". Radio Sport. 21 October 2007. Retrieved 22 May 2009.
  36. ^ "All Blacks dazzled by haka ballet –". 28 September 2007. Archived from the original on 30 July 2008. Retrieved 22 May 2009.
  37. ^ "Aix, 12k records". Retrieved 1 August 2012.
  38. ^ "Why the French state has a team of UFO hunters By Chris Bockman". Retrieved 4 November 2014.
  39. ^ a b "Association of twinnings and international relations of Aix-en-Provence". Retrieved 15 April 2010.
  40. ^ "Mairie of Aix-en-Provence – Twinnings and partnerships". Archived from the original on 11 December 2015. Retrieved 14 April 2013.
  41. ^ "British towns twinned with French towns". The Mayor of Bath.
  42. ^ "Bath's Twinning Associations". The Mayor of Bath. Archived from the original on 17 May 2011. Retrieved 23 August 2016.
  43. ^ "Town Twinning". The Mayor of Bath. Archived from the original on 28 September 2013. Retrieved 23 August 2016.
  44. ^ "Acordos de Geminação" (in Portuguese). © 2009 Câmara Municipal de Coimbra – Praça 8 de Maio – 3000-300 Coimbra. Retrieved 25 June 2009.
  45. ^ Perugia Official site – Relazioni Internazionali Archived 15 February 2012 at the Wayback Machine (in Italian)
  46. ^ Jessula, Georges (2003). "Darius Milhaud, Compositeur de Musique". Revue Juive: 140–144. Since their marriage in 1892, Milhaud's parents lived in the Bras d'Or in Aix-en-Provence, where their son grew up; however he was delivered at the home of his maternal grandparents in Marseille.
  47. ^ Milhaud, Darius (1998). "Ma Vie heureuse". Zurfluh. ISBN 2-87750-083-7.
  48. ^ FullSIX (22 December 1972). "Franck Cammas – Profile". Archived from the original on 21 May 2009. Retrieved 22 May 2009.

Explanatory footnotes

  1. ^ However, with the preposition a/à 'to', the forms are as Ais/à-z-Ais [aˈzaj].


  • Busquet, Raoul (1954). Histoire de la Provençade des origines à la révolution française. Editions Jeanne Lafitte. ISBN 2-86276-319-5.


External links

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