Seeking solace from their hectic New York City lives, celebrity hairstylist Frédéric Fekkai and his wife, fashion communications magnate Shirin von Wulffen, returned to Fekkai’s hometown of Aix-en-Provence nearly 10 years ago. The couple began renovating a seventeenth-century country manor house (called a bastide) and quickly realized the quiet lifestyle suited them both: “We were happier, healthier, and even looked better when life was on Provence time,” Fekkai says.
Not long after they finished remodeling their home, they acquired 27-year-old beauty and lifestyle brand Bastide from its original owner and Fekkai’s friend, Nicole Houques. Last year, the husband-and-wife team re-launched the brand to focus on local French products, like their ultra-luxe honey and lavender hand wash, or their personal fragrances created in Grasse. Inspired by the simple way of life and lush natural landscapes of Provence, the couple hand-selects “beautisans” (beauty artisans like candle makers, soap makers, and the like) to make the products with the best ingredients the region has to offer.
“Provence is having a moment,” Fekkai says. “And it’s unique because it has so much culture.” Many master painters lived in Provence, the couple points out, and Pablo Picasso’s museum is nearby. “There are so many museums, so many festivals, and so much rich culture in Aix,” he says, “which give it a special touch of sophistication in the middle of all this stunning nature.” Read on for Fekkai and von Wulffen’s top picks.
Where to Eat
“Chez Jo is our go-to pizza place in a buzzing town square; It’s great for people-watching if you want to sit outdoors. The pizzas are delicious and their salads are essentially all the beautiful, raw vegetables of the season, made available to you with some homemade aioli.”
“Le Grillon is another amazing spot for people-watching on the Cours Mirabeau [a wide thoroughfare in the center of town]. For me and Shirin, it’s a regular stop to sit for lunch on a nice day or grab a spritz or coffee in the afternoon.”
“Philippe Faur, also on the Cours Mirabeau, is the best ice cream shop in Aix. Our children, Philip and Cecilia, love coming here for a treat. The artisanal, natural flavors win us adults over too!”
“Just 10 minutes away from the city of Arles, which is having a major cultural moment right now, Michelin-starred La Chassagnette is a former sheepfold at the heart of the Camargue region. It is an ode to nature and the art of cooking with beautiful ingredients and has a stunning and sizable organic garden. We love visiting Arles over the summer to see the annual photography exhibit, and this is our favorite stop along the way.”
“Coté Cour is an upscale, beautiful space with great French cuisine. The restaurant has a sophisticated, chic vibe and the outdoor space is the perfect setting to take in a glass of rosé and fresh fish.”
Where to Shop
“IV Home is a gorgeous spot to find home items like dishes, napkins, and tablecloths.”
“La Grande Boutique is the perfect store for shopping both classic French clothing brands and emerging designers.”
“Don’t miss the town's local markets! There are always different markets on different days, so it’s worth exploring whatever is in season at the moment.”
“Bastide is our flagship store, located right across the street from where I grew up, so it really is a homecoming for me! We had an amazing architect, Amelia Tavella, from the south of France, design the entire store using natural materials, such as the stone basin sink in the center of the space. It’s a great place to pick up a beautiful souvenir to remind you of your time in France and to transport you back wherever you may travel.”
What to Do
“Chateau La Coste has it all: art, including the Tadao Ando Art Centre, sculptures, restaurants, a spa, a hotel, and outdoor summer concerts. It’s a must-visit for anyone who is traveling through Aix. (They also carry a mini display of Bastide!)”
“Gallifet Art Center is an art museum with a beautiful courtyard that is home to amazing restaurants. You’re able to dine and indulge with your eyes and belly. The charming owner, Nicolas Mazet, personally curates the exhibitions.”
“At Atelier de Cezanne, an amazing immersive experience, you can see the master’s actual workspace. Behind the studio there are beautiful views over the countryside that he has painted.”
“Wildlife Art Gallery by artist Aurelien Raynaud is an absolute must-see. He creates sculptures and art inspired by his love for animals.”
“Caumont Centre d’Art is a beautiful art museum, architectural site, and café incorporated into a former seventeenth-century private home that has been renovated to be shared publicly.”