“Aix-en-Provence, the least stressful city in France? It’s clearly people who don’t live there! Since his business in the pedestrian city center, where he settled ten years ago, Florian, in his thirties, sees his city more as a “mini-Paris”, therefore in reverse of the 2023 winners of the Figaro classifying the city of Aix as being that where “the nervousness of the inhabitants is the least put to the test”. This ahead of Angers, Nantes and Rennes, and far ahead of Marseille, which comes in 18th position in the standings. “Yet everything is speed in Aix, people are not necessarily pleasant, they do not spend their lives on the terrace, the atmosphere is not lazy. And it’s a pretty repressive city too, with lots of rules everywhere. With the sun of course…”, continues Florian.
The average monthly sunshine is one of the 12 indicators used by the daily. And unsurprisingly, Aix-en-Provence stands out in this respect from the cities of the Great West. On the population density per km² and the share of non-artificialized surface (in other words parks and gardens) also, which make it climb the ladder compared to the other cities of the panel. Another element playing in his favor: the incivilities. Even if they are more numerous for example than in Nice, there are 9.2 acts of destruction and voluntary degradation per 1,000 inhabitants in Aix, against 15 acts in Marseille, 10.1 in Angers, 11.8 in Montpellier and 8, 1 in Nice. A mechanic for six years in Aix, Yacine appreciates this city “very calm, where life is good because there is an aspect of security”. “The city center is pedestrian, when you sit down to have a drink on the terrace, you are not in the noise of the horns”, he adds. Then: “Peace is paid for. »
Thirty-five hours a year lost in traffic jams
“We feel good in this pedestrian city center with its fountains, its pretty stones, its young people on the terrace, and which is not aggressive in terms of incivility, comments for his part Sébastien Mathiot, in charge of action at AtmoSud for the Mouths -du-Rhone. Aix is a city that has done some work to push cars further. There is less noise, better air quality, a dynamic like elsewhere in the department which is improving”. “Aix is not a red dot in terms of air quality,” he continues, when Marseille, for example, has an additional source of pollution with maritime transport.
Only noise pollution is in any case retained by everyday life as a stress factor. And with the percentage of population exposed to more than 68 decibels, Aix-en-Provence is on a par with Marseille, i.e. 9.5% according to figures from the Figaro, which does not specify whether or not they are on a departmental scale (we find the same similarity in the rate of psychotropic treatments in the population, i.e. 8.7%, for Aix, a rate higher than the 7.9% for Angers For example). As for the hours lost per year in traffic jams, the city of Aix once again does less well than its Angevin counterpart in second position, with thirty-five hours against twenty-five hours for Angers (we are not talking about the 83 hours lost in Marseille ). In fact, it is better to avoid at peak times the D9 towards the business area or the A51 and the N296.
Yogis and students
“Aix is not a stressful city if you stay in the hypercentre, which concerns a certain category of the population, and if you have a job, a good level of income to accommodate you and no office hours for the car », Comments Jean-Louis Gauvin, vice-president of the Devenir association, which brings together former architects and landscapers campaigning for a better living environment. Still, Epinal’s image of the Cours Mirabeau is strong: “Every Saturday, he notes, cruise ship coaches come from Marseille to see the Aix market. It is this idyllic setting and Sainte-Victoire that are highlighted each time. »
For agoraphobes, this is probably not the best day to experience the city in relaxation mode. In terms of urban stress, everything ultimately depends on the point of view that one adopts, as summarized by Pierrich Plusquellec, co-director of the Center for the Study of Human Stress in an interview in The Press : “In Bali, you don’t see anyone getting angry in the huge traffic jams. It’s a matter of attitude. It’s not what happens to me that matters, but how I experience it. »
And if the secret of “Aix no stress” thus resided in… the number of yoga rooms, and a certain way of experiencing the city. Of all the factors included in the list, it is indeed the one that truly distinguishes Aix-en-Provence from the leading quartet: it has 3.4 yoga rooms per 1,000 inhabitants, when the other three cities have less than two.
Manager of the Layama association, which since 2009 has been teaching yoga in Aix-en-Provence in the heart of nature, on the Bibemus site, Gaëlle Devic has seen this conversion take place. She herself initiated many future teachers and a large audience by giving lessons at the Decathlon Village in Bouc-Bel-Air for ten years: “I wanted to rediscover the atmosphere of the large groups that I had known in California. People are more and more educated in yoga, which is not only postures but an art of living, a way of nourishing oneself, of interacting. »
So many clues for the title of the least stressful city in France? Gaëlle Devic smiles… and delays: “Aix is a city where there is money, a bobo city par excellence, and with direct access to nature, so inevitably we are less stressed! »