Category: Arles

Expat Moving Tips for France

A Travel Pro’s Favorite Places in Provence

A visit to Provence – one of the most visited areas in France – is the second post in the Barefoot Blogger travel series by Nancy McGee of Absolutely Southern France.

Nancy has lived in the south of France for over 30 years so, I’d say, she knows her way around. When asked “what do you recommend when tourist want to visit Provence?” Nancy gave me her picks below. Now that I’ve visited with Nancy in Sete and we’ve taken a some really fun trips together, I’ve learned to take her advice. In fact, I’m convinced it’s really important to ask an expert to help with your plans. If you have limited time, a bit of sage advice will help you make the most of every day you’re traveling. You’ll see the places you’ve heard about as well as off-the-beaten-path sights you’ve only dreamed about. It’s the best way to sample French life like you’re a local. Need I say more?

Welcome to Provence!

From bustling, edgy Marseille to the red cliffs of Cassis, fragrant lavender fields of the Luberon, Aix-en-Provence’s colorful markets, wine and art … there’s something in Provence to please everyone. No wonder it’s everyone’s favorite.

Visit Provence: Marseille

Founded in 600 BC, Marseille, France’s second largest city, is steeped in history and culture. A good way to start the day in Marseilles is to visit the Basilica of Notre Dame. Perched high above the harbour it offers breathtaking views of the Old Port and the Mediterranean. Those who brave the climb on foot no doubt work up an appetite. And that’s why bouillabaisse – Marseille’s famed dish –  was invented. It is almost ‘obligatoire’ with a traditional glass of pastis. There’s more to see so explore the Old Port and don’t miss the iconic MuCEM museum – one reason why Marseille has held the title ‘European Capital of Culture.’

 

Visit Provence: The Red Cliffs of Cassis

Anyone who has seen Paris, but hasn’t seen Cassis, hasn’t seen anything,” said the Nobel poet Fredric Mistral. When visitors see the stunningly pretty Roman harbour it’s invariably love at first sight. Two natural monuments protect the town: Cap Canaille, that glows red when the Mistral blows, and the white limestone Calanques (sheltered inlets) that can be admired on a short boat outing. It’s a joy to simply roam the streets, browse the museum, or enjoy fresh seafood with a glass of the local rosé wine.

Visit Provence: Bandol

A meal without wine is like a day without sunshine… and there’s plenty of each in Bandol, where vineyards bask in 3,000  hours of sunshine a year! The resort itself – just a stone’s throw from Marseille and Cassis – is among the oldest and most popular on the coast.  Its sandy beaches lured the literary set long before the days of Brigitte Bardot and Saint Tropez. A cliff stroll, a vineyard tour and dining on fresh seafood – to which the fruity and racy rosé wines are a great accompaniment – is on everyone’s list.

Visit Provence: Chateauneuf du Pape

Red Wine…The distinguished red wines of Chateauneuf du Pape need no introduction. Masterclasses, food and wine pairing workshops  and wine tours of the historic chateaux and vineyards are “must do’s and can be  arranged. The vineyards in Chateauneuf du Pape are so cherished that a 1950s decree banned flying saucers from sailing over them! The tiny town itself is sheer magic. Take a walk up the hill to the ruins of the 14th century château  – ‘the Pope’s castle’ – and the reward is a view as far as Avignon and its Popes’ Palace. Hungry after that climb? There are many fine restaurants in town serving traditional French cuisine to complement the wines.

 

Visit Provence: Avignon

visit to ProvenceSur le Pont d’Avignon…Standing on the legendary bridge in Avignon provides a good view of Le Palais des Papes,’ (Popes’ Palace), the ancient ramparts and much more of this historic and cultural French city. There’s something for everyone here: museums and galleries; fine dining to please the most exacting palate; and plenty of shopping. During the Avignon Festival in July, live music and theatre fill every street, but the ‘hot ticket’ is a performance in the Popes’ Palace. As for the bridge, the angels inspired a poor shepherd, Benezet, to build it and, convinced of divine intervention, the town’s authorities canonised the shepherd. That’s the legend at least and a popular song was born.

 

Visit Provence: Arles

From Ancient Rome to Van Gogh, Gaugin & Picasso … Located on the banks of the Rhone River and known as the ‘gateway to the Camargue,’ Arles is one of the most beautiful cities anywhere in France. The ancient arena, amphitheatre and Roman baths top any visitor’s list, as well as a walk in the footsteps of Van Gogh, Gaugin & Picasso. Talking of Van Gogh, a visit to nearby sunflower fields will brighten anyone’s day.

Visit Provence: The Luberon

Lavender Fields Forever ...The very best time to visit the Luberon is July, when the Valensole plateau is awash with lavender and the towns are alive with festivals celebrating everyone’s favourite flower! It’s a sight – and scent – to behold! There’s something here for foodies too –  from a range of small bistrots serving the “dish of the day” to the local delicacy “lavender honey.

Visit Provence: St Rémy de Provence

Here’s Van Gogh Again! Whilst we’re in the area, let’s not miss St. Rémy.  Pretty and picturesque, this pocket-size town offers much to do amid its narrow medieval alleyways, shady squares and wonderful architecture –  including museums, excellent restaurants, an annual donkey fair and the remains of nearby 2nd century b.c. Glanum. As for Van Gogh, his stay in St. Rémy inspired many masterpieces.

Visit Provence: Les Baux de Provence

“Ils Sont Beaux.” Set on a rocky plateau, magical Les Baux de Provence offers stunning views of Arles and the Camargue. It is a listed heritage site that has earned the accolade of ‘one of the most beautiful villages in France’, amongst others. What it lacks in size it makes up for with art and cultural activities, one of which is the annual Carrières de Lumières – the most amazing light show we’ve ever seen.

Visit Provence: Aix-en-Provence

The City of Art and Lights. Beauty, culture and a rich historical heritage exemplify Aix-en-Provence, hometown of Paul Cézanne among other luminaries. Having taken leave of lavender fields and vineyards, here is the opportunity for some serious shopping, sightseeing, not to mention food tours and culinary workshops. . Follow in the footsteps of Cézanne, browse the museums or the famous farmers’ and flower markets or buy that designer outfit in one of the upscale boutiques.  There’s never enough time in Aix and you’ll never want to leave!

How’s that for a tour of Provence? What are you waiting for?  I can’t wait to see it all myself!

visit Provence

Nancy McGee of Absolutely Southern France

Contact: nancy@absolutelysouthernfrance.com

Website : http://absolutelysouthernfrance.com/

 

For information about Med cruise shore excursions 

Romans in France: The Mini-Series

Four days and nights I was glued to the TV last week. I watched the entire two-season mini-series, “Rome,” and I did it with the same intensity that I devoured “Gone With The Wind.”

Pont du Gard

Pont du Gard, Art or Architecture?

You see, ever since I moved to the south of France, I’ve been living in a Roman time warp. You’ve heard me say that many times, especially after visiting the aqueduct at Pont du Gard. Or after seeing the ruins of Roman-style villas in Orange; and the arena in Arles. So much of what is revered today in this part of France was established by Romans when they occupied “Gaul.” Miraculously, in spite of wars, weather, politics, and developers, lots of it still stands — from as long ago as 25BC and before.

Watching the HBO series saved me days of laboring through the historical novels I thought I’d have to read about  the Romans. Especially if I wanted to know about the “Caesars,” Julius and Augustus, who left such big footprints in France.

I know you’re thinking a mini-series is hardly the most factual way to learn history. Well, that’s probably true; however, I figure it’s close enough to give me a high-level view of what I wanted to know.

Now, it’s not that I didn’t study ancient history in high school and college. I did. More than that, I took four years of Latin and “translated” the “Aeneid.” Nevertheless, the mini-series had to remind me that Octavius Caesar became known as “Augustus” and that he wasn’t the “true” son of Julius, as if that makes any real difference in history. Also, I was reminded of the importance of “Gods” and “Spirits” during the period when images were carved, engraved and built in their likeness throughout the empire — including “Gaul”, the early name for what was later much of France.

Being armed with a bit of new knowledge, I’m looking forward to delving back into my tours through the south of France and taking notes on more Roman sites. Stay tuned!

For more information on Romans in Gaul check out this article on NYTimes.com

For the mini-series:

 

 

 

 

Travel Diary for Foodies

Travel Diary for Foodies
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There’s no better way for a “foodie” to recap a year’s travel than to revisit meals and favorite foods devoured along the way.

Enjoy the journey!

Macaroons from Christmas Market, Uzes

Macaroons from Christmas Market, Uzes

Christmas Market, Uzes

Chicken Stewing at Christmas Market, Uzes

Appetizers in Turkey: Calamari and Mixed Seafoods

Appetizers in Turkey: Calamari and Mixed Seafoods

Salmon Salad, San Quentin La Poterie, France

Salmon Salad, San Quentin La Poterie, France

Meat Pies, London, England

Meat Pies, London, England

Fruit Tray for "Southern" Baby Shower, Douglasville, Georgia, USA

Fruit Tray for “Southern” Baby Shower, Douglasville, Georgia, USA

Fresh Greens and Homegrown Tomatoes, Vers-Pont-du-Gard, France

Fresh Greens and Homegrown Tomatoes, Vers-Pont-du-Gard, France

Cappuchino, Port Vendres, France

Cappuchino, Port Vendres, France

Wine! France!

Wine! France!

Garlic! L'Isle sur la Sorgue, France

Garlic! L’Isle sur la Sorgue, France

Ham Biscuits for "Southern" Baby Shower, Douglasville, Georgia, USA

Ham Biscuits for “Southern” Baby Shower, Douglasville, Georgia, USA

Coffee at the Orangery, Kensington Palace, London, UK

Coffee at the Orangery, Kensington Palace, London, UK

Lobster with Penne Pasta in Nice, France

Lobster with Penne Pasta in Nice, France

Shrimp, Oysters and Mussels in Sete, France

Shrimp, Oysters and Mussels in Sete, France

Fresh Greens with Lardon and Goat Cheese in Uzes, France

Fresh Greens with Lardon and Goat Cheese in Uzes, France

Bruschetta in Florence, Italy

Bruschetta in Florence, Italy

Street Vendor Paella in Arles, France

Street Vendor Paella in Arles, France

Seafood Starter in Lacoste, France

Seafood Starter in Lacoste, France

Greens and Chicken Salad, Roussillon, France

Greens and Chicken Salad, Roussillon, France

Punch with Fruit Ring, "Southern" Baby Shower, Douglasville, Georgia, USA

Punch with Fruit Ring, “Southern” Baby Shower, Douglasville, Georgia, USA

Fish and Chips, London, UK

Fish and Chips, London, UK

Gnocchis au Chèvre et Aubergine in Nice, France

Gnocchis au Chèvre et Aubergine in Nice, France

"Four Seasons" Pizza in Uzes, France

“Four Seasons” Pizza in Uzes, France

"Bouchon de Lyonaisse" Salad in Lyon, France

“Bouchon de Lyonaisse” Salad in Lyon, France

Everest Beer, Kathmandu, Nepal

Everest Beer, Kathmandu, Nepal

Oysters, Shrimp, Tapenades at Artists' Fete in Uzes, France

Oysters, Shrimp, Tapenades at Artists’ Fete in Uzes, France

Entrecote and Frites in Avignon, France

Entrecote and Frites in Avignon, France

Sherpa Biscuits in Pokara, Nepal

Sherpa Biscuits in Pokara, Nepal

Saucisson in Uzes, France

Saucisson in Uzes, France

Brioche with Caramel Glace

Brioche with Caramel Glace in Lyon, France

Tuna Steak in Collioure, France

Tuna Steak in Collioure, France

Grilled Octopus, Nova Siri, Italy

Grilled Octopus, Nova Siri, Italy

Pork Medallion, Uzes, France

Pork Medallion, Uzes, France

Fresh Fruit, Brie and Lavender Honey on Crusty French Bread for Lunch!

Fresh Fruit, Brie and Lavender Honey on Crusty French Bread for Lunch!

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In Awe of the French: History Preserved

In awe of the French

Anytime I take a trip in France and walk among ancient Roman ruins, I am thankful to the French.

In French towns and villages where the Romans used to roam, you can actually see, feel, touch and experience the places of the past. There are arenas, forums and amphitheaters in the center of towns that are as active today as they were 2000 years ago.

Maison Carree in Nimes

Maison Carree in Nimes

 

 

 

Arena in Arles

Arena in Arles

 

Arena in Nimes

Arena in Nimes

You can climb on and over the walls, paths and steps where Caesar’s men walked.

Pont du Gard Aqueduct

Pont du Gard Aqueduct

 

You can tread the same routes where early villagers pushed their carts and lead their horses.

 

Ruins of Maison au Dauphin in Vaison-la-Romaine

Ruins of Maison au Dauphin in Vaison-la-Romaine

 

l'Arc de Triomphe in Orange

l’Arc de Triomphe in Orange

 

Thank you, France, for preserving these sites; for leaving these places open and

available to the public.

Roman Baths in Arles

Roman Baths in Arles

 

Théâtre antique d'Orange

Théâtre antique d’Orange

 

Thank you for enabling us to re-live, revere and learn from those before us. 

Jardins de la Fontaine in Nimes

Jardins de la Fontaine in Nimes

 

 

Amphitheatre in Arles

Amphitheatre in Arles

 

Tour Magne in Nimes

Tour Magne in Nimes

 

Source of the Pont du Gard in Vallée de l'eure, Uzes

Source of the Pont du Gard in Vallée de l’eure, Uzes

 

Amphitheater in Arles

Amphitheater in Arles

 

Remnants of the aqueduct at Pont du Gard

Remnants of the aqueduct at Pont du Gard

 

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Thanks to Pete Bine for contributing photos for this post!

For more information on the sights, visit these “sites”

In Nimes:

Arena

Jardins de la Fontaine

Maison Carree

Tour Magne

 

Pont du Gard

 

In Arles:

Arena

Amphitheatre

Roman Baths

 

In Orange

Théâtre antique d’Orange

l’Arc de Triomphe

 

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Arles’ Feria du Riz: Bullfights and Fanfare

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If you haven’t noticed, I’m deliberately attending as many types of events that feature bulls as the main attraction as possible. It’s becoming an obsession.

Someday soon I’m going to write a post about a bullfight. Right now I’m trying to sort out all my emotions about the controversal pastime that’s such a rage in this part of France.

Arles

 

The Feria du Riz in Arles was the perfect opportunity for me to do more research on the subject. Not only was there a bullfight, or “corrida,” there were also bulls running in the streets, an abrivado.

 

Arles

Running of the bulls – abrivado

Now that I’ve witnessed a few abrivados this year, I’m catching on to how they’re staged. Most importantly, I’m  finding there are certain vantage points that are better than others if you want to actually see the bulls.

It works like this.

Both sides of the street are lined with metal fencing. That keeps out people who wouldn’t get near the bulls anyway because it’s easy to squeeze between the bars of the fencing.  At the starting place of the abrivado there’s an enclosed truck that’s filled with bulls. At the opposite end of the route, in Arles, a flatbed trailer truck was stationed between the two sides of fencing.

 

Arles

 

For my first abrivado/bandido, I watched from the starting point when the bulls ran out of the truck. In Arles, I wised up a bit and went to the opposite end to get a better view. That’s where the bulls and horses turn around to run back to the starting place.

At the beginning of the abrivado, men and women on horseback — bandidos — start the spectacle by riding in tandem along the route, which is usually the main street of the town or village. These “cowboys” proudly parade their white Camargue horses before an appreciative crowd.

 

Arles

 

Arles

 

After the horses and riders parade past a few times, the bulls are released.The bandidos run along beside and in front of the bulls to keep them herded together.

 

 

Arles

 

 

Arles

 

When they reach the end of the course, they all turn around and race back up the street. 

 

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That’s when all the kids in town chase after them all.

 

Arles

 

Arles

 

Arles

 

Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.

 

 

Arles

 

 

Arles

 

Now, if that sounds boring, it’s not. It’s exhilarating — for me, at least. Let’s just say, it beats watching grown men run back and forth for hours chasing a football. (Sorry sports fans!)

The arena and corrida

Anything that takes place in Arles is going to be a unique experience. It is an ancient city where the present and the past intermingle seamlessly.

Arles

 

When walking down the street, on several occasions, it took my breath away when I realized I was standing beside a Roman forum, or strolling through a park Van Gogh had sketched.

Arles

 

 

The arena in Arles is not just a shrine to the Roman days of Gaul, it’s a lively gathering place for local events, including ferias and rock concerts.

 

Arles

 

During the Feria du Riz the steps of the arena were the stage for a “battle of the bands.”

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The inside of the arena is a vision straight out of a history book. Having attended events at both the arena in Arles and in Nimes, I’m surprised there has been so little “modernizing” of either structure. These facilities would be off-limits to visitors if in the States. Getting up and around in the seating areas in the arenas is treacherous, even for the able-bodied. I’m not complaining… just saying .

Arles

 

Arles

 

Seating in the arena is on stones. Some sections have wooden seats over the stones. Depending on how close you want to get to the “action”, the price of seats runs accordingly. The most expensive spots are less than midway up the side of the arena and out of the direct sun.

Arles

 

 

As mentioned at the start, more detail about bullfights is yet to come. I’m finishing up Hemingway’s novels on the subject.  He studied bullfighting with some of the greatest matadors of all times. Next my mission is to learn more about the modern corrida and the local controversies.

Stay tuned.

 

Arles

 

For  more posts on bulls, bullfighting and events, check these out:

Arles’ Feria du Riz: Food and Fashion

The Bulls are Here!

The Fete Votive 2014 Finale: Bulls, Belles, Bands and Bubbles.

Uzes’ Fete Votive: The Psychedelic and Bizarre

Back to the Camargue: The White Horses

 

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Arles: Feria du Riz Food and Fashion

In Arles there seems to always be a party going. Arles’ Feria du Riz is one of the best.

Arles, a town less than an hour down the road that’s mostly famous for being one of Van Gogh’s “hangouts”.  The Feria du Riz, the annual Rice Harvest Festival, celebrates one of the region’s top crops — rice.

Rice in Arles

Arles is on the northern edge of the Camargue which has been the subject of a few earlier blogs. Just as bulls, white horses and flamingos are indigenous to the area, rice has been produced in the Camargue since the Middle Ages. Today there are some 200 rice producers in this small area, representing about 5% of rice production in Europe. Camargue’s “red rice” is a popular local souvenir.

 

The Feria du Riz is, interestingly, a very Spanish celebration to be in France. The food and the fashions are straight from Spain.

Before I get much farther, though, let me set the scene for Arles’ Feria du Riz

When you drive into the old city of Arles, there’s a long avenue with cafes and shops that leads to a lovely park with a walkway that leads to the ancient areas of the town — the arena and the amphitheater. For the Feria, the avenue is spread with carnival-like booths with food vendors and souvenirs.

Arles' Feria du Riz

 

Arles' Feria du Riz

Arles' Feria du Riz

At cafes along the way, the ohm-pah-pah bands are warming up the crowd for the afternoon festivities.

Arles' Feria du Riz

Road barriers lined the street for the running of the bulls scheduled for the early afternoon.

Arles' Feria du Riz

Since this is a Rice Harvest Festival the food booths along the way were showing off their take on  — a Spanish favorite that matches with the theme of the Feria.

I was starving when I hit town and this was the first paella stand in line, so it was my pick.

Arles' Feria du Riz

I sat on the steps of a fancy hotel and restaurant and gulped down the serving of paella with a bottle of water. It hit the spot on the already hot day.

Arles' Feria du Riz

Arles' Feria du Riz

As I walked down the street, I wasn’t certain the place I stopped was the best choice. It all looked so good!

Arles' Feria du Riz

These photo-perfect folks were putting out some fabulous kebab dishes.

Arles’ Feria du Riz is about food

One popular food offering was kebabs — in all varieties. There were kebabs in sandwiches and kebab “stew” served over frites (french fries). The kebab mixtures were steaming away in huge pans, just as the paella.

Then there were the fish specialties — a Fisherman’s plate with calamari and pots of steaming moule (mussels).

Arles’ Feria du Riz is about fashion

My favorite stop of the day was a sidewalk shop with the Spanish dresses, skirts and all the frills. I had to hold myself back from buying one of the skirts. Imagine a holiday party wearing one of these!

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Arles’ Feria du Riz is about the scenery

Beyond the vendors I walked to the entrance to the park and walkway to the old town.

Arles' Feria du Riz

Arles' Feria du Riz

When up the steps and around the town building, there lay before me the beautiful village of Arles, with buildings and roadways centuries ago. People were everywhere, in every square, eating and enjoying festivities and socializing the warm September Sunday.

One of the famous squares in the city, during the Feria, is a showcase of artisans and regional foods.

Arles' Feria du Riz

To my surprise, one of the new products being displayed was barbeque sauces. In France? I could hardly believe my eyes. Of course, I had to strike up a conversation with the owners to tell him I’d been to Memphis in May — the barbeque event of the year. He knew it well and hopes to make it there someday himself.

Arles' Feria du Riz

 

After spending most of the afternoon walking around the town and checking out the food stands, it was time for the bulls running in the street. This time I knew how to get up close and personal. For the next post, though. Along with all the fanfare that surrounds a bullfight in the south of France. Stay tuned!

 

Arles' Feria du Riz

 

Uzes Day Trip: Arles, Saintes-Maries-De-La-Mer and the Camargue

Let me reign in your expectations upfront. There’s no way you can take an Uzes day trip to Arles, Saintes-Maries and the Camargue and be satisfied.

I did, however, get a glimpse of these sites so that I can return for another visit. Hopefully you’ll enjoy the short preview as much as I enjoyed the day trip out of Uzes.

Uzes Day Trip

Sunflowers in France

But first, a field of sunflowers to start the day.

Uzes Day Trip to Arles. It’s More than Van Gogh.

Today most people go to Arles to trace the footsteps of Van Gogh. That idea intrigues me, but not for this trip. There were other places I wanted to see that are nearby. So I spent the morning in Arles visiting a couple of its most important Roman artifacts: the Arena and the Amphitheatre.

Frankly, I am surprised at myself, but history is taking on a whole new meaning. It’s actually fun to put together names and events now that I can put them into context.

Uzes Day Trip

Arles Arena

 Arles has a history that traces back to a primitive tribe of people who lived between the river (Rhone) and the marshes, Ar-laith. From early on, Arles was overshadowed by Marseilles, the nearby settlement by the sea, It’s interesting that the city’s fate and wealth took a positive turn when the people of Arles gave aid to Julius Caesar in defeating Pompey in Marseilles. Among other contributions to Caesar’s cause, the shipbuilders of Arles constructed twelve fighting vessels for Caesar’s troops, reading them to sail in less than 80 days.

Caesar bestowed the title “Colonia Julia Paterna Arelatensis Sextanorum” upon Arles. He then stationed his Vi legion in Arles which helped create a Roman city of great reknown. The Arles Arena is a reminder of the rich Roman city Arles became. Built on a smaller scale than the arena in Nimes, it appears to be a “mini” arena in comparison. Even so, it accommodates up to 25,000 spectators. Like in Nimes, the Arena has an active life still today, hosting popular bull fights and local festivals.

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Romulus Augustus, the last Roman emperor, died in 476 and, soon, Arles fell into the hands of barbarians. The city collapsed in 480 with the arrival of the Visgoths.The Theatre in Arles, by some accounts was built somewhere between 15BC and 30BC. Because of the religious significance of the original statues and monuments, it has been plundered repeatedly.

 

Arles reasserted itself through the years, at one time becoming the capital of the kingdom including Provence and Bourgogne.  Although the Roman architecture and magnificent structures in Arles have been ransacked and materials removed for other purposes, those that remain  rank among the finest and most important in Provence.

Uzes Day Trip

 

Next Uzes Day Trip: Saintes-Maries-De-La-Mer

Holidays in France: Saintes-Maries-De-La-Mer

 

 

 

 

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