Category: Les Baux de Provence

Les Plus Beaux Villages de France

There’s a new obsession running around in my head: “visit as many of France’s ‘Les Plus Beaux Villages‘ as I possibly can.”

So far, I’ve seen only 10 out of some 156 “authentic” Les Plus Beaux Villages. I have a lot of traveling to do.

Les Plus Beaux Villages

There are 156 communities in France with the distinction of being a beaux village. Most are in the Dordogne and Aveyron departments. Vancluse and Lot are next with seven and six beaux villages respectively.

Most Beautiful Villages in France

The designation “Les Plus Beaux Villages de France” was borrowed from the Reader’s Digest book of the same name. Charles Ceyrac, mayor of Collonges-la-Rouge, one of the villages featured in the book, believed his village and others like it could be revitalized economically if they joined together and promoted themselves as the most beautiful villages in France.

The criteria for the title was based on (1) the character and population of a village: rural with no more than 2,000 inhabitants; (2) two national heritage sites; and (3) the local council of the municipality must have voted on the application.

In 1981 mayors from 66 villages joined Collonges to form the association.

So far, these are Les Plus Beaux Villages I’ve visited. Click on the name of each village to learn and see more. Enjoy!

Eguisheim

Riquewihr

Domme

La Roque-Gageac

Les Baux-de-Provence

Gordes

Lourmarin

Menerbes

Roussillon

Najac

Yes, I have a lot of traveling to do.

If you have thoughts on the Beaux Villages I shouldn’t miss, please leave a comment. Let’s all go!

 

French Light Show

Techno-Fabulous French Light Show: Carrières de Lumières

If you haven’t seen a techno-fabulous French light show, you’re in for a treat. The French take lights and action to new dimensions: music, drama and imagination.

French Light Show: Carrières de Lumières

A recent visit to Carrières de Lumières was my third experience with the digital, immersive events that are staged in a former bauxite mine outside the village Les Baux de Provence. This year’s exhibition is Picasso and the Spanish Masters” along with a pop culture show, “Flower Power”. Believe me, the photos don’t do justice to the real events.

First, let me set the stage. When you enter the Carrières de Luminères you think you are walking into a movie theatre. Except that it’s built into the side of a mountain. You can go directly into the theatre area or you can walk around the inside of the cavernous halls of the mine. I would suggest you do the latter sometime during your visit. Walls of bauxite surround you, almost as wide and high as you can see.

Once you enter the theatre area, be prepared to gasp. It’s ginormous! Every surface, except the floor, is a projection area. Art images are stretched across huge canvases of stone in front of you, behind you and around every corner. The experience is totally surreal.

French Light Show

Added to the impact, the colossal space is cool and mostly dark. Except for the light that reflects from the art, there is no lighting in the room. When the scenery changes, you stumble around in near-darkness until the next images appear. If fact, if you’re not sure of your footing, you might want to take a seat on the stone steps that are around in various places

Take along a sweater or wrap. It’s really cold inside. If you forget one, you can buy a fleece blanket at the admission office for €5. No kidding!

Before Carrières de Lumières

In 1821 French geologists discovered bauxite near the village of Les Baux. During the 19th century there was a large demand for construction-worthy white stone. The mine in Les Baux prospered. Later with the advent of more modern building materials, the demand for stone fell and in 1935 the quarry closed.

The abandoned quarry was repurposed in the 1960s as a movie set by French filmmaker, Jean Cocteau. His movie, Le Testament d’Orphée (The Testament of Orpheus), featured an appearance by Picasso, of all people! as well as Spanish matador Luis Miguel Dominguín. 

Carrières de Luminères took on its current form and purpose in 2012 with the digital audiovisual production Gauguin, Van Gogh, the Painters of Color.

Carrières de Lumières 2018: Picasso and the Spanish Masters

“Picasso and the Spanish Masters”  is divided into two parts: one, to explore Picasso’s Spanish origins; and two, to show how Picasso, inspired by the masters, shattered traditional figurative art. Portraits and scenes of daily Spanish life painted by Goya, Rusiñol, Zuloaga, and Sorolla appear in the first part of the presentation. Picasso’s work dominates the second part of the show with a near-chronology of his life and art forms. Never before, and perhaps never again, will the public be shown such an emotion-filled demonstration of the life and works of Picasso. Through the images displayed on the massive walls, emphasized by a dramatic, musical sound track, we pass through history and the tumultuous life of one of the world’s greatest modern artists.

Carrières de Lumières 2018: Pop Culture: Flower Power

Remember the psychedelic visuals, colors and music of the 60’s? The “Flower Power” exhibition that follows immediately after Picasso takes you back to the hippy generation. The bright and lively show is not only fun to watch, the tunes of the Beatles, Rolling Stones, Simon and Garfunkel, and the Beach Boys had me dancing in the dark.

French Light Show: Carrières de Lumières

Important! The best time to visit Carrières de Lumières is in the morning. Drive towards the entrance to the historic town of Les Baux. Just follow the signs. If you arrive early, you’ll easily find a parking spot. If you’re late, it’ll be a nightmare.

The production is repeated throughout the day and lasts less than an hour. You can stay to watch as long as you’d like.

Practical Information: Open every day. 
January, March, November and December: 10h-18h 
April, May, June, September and October: 9h30-19h 
July and August: 9h30-19h30 
Last entry 1 hour before closing

Here are some images from this year’s show.

 

Scenes below are from Carrières de Lumières 2016 – Dreams of a Summer Night – Chagall 

Photos courtesy of mon fils, Pete Bine.

 

 

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 

36 Hours of Wine and Roses in Provence

If the Barefoot Blogger didn’t live so close to Provence, I’d stress about where to go and what to see if I had only 36 hours to visit.

Cousin Judy from Arizona spent two weeks with me this summer giving me a chance to figure out some new road trips from Uzes. Touring Provence was high on our priority list. When I got down to planning, 36 hours — spending two nights on the road — would give us time to enjoy each stop. Digging deeper into the plan, the trip began to take on a theme: “36 Hours of Wine and Roses in Provence: “wine” in the famous Chateauneuf-du-Pape region, and “roses” at La Bastide “Rose”, home and boutique hotel of Poppy Salinger, wife of former White House press secretary, Pierre Salinger.

Hope you enjoy following our trip!

Itinerary

Day One 

Morning tour of Avignon

Lunch and tour Chateauneuf-du-Pape

Overnight at Bastide Rose

Day Two 

Morning touring St. Paul de Mausolee and the “trail of Van Gogh”

Lunch and shopping Saint-Rémy-de-Provence

Late afternoon Carrières de Lumières and wine tasting in Les Baux de Provence

Dinner and overnight at Bastide Rose

Day Three

 L’Isle sur la Sorgue Sunday Antique Market

Drive back to Uzes

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Day One 

Itinerary: Avignon, Chateauneuf-du-Pape, Thor

To get anywhere from Uzes, you almost always have to go through Avignon or Nimes. For this jaunt into Provence, Avignon was the direction to take. Plus, it is a city I wanted Judy to see, even if only briefly.

Our travel plan for the first day was to visit Avignon in the morning then to have a late lunch in Chateauneuf-du-Pape. We would wander through Chateauneuf-du-Pape, the town famous for wines, stop for a few tastings (degustions) and end up at La Bastide Rose where we were staying for two nights.

Avignon – Morning 

IMG_4073An early morning wakeup in Uzes got us to Avignon in time for our second cup of coffee. Since I had taken the tour of the Pope’s Palace on an earlier visit, we opted to stroll around the main tourist area, then take a mini-train to view the rest of the historic landmarks. The timing was perfect for us to get to the second stop of the day, Chateauneuf-du-Pape. For a tour of the Palais des Papes (Pope’s Palace) add another 1 1/2 to 2 hours to your morning in Avignon.

Chateauneuf-du-Pape –  Lunchtime 

Chateau Des Fines Roches

Chateau Des Fines Roches

Just over 30 minutes up the road from Avignon, the wine district of Chateauneuf-du-Pape was waiting for us. In English the name of the town and region means “Pope’s new chateau.” The once glorious chateau in the village, which was the summer home of Pope John XXII, the second of the popes who resided in Avignon, is now in ruins.

While part of our mission in Chateauneuf-du-Pape was to taste wine, we also wanted to see Chateau Des Fines Roches and have lunch on the terrace of the elegant hillside resort.  I wish I could say we enjoyed the meal as much as the scenery, but the food and service were disappointing. Perhaps it was a bad day for the chef and staff because I’d seen rather good reviews by others who have been there to stay and to dine. You should go there anyway… even if it’s for a cocktail. The view is amazing and the poolside dining spot is elegant, indeed.

IMG_4110

Chateauneuf-du-Pape – Afternoon Wine Tasting

Chateau Cabrieres

Chateau Cabrieres

After lunch it was on to wine tasting.  A little research reading online wine magazines definitely helped identify some of the world famous domaines to seek out.  If we could hit just one of the well-known places for “degustion” (a wine tasting), we would be happy.

The first place we stopped was Chateau Cabrieres.  The wines we tasted were very typical of the Côtes du Rhône region, filled with flavors of figs, cherries and berries. Quite nice.

IMG_4183Our second stop was at one of the domaines on our list — Paul Avil’s Clos des Pape. The centuries old domaine consistently ranked high in wine publications and, for example, they were Wine Spectator’s 2012 Top 100.  The tasting room was unassuming and the host was very friendly and helpful. Needless to say, the wine was superb!

Thor – La Bastide Rose  – Overnight

IMG_4424

Poppy Salinger, wife of former White House Press Secretary, Pierre Salinger

A friend told me about La Bastide Rose, a boutique hotel located centrally in the area of Provence we were planning to visit. The bastide is owned by Poppy Salinger-Le-Cesne, wife of the late Pierre Salinger, press secretary to President John Kennedy. My friend also told me there was a museum on the property, filled with memorabilia from Salinger’s days in the White House.  Since I was a huge fan of the Kennedys and a journalist myself, I could think of nothing better than to visit Salinger’s home to learn about his life and career. Perhaps I would learn some secrets about the days of “Camelot.” Cousin Judy agreed that a stay at La Bastide Rose would be the crown jewel in our tour of Provence.

Pierre Salinger lived at La Bastide Rose with his family the last four years of his life. The private property, which is less than an hour from Avignon, is hidden away among groves of apple trees and acres of vineyards. The seventeenth century home and adjoining structure, converted from a paper mill,  is along a section of the Sorgue River.  At one time the property was a production facility for Italian marble objects.

The comfortably elegant estate includes an outdoor garden with massive contemporary sculptures and art pieces. Beside the garden is the river and a park-like island that is part of the property. Hammocks, swings, benches and sun chairs are arranged throughout the island where visitors can relax and hide out. The peaceful ambiance is complete with a waterfall that sends rippling sounds throughout the place.

Our first night at the bastide we enjoyed a light meal of tapas, served to us as we sat on the terrace. Then it was early to bed. Day two was going to be very busy.

Day Two

Itinerary: Saint- Remy,  Le Baux de Provence, La Bastide Rose.

Even though I had been to Saint-Remy, I was anxious to see it again. My last trip was in the springtime and I knew the surroundings would look much different in the summer. Of course, who can resist shopping and lunch in the beautiful town of Saint-Remy? In Les Baux de Provence we were headed straight to see the famous light show (Carrières de Lumières). A wine tasting at Cave Vignoble Sainte Berthe was conveniently nearby. Next, dinner and overnight at La Bastide Rose.

 St. Paul de Mausolee in Saint-Remy -Morning tour

St. Paul de Mausolee is the hospital-asylum where Van Gogh self-committed himself just prior to his death. The well-maintained site is faithfully preserved to remind visitors of the time when Van Gogh was a patient there. From the bedroom where Van Gogh’s wheelchair and desk sat, to the courtyard below, everything was just as he would have left them. A new addition to St. Paul since my last visit is the kitchen, restored to perfection.  

 IMG_4224Saint-Rémy – Afternoon lunch and shopping

The morning market in Saint-Remy was coming to a close when we arrived, nevertheless, there were plenty of shops open and ready to serve up everything Provencal.  From olive oil to configures and calissons — a new sort of candy to me that’s famous in Provence. Cans of sardines, Camargue rice — both red and black — and flavored salts were my finds of the day.

Carrières de Lumières in Les Baux de Provence- Late afternoon

IMG_4302Not too far down the road from Saint-Remy is Les Baux de Provence. The village that sits atop a hill in the southern part of the Alpilles mountain range is a sight to see. During the summer the hilltop village is packed with tourists, so we opted to skip the steep climb and visit only the Carrières de Lumières. Neither of us was prepared for the experience. First of all, the cave was mammoth. Second, the presentation of art and music was mind-blowing. Hundreds of tourists filled the aisles between the illuminated walls of the cave, yet it seemed as if we were the only ones there. Visitors sat around the perimeter of the huge space just so they could take it all in. 

Mas-sainte-berthe

Mas-sainte-berthe

Coming out from the light show we were happy to run into Mas Sainte Berthe , a winery on our way out of Les Baux. Yes, more wine!  Some of my favorite tastings of the trip.

Bastide Rose in Thor -Dinner and overnight

Discovering that Bastide Rose had a fine restaurant onsite was an added reason for staying for two nights. The mastermind of the kitchen is Poppy’s son, Emmanuel de Menthon.

La Bastide Rose for dinner

Emmanuel

Along with his son, who serves as wine host and waiter, Emmanuel and his chef create imaginative dishes from local and home-grown products. Guests appear at La Bastide Rose from far and near to enjoy a meal and the beautiful surroundings.

Day Three

Itinerary: L’Isle sur la Sorgue and return to Uzes

My Aunt Rose was one of the reasons I grew to love collecting things, so I knew her daughter Judy would love L’Isle sur la Sorgue. The small town has a Sunday antique market that is well-known in this part of France. There is also a Sunday “everything” market, similar to Saturday Market in Uzes. It was a perfect last stop for our tour —  and only a few kilometers from the bastide. After our “goodbye” to Poppy, we set out to see what we could find.

In the tiny town lined with canals and shopping stalls, we walked through throngs of people and stopped only for a late lunch at one of the busy cafes. With full stomachs and happy hearts we were ready to head back to Uzes, ending our 36-hour tour of Provence.  We had “been there, done that” … and had a ball along the way!

For more information about places we visited, check out these blog posts.

“The Golden Girls” Loving France: Day 5-6 Nimes, Pont Du Gard, Avignon

On Van Gogh’s Trail

A Sunday in Provence: L’isle Sur la Sorgue

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