Must see in Provence
Papal Palace in Avignon
Largest gothic building in the world, the Papal Palace is both a fortress and a residence. See of Western Europe Christianity all along the 14th century, Avignon took advantage of this prestigious presence, of which this monumental Palace is the best example. The dwelling is offering an uncommon succession of halls, parade rooms, chapels and cloisters. The breathtaking grandeur of the Papal Palace is sublimated by the gorgeous inside fresco decoration made by Simone Martini and Matteo Giovanetti, major painters from Siena, Italy, creating what is nowadays called International Gothic.
Pont du Gard
Built in the first century AD, the Pont du Gard is one of the most impressive Roman relics conserved in France. Aqueduct spanning the Gardon river, this three levels bridge was in charge of bringing the water from Uzès to Nîmes, most important city of southern France during the Roman period. 48 m high and 275 m long, it is still the biggest aqueduct bridge in Europe. Resisting several times to the numerous flooding of the Gard, it was listed as UNESCO World Heritage in 1985.
Roman and Romanesque architecture in Arles
Arles is one of the most charming and typical city of Provence. Laid along the Rhône, the town will seduce you with its uncommon amount of prestigious buildings. The massive arenas, still used nowadays, are dominating the historic heart of Arles. You will be seduced by the magnificent Romanesque St-Trophime church and its sculpted portal, but also by the Alyscamps, former necropolis dating back from the Middle Ages. All these wonders, such as the colourful houses, have inspired major painters, among them Vincent Van Gogh who gave us a very nice version of Le café, le soir, that you can still see in the Place du Forum. Arles is an unforgettable stop-over on your Provence route.
Fountains, squares and private houses in Aix-en-Provence
Historic capital of Provence, Aix-en-Provence offers an amazing and picturesque sum up of southern culture. Founded by the Romans during the first century BC, the city was a thermal town called Aquae Sextiae. From that heritage, Aix-en-Provence kept a high amount of monumental fountains. Strolling in the streets, you will appreciate the well preserved ensemble of 17th and 18th buildings, making this town one of the richest of France. The St-Sauveur cathedral and cloister offers a nice panorama of medieval architecture. Try not to leave the city without visiting one the picturesque food market, making Aix-en-Provence tha gastronomic capital of the area. Nearby the city center, the Montagne Ste-Victoire evokes perfectly the memory of Paul Cézanne, who painted it several times.
Luberon and the top hills villages
The massif mountain of Luberon offers typical Provence landscapes : garrigue, olive trees, lavender fileds, vineyards and perched villages. This area is dominated by the Mourre Nègre, 1125 meters high. You will be seduced by the sinuous roads linking the perched villages to each others. A nice occasion to have a view at famous lovely places, attracting visitors from all over the world : Cucuron, Lourmarin, Bonnieux and above all Lacoste where the Marquis de sade was living. Luberon is an endless source of inspiration for painters or writers, or more recently film director, above all in Gordes which is the most dramatic of all these perched villages.
Roman and romantic heritage in Nîmes
Laid between the Mediterranean Sea and the Cévennes Mountains, Nîmes is nicknamed the "French Rome", due to the numerous Roman period buildings the city still owns. Founded during the second century BC by the Romans on a preexisting Gallic oppidum, Nîmes was named Colonia Augusta Nemausus, after the Roman emperor Augustus. You will appreciate the still intact and used Roman arenas, the Maison Carrée (Squared House) nowadays the best preserved Roman temple in the world and also the Tour Magne (Big Tower) major relic of the Roman fortifications. The city also offers a romantic promenade through the Jardin de la Fontaine (Fountain's Gardens), created in the 18th century on a little hill. The city is particularly lively in spring, during the feria's and corrida's season.
Laid out on a typical Provence valley, surrounded by fields of lavender, Sénanque offers one of the purest early Cistercian architecture of France, dedicated to Virgin Mary. Around the peaceful cloister, you will admire an amazing Romanesque ensemble, composed of an abbey church from the XIIth century, a dormitory and a chapter hall. The simplicity of the buildings and the tender light flooding each little space are totally favorable to any kind of meditation. U A monk comunity, living from farming and praying, is still settled in the abbey. Open wide your eyes : you may have a chance to see them strolling discreetly through the buildings.
Ochre quarries in Roussillon
Roussillon belongs to the labeled group of the "Most Beautiful Villages of France" Located in the heart of the Regional Natural Park of Luberon, Roussillon offers a boundless range of warm colours. Since the 18th century, the village is famous for its ochre quarries. Sculpted by storms, this former ochre deposit today presents enchanting scenery, which combines men and nature work. Cliffs, earth pillars, ochre-colored sand hillocks, after being dug out by shovels and picks, are henceforth shaped by the winds and rain. You will be stunned by the facades of the houses and their shades of colours, from the deep yellow to the light violet. The tortuous streets lead to the St-Michel church, famous for its forged iron structure on the top. Along these streets, you will discover local life through art galleries and little boutique of Provence specialties.