We continue our list of Commendable Activities around Provence, that was initially prepared as personal suggestions for close friends visiting us at Chez Vous in Uzès. We happily share our recommendations for all who will one day visit Provence or will travel to Provence again. There are so many things to see and do in Provence, that one trip certainly cannot capture it all. We continue to find new places, events, and changes in this fascinating region, and will continue to share these discoveries with you.
Less than an hour from Uzès is the prominent city, Avignon, home of the Popes for 68 years in the 14th century. No visit to Provence is possible without a visit to Avignon, a special provençal town steeped in history. The historic center is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, once home to the Popes, which left the impressive Palais des Papes (Popes’ Palace). Another iconic site is the Pont Saint-Bénézet, or Pont d’Avignon, a seemingly unfinished (rather, destroyed) bridge across the Rhône river.
Travel Tip: Two minutes from the Palais des Papes is the notable Michelin guide restaurant of Hôtel Mirande, with a beautiful courtyard area and marvelous dining.
Travel Tip 2: Just across the river from Avignon, is the fascinating town Villeneuve-les-Avignon. A medieval castle, which can be seen from Avignon, the Saint-André Fort occupies a strategic position at the top of Mount Andaon, above Villeneuve-les-Avignon, with its own panoramic view of Avignon. The castle is open to visitors.
Side Trip: ISLE-SUR-LA-SORGUE
About 30km east of Avignon, L’isle-sur-la-Sorgue is famous for its many antique shops and hosts antique markets most Sundays. It has many waterside cafés and restaurants, all within walking distance of each other. Its many attractive water wheels throughout the town are still in working order.
Side Trip: CHATEAUNEUF-du-PAPE
18km north of Avignon, Chãteauneuf-du-Pape is a village and one of the most renowned AOC’s (appellation d’origine contrôlée) in the Rhône wine region. Mentioned in our recent recommendations of Provence Wineries, Chateau de Beaucastel at Châteauneuf-du-Pape is well worth a visit, with intriguing history tied closely to the papal presence in Avignon. Visits to Château de Beaucastel are by appointment only.
South of Avignon is a charming village with countless fine restaurants from casual to elegant, great boutiques, cafes, and markets, St. Rémy-de-Provence is a historic town steeped in local Provençal traditions. With narrow, cobbled streets, cooling fountains and shady squares, surrounded by magnificent landscapes, St. Remy is an artist’s haven, with one of the most notable painters, Vincent van Gogh, creating many of his famous paintings while institutionalized in St. Remy.
Travel Tip: This historic village is also built on one of the oldest archaeological sites in Europe. Amongst other treasures, you will find the remains of the “Comptoir de Glanum” just outside the center of Saint-Rèmy, an ancient city founded in the 3rd century BC and then passed into Roman hands under Julius Caesar. It fell along with the downfall of the Roman Empire, and was eventually abandoned for centuries. Excavations began in the 1920’s, preserving the ancient monuments that lay below.
Just 10km south from St. Rémy is the Medieval village of Les Baux-de-Provence, the legendary home of the Lords of Baux, who constructed their medieval castle on a site that dominates the area. Walking through the town’s narrow cobblestone streets will lead you up to the Chateau-Fortress, a large rocky space with ruins of the former castle, reproductions of ancient weapons of war, and a magnificent view of the countryside.
Travel Tip: Find yourself floating in art at the #1 ranked thing to do in Les Baux, at the Carrières de Lumières, a high technology multimedia performance in the ancient and giant caves that were quarried to build the town. The current exhibit features Bosch, Brueghel and Arcimboldo, with past shows sometimes recurring as special events: Klimt and Vienna, Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, Raphael, and Chagall.. We highly recommend a visit! Note: The quarry remains very cool even in warmer outdoor weather, so bring a sweater.
We end this post with a clip from inside the Carrières de Lumières. Until next time..
As part-time residents in one of the most beautiful towns in the South of France, and with many years’ experience in leading friends and visitors on international adventures, we love to share with others all the things we have experienced and appreciate about our travels. There are so many choices of things to see and do when planning a trip to Provence! We recently compiled a list of recommended activities for close friends that were coming to visit, and thought it was a great list to share with those who may one day visit the region.Please enjoy these commendable activities around Provence from the base of our home, Chez Vous in Uzès.
*We’ve decided to split this post into multiple posts, starting from Uzès and moving outwards. Enjoy!
The Uzès outdoor market is famed all over France. The larger and more diverse Provencal market is every Saturday morning, and sprawls throughout the town from the Place aux Herbes (Uzès’ main square), through alleys and neighboring streets. Don’t miss it for the best of French local produce, homemade jams, charcuterie, local tapenades, spices, cheeses, as well as a variety of goods, clothing, soaps, housewares, and much more. On Wednesdays, the market is more focused on produce and regional foods, with an array of colorful and fragrant fresh flowers. There is also a Sunday antique market which is exceptional.
Tip: The town tends to be crowded on market days, so allow extra time if you are driving out of the town on those days. For those staying at Chez Vous, it is a few minutes walk, which is great for buying fresh groceries or dropping off the treasures you’ll find.
In the center of Uzès is one of the best preserved buildings in the town center, with much history attached spanning from the Feudal days. With traces left of various periods in which the castle was built, the Middle-Ages, Renaissance, 17th century, and modern times can be seen in the architecture. The family of the current Duke of Uzès has owned this impressive property for a thousand years, and parts of it can be visited with a guide, including the Tower, where you will have magnificent views over Uzès and the countryside.
Tip: Estimate half an hour to an hour for the whole tour, with time to take photos. Every year in July, there is a music festival in Uzès, with some of the concerts held at night in the courtyard of the Duchy.
Hiking in the Valley of the Eure
A cool respite for warmer days, head down into the valley from Uzès town center, for a splendid hike among shaded trails and along the river. The river takes you to the source of drinking water in Uzès, as well as the spring once used by ancient Romans to deliver water to Nîmes via the Pont du Gard aqueduct. An incredible hike, you will come across the remnants of the Roman aqueduct, abandoned buildings, and enjoy the pleasant natural surroundings with many wildlife throughout.
Tip: Estimate an hour for the circuit. There are many trails you can hike through the park and valley
Pont du Gard
An obvious follow-up to the Valley of the Eure, and one of the most visited monuments in France, is the Pont du Gard, 15 minutes from Uzès by car. A must-see, the Pont du Gard is the famed intact portion of a 2000 year old Roman aqueduct that once brought water from Uzès to the city of Nîmes, a distance of over 50 kilometers and over the River Gard. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and displays great genius by the ancient Romans.
Tip: Enhance your visit to this grand site by cycling through the countryside or renting a kayak or canoe for an exciting trip down the river!
St. Siffret is a tiny and charming hill-side hamlet a few kilometres from Uzès. Many of the homes have been beautifully preserved, and carefully restored. There are a few small shops, a cafe, a bar, and a restaurant. It is a pleasure to stroll its historic streets and walk to its neighbouring villages. 10-15 minutes from Uzès by car.
St. Quentin La Poterie
As can be derived from its name, St. Quentin La Poterie has a heritage of pottery and craftsmen. With narrow streets and colorful Provencal homes and medieval doors, the village also has several workshops and stores catered to its crafts. 10-15 minutes northeast from Uzès by car.
Welcome to the largest wine-making area of France! Established 2,600 years ago by the Phoenicians, the vines of the area are an added bonus to travel enjoyment. They incentivise a drive on the shores of Cassis, in the foothills of the Alpilles, on the slopes of the Sainte-Baume, and in the sands of the Camargue…. Get ready to enjoy: Côtes-de-Provence, Côtes-de-Provence Sainte-Victoire, Coteaux d’Aix En Provence, Palette, Baux-de-Provence, Cassis, IGP Bouches-du-Rhône, Alpilles …
In rosé, it goes without saying that Provence is a star, but for its reds and whites excellence has been achieved and is on the rise. At the heart of these “terroirs” ( meaning literally from the soil of the land), independent winegrowers and cooperatives encourage epicureans to taste their wines, discover their trails and their charming chateaux and cellars and their local products. They also propose for your pleasure, jazz concerts, or a film in the heart of the vines, and often even an exhibition of contemporary art. In short, do take advantage of an abundant offer of cultural pleasures, beyond the wine… while journeying the territory and inhaling the air of Provence the sea and the “garrigue”. A true experience, unique and exclusive to repeat again and again.
What follows is a very personal list of vineyards as the variety of wines in this region is simply overwhelming. These are producers whose wines we like and whose properties we like. We have not gone into detail about all of their wines, as that is the joy of your wine tourism.
* Château de Beaucastel This is arguably one of the two best Châteauneuf-du-Pape wines (the other being “Le Vieux Telegraphe”). It lies between Orange and Avignon.
In 1321, under the reign of Pope Jean XXII, four barrels were brought from the papal cellar to be filled with wine in Châteauneuf. Then, the Popes planted new vines and the legend of the papal wine began. We find the first evidence of Château de Beaucastel as it exists today in the sixteenth century. In 1549, Pierre de Beaucastel bought a « barn with a plot of land extending to “52 saumées at Coudoulet”. The manor house will be built then with the arms of Beaucastel sculpted on a stone wall of the drawing room.
In 1687, Pierre de Beaucastel was appointed « Capitaine de la ville de Courthezon » by Louis XIV, in recognition of his conversion to Catholicism. Louis XIV’s letter, also said by Colbert, is still visible at the Château.
The property is now owned by the Perrin Family who also own many vineyards through the Rhone Valley and are recognised as highly successful producers down to their their “la Vieille Ferme” wines, red, white and rosé, as daily drinking wines in the €5-€8 price range.
Château de Beaucastel is in the €55-€65 range.
VISIT Visits of Château de Beaucastel are by appointment only. Contact by e-mail to make an appointment.
There are “Famille Perrin” shops in both Avignon and Aix.
BEAUME de VENISE
* Domaine de Durban Some 20/25 minutes east of Châteauneuf du Pape is the small appellation, “Beaume de Venise”, that produces re Côtes de Rhone wines, and the lovely sweet white wines, “Muscat de Beaumes de Venise”.
Nearly two thousand years ago, Pliny the Elder wrote in his Natural History: “The Muscat grape has been grown for a long time in Beaumes and its wine is remarkable”
In 1248, St. Louis took supplies of it with him on his 7th Crusade, and during the early 14th century, at the time of the reign of Pope Clement V, production was increased by 70 hectares to cater for the demand from the Popes’ Palace in Avignon. So there is considerable experience behind these wines that are priced at a fraction of Bordeaux’ famous Sauternes.
The Domaine de Durban is a small producer located on a hillside plateau overlooking the village of Beaumes-of-Venice, and was founded in 1159. The Domaine dominates the vineyard and offers an impressive panorama.
Since the Sixties, the Leydier family has nurtured and developed the production of the now internationally-renowned wines.
VISIT As they are a small producer, it’s a good idea to call ahead to check if a visit is convenient. As they are tucked away on a hill, GPS may not be accurate.
There is a map on how to reach the vineyard on their website
CONTACT Leydier et Fils Domaine de Durban, 84190 Beaumes-de-Venise Tél. : 04 90 62 94 26 Fax : 04 90 65 01 85 Mail : firstname.lastname@example.org
For further information, please fill out their contact form by clicking here.
* Domaine de Bagnol
Cassis, on the coast east of Marseille, deserves a visit in any circumstance. With a picturesque little port, it is within the famous “Les Calanques”, the glorious white cliffs and coves that stretch to Marseille.
Of equal interest are the lovely white wines of Cassis. The town can be very crowded in summer and cars are not permitted into the centre, so visitors are required to park and be bussed in.
However, access by car is still possible to the Domaine de Bagnol, which is just outside the centre of town.
The wine in Cassis is really a very long story! Archaeological excavations have dated its presence since Roman times and the texts of March 16, 1199 mentions vines that prove that wines was being produced in the Middle Ages.
The Domaine du Bagnol, which takes its name from the district where it is located, is one of the oldest in the country.
The modern history of the Domaine begins in 1997, when Jean-louis Genovesi bought it.
Since 2003, Sebastien his son, after specialized studies, has taken it over.
Today, the “Marquis de Fesques” cuvée is the spearhead. The motto of the Estate is to work in the most natural and organic way possible.
CONTACT Domaine du Bagnol 12, avenue de Provence – 13260 Cassis email@example.com Tèl. : 04 42 01 78 05 Site : www.domainedubagnol.fr
Other excellent Cassis producers:
* Domaine du Paternel
* Clos Sainte Magdeleine
* Château de Seuil On the route of the Luberon, north of Aix-enProvence, the Château du Seuil is one of the most original architectural projects of the 13th-17th centuries in Aix-en-Provence.
Its French garden is classified on the French Supplementary Historic Monument List. It consists of a 55 hectare vineyard on the sunny slopes of the Trévaresse mountain chain, in the centre of the Coteaux d’Aix-en-Provence designation. The estate has 280 hectares of woods which provide a natural setting for you to discover. A full range of red, white and rosé available.
VISIT The wine-tasting cellar, open 7 days a week; from Monday to Friday – 9:00-12:30 and 2:00-6:00, and Saturday, Sunday and public holidays – 10:00-1:00 and 2:30-7:00.
* Château Estoublon This property, in the heart of Provence, up against the southern slopes of the Alpilles, carries with it the heritage and even some vestiges of a Roman patrimony. Halfway between Arles and Avignon, the estate of Estoublon and its 18th century castle is nestled in the sumptuous landscape that has often inspired painters and writers. The land of the Alpilles has offered Vincent Van Gogh its most beautiful models.
In this privileged environment, Château d’Estoublon has been passionately perpetuating since 1731 the tradition of olive oils and exquisite wines.
Château d’Estoublon was bought in 1999 by the Schneider family from Switzerland who have renovated everything with exquisite taste. The estate is managed by Valérie, daughter of Ernest Schneider, and her husband Rémy Reboul.
There is a restaurant on site, the Bistro Mogador, and a shop that sells the estate’s wines and olive oils.
VISIT The bistro is open in June every day for lunch 7/7 and on Saturday evening. In July & August it is open every day for lunch, and from Monday to Saturday in the evenings. Closed on Sunday evening. There is a Grand Brunch every Sunday lunch and public holidays.
Provence is one of the most sought after parts of Europe for visiting, and living. An important colony for the Romans, it remains an important attraction today for the French and foreigners. The Roman colony of Provincia (hence “Provence”) was established in 120BC at Aix-en-Provence. The Romans left their mark in countless monuments, including such notable edifices as the Arena and the “Maison Carré” Temple at Nîmes, the Pont du Gard Aqueduct, the Theatre at Orange, and the Amphitheatre at Arles.
The Pont du Gard: a structure that may, at first glance, look like merely a bridge, has instead such historical importance and the construction of incredible skill that it is one of the top attractions in France, and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Through the centuries of changing empires, this ancient Roman aqueduct has transformed from its original purpose, built by the Romans to carry water from a spring in Uzès to Nîmes, but remained largely intact and historically preserved.
Truly a magnificent feature in Provence, the renowned southeastern region of France, the 18th century writer Jean-Jacques Rousseau wrote upon visiting the famous site:
“I had been told to go and see the Pont du Gard; I did not fail to do so. It was the first work of the Romans that I had seen. I expected to see a monument worthy of the hands which had constructed it. This time the object surpassed my expectation, for the only time in my life. Only the Romans could have produced such an effect. The sight of this simple and noble work struck me all the more since it is in the middle of a wilderness where silence and solitude render the object more striking and the admiration more lively; for this so-called bridge was only an aqueduct. One asks oneself what force has transported these enormous stones so far from any quarry, and what brought together the arms of so many thousands of men in a place where none of them live. I wandered about the three storeys of this superb edifice although my respect for it almost kept me from daring to trample it underfoot. The echo of my footsteps under these immense vaults made me imagine that I heard the strong voices of those who had built them. I felt myself lost like an insect in that immensity. While making myself small, I felt an indefinable something that raised up my soul, and I said to myself with a sigh, “Why was I not born a Roman!” “
Extraordinary architecture in Romanesque and Gothic styles can be found all over the region. One of the notable features are the hilltop medieval towns and villages, vestiges of the violent period of more than a thousand years following the end of Roman rule.
At the original source of the water which supplied the town of Nîmes via the Pont du Gard, is the town of Uzès. Uzès is a small town with a large reputation. Its wonderful buildings and architecture, along with its thriving cultural activities, and renowned weekly markets (Wednesdays and Saturdays) have contributed to its fame. In 2014, the Guardian newspaper in England designated it as the second best place in the world to visit (the first was Cape Town, another of our favorites), a remarkable endorsement for such a small town. The town has attracted many artists and artisans, as well as up-and-coming chefs, as the numerous excellent restaurants attests. There are many attractive villages in the surroundings of Uzès, and walks, bike rides, or drives through the many vineyards to these ancient villages are very appealing, and a great introduction to the region of Provence.
Among the countless sights of Provence, you cannot go wrong putting the Pont du Gard at the top of your list. In addition, settling into the charming town of Uzès will have you feeling “Chez Vous”.