Commendable Activities around Provence (Part 2)

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.

Here’s the link to Part 1 in case you missed it!

Avignon Piazza
Avignon Piazza from top of the Papal Palace

AVIGNON

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.

Isle sur la Sorgue

Chateau de Beaucastel
Photo Credit: Chateau de Beaucastel

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.


St. Remy Glanum mausoleum
Glanum mausoleum

ST. RÉMY-DE-PROVENCE

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.


Les Baux Castle
Les Baux Castle

LES BAUX-DE-PROVENCE

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.

Immerse yourself at the Carrières de Lumières – view this clip from our summer visit. Until next time..


Magnificence in Provence, Countryside and Culture in Southern France

Provence Lavender FieldProvence 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.

Pont du GardTruly 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.

Uzes Village in Provence
The Village of Uzes

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”.

Uzes stroll
A stroll through Uzes
Uzes chic apartment
A glimpse of one of our Uzes apartments

See more places to stay in Provence

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