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..


Commendable Activities around Provence (Part 1)

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!

Uzès Markets 

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.

Duchy of Uzes

Duchy of Uzès 

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

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

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.

To be continued..

Uzès, one of the most beautiful towns in Provence

 


Reacquainting with Rome

We just returned from 10 days in Rome. Although we lived there for many years, this city will never lose its appeal. Where else is it necessary to stop every 50 yards to admire an ancient building, a provocative statue, a scene from “La Dolce Vita”, a painting glimpsed through a window, a dramatically modern restaurant or any other of the myriad views that the city nonchalantly offers, as if observing 2500 years of civilisation is “normale”?

What other place on this globe has given so much culture, art and engineering to the world, not just once, with Ancient Rome, but twice, with Renaissance Rome too? Nothing can match the greatness that Rome has given to the world. Add a glorious climate, great food, wonderful wines, stupendous music, the warmth of the people, and Rome’s charms far exceed its drawbacks.

Of course there is a price to pay for all of this. There is so much history and architecture to preserve, that no city or even a country could possibly afford to maintain it all in pristine condition, let alone one managed like Rome and Italy are managed. So dilapidated monuments are everywhere, laughable “lawns” abound in the parks, and the traffic strives mightily to reach the heights attained by Naples’ inhabitants, but happily never quite attains that level of insanity. The governmental administration at various levels is questionable, and not averse to corruption.

The people, being naturally resistant to rules and regulation, are not averse to surviving in chaos. Within limits, this too becomes a perverse attraction as one thanks God that this unique gem is not run like Singapore or Zurich, but remains a vibrant and living museum to our shared human civilisation.

There is limited prospect that Italy will be “Great” again. These people were “Great” longer than any other civilisation. They’ve learned that being “Great” is not all it’s cut out to be, that there are more useful, pleasant and productive things to do than being “Great”. Just being in Rome is one of them.

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