Wines from Aix en Provence and Les Baux de Provence
By Liz Berry MW
This Guide was last updated on 16 February 2010
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Bustling cultural and university town, with plenty of night life, cafés and restaurants, and some horrific traffic jams in the centre, it is none-the-less a good base from which to visit the vineyard areas of Provence and the southern Rhône valley. The Tourist Office (see 'Useful Information' above) can provide an English speaking guide to take you on a walk around the town, with a qualified guide. Walks take around two hours, and cost €8 per person.
There is a savagely beautiful deserted medieval fortified town on the top of the rocks, formerly the haunt of the Princes of Provence, who apparently had the charming habit of throwing enemies over the top. Below this, on the slopes of the rocky outcrop, is the current village of Les Baux, with some charming churches and typical Provencal architecture, whilst in the valley below lies the lower part of the village of Les Baux, which boasts several of the area’s finest gastronomic restaurants, and some troglodyte houses, literally burrowing under the rocks. The car parks are overflowing at even the quietest times of the year, but the village is well worth a visit, with superb views over the surrounding valleys from the old village, especially on a clear day. The nearby Cathédrale d’Images, a series of caverns cut into the rocks, displays art works projected onto the rock face. Australia is the theme for 2010.
This is undoubtedly one of the trendiest villages in this part of Provence, with a host of famous names from French show biz having holiday homes around here. The town centre is very attractive, with some excellent art shows and galleries, and numerous cafés where one can sit and watch the world go past. There is an excellent market here on Wednesday and Saturday mornings, and numerous fêtes and pageants throughout the year. Van Gogh spent some time here at the Clinique Saint Paul, which can still be visited. Parking here can be a problem, especially in the summer and on market days.
The town of Arles is simply bursting with Roman remains, and for those with an interest in history, a visit to the Museum of Arles and of Antique Provence is a must. It houses the archaeological collections of the town and the surrounding region, from Neolithic times to the early Christian era. There are also a number of fascinating models, including the building of the Roman Arena, the Theatre Antique, and the Place du Forum. The current exhibition features statues recently recovered from the Rhône river, including a rare bust of Julius Caesar. Each summer from July to late September, a photographic exhibitionis arranged, featuring a number of photographic displays in many of the finest buildings in Arles. The museum is on the banks of the Rhone, and was built beside the remains of a Roman circus. The best market in the whole of Provence can be found here on Saturdays. You can rent an electric bike from: Arles Velo Assistance Electric, Patrick Perez, 65 Boulevard Emile Combes, 13200 Arles. Tel/Fax: 04 90 43 33 14 firstname.lastname@example.org. Note there is always a bullfighting festival over the Easter weekend and hotels are full up to a year ahead. Much of the centre of town is blocked off, and parking is impossible.
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