18.05.2014 - 25.05.2014 25 °C
This week we headed south to Provence. It seems that the further south you travel in France the more beautiful it gets. The village in which we stayed, Arles, is famous for its Roman ruins and bullfights. It is also where Vincent Van Gough made home for a short period and a number of landmarks in the village are featured in his paintings.
The region of Provence is known for its lavender and I envisaged fields of purple as we drove along. Unfortunately not one lavender plant was to be seen, I think it was too early in the season, however the souvenir shops were full of the stuff.
The villages that make up the region of Provence are picturesque and well worth the visit. Markets, long lunches and window-shopping at Aix-en-Provence and Isle-en-Provence were enjoyable and relaxing.
On a visit to Avignon, we saw the Saint Benezet Bridge, one of the most famous bridges in France. It was built between 1171 and 1185 with only four of the original 22 arches remaining. A song has been written about the bridge and it is taught in French schools, a bit like ‘Waltzing Matilda’ for the French, if your French regardless of your age you know the song. Avignon is also home to the Papal Palace where seven Popes resided from 1309 until 1377.
One of the most impressive structures in Provence is the Pont du Gard. The aqueduct bridge was built in the 1st century AD by the Romans to carry water. It is the highest of the Roman built aqueducts and the best preserved. Situated in a beautiful valley, the French locals swim in pristine water and sunbake along the river.
At times walking around Arles felt like being in Italy with strong Roman influences everywhere. An ancient arena and amphitheatre still remain in the middle of the village and are still used today for concerts and animal friendly bullfights.
We have seen many markets throughout the last six months, so consider ourselves to be knowledgeable enough to know the difference between a good one and a great one. Without a doubt the Saturday markets in Arles was the best we have seen. Fresh produce, spices, seafood, pastries, bread, olives and smallgoods. A real foodie’s paradise.
Next stop the French Riviera.