Provence Journals

Provence: A Home From Rome

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A July 2008 trip to Provence by Liam Hetherington

Pont du Gard Photo, Vers-Pont-du-Gard, Languedoc Roussillon More Photos
Quote: The beauty of Provence continues to lure visitors. But some of the province's earliest guests left an indelible mark on the countryside: the Romans

Provence: A Home From Rome

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Overview

Arles Amphitheatre Photo, Arles, France
Quote:
The delight of Provence is in idleness. Lazing in the sun, a bit of a wander, a lengthy lunch, a siesta, a late dinner. The temperature (especially in summer) and way of life seems to positively encourage langour. The country is stunning – you can see why so many artists settled in the south of France. The light is so bright it makes all the bushes and trees look a vivid Astroturf green. And then there are fields of golden sunflowers, all facing the same way in their rows, bushes of bright lavender. Even the fallow fields are dotted with red poppies. The place smells like a spice rack, with sudden wafts of hot sage and oregano. And the trees are full of ugly cicadas, shaking their backsides constantly...Read More

Camping Le Brégoux

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Hotel | "A Home away from Home for Homes that Roam"

Camping Le Brégoux Photo, Provence, France
Quote:
Taking a caravan to Provence? Come here. Many do. And what is more, they return. While this was my first time staying at this camping and caravan site, it was my parents' third. A walk with them around the shaded 3.5 hectare site prompts a chorus of greetings from people they had met in previous summers. One Dutch couple have actually become good friends of theirs, and have offered them an invitation to come across to the Netherlands.Le Brégoux is almost a hidden secret, possibly due to a very bad write-up in the Camping & Caravan Guide. But it does book up in advance - my father emailed Lionel, the guardien, on New Year's Day to ensure he got his favourite pitch when he came over in J...Read More

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on August 2, 2008

Camping Le Brégoux
Chemin du Vas - 84810
Provence
+33 4 90 62 62 50

Pont du Gard

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Attraction | "Le Pont du Gard, the Most Spectacular Sight in Provence"

Pont du Gard Photo, Vers-Pont-du-Gard, Languedoc Roussillon
Quote:
If you see only only site in the south of France, it has to be the Pont du Gard. Built by an unknown architect it is, in my eyes, the most spectacular legacy left over from the Roman occupation. Yet it is not a temple to honour the gods, nor a palace to honour its occupants, nor even a theatre to awe the masses. It is merely a piece of civic enginerring, an aqueduct, designed to help transport fresh water from its source in the hills above Uzes to the thriving conurbation of Nimes. The original aqueduct was some 50km long, and 90% of its length was underground. It wound across the terrain - the distance between Uzes and Nimes was probably nearer 25km as the crow flied, but the Romans chose...Read More

Member Rating 5 out of 5 on August 2, 2008

Pont du Gard
Crossing the Gardon River
Near Remoulins, France

Roman Ruins

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Attraction | "Arles - Unimpressive Roman Ruins, but a Fascinating Archaeological Museum"

Roman Ruins Photo, Arles, France
Quote:
It is impossible to deny the importance of Roman-era Arelate, precursor to modern-day Arles. The town was beautified by a number of public diversions, that still can be seen in part - a 10,000 seater theatre, a 20,000 seater arena, a chariot-racing circus that sat a similar number, grand public baths. However I failed to be impressed by these surviving monuments. The baths and theatre can be safely avoided, and there is next to nothing visible of the circus. The arena might be worth a nosey, but it is in use by modern audiences for bullfighting. However, the cream of Roman civilisation can be seen at the Musée de l'Arles Antiques. This is a very worth-while stop, and illustrates the development of the...Read More

Member Rating 3 out of 5 on August 2, 2008

Roman Ruins
Arles
Arles, France

Palais des Papes-Palace of the Popes

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Attraction | "Avignon: the Provencal Home of 'Roman' Catholicism"

Palais des Papes-Palace of the Popes Photo, Avignon, France
Quote:
Just because the Roman Empire collapsed under its own crapulent bulk, unable to respond effectively to marauding invaders, does not mean that Provence ceased to draw the denizens of the ‘Eternal City’. The Emperor Constantine made Christianity an official religion within his domains; over a millenium later the heads of the Christian church decamped to Provence for almost a century.It was in 1309 that the French Pope Clement V tired of the infighting and feuding of the Italian clerics and nobles in Rome as clans such as the Orsini and Colonna jockeyed for position. Dragging the Papal Curia with him he decamped to Avignon, to reside in the Dominican monastery there. Six popes followed him, e...Read More

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on August 2, 2008

Palais des Papes-Palace of the Popes
3 Place Palais
Avignon, France
04 90 86 04 13

Roman Orange

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Attraction | "Theatrical Orange"

Roman Orange Photo, Provence, France
Quote:
If Orange means anything, it is its magnificent Roman-era theatre. You may think you know Roman theatres - semi-circular tiers of seats, such as that at Arles. But that is only half the story. Orange is pretty-much unique in that it retains its theatre wall, the backdrop against which the players would perform. This makes it the only surviving Roman theatre-wall in Europe, and one of only three in the world (the others are in Aspendos, Turkey, and in Bosra in Syria).I'll admit, from the outside the theatre does not look very prepossessing. Its front facade facing the town ...Read More

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on August 2, 2008

Roman Orange
Orange
Provence, France 84100

Vaison-la-Romaine

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Attraction | "The Three Ages of Vaison"

Statue, Vaison-la-Romaine Photo, Provence, France
Quote:
Ah, Vaison-la-Romaine! If I lived in Tuscany, I would live in Siena. If I lived in Provence, I would live in Vaison. Make no mistake - this town *is* on the tourist map. Yet this merely adds a flash of colour and exuberence. The main street is lined with pretty shopfronts selling brightly-tinted goods: woven bags, ceramics, scented soaps and ice-creams. I say 'the three ages', though at first glance there are only two distinct halves, a 'New Town' and an 'Old Town', split by the valley of the Ouveze. In July 2008 it was shallow but fast-flowing, with people bathing below the carpark.However, when it flooded in 1992 it wrecked a large part of the town and carried away the modern road bridge...Read More

Member Rating 3 out of 5 on August 2, 2008

Côtes du Rhône Villages

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Attraction

Gigondas Photo, Provence, France
Quote:
Not only are the small villages of Provence some of the most delightful on the planet - but they also produce some of the most delightful wine too. These are mostly meaty reds, usually around 14% abv, usually made predominantly from Grenache and Syrah grapes. While only one specific village is really world famous - the famed Chateauneuf-du-Pape which bears the papal crossed-keys on its bottle - it seems that practically ever pinprick on the map has its own AOC (Appellation d'Origine Contrôlée). Indeed it seems faintly preposterous that when you are travelling along a vineyard-fringed road between two villages, barely a mile apart, there is somewhere an invisible demarcation line that says that these v...Read More

Member Rating 3 out of 5 on August 2, 2008

About the Writer

Liam Hetherington

Liam Hetherington
Manchester, United Kingdom