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Traveller's Tales

 

Provence


Provence is a region of France, located along the Mediterranean Sea in the south; Italy in the east; the Alps in the north and the Rhone river in the west. The name Provence was actually given by the Romans, because the area was the first Roman provinces outside the Empire.
 

Many artists and authors with big name that happened to live in this area, namely: Albert Camus, Richard Perle, Henri Bosco. There were also music composed about this beautiful region, such as: “Tableaux de Provence” by Paul Bizet and “Suite Provencale”, by Darius Milhaud. There were also many great painters happened to live, or spent most of their time in the Provence, such as: Henry Matisse, Pablo Picasso, Paul Cezanne, Vincent van Gogh, Paul Gigou to name a few.
 
There are a lot of books written by famous writers about this particular region, such as: Henry James, Emile Zola, Alphonse Daudet etc. However I just want to write my brief travel to the area with some pictures, particularly aimed for those who have never been to the area.
 
 
“The Thalys”
 
 
I took “Thalys” train, from Amsterdam directly to Avignon that took around 7.30 hours and I was lucky to be invited by Meneer Herman Zikking, the train driver to come to the driver’s cabin.
 
 
The Thalys is designed to travel at the maximum speed of around d 320 km per hour, however, due to the busy traffic, the train normally cruising between 100 to 130 km per hour.
 
 
The passengers cabin of the Thalys is quite impressive, better than any local flights, anywhere in the world and so as its services. During the journey, the Thalys’ first class cabin passengers were served breakfast as well as lunch, along with assorted soft drinks and wines. A rather good bar is also available on board the train
 
 
Provence, besides one of the most beautiful region in France, the area has a lot of historical inheritance, dated back to the golden Romans empire. This region with its most famous cities such as: Nice, Saint Tropez, Marseilles, Toulon, Monaco, Avignon, Aix-en-Provance, Arles are the most visited cities in France.
 
The landscape around Provence is characterized with various herbal plantations such as Lavender and Sun Flowers:
 
 
 
However, most of the towns in Provence are characterized with beautiful old buildings and narrow alleys:
 
 
 
 
Arles
 
 
I decided to stay in Arles, a town that listed as World Heritage Sites, by UNESCO since 1981. The town was built quite literally to resemble a miniature version of Rome and there are many scattered relics are still found around the town, including “The Arena”, where tourists could see “the bullfights”, instead of the fight of the gladiators. This town is so beautiful, that attracted The Dutch famous painters van Gogh.
 
 
Vincent van Gogh decided to stay a while and made one of his most famous paintings of the area,   “Café Terrace at Night”, in 1881, that still exist now.
 
 
Apparently, for some reasons, back then, van Gogh was not welcomed by the people of Arles and in 1889 he took asylum in the nearby town of St-Remy-de-Provence, where he ended up his tragic life in a Mental Hospital. 
 
 
Avignon
 
 
 
Besides of its panoramic surroundings, Avignon known as the place where The Roman Catholic Pope took refuge from the Roman Empire in 1309 and for around 70 years, Palais des Pepes in Avignon became the center of Christendom.
 
 
 
The Avignon Festival
 
The Avignon Festival during 6th to 28th July showing anything that sounds “arts”, however, in particular it is a Theatre Festival, from Classics to the most contemporary, one could possibly imagine and from musicals to still pantomimes. They come from around the world, performing their acts in various Theatre Houses around the town, which I believe having the most Theatre House of any town in the world.
 
During the period of the festival, each group promoting themselves around Place du Palais wearing the clothing and attributes of the actual show, which are quite spectacular. Here are some of them:
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
St. Remy de Provence
 
 
St. Remy is a nice little town where Nostradamus spent his earlier life and so as the famous Marquis de Sade:
 
 
There is also Van Gogh House to commemorate the Great Dutch painter who spent his last days   in a Mental Hospital in this town.
 
 
Many painters also live and open up Gallery and Boutique in St Remy-en-Provence :
 
 
 
Aix-en-Provence
In comparison with other towns in the Provence region, Aix-en-Provance, where the great painter Paul Czesanne lived, is a bit more sophisticated. While there are many old buildings and narrow allies, there are also new apartments with boulevards.
 
 
Aix-en-Provence was the independent capital of Provence region during the Roman era and also as cultural center, where it has one of the oldest university in France. The legend has it that The Romans words for town was “aquae sextius” and the French simply shorten it into “aix” …..
 
 
 
 
 
The Canyon du Verdon
 
 
This is the most panoramic sights in Provence, a turquoise bluish color river sneaking along the limestone cliffs onto the Lac de Ste-Croix. A narrow road along Route des Cretes offer a spectacular view of the canyon and the lake.
 
 
The Horses of Camarque
 
The Camarque is listed in the Eyewitness Travel: The Top 10 places to visit in Provence. 
The Camarque , a fast area of lakes, lagoons and swamps, is located in the south coast. However, it is also known for their Camarque Cowboy and their Camarque white horses and Bulls, as well as mosquitoes …..
 
 
The legend has it that the Camarque community’s origin came from The Gypsy and heavily influenced by the Spanish tradition of raising horses and Bulls.
 
 
I went to the area and found almost nothing except a few Bull and Horse farms and of course a lot of mosquitoes. However, in the Parade of Avignon Festival, it happened that they include for the first time, the Cowboy and their Horses of Camarque …….
 
 
 
MERCAILLES
 
This is one of the most panoramic city I have visited.
 
 
 
 
 
If one has more time to explore Provence, then there are other places of interest worth visiting, such as: Gordes, Velansole, Rousillon, Sault, Bonnleuy, Oppede, Groux-les-Bain. There are a lot of hotels, resorts as well as Château for rent. The scenery around those area are characterized with hilly limestone and wine-yards and lavender plantation.
 
 
 
In Velansole, there are some porcelain works:
 
 
In France, during summertime it is the time for the roadside cafes and they are just about in every corners of the street:
 
 
 
 
The atmospheres of the area, especially during the summer-time is a mixed of beauty and seductive and while the young people doing it …….
 
 
The elderly couple lost themselves in their good old fading memory ……
 
 
In all, I would put Provence as a must-visit-place …….. once in a life time ……. 
A book “Top 10 Places to visit in Provence & The Cote D’Azur” outlining comprehensively the places of interest throughout Provence would be of help, to pick up what you want to see, but a piece of advice: before going to France, make sure that you are well equipped with a fair amount of French vocabulary ……… oui


 
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