We are fortunate to wake up next to one of the most amazing villages of Provence, Les Baux-de-Provence, officially classified and labelled as one of the most beautiful villages in France with an exceptionally rich cultural heritage. Long, narrow cobblestone streets between grey-stone medieval buildings, painstakingly restored, characterize the ancient village. Interesting is also the Chateau-Fortress: a high rocky pinnacle topped with the ruins of the castle. A path with stony steps leads us past the troglodyte caves out to the high walls and fortress ruins and up to the top of the high rocky ridges. The climbing is a little arduous, but it’s worth it for the view from up there is breathtaking.
Our next destination is Arles, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, much bigger than the tiny hamlets seen so far, but with a very interesting historical city center.
On the way we pass through two lovely villages, Maussane-les-Alpilles and Paradou. We make a quick stop in Maussane to taste its famous olive oil.
Once in Arles we head on foot to the Théâtre Antique, then to the Amphithéâtre with a capacity of 20,000. Climb the tower for a magnificent view of Arles and the Rhône River and then stroll down to the Baths of Constantine at the Église St-Trophime with its impressive Romanesque West Portal on the Place de la République.
Vincent van Gogh lived in Arles in 1888 for more than a year. After two years in Paris, he was tired of the hustle and bustle of city life and longed for the sunshine and vibrant colors of the south. When he got to Arles, Vincent took a room at the hotel-restaurant Carrel, and later, one at Café de la Gare. In early September, he moved into the Yellow House, which he had begun using as a studio on May 1. Paul Gauguin joined him there in October and they worked together for 2 month. Van Gogh experienced great productivity in Arles before suffering a mental breakdown. It was here, in, what he called the Yellow house, on the night before Christmas Eve 1888, where he sliced off his left earlobe and gave it to a prostitute who fainted on the sight of it…
Aim to leave Arles in the afternoon to drive to Aix-en-Provence’s best hotel, La Villa Gallici (if available), only a 15-minute walk from the town center. This eighteenth-century, honey-colored mansion, surrounded by cypress trees and lavender. 22 Provençal rooms outfitted in toile, cream, and crimson Louis XV furnishings. The restaurant pairs Provençale, French, and Mediterranean dishes with Bordeaux, Burgundy, and local wines—all served on the terrace during the summer.