Les Baux de Provence
Les Baux de Provence is one of the most visited villages in Provence. In fact, it might even be the second most visited village in France… after Mont-Saint-Michel. To illustrate: the current population of Les Baux is about 500, whereas the average number of visitors per year is more than 1.5 million.
What makes this quaint little village so attractive? An absolute must see when exploring the Provence?
For one, its setting is absolutely stunning, perched on a rocky plateau at 245m above sea level, overlooking the valley below and the surrounding landscape of Les Alpilles. Its central location in this historically and culturally rich region of France also makes it an ideal base from which to discover the unique Provence region.
The once hauntingly deserted village was “rediscovered” by poets and painters during the 19th Century, and has since been lovingly restored. No cars are allowed in the village and no less than 22 buildings and architectural elements have so far been granted a spot on the National Historical Heritage list.
Of note, the huge castle and citadel ruins dominate the skyline of Les Baux, and keep drawing many visitors. This “eagles’ nest” fortress was built by the Lords of Les Baux in the 10th century, and has subsequently been altered and also made it possible for a permanent settlement to be built on the previously inhospitable marshes.
It spreads over more than 7 hectares and you will need about one and a half hours to complete your visit…But it is well worth it! From the top of the citadel, there are breathtaking panoramic views towards Arles, the Camargue wetlands and the rugged Les Alpilles.
South of Avignon is the wild Chaine des Alpilles, a mountain range composed of limestone rocks, garrigue and olive groves. Stretched between Rhone and La Durance rivers, its main towns are Saint-Remy de Provence (North) and Maussane-les-Alpilles village (South).
The Vallee des Baux, where delicious AOC olive oil is made, links these two towns. The central location of Benvengudo makes it your ideal Alpilles hotel de charme & restaurant.
Les Alpilles is not an especially high mountain range (498m at its highest point, Tour des Opies); however it stands out clearly from the surrounding Rhone plain . There are numerous walking and cycling tracks to explore on the 50.000 hectares Les Alpilles offers.
Les Alpilles surroundings host more than a hundred rare or protected species, including the Bonelli’s eagle, the Egyptian vulture and the eagle owl. From a cultural point of view, Les Alpilles includes more than 200 archaeological sites (some dating as far back as the Roman occupancy!) and monuments, transforming every visit to the region into an historical walk through castles and astonishing scenery.
Artists have always found inspiration from Les Alpilles region: at the end of the 19th century, Alphonse Daudet published ‘Tartarin de Tarascon’ and ‘Les Lettres de mon Moulin’; both staging Les Alpilles. More notoriously, Vincent Van Gogh painted many images of Les Alpilles’ landscapes during his time in Saint-Rémy-de-Provence on the north side of the mountains.
Aix en Provence
Located 45 minutes from Benvengudo lies Aix en Provence, a city rich in heritage and an historical town of art, culture and education.
Aix en Provence has long been a center of art and culture. In the 15th century, King René chose the city to establish his court, renowned for its patronage of arts, science and literature. The King himself was a poet, philanthropist and artist and he turned Provence into a rich and elegant kingdom, celebrating a refined way of life. Under King René’s rule, Aix en Provence entered a period of commercial prosperity and cultural vitality.
Aix en Provence is the birthplace of many famous philosophers, artists and composers, the most famous being the French painter Paul Cezanne, born in Aix in 1839. He spent most of his time between Paris and Aix, staying also at L’Estaque and Les Lauves in Aix where he had a studio.
Opposite the Sainte-Victoire mountain lays the Vasarely Foundation, a building which is a work of art in itself, hosting 42 life-size works by the internationally acclaimed artist Vasarely, recognized as the father of “cinetism” and leader of the Op-art movement. Vasarely’s project was both architectural and social, wishing to demonstrate that contemporary art can be incorporated in architecture to enhance everyday life. His innovations in colour, shape and optical illusion have had a strong influence on many modern artists.
One of the most famous museums is the Musée Granet which has an interesting collection of European paintings, including a very good collection of works by local artist, Paul Cézanne. Le Musée des Tapisseries, located in the Archbishop’s Palace, houses a superb display of tapestries and the Musée Arbaud and Musée du Vieil Aix are some of the important and famous museums in the city.
As you explore Aix through the labyrinth of narrow streets, you will understand why the city is sometimes referred to as the city of a thousand fountains. Amongst the many fountains is the ancient Espéluque fountain, Le bon Roi René fountain which was built in the 15th century and named after Roi René who introduced Muscat grapes to Provence, and the most elaborate fountain, La Rotonde, built in 1860, which serves as a roundabout in the center of the city.
Saint Rémy de Provence
Saint-Remy-de-Provence boasts a tranquil location in the far southern reaches of France within the Bouches-du-Rhone department. Its location is an immense part of its draw as it is only 12 miles from Avignon and just a short distance from the breathtaking Alpilles mountain range.
The central location of our luxury hotel makes this beautiful old town an ideal place to visit during your stay with us and transport can easily be arranged. There is a wide range of attractions to discover in this ever-popular part of the country and history shows that this unspoilt haven in the heart of Provence has been admired throughout the years by artists, writers and royalty.
A trip into the town is a delight for art buffs, history enthusiasts and those eager to soak up the atmosphere of an untouched Provencal gem.
Visitors can travel to the outskirts of Saint-Rémy-de-Provence to explore the interesting ruins of the ancient Roman city of Glanum. L’Arc de Triomphe, a huge archway, attracts many visitors and although not quite as impressive as that of Paris, it is well worth a visit.
The older part of the town is home to picturesque fountains and quaint squares and is encircled by a 14th century wall within which stand many old buildings that are mainly used as residential homes. A stroll around this part of the town makes for a pleasant afternoon.
The 19th century Dolphin Fountain can be found in a shady square, and a 16th century former convent can also be admired nearby.
Whilst the town boasts a certain classic feel, it is also busy and constantly growing in popularity with tourists. The center of the town is often a hive of activity as locals mingle with visitors on market days, and the cafes lining the streets fill with the friendly chatter of many languages.
Le Palais des Papes Avignon
The Palace of the Popes stands as a witness of the church’s influence throughout the western Christian world in the 14th century. Construction was started in 1335 and completed in less than twenty years under the leadership of two builder popes, Benedict XII and his successor Clement VI.
The Popes’ Palace is the largest Gothic palace in Europe at approximately the equivalent of 4 Gothic cathedrals!
You can visit over 20 rooms and view scenes of historic events. Most notable are the pope’s private chambers and the frescoes painted by the Italian artist Matteo Giovannetti.
The Popes’ Palace continues to play an important part in the cultural activities of the region and houses exhibitions and events throughout the year. A major art exhibit is displayed in the Great Chapel during the summer, and the most prestigious performances of the Avignon Theater Festival, created by Jean Vilar in 1947, are given in the Honor Courtyard of the Popes’ Palace during the month of July.
The Avignon popes were great lovers of wine and, during the seventy years of the Avignon papacy, they favored the development of viticulture north of Avignon in the region of Châteauneuf-du-Pape. Today this wine region has many famous wineries such as Château de la Gardine, Château Rayas or Domaine du Vieux Telegraphe.
Avignon is a mere 25 km north of Les Baux de Provence and our Provence hotel – Benvengudo.
The Pont du Gard
The Pont du Gard is a vestige of the famous Roman aqueduct which was built under the Emperor Claudius around 50 AD.
The aqueduct was built to meet the urban expansion of Nîmes, an important city of Provence, and its water needs. The latter was taken from the source of the Eure in Uzes and came pouring into the pipes of the water tower in Nimes. In 1985, the Pont du Gard is listed as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.