The places in All The Stars We Follow - Part 1
If you live in Europe, you’re probably familiar with Provence, that area of the South of France famed for its stone villages, lavender fields and olive oil to name but a few of the things that make it famous. If you live further afield, you may have heard of it but you may not have a visual of where it is or of what it looks like.
If I had to describe it, I would say that what makes Provence and all that southern region so special are its light (it’s been made famous by many painters like Van Gogh or Cézanne), the ochre and red of the stone houses against the deep blue sky, the laid-back way of life, the diversity of its landscape. In Provence, you get everything from the sea to the mountains, to wide valleys and deep green forests. There are rows upon rows of vines and olive trees, soft hills covered in cork-oak trees, hill-top villages with views that take your breath away.
On the map below, you can see that Provence covers the extreme southeast corner of France, going all the way from the Italian border to the south of the Alps and then west, Avignon, Arles and Camargue. To the south, on the Mediterranean, you have the famous cities of Nice, Cannes and Marseille to name but a few. This is an administrative map of the region Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur.
The eagle-eyed among you will have noticed that Nîmes is not part of the map, that it is just at the west of it. Technically, Nîmes and Uzès are part of region Occitanie, but in guidebooks they are often noted as being part of Provence.
I will not talk about the eastern side of the region as I do not talk about it in my book, but if you are interested, you can find a lot of information on the official tourist site here.
So today I will focus on the following places: Arles, Eygalières and Nîmes.
Arles is a major city in Provence and like many of these cities still has remains from the Romans who invaded Provence in 123BC. In Arles, you will see a very well preserved Amphiteater (arena) and an Antique Theatre. It is also famous for a café where Van Gogh stayed amongst other things. It is just north of Camargue, an area of natural beauty famed for its salt, wild white horses and pink flamingos and famous prints.
Eygalières is a tiny village in the Alpilles (meaning literally small Alps). Les Alpilles are the very beginning of the Alps, the highest mountain chain in France which is the natural frontier with Italy and Germany.
The Alpilles are small white hills (chalk) and are most well-known for the village of Baux-de-Provence set at the top of a rocky mountains with its medieval castle at the top. A must-see if you ever find yourself in the area.
Eygalières is in a plain and is most famous for its wines (Côteaux des Baux-de-Provence).
Some celebrities have houses in and around the village.
Nîmes is not technically in Provence but in Occitanie, yet you feel the influence of the Provence lifestyle all over the city. Like its sister Arles, it is famous for Les Arènes (arena) where in June you can still see gladiators and chariots fight during its famous Féria. In addition to the Les Arènes, it also had la Maison Carrée, a Roman temple.
Between Nîmes and Uzès, there is the famous Pont du Gard, one of the most famous and well-preserved Roman aqueducts in the world, built by the Romans during the 1st century AD. Built as a three-level aqueduct standing 50 m high, it allowed water to flow across the Gardon river. It is an absolute must-see if you ever find yourself in the area.
Next week, I’ll explore Uzès and its surrounding villages.
Until next time,