Wednesday, 7 November 2007

Les Alpilles and les Baux de Provence

Provence Day 3– Les Alpilles and Les Baux de Provence
Now this is what I was thinking of when I thought “vacation in Provence”.

First, we wake up at our lovely hotel which is bright, modern and cheery. There is a courtyard with a fountain and fig trees. The hotel is named “Under the Fig Tree” (Sous le Figuiers), in honor of the fig trees found in the courtyard along with a gurgling fountain and little paths that lead to your room. The rooms are adorned with beautiful paintings of garlic cloves and fruit done by the owner. But the most important feature was its absence of carpets- only natural materials here folks- marble, tile and plaster!

We begin our day with a hearty German style breakfast of apple juice, tea (or hot cocoa or coffee), grapes, melon, yogurt, assorted bread and toast, and mini croissants and pain au chocolat. Quite the feast.

We have in mind a hike to counteract all the driving we’ve been doing. A few minutes outside of St. Remy are the Alpilles, a small rocky mountain range that have trails for hiking. We eagerly hop out of the car and head out on a gravel path. As we walk, the path becomes more narrow. We are on the highest point of the Alpilles, so there is a nice view all around us. The view is typical of the area- hill after hill (or mountain) of little green shrubs set on white rock. The kids are enjoying the hike; Maggie collects little acorns, and Quinn runs up the highest peak around us. A bicyclist warns there are hunters in the area. He suspects they are hunting rabbit. We quickly run around the next bend to see if we see any, but no luck.

After we head back to our car, we set out for Les Baux de Provence. It is a village built high up on and into the white rock of the region. It is a short and stunning drive from our hotel. You can see the remnants of a castle in the white rock set against the blue sky as you approach. We park the car and enter the world of Les Baux.

After lunching in one of the restaurants built into the rock (very troglodytic), we head up to the remnants of the old chateau. It is a panoramic and quite scenic view from the top of les Beaux. You can see the Alpilles where we hiked earlier, as well as many patches of olive groves interspersed with patches of vineyards. There are fun areas to explore, as some of the old steps and windows and rooms are still intact, and able to be climbed on and through.

Also displayed were some of the weaponry used in the time such as a ramming rod and a huge catapult. Scenes and dialogue from Monty Python and the Holy Grail again popped into mind. You can see how the idea for such a comedy is a natural when surrounded by castles and these antiquated war machines.

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