Friday, March 02, 2007

Les Baux De Provence

Not far from the Rhône river, a little south and east of Nîmes, lie les Alpilles, a range of small mountains of calcaire, or limestone. Barely 400 meters high at their highest, these chalky hills look more impressive than they really are. On one of the rocky outcroppings clings the medieval city of Les-Baux-de-Provence with its ruined fortress at the top.

The southern flanks of Les Alpilles are covered with olive orchards.

These days the place is pretty much a tourist trap. The old buildings have been lovingly restored, but drip with cuteness and are plastered with postcards, gaudy pottery, and ceramic cigalles, all for sale. Ice cream vendors abound.

The village of Les Baux.

In 1989, it seems that Les Baux wasn't yet discovered by the American hoards. Peter Mayle's A Year In Provence was published in Britain that year but not until 1991 in the US; the television miniseries premiered on PBS in 1993. Still, there were plenty of tourists when Ken and I visited.

The ruins of the medieval fortress atop Les Baux.

I went back, again in 2001, with our friend Sue, and the place was totally different. More restoration, more shops, more kitsch for sale, and many, many more people. Parking was a nightmare, and the access road was lined with parked cars for what seemed like a kilometer in each direction from the main lots at the base of town. Don't even talk about the tour buses. The photos here are from the 1989 trip.

One of the main streets of Les Baux winds up the hill from the parking lots below.

It's a neat place to see, and it's in great surroundings, if you can stand the crowds. My advice : go off-season on a cold day.

3 comments:

  1. We went in March 2006, on a very cold and Mistral-bitten Sunday. We had a fine time, except for the scary moment when I had to sit on the ground on the citadel to keep from blowing away! We took a taxi, so the parking wasn't a problem, 'cept for the nice taxi driver, who had the thickest Provencal accent I've ever heard. Perfect timing!

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  2. I went some 15 years ago in winter, not many people there then. Great photos!

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  3. Chris, your comment came in twice, so I deleted one.

    Claude, thanks ! Yes, I think winter is the best time, and 15 years ago probably helped. You'd be surprised if you went back today.

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