by Ken Mozlowski,
One of France’s most classic, untouched and beautiful regions is Provence in South Eastern France. The lush countryside is spotted with ancient medieval villages, remnants of Roman architecture and traditional French towns. The idyllic region is known for its fields of lavender, sunflowers and poppies, vineyards, almond, olive oil and delicious cuisine and is perfect for foodies and those looking for an alternative to the hustle and bustle of Paris. Those keen on “slow” travel will also appreciate the change in pace that the region offers. If you’re a beach lover then the Cote d’Azur in southern Provence has sea and sun. Provence inspired Van Gogh, Cezanne and myriads of other artists. Art lovers will enjoy exploring the unique art galleries in Provencal towns such as Arles.
Renting a car and driving through the Provence countryside is perhaps the most popular way of exploring the region although it is possible to access Provence by fast train to Avignon, Aix-en-Provence, Marseille and Nice. Bus routes also crisscross the region.
Some of the highlights of Provence include:
Avignon, Palais des Papes – This is an extravagant Gothic palace which was once home to 14th century popes. The palace is in the city of Avignon where the Pont St. Benezet (Avignon Bridge) is the main attraction. A is a dynamic hub and considered a good choice as a base from which to explore the region.
Saint-Remy-de-Provence – Here you can experience the essence of Provence, see the Roman Triumphant Arch of Glanum and the over 10- century old Monastere , St. Paul de Mausole, now a hospital where Van Gogh was admitted for psychiatric treatment. The Tourist Office offers guided tours of the sites painted by Van Gogh, some of them unchanged. Frequent strong winds in that part of Provence help understand the tortured trees in many of the artist’s paintings.
Les Baux – Perched in the Alpilles Mountains, officially “one of the most beautiful villages in France” it is dominated by the ruins of an ancient castle and surrounded by olive trees and vineyards in the valleys 245 meters below. With extended views over two valleys, Les Baux was already used as a natural fortress in prehistoric times.
Moustiers Sainte Marie – A long and winding road leads up to this quaint village which clings to the cliffs and from the center of the village a waterfall bursts forth. The village is located at the entrance to the Gorge du Verdon.
Isle sur La Sorgue – Search the famous Marche aux Puces or ‘flea market’ and the fresh produce market in this village situated on the Sorgue, a slow river meandering also through some of the most scenic neighboring villages.
Where to stay in Provence
Although in the larger towns you can find standard hotels many choose to immerse themselves in the culture and stay in a vacation rental.
There are vacation rentals which will either give you solitude, a close connection with nature, independence or put you in a position to get to know the locals – all depending on what you are looking for. Vacation rentals in Provence are often an economical choice for those on a budget and for groups or large families which need lots of room. If you’re looking for a romantic getaway then a vacation rental can give you uninterrupted one-on-one time.