Provence - Bouches du Rhone
LANDSCAPE: The Bouches du Rhône department is an earthly paradise at the heart of Provence with a colourful variety of landscapes and attractions to discover. The rolling fields and meadows bask in the sunshine and contrast against the dramatic backdrop of the mountains and turquoise waters. The countryside dazzles with colour from golden fields of rapeseed and sunflowers, intense lavender, and bright poppies. The air is heavy with the scent of lavender, mimosa, rosemary and thyme. This is the region of Provence that produced the creative inspiration for Cezanne, Van Gogh, Pagnol, Mistral, and others.
To the north, the Durance river and the Luberon park form a natural boundary. The "Chaine des Alpilles" (little Alps) are surrounded by vineyards, olive groves, and almond trees with St. Rémy de Provence at the centre. Dominating the landscape to the east is the great sentinel of Mont Sainte Victoire, known all over the world through the paintings of Cézanne. Aix en Provence lies at the foot of Mont. Ste. Victoire and is a lively, sophisticated town with fabulous daily markets. To the west the region is defined by the Rhône river south of Avignon to the wild wetlands of the Camargue delta where the Rhône river meets the Mediterranean Sea. The Mediterranean coast forms the southern rim of the Bouches du Rhône where the stunning inlets of the Calanques are carved into impressive limestone cliffs along the coastline from Marseille to Cassis. The Bouches du Rhône is particularly desirable for its centrality. This region makes an ideal base from which to explore all of Provence. All the sights and attractions of Provence can be visited in day trip excursions from a home base in the Bouches du Rhône region.
PRIME ATTRACTIONS: Visit the Roman amphitheatre and cloisters of St. Trophime in Arles and its vibrant Saturday market. Discover the scenes of Cézanne and his studio in Aix-en-Provence. Stroll through the winding streets of Aix old town, and enjoy the daily markets and cafés on the tree lined Cours Mirabeau. Visit the citadel of Les Baux-de-Provence to discover the ruins of a fortified village from the Middle Ages perched on a cliff. Take a drive to St. Rémy-de-Provence, birthplace of Nostradamus, and a charming little town at the foot of the "Chaine des Alpilles" where Van Gogh found inspiration for many paintings. Discover the Camargue, a protected natural park with wetlands and a variety of wildlife including pink flamingoes, black bulls, and white ponies, and inhabited by cowboys and Gypsies. Don't miss the Calanques, which can be visited by boat or along the many well marked walking paths. The markets of Provence are an endless delight.
FOOD & WINE: Local produce are featured ingredients in the cuisine of the Bouches du Rhône region. Discover the split olives and famous olive oil from Les Baux. Soupe au pistou is made from local basil and the garlicky mayonnaise 'aioli' is dolloped on soups, fish and vegetables. Try the flavourful sea salt from the Camargue. Sample the melons and strawberries at the Cavaillon market. Taste the local Aix specialty "calisson", sweet delicacies made from honey and melon marzipan. In Marseille try the famous bouillabaise and garlicky Mediterranean fish soup.
Provencal rosé prevails in regional wine production and is a perfect accompaniment to the cuisine and climate of the region. In addition, there are some high quality reds and good fruity whites. The Bouches du Rhône offers 4 AOC: Côtes de Provence, Côteaux d'Aix, Palette, and Cassis.
HISTORY; Originally the region was settled by the Celto-Ligurian tribes, and the Greeks in Marseille. The Romans left the most lasting influences in the architecture constructed along the ancient route from Rome to Spain. The region also has historical ties to Catalan.
ACTIVITIES: Lounge around the pool or explore the local villages. Tennis courts and riding stables are never far away, and the hills and mountains make splendid walking country. Boat trips are available along the Rhône, and the coast. Most villages have shady pitches for a leisurely game of boules. Visit a different outdoor market everyday to delight in the colours, tastes and produce of this Provencal region. In particular, Aix-en-Provence has one almost every day of the week offering a vast selection of fruit, vegetables, flowers, fish, antiques and flea market items.
CLIMATE: Provence is renowned for its mild climate and sunshine. Overall the summers are hot, the winters are sunny, and the mid-seasons are mild. The winters are colder away from the coast. There may be days of strong Mistral winds between October and April. However, the Mistral sweeps away clouds and haze to create clear, brilliant blue skies and beautiful starry nights.
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