Thursday, February 24, 2011

Provence in January

Who on earth goes to Provence in January you might ask? Well, if the girls are going, so am I, I always say, and this time it was 16 friends from the American Women's Club here in London. Was it sunny? Yes. Was it warm? Uh, no. Was it crowded like Provence can sometimes be? Not in the least!

After arriving in Marseilles, we headed straightaway to the deserted hillside-perched village of Les Baux de Provence. It was once a thriving stronghold in the 10th century for the feudal lords of Baux who claimed to be descended from Balthazar, one of the legendary Wise Men. With the star of Bethlehem on their tunics as inspiration,  they controlled 79 surrounding cities at their peak of glory.

From the view of their ruined castle, and with the chain of the Alpilles mountains in the background, 

 it's an amazing experience imagining what it must have been like

to live at such "altitudes" of power.

Moving on, we stopped at the Roman ruins of Glanum, a fortified town founded in the 6th century B.C.   The triumphal arch is considered to be one of the first of its kind in Provence and was situated just outside the northern gates of the ancient city.

Next to the arch is the 60 foot high Mausoleum of the Julii, which dates to about 30 B.C. and is thought to be the burial tomb of a mother and father, erected in their honor by their three sons, whose names are inscribed on the side, along with some beautiful bas-relief designs. It is generally considered to be one of the best preserved mausoleums in the whole Roman world.

Right there in the south of France!

Our resting place the first day was the nearby town of St.-Rémy-de-Provence, one of the typical Provence villages covered up with tourists in the summer. We found empty squares, welcoming restaurants, and quiet atmospheric streets, tempting us to come back and be a part of the action when the city wakes up for the summer season.

Another day of sun found us on our way to Avignon, where we spied its famous bridge, originally  22 arches across when it was built in the 12th century, but today standing short of that with only 4 arches. Immortalized in the children's folk song, Sur Le Pont d'Avignon, it had been ravished by the Rhone River on several occasions and the citizens opted not to rebuild it.

Perhaps Avignon is best known for the time it served as the seat of the papacy from 1309-1377 when popes fled the corruption of Rome.  Sometimes referred to the Babylonian Exile, seven popes lived there in the formidable Palais des Papes,

in what is recorded as a decadent, luxurious lifestyle. 
Strolling the city revealed hidden treasures and lovely squares, which were once again very quiet during the winter season.

I leave you for now with a favorite impression--the antique French carrousel in the Place de l'Horloge-- and with a promise of more Provence impressions in the days to come.

So with spring just peeking its head around the door and new beginnings at our reach, remember to Grab the Brass Ring and live life to the fullest!


  1. I love this post, Debi! It takes me back to a book I read in my teens by Mary Stewart. The entire novel was set in Provence. Avignon and Les Baux were key locations as well as St-Remy-de-Provence. What fun to see photographs of these beautiful places. I'm so glad you were able to tour them, and if my friends were going to Provence in the Winter, I'd grab my sweater and go, too!

  2. The South, and Provence, always full of beauty and light!
    Thank you for this wonderful excursion,

  3. I would go to Provence anytime of the year ......I ♥ France.

    The statue in St Pancras is further down from John Betjemen ... and about 9 metres high according to what I have read .. find the clock and it is below it. :-)

  4. Thanks to you honey I have been able to go places that I never dreamed of seeing. I am thinking of visiting London in the near future.
    I have not received my invitation to the Royal wedding as of today but I am sure it is in the mail
    Your wonderful for sharing your trips with us
    Love ya

  5. Lovely trip! I enjoyed myself tremendously!

  6. Ah, Provence. I think it is quite nice that you got to see such a popular area, as Provence, without the bustle of the high tourist season. As always, wonderful shots.

  7. What a wonderful trip, Debi filled with so much interesting history!! I am definitely taking that brass ring each day!! Love that carousel photo and I look forward to more of your adventures! xxoo :)

  8. Looks like you had a fantastic time in Provence. I actually prefer to explore places in the off season, you have the whole place to yourself. I really need to check out some of the American ladies clubs here in Paris!
    Thanks for all the amazing shots.

  9. Beautiful shots! I'm glad you braved the cold!!

  10. Sometimes it is nice to visit a place when there are not so many tourists - as long as you have a restaurant still opened.
    I recently started a book called A Year in Provence by Peter Mayle, so I sincerely thank you for the phootos. He experienced February with an unexpected hard snow that separated villages because of the lack of snowplows. This was at least 20 years ago - perhaps they now have more snowplows.
    Until I took a Latin course a few years ago I did not realize that there were so many Roman ruins throughout Europe, and some still in use.

  11. I'm so pleased you took the journey -Provence is always beautiful and what a delight to see the carousel in Avignon - the same carousel I have as my header - it's ever so pretty.
    Enjoy your week-end Debi
    "All Things French"

  12. Well it looks like that is one gorgeous place any time of year! I have never been to Provence but it is definitely on my "list"!

    Bets wishes and happy weekend,

    PS I am still waiting for my invite to the wedding. I assume they must have sent it to the wrong address...

  13. It is nice to travel when not too many people are around and the towns are not crowded. I love the image of the carrousel and I would definitely like to see the Roman ruins also
    Fantastic report!

  14. I so love the title of your blog since you live between two worlds! Oh Debi, PROVENCE IS MY DREAM. I was in Provence for 3 months and loved every moment. Did you ever get down to Eze or St. Paul de Vence or Nice? Those villages and cities were my stomping grounds. Shopping, talking and walking were all I did and I will never forget it. There is such a rich history there and a mélange of cultures that have influenced the beautiful and DISTINCLY Provençal architecture, cuisine and language! Thank you for visiting me tonight. Bonne soirée! Anita

  15. What an adventure you live, Debi!! These places are ones that I have read and drempt of seeing someday...the bucket list! You describe them so well and take just gorgeous pictures...someday you will have wonderful memories of all of this! Each and every photo tells such a story....
    Thankyou for blogging and taking me along on my virtual journey!

  16. We just returned from Provence a few months ago and had such a wonderful time! Your photos brought back great memories. I loved that little pottery shop in Les Baux.

    In fact, we had just moved to Houston right before the trip! (Sugarland) What a wonderful "tale of 2 cities" you have to tell. We are supposed to do the same b/w Houston and Scotland next year. I hope so...

  17. Oh my... I was so glad to see your comment at Anita's site so I could pop on over. Even though I follow you I always seem to miss seeing your posts come up! And I do so MISS them!!
    This was so interesting!!! I enjoyed it so much and am so (oh many times am I going to use the word "so"???) looking forward to more of this trip! (But I SO am!)
    Have a lovely Sunday!

  18. The architecture is stunning.

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