Pont du Gard - France
Ancient ruins of Glanum, France
Ancient architecture in Baux de Provence
Les Arènes d'Arles - the Amphitheatre - France
Popes Palace in Avignon, France
YE1-1379996 - © - Sami Sarkis
From Marseille to Nimes, a mighty delta
From Provence to the gates of Languedoc, between the Rhone and the Mediterranean, retrace the course of time by discovering a unique cultural heritage in splendid surroundings. Marseille, Arles, Nimes, Avignon, so many sun-drenched cities that highlight centuries-old heritage without compromising their contemporary strengths. Whatever time of year you visit, this is a colourful week of travel which will satisfy history lovers as well as the more leisurely crowd.
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A genuine emblem of Marseille, its old port is the epicenter of the city. Breakfast on the terrace and you can watch the bustling fish market that takes place every morning. A stone’s throw away is a visit of the Jardin des Vestiges and the Museum of History dedicated to the ancient port of Marseille, before a stroll in the historic Panier quarter. Via Montée des Accoules, head back to the splendid and fascinating MuCEM, a genuine bridge between past and present. Organise a boat trip in the legendary calanques, possibly with a detour past the old Château d’If prison.
Along the coast west of Marseille, you can explore Carry-le-Rouet and Sausset les-Pins, fishing villages that have become pleasant seaside resorts in the Côte Bleue. Admire the calanques and their coves in idyllic colors. Twenty minutes north is Martigues, the “Venice of Provence”. Borne from the unification of three villages in the Middle Ages, it now has three neighbourhoods connected by bridges: Jonquières, a maze of shopping streets, l’île historique and Ferrieres, with a museum dedicated to the impressionist painter Ziem. Allow under an hour to reach Arles.
Listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site for its numerous remains, the centre of Arles is a wonderful testimony to ancient history. Visit the Roman Theater and Amphitheater whose arenas are still filled today for numerous shows. Stroll through the centre’s charming streets to find the unmissable Musée d’Arles Antique along the Rhone. The Musée Réattu is worth a detour and enjoy an evening on the terrace at Place du Forum to complete the day.
South of Arles unfolds Camargue. Salin-de-Giraud, created in the 19th century to house the salt industry workers, is a village known for its red waters, flamingos and the immense beach at Piémanson. Between land and sea, is the alluring Saintes-Marie-de-la-Mer with its streets of single storey houses, marina and beaches. A visit of the fortified city of Aigues-Mortes plunges you into the middle ages and the crusades era of the King, Saint-Louis. His story leads you to its sidekick, the charming port of Grau-du-Roi.
Leaving Arles, the Montmajour Abbey is a major Romanesque art monument for the medieval period monk builders. Les Baux de Provence is another exceptional site, with a fortified village perched in the foothills of the Alpilles that dominates the Provencal countryside. Take a few hours to explore the narrow streets of the medieval village and the chateau with its incredible views. A stone’s throw away, the Carrières de Lumières offers mesmerizing scenes. Saint-Rémy-de-Provence is a charming stop-off before visiting Glanum, a famous archeological site of the ancient world, followed by the superb Royal Castle of Provence that awaits in Tarascon. Spend the evening in Avignon.
The historic centre of Avignon is a magnificent labyrinth of lanes and buildings full of history, with cafés and terraces that invite you to wander through. Don’t miss Rue des Teinturiers punctuated with notable buildings. Among the many museums, Le Petit Palais will delight lovers of Italian painting and complete the visit of the monumental Palais des Papes. Behind the city, the Rhone taunts the remains of Pont d’Avignon, said Saint Benezet, and its banks offer pretty walks. Enjoy a relaxed evening in Avignon.
30 minutes from Avignon, looms Pont du Gard. 2,000 years ago, this remarkable Roman era aqueduct carried water between Uzès and Nimes. These two “cities of art and history” offer a superb finale to the trip. A succession of squares, lanes and beautifully preserved buildings, with its château le Duché, the centre of Uzès offers a real journey back in time. In Nîmes, the arena, Porte d’Auguste, the Maison Carrée and the Tour Magne all reveal ancient splendour. After that, take things easy with a glass on the terrace…
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