THE BOUCHES-DU-RHONE - ATTRACTIONS
Abbey de Montmajour
Located in the Arles countryside, the Montmajour Abbey was built in the Middle Ages on the island of Mount Majour and has been classified as UNESCO World Heritage. The National Monument includes a pre-Romanesque building from the 10th-century, an abbey and Romanesque cloister of the 12th-century, built by Benedictine monks. This is one of the most imposing historic monuments in the department.
Abbey of Saint-Michel de Frigolet
Situated in the heart of the Montangnette, the Abbey of Saint-Michel de Frigolet Abbey is a Premonstratensian monastery founded around 960 at Frigolet by Conrad I of Burgundy. It was initially occupied by Benedictine monks from Montmajour Abbey. It grew with the implantation of a chapter of Saint Augustine and had its apogee in the 12th-century. From that period, the heart of the monastery, the cloisters, the Saint-Michel Church and the earlier Romanesque chapel of Notre-Dame du Bon Remede, built in the 11th-century, still remain.
Around the 15th-century, the abbey was little by little abandoned. But in 1635 the Order of Saint Jerome, or Hieronymites, settled there and embellished the neglected monastery. They added to the building a chapter room with elaborate Baroque décor. The French Revolution brought an end to this and the buildings became property of the state.
The Calanques, along the coast of southern France, are a series of limestone cliffs, fjords and rocky peninsulas plummeting into the Mediterranean. The 12-miles of coastline is between Marseille and Cassis, and are usually accessed from the beautiful harbor town of Cassis. The coast and surrounding countryside to the east of Marseille has been designated as the Calanques National Park, one of just seven French national parks on mainland France. As well as being a scenic attraction there are also several small beaches among the rocks, with pine trees clinging to the hills behind the beaches.
Heading west from Cassis the Calanques (in order) are: Port Miou, Port Pin, En Vau, L`Oule, Devenson, L`Oeil de Verre, Sugiton and Morgiou. Morgiou and nearby Sormiou, to the west of the Calanques, can be reached by road. You can explore the Calanques by Boat, hiking and diving. We strongly recommend you take a boat trip because it is an exceptional way to enjoy the scenery.
Camargue - Regional Natural Park
The Camargue, best known for its wildlife and Camargue horses, is a Regional Natural Park situated on the border between Provence and Languedoc-Roussillon in the south of France. Covering more than 350 square miles, the land includes flat area of marshes, fields, salt-flats and lakes, and the largest river delta in Europe. The landscape here is quite different than anywhere else in the south of France. The Camargue is commonly explored from the coastal town of Saintes Maries de la Mer.
Among the beautiful natural landscape you will find a wide range of wildlife, including semi-wild bulls and the renowned Camargue horses, and various species of birds. Other wildlife includes wild boars, badgers, flamingos(a breeding ground with large flocks nests), tree frogs and water snakes.
There are various marked walking and cycling trails to explore, some highlights include: the trails and horse riding through the bird refuge at Domaine de la Palissade, the views across the Camargue from the 18th-century Tour Saint Louis, the Ornithology park at Pont de Gau to see the birds and flamingos, the coastal trails around the la Gochelle lighthouse, or a nature safari in one of the jeeps that leave from Saint Maries de la Mer, the principal town on the coast to the south of the Camargue, to explore the places that you might find difficult to discover yourself and to see a wider range of the area.
Carrières de Lumières in Baux-de-Provence
The Carrières de Lumières on the edge of the village of Les Baux-de-Provence is a very popular attraction with visitors, with a different sound and light show presented each year and attracting a very large audience. A magical place that is situated in the historic site of Les Baux de Provence, the former quarries dug out by the hands of man since the Roman era today offer the visitor a magical world of entrancing images and music. Bauxite (an aluminum ore) was mined here until the 1930`s, when economic conditions forced the closure of the quarries. However, in the 1960`s Jean Cocteau realized the creative possibilities of Les Baux-de-Provence old quarries.
Today the Carrières de Lumières are equipped with over 100 projectors that display images over 6,000 square meters of quarry walls. A surround-sound system adds music to the visual art experience. Every wall, every surface, floor and ceiling have glorious paintings of whatever theme is being featured (changes each year). Previous artists used have included Michelangelo, Van Gogh, Chagall and Klimt: each year has a different theme.
Château des Baux-de-Provence
The Chateau des Baux is a fortified castle built during the 10th-century, located in Les Baux-des-Provence, the castle dominates the village and offers incredible panoramic views over the Alpilles.
The ruins of this fortress remain and visitors can explore the fortress as it was in the middle ages, a much-conveted stronghold often attacked until its demolition in 1632.
During the tourist season, many events bring the fortress back to life and bring you back in time: the `Médiévales des Baux` from late March to the end of August, `Secrets d`Artisans` every weekend in September and the `Automnales` in October.
The Châteaud`If is a fortress (later a prison) located on the island of If situated in the Mediterranean Sea about 7/8 mile offshore in the Bay of Marseille. It is famous for being one of the settings of Alexandre Dumas` adventure novel The Count of Monte Cristo, which described how the novels hero Edmond Dantes survived his 14 year long imprisonment and eventual escape from Chateaud`If.
Today the Chateaud`If is regarded as one of the most famous European prisons. During the centuries many French prisoners were sent to this fortress. From 3,500 French Protestants, to the rich political offenders that lived through their sentence in relative comfort (provided they had the money to pay to support themselves) in their private cells, far above the poor criminals who were left windowless dungeons filled with horror, disease and hunger.
After serving as a prison for more than a century, the Chateau d`If was transformed to a public tourist attraction on September 23, 1890. This prison represents one of the most notable prison tourist spots in Europe.
Bouche-du-Rhone has markets every day of the week ranging from a handful to hundreds of stalls. Fruits, vegetables, meat, fish, seafood, spices, olive oil, tapenades, sun-dried tomatoes, seasonal treats, clothing and household supplies, art and antiques are available in the markets in the cities towns and villages of Bouches-du-Rhone. The markets are typically held in the mornings, but you will also come across night markets during the summer months. Villages do occasionally change their dates so it is smart to check ahead before making a trip just for the market.
Markets in Bouches-du-Rhone:
Monday - Fontvieille, Fuveau
Tuesday - Arles, Aubagne, Carry-le-Rouet, Eyguieres, Istres, La Ciotat, Marignane
Wednesday - Arles, Cassis, For-sur-Mer, Gardanne, Martigues
Thursday - Aubagne, Auriol, Berre-l`Etang, Carnoux-en-Provence, Fuveau
Friday - Arles, Aubagne, Carry-le-Rouet, Cassis, Chateauneuf-les-Martigues, Eygalieres, Fontvieille, Gardanne, Istres, Lambesc, Mallemort
Saturday - Arles, Aubagne, Auriol, Carnoux-en-Provence, For-su-Mer, Marignane, Martigues
Sunday - Aubagne, Berre-l`Etang, Bouc-Bel-Air, Chateaurenard, Gardanne, Jouques, La Ciotat, Martigues
*Marseille - Every day
*Aix-en-Provence - Every day except Sunday
Route des Cretesdes Vosges
The Route des Cretes in the Bosges is a highly frequented tourist itinerary during the summer months. This countryside road offers panoramic views extending to the distant Alps and riding the on the hills following a 50 mile ridgeline route and linking the town of Thann to the Col de Bonhomme pass. At each mountainside, the road travels along bucolic countrysides, opening up views of mountain passes, rounded mountains, lakes, rocks, pastures, and forests of majestic pines.
On average, the road hits altitudes above 3,200 feet. The highest point of the road (4,300 feet) is situated near the Vosges` highest summit: the Grand Ballon (4,670 ft) and the lowest altitude is 2,700 feet at the Col Amic pass.
One of the best ways of discovering the countryside while following the Route des Cretes is by hiking. And for those who do not wish to take their car, a shuttle operates on Sundays and public holidays from June to September on the Route des Cretes and stops at several locations to let passengers hop on or off.
Towns and Villages
The most popular of the attractions in the Bouches-du-Rhoneare the villages themselves. The villages are inspiring, and some of the most beautiful in the world. Each one has its own particularity, depending on the geographical situation; some are built on plains while others are situated on peaks, as well as seaside villages with fishing ports. They all have in common the narrow streets, quaint town centers and a typical Provencal character. And even if some have been modernized, the villages have all preserved the heart of the heart and soul of Provence. Each village has its individual history and treasures that are waiting to be explored.
Some of the Villages and Towns of Bouches-du-Rhone: Saintes Maries de la Mer (coastal town), Martigues (harbor town), Arles (best known for Van Gogh and the Roman monuments), Fontvieille, Tarascon, Les Baux-de-Provence, Saint Remy-de-Provence (extensive Roman ruins), Salon-de-Provence (medieval castle), Aix-en-Provence, Marseille (principle city of the department), Carry-le-Roulet, Aubagne, Cassis (picturesque harbor town, and La Ciotat. You will discover there are many other small traditional villages of Bouches-du-Rhone to discover as you explore the area!