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Provence Itinerary

Day 5

Les Baux de Provence, St Remy en Provence (and the Alpilles!)

The Alpilles, Provence, ©2009 Roberto PeixotoOver the Rhone this morning, and back into Provence. After a coffee stop in Fontvielle, we're off into the hills!

A longish climb into the Alpilles brings us to Les Baux de Provence, a fascinating, ruined fortress. Ruled over for centuries by (alleged) descendants of Balthazar, one of the biblical 3 Kings , this fortress was able to wreak havoc throughout Provence and as far afield as Toulouse. Eventually it became part of France, but following a rebellion was destroyed by none other than Cardinal Richelieu of Three Musketeers fame.

Ten years later it was given to Monaco (the current Marquise of Les Baux is Princess Caroline of Monaco) and in the 19th century was the site for the discovery of aluminium ore, hence 'bauxite'.

Astonishingly, Les Baux became such a backwater that it effectively disappeared. Rediscovered after World War II, it's been excavated and restored to what we see today - a ruined fortress surrounded by tourist shops! Don't let me put you off, Les Baux is fascinating and has some of the best views you could possibly imagine.

Les Baux de Provence is also one of the most recent wine regions to be awarded 'Appelation d'Origine Controllee' status, so we'll stop at Domaine Mas de la Dame for a tasting before tackling our final hill of the day which takes us over the top of the Alipilles and down into St Remy.

On the way, we pass Glanum, a ruined Roman town that was inundated by scree falling from the Alpilles over many centuries. It has a huge triumphal arch and mausoleum at one end of the town, and these have always been visible. But not until 1921 did anyone realise that a whole town was buried just yards away.

Right next door to Glanum is the Saint-Paul-de-Mausole Asylum where Van Gogh did much of his painting. Now, there are information points showing where he painted many of his most famous works - surprisingly interesting.

Finally, the downhill run into St Remy and the Hotel Castelet des Alpilles. Although today is just over 40 Km, it's a long and wonderful day. We'll have earned our dinner tonight at Le Jardin de Frédéric.

Click this link for Day 5 route map on mapometer.

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