Thursday, October 2, 2014

Les Baux-de-Provence

So I take back everything I said about Les Baux, the ultra touristy village that I just couldn't face even through 3 separate people we met told us we must go.  I was wrong, they were right.  It helped that we arrived early.  We almost had the place to ourselves.

Les Baux is a shopper's paradise.

The village itself is a surprise around every cobbled corner.

This is an empty Renaissance window frame, marking the site of a future Calvinist museum.  The words carved into the lintel, Post tenebras lux, were a popular Calvinist slogan:  "After the shadow comes the light."

This is a typical village street with our future lunch location on the left with the blue door.

The sun-bleached ruins of the "dead city" of Les Baux are carved into, out of, and on top of a rock 650 feet above the valley floor.  Many of the ancient walls of this castle still stand in this spectacular position in the Alpilles mountains.  The name Baux means rocky spur.  The village gives its name to the aluminum ore bauxite, which was first discovered there by geologist Pierre Berthier in 1821.  Traces of human habitation has been found dating back as far as 6,000 BC.  During the Middle Ages it became the seat of a powerful feudal lordship that controlled 79 towns and villages.

It was windy up here but the sun felt good.

View of the valley where olive trees and vineyards grow

A view of some of the ruined castle from atop another ruined spot

We did a lot of climbing today and walked for several hours.  These stairs are typical, with a worn spot in the center from centuries of footsteps.  They are also quite steep.

Chuck with his audio guide, peering into an opening

We had so much fun up here.  It was enormous.  We found a chapel showing an HD video right on its lime stone wall, of a bird's eye view of all of Provence.  We recognized many places we have been.

We looked at several places but just didn't feel like a fancy lunch today but wanted to sit down and relax.  This little place had a 10 Euro "menu" choice of salad, pizza and dessert.  It worked for us.

Our salads were incredible.  Sprinkled over the lettuce were bits of warm bacon.  Even the tomato tasted as if it had just come in from a sunny garden.  The dressing tasted like a balsamic reduction and was so good.  We each had an Orangina to go with our lunch.

I had a mini fromage and champignons (mushrooms) pizza.  Chuck had a fromage and ham pizza.  We each received an olive provencal in the center of our pizzas.  I will say, eating a pizza with a knife and fork is quite a job.  French people do not pick up their pizza and it comes unsliced.  Chuck told me I was burning as many calories as the pizza just sawing my way through it.

 Our dessert as presented:  crepe sucre.  Sweet!

We wandered around for awhile, taking many more photos, when we saw a sign that said "Good Coffee" and "Terrace."  That's all we needed to know.

I had read about Carriere des Lumieres (Quarry of Lights) and it was a big reason for coming to Les Baux.  It's a mesmerizing sound-and-slide show, with 48 projectors flashing countless images on expansive quarry walls, accompanied by music.  The show lasts 40 minutes, is on a continuous loop, and is just exceptional and stunning.  It's a 300 meter walk from the village parking lot.

Inside, you walk around, once your eyes adjust to the darkness, and take in the continual movement of art.  This year the theme is 100 years of Viennese art and Gustav Klimt.  Even the floor is involved and Chuck even felt motion sick at one point because the floor appeared to be moving.  The art is constantly changing, as is the music, which was classical, opera, and modern.  WOW!

We had another unforgettable day with so many things to see and experience.


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