Thursday, 17 September 2009

Provence, a green (and purple) land

Port Cros

Not for the faint-hearted, the beauty of Provence has often reduced even the most passive visitor to tears.

Few regions in France have been blessed with as many wonderful sights, aromas and sounds as Provence.

As soon as you set foot in the region you’re enveloped in a swirl of sensations that will leave you breathless. Rich purple fields of lavender vie for your attention under immaculate sapphire skies, and a rhythmic choir of crickets leads a pastoral symphony.

Provence, like the whole of France, is blessed by a very fast and efficient train service. Plan ahead and you can load a bike to use as the principle mode of transport at your destination.

With so many villages huddled close to each other, biking to lunch is a fun and rewarding way to see the landscape whilst keeping your carbon footprint under control. It’s also worth remembering that after a couple of glasses of wine you can’t drive anywhere, biking on the other hand…

I based myself in St Rémy-de-Provence, a beautiful small hamlet with little more than a handful of shops, restaurants and cafes and where the weekend market is something of a major institution. St Remy has a whole array of great produce for sale from the wonderfully tasty olive oil to local wines and ‘must-have’ arts and crafts.

As well as its local products, St. Rémy-de-Provence is also renowned for its famous residents – including Nostradamus, Van Gogh and the poet Frédéric Mistral – and also for its lively Provencal festivals and traditions.

During my visit I happened to stumble upon the lâcher de taureaux, a localised ‘running of the bulls’, where a small bull is left to run wild in the streets whilst the local boys taunt and try to outrun him. It’s not a spectacle that will please everyone, but it is a part of the local culture nevertheless. The lâcher de taureaux runs from July 14 to the 25.

If being chased by a bull is not your idea of relaxation, there are more chilled out things to do here. The beautiful architecture and the preserved tight streets provide an enchanting stroll discovering the assortment of pavement cafes where you can sit, read and relax.

If you can drag yourself away from the hamlet, there are plenty of sights to see in the surrounding area. Check out the wonderful Roman ruins of Glanum or pay a visit to Van Gogh’s asylum.

For the green traveller, there are a multitude of attractions. In the nearby village of Le Baux de Provence you can visit an incredible winery with a fantastic organic and biodynamic reputation.

The tiny, family-owned Mas de Gourgonnier has set the standards in ecological land management and wine production. Don’t forget to visit the shop to buy some delicious biodynamic wine, prize-winning olive oil and homemade jams and sauces.

In the same village (voted one of the prettiest villages in France) you’ll find the Cathedrale d’Images, an astounding art concept with something of a cult following. A disused quarry is used as a giant ‘canvass’ onto which works of art are projected. The spectacle is mind-blowing.

Not far from St Rémy, another quarry has been turned into a unique troglodyte house. Family photos, wonderful furniture and gloriously preserved farm equipment paint a vivid picture of farm life from bygone days. Contact Mas de la Pyramide on 04 90 920 081 and ask Lolo to show you around.

Of course Provence also incorporates the sea, so it would be ignorant not to make a detour to the coast. A great eco hotel is rapidly gaining popularity in the area just a stone’s throw from the beach. Facilities at the Ferme d’Augustin include a pool, spa and wonderful home cooking.

France happens to have some incredible islands in the Mediterranean and, whilst we all know Corsica, very few people know about Porquerolles and Port Cros. These two gems have been described as the ‘European Caribbean’ and in terms of green travel visiting them is an absolute must.

Port Cros was designated a national park in 1963. With well-maintained hiking trails, glorious beaches and crystal clear waters vibrant with colourful marine life, it’s a true natural paradise for those wanting a wild escape on the fringe of civilisation. Regular ferries operate from Hyeres.

Provence certainly provides a treasure chest of sensory experiences with wonderful food and wine and mesmerising scenery. And although tourism is definitely big business in the region, it’s never too hard to find your own private patch of paradise amidst the lavender-freckled landscapes.

For more information on visiting Provence, see www.visitprovence.com

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5 comments:

Anonymous said...
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Work and travel said...

Great post thanks

Micah said...

This is a great post.. Very informative... I can see that you put a lot of hard work on your every post that's why I think I'd come here more often. Keep it up! By the way, you can also drop by my blogs. They're about Vegetable Gardening and Composting. I'm sure you'd find my blogs helpful too.

writing company said...

You know though Green parties have roots in the ecology movement, they are a separate movement. Political Greens have social justice concerns that go beyond ecology and ecological issues and matters.

solanarecyclers said...

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