Bouches-du-Rhône Articles about Provence

Bouches-du-Rhône

Bouches-du-Rhône
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Bouches-du-Rhône (translated from French - «Mouths of the Rhône») is one of the departments in the Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur region. The population is a little more than 2 million people.

The department, stretched along the Mediterranean Sea to the foothills of the Alps, borders on the departments of Vaucluse and Alpes-Maritimes and surprises travelers with varied and interesting views and spectacular scenery. It is also the deep Rhône River, which began its journey in the Swiss Alps and flows into the Mediterranean Sea near Marseille; the high cliffs near the town of Les Baux; the azure expanse of the sea in the bays along the coast and a purple lake near the town of Aigues Mortes; the plain of Camargue with a beautiful biosphere reserve; an abundance of flora and fauna; vineyards and olive groves, lavender and sunflowers fields, green valleys and fertile grasslands; slender cypress trees and cedar trees of the grasslands, century old plane trees and scrubby pines that look at the sea, as if admiring. It is also the air, filled with the aromas of the mountain, the sea and the vast fields. Yet it is also the scorching sun and the wayward wind mistral.

The different eras and civilizations have literally been intertwined in the incredible cities and small towns in the department, their distinctive spirit, tempered for centuries, has been preserved. At the same time, they have perfectly been integrated into modern life and have found a new current image, harmoniously combining the comfort and possibilities of today, as well as the uniqueness and wisdom of the day of yesterday. All this makes the Bouches-du-Rhône so interesting and attractive to travelers. Without a doubt, this is the land that should absolutely be visited at least once in life.

The hospitable land of the department, giving a rich palette of colors and shades to a joyful perception of the world, has always attracted extraordinary people from around the world and prompted them to create beautiful works. At different times, this land was visited by great artists: the Impressionists, such as Van Gogh, Picasso and Auguste Renoir, in the works of which в we can guess the picturesque corners of the Bouches-du-Rhône: let us remember, at least, the legendary sunflowers, hand-painted by Van Gogh, the Dutch artist who, with all his heart, felt the beauty of Provence and brightly recreated it on the canvas.

Francis Scott Key Fitzgerald, an American writer, the author of The Great Gatsby (1925), known by his works, like by his bohemian life, much of which he spent in search of secular pleasures and adventures in the coastal resorts of the Côte d'Azur in France, also visited these places. The author moved his own experience to the pages of his works.

We also know that Alphonse Daudet, a classic of the French literature, the author of lyrical stories about the beautiful nature of Provence and its inhabitants, one of which is a braggart and a seducer of women, Tartarin of Tarascon (the eponymous work was written in 1872), came here.

The British writer Virginia Woolf, best known for her diaries, and the British Prime Minister Winston Churchill have also been here.

Marseille, Notre Provence Group

Marseille
 is the administrative center of the department of Bouches-du-Rhône, in the hills near the mouth of the Rhône, on the shore of the Gulf of Lion. The population of the city is about 900 thousand inhabitants. This is one of the major Mediterranean ports and industrial centers of the south of France. The city was founded under the name Μασσαλία (Massalia) around 600 BC by Greek sailors from Phocaea: today, the city is more than 2600 years (!).The rapid development of the city, as an important commercial center of the region, accompanied by the appearance of other commercial settlements (now known as the cities of Avignon, Arles and of Nice) on the riverbed the Rhône, was interrupted by the destruction of the city and the destruction of its fleet by the army of Gaius Julius Caesar. The city gradually began to revive only in the tenth century, when it passed to the subordination of the princes of Provence. For many crusades, Marseille served as an important transit port for the transport of troops of the crusaders. During this period, the city became extremely rich.

In the early eighteenth century, the plague epidemic, which killed nearly half of the inhabitants of the city, swept over Marseille.

During the French Revolution, the city supported the Republican revolutionaries vigorously, who were fighting against the monarchy. Since then, the national anthem of France was called the Marseillaise.

The ruins of buildings from Roman times, medieval churches and the modern architecture of today, sometimes avant-garde, can live together in the city of Marseille. However, the Old Port (le Vieux-Port) has been for centuries and remains the heart of the city. Today, there are many boats and luxury impressive yachts there, and the noisy harbor life rages.

The basilica of Notre-Dame-de-la-Garde (La Basilique de Notre-Dame de la Garde) (of the nineteenth century) is a visiting card of Marseilles, overlooking the city majestically and powerfully (thanks to the solid walls of the fortress) on a hill of 150 meters. The basilica was built on the place of the ancient chapel (of the thirteenth century) with the graves kept here until now. The statue of 11 meters of the Virgin Mary holding a baby is installed on the bell tower. Positions around the city can be easily seen from this place, which has helped its defendants, in its time, to notice enemies for a long time. Among people, the Virgin Mary is called the Madonna - Protectress.

Abbey of Saint-Victor de Marseille, Notre Provence Group

It is also interesting to visit the Abbey of Saint-Victor de Marseille - the fifth century monastery, named in honor of the martyr Saint-Victor from Marseille, as well as the catacombs, that are located on its territory. Today, here is the church, and there are sarcophaguses from the late fourth century to the first half of the fifth century, which makes it a monastery as a unique historical monument in Provence.

In the sea, a mile from Marseille, there is a small island, where, in the sixteenth century, the Château d'If was built, better known from the literature and the cinema, which was designed by King Francois I as a fortification for the Marseille defense in case of attacks from the sea. However, the main purpose of which was designed by the castle's history to become a place of punishment for especially dangerous criminals in France (unwanted politicians, Huguenots and leaders of the Paris Commune (la Commune de Paris)). It was where the hero of the Dumas novel The Count of Monte Cristo (Le Comte de Monte-Cristo) was imprisoned.

In the place where there was the city wall and the port in Roman times, now is only what remains of them – the ancient ruins, and there is the Historical Museum (le Musée historique) and the Jardin des Vestiges. The preservation of these artifacts is extremely important for understanding the region’s history.

In addition to historical sites, it is also nice to just take a walk through the streets, admire its beautiful houses, many museums, theaters, cafes and restaurants, beautiful fountains and a rich Mediterranean vegetation.

It is also possible to visit one of the numerous festivals in Marseille (there are about a dozen of them each year), or one of the sport activities (regattas, board sailing competitions and tennis tournaments). The cultural life of the city is rich and diverse, and not by accident in 2013 by a decision of the European Commission, the city of Marseille served as the European Capital of Culture for 2013.

The city is also famous for its unique beaches and picturesque coves between the rocks, which are like a necklace, a fringe of the coastal part of the city. Excellent conditions for diving, sailing and rock climbing are created here by nature, and it is impossible to invent the best place for swimming.

Be sure to also visit the historic capital of Provence, a city-commune d’Aix-en-Provence [French pronunciation: ​[ɛksɑ̃pʁovɑ̃s]] or simply Aix (pronounced: [ɛks]), which forms one agglomerate with Marseille.

The age of the city is the same as the age of Marseille, and these cities are ones of the oldest cities in Europe. The ruins of old buildings from Roman times are convincing evidence of it. The city is filled with some amazing aristocratic aura and a charm. It's nice just to walk on its beautiful streets and boulevards, watch its life and breathe its air. And also, to admire a variety of antiques and bibelots, the witnesses of various historical events, that the city is so rich in. One can also visit the Museum of Tapestry (le Musée de la Tapisserie) (they are different, ancient and modern, but interesting, in a unique way) or the Art gallery, where, with bated breath, admire slowly the magical paintings from the hand of the famous impressionist Paul Cezanne, who was born and lived in this city. Several of his works have remained and are exhibited in his homeland. The city of Aix-en-Provence is particularly associated with the writer Emile Zola (the nineteenth century), and our contemporary, the French designer Ungaro lived there too.

Having been in Provence, you should visit a city and commune of Arles (French pronunciation: ​[aʁl], the name derives from Arelate, the word of Celtic origin meaning place near the pond), which in the second century BC was the temporary residence of the Roman rulers, and where the remains of temples and ruins of the theater and the amphitheater of the time of Emperor Augustus (46 BC !!!) for 20,000 people remain to date, and where bullfights are still ongoing, well as the vestiges of Roman thermal baths dating from the Emperor Constantine. This is where the perfect antique sculpture of Venus of Arles was found, which is currently on display at the Louvre. In addition to the many historical and archaeological artifacts, the city impresses with its breathtaking scenery and views that are painful to think about what was seen in the paintings of Van Gogh unparalleled. The city retains its spirit and special character and serves as a bridge between eras, which it has survived, filled with a sense of the irrationality of what is happening, and that the time was simply stopped.

Another distinctive place of the department is a picturesque town of Tarascon, located halfway between Avignon and Arles. Its main attraction is the famous Château of Tarascon, which in ancient times was the residence of the princes of Anjou, and the «king-troubadour» René le Bon (the fifteenth century), which (as it rarely happens with the kings!) Was full of anxiety for the establishment of peace, and was not indifferent to questions of art and literature. In the sixteenth century, there (what reversal of history!) was a prison, from high walls of which the prisoners were thrown directly on the stones in the deep ditches or the Rhône River.

A beautiful view, in particular on the nature reserve of Camargue, located in the Rhône delta, opens from the terrace of the castle. The Camargue is unique for its amazingly beautiful landscapes, where the sea lagoons are replaced by salt marshes, and salt marshes are replaced by marshes, where there are nests of three hundred different species of migratory birds, among which there are pink flamingos, that cannot be found elsewhere in Europe; where herds of wild bulls, boars and horses migrate... For those who are tired and want to isolate, being alone in communion with nature, Camargue represent the exact choice. Here one can spend hours walking, horseback riding, go hunting or fishing. And also, one can devote oneself to gastronomic delights and the local wine tasting.

It is impossible to list all the wonderful places of the Bouches-du-Rhône, and even more difficult to visit them all. Here is just a small list of things other than those mentioned above, which one still need to try to see.

Les Baux-de-Provence, Notre Provence Group

A picturesque beautiful city Les Baux-de-Provence (the castle ruins have been preserved; the castle once belonged to the powerful feudal family of the Baux, who defended their independence against the claims of the princes of Provence and even the King of France, but at the rebellion of the Huguenots, was finally conquered by Cardinal Richelieu).

The town of Saint-Rémy-de-Provence (here are the remains of the sanctuary in honor of the Greek god Hercules, and the ancient Arc de Triomphe and of the mausoleum of Emperor Augustus nephews; the famous astrologer Michel Nostradamus was born there).

The town of Cassis (famous for its creeks, which are the Mediterranean analogues of the Nordic fjords, namely picturesque coves between rocky massifs with exceptionally beautiful turquoise waters, beautiful beaches and underwater caves: on the walls of one of them - La grotte Cosquer - where numerous rock paintings of ancient peoples have been preserved, and the imprint of the hand of one of them is 27 000 years !!!).

The small fortress town of Aigues-Mortes (the water in the lake near the town is of a fantastic purple color, which is associated with the abundance of bacteria that live here).
 
It is amazing how the nature of the Bouches-du-Rhône is generously endowed with extraordinary beauty and diversity of the landscape and history - the important events, extraordinary vivid personalities, which inspire the admiration and interest among our contemporaries.
                                                                                                                                                                        
The nature and life the people of Provence, creating a feeling of peace and affecting the comfort of visitors to the region, formed the basis of the eponymous style of the interior, where natural materials and colors, like aqua borrowed, lavender, sunflowers, sand, and the works of man, full of love and warmth blend harmoniously: they are pottery and lace, embroidered linen napkins and bouquets of flowers, which are so organic in the homes of local residents. They give the feeling of fullness and a sense of closeness to the south of nature and warmth of the sun. Anyone, who visited the Bouches-du-Rhône, can try to reproduce the elements of this style: for this purpose you simply need to print in the memory the things, which struck you most during the trip, and even more – to purchase a souvenir that particularly touched you, as a «piece of Provence» in memory.

Moreover, of course, the concept of the Provencal (à la Provençale) «life style» has the right to existence: it is characterized by a calm and, at the same time, the festive perception of the world, the harmony in the relationship with nature and people, the warmth and comfort, full of sincerity and simplicity.

Returning from Bouches-du-Rhône, you will definitely feel caught the spirit of Provence and see the world in more vivid and warm colors.

You will feel and you will want to come back again, indeed, a sense of festivity and fairy tales here will not leave you even for a day.


Author






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